denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote in [site community profile] dw_news2012-07-02 02:46 pm

Dreamwidth News: 2 July 2012

Hello, Dreamwidth! I would like to apologize (again, ugh) for the length of time it's been since last we spoke. The past two and a half months have been pretty awful for me in terms of health stuff and I had to cut down to the absolute bare minimum in terms of "keeping the site running", which did not, unfortunately, include the block of time necessary to write a newsletter. (And when I did, either my laptop was in the shop, we were traveling, or my neighborhood had no power after the huge storm that tore through the East Coast a few days ago...)

That having been said, this place runs on the efforts of a bunch of people other than me (thankfully!) and just because I've been fairly out of commission does not mean that interesting things have not been happening. Behind the cut, a slew of things that are new and shiny, or at least just things you should probably know:

* Development
* Markdown
* Comment Editing
* New Styles
* Google Maps
* Accessibility Team News
* Request(s) for Comment: beta features, blogging languages
* (Anti)spam
* Real Life Should Not Be A Disaster Movie, Dammit



Development



Code tours covering code written since the last time we spoke include:
* (the tail end of) 12 Mar - 1 May
* 2 May - 3 June

Since the last time we ran our current code contributors report (which was at the end of February), we've had a whopping thirteen new contributors (some so new that they haven't even been picked up in the code contributors report!) -- some of them have been welcomed before in news posts, but I wanted to take a second to cheer for everybody again, just in case I missed someone I shouldn't have. So, a big "thank you for making DW better!" cheer goes to [personal profile] alyndra, [personal profile] angelikitten, [personal profile] anthologia, [personal profile] chiming, [personal profile] crschmidt (who used to develop for LJ way back in the day when it was still owned by Danga Interactive, so seeing him was a true blast from the past!), [personal profile] dunvi, [personal profile] kaberett, [personal profile] mmmag, [personal profile] momijizukamori, [personal profile] purplecat, [personal profile] randomling, [personal profile] swaldman, and [personal profile] teganmul. Thank you so much, folks.

If you've ever considered coming to code with us, or learning HTML, JavaScript, CSS, or Perl, we'd love to have you. We'll provide you with a hosted development environment and help you learn from existing resources with the help of [site community profile] dw_dev and [site community profile] dw_dev_training, along with our contributor wiki. We're in the process of transitioning to a new source code management system right now, so things are a little bit up in the air -- beware of falling rocks! -- but we still love having new people joining our team.

We did a code push on 14 June, with a followup on 20 June to catch the few little bugs that surfaced in the first push, so there are some new toys to play with:


Markdown



We are doing a "quick and dirty" test of Markdown, a way of formatting plain text that will convert to HTML markup when you hit "post". You can view the syntax for examples of how to use it. Right now, Markdown is only implemented for entries (not comments), and you need to explicitly activate it by typing "!markdown" as the first line of your entry (that won't appear in the final entry). You can also refer to people on Dreamwidth or on many other sites easily while using Markdown to format your posts: "@denise" will turn into [staff profile] denise, while "@news.livejournal.com" will turn into [livejournal.com profile] news. We're testing this out right now and figuring out the best way to integrate it into the posting process, without disrupting the existing post formatting options, but try it out and let us know what else we can improve.


Comment Editing



The ability to edit a comment after posting it has been a paid user feature since we launched the site, and we'd talked before about making it available to everyone. We held off on doing that, because we didn't want paid users to feel as though they were losing exclusive access to something without another new paid-user-enhanced feature to accompany it, and we've got a bunch of stuff coming up that will be enhanced for paid users.

Well, that plan was all well and good, except our documentation previously indicated that free users could edit their comments in paid communities, and that turned out to not be the case -- and as any programmer can tell you, when the code and the documentation disagree, you should probably believe the code. We had a few people upgrade larger communities to have access to comment editing for all their users and then it turned out to not be the case, so rather than spend a lot of developer time trying to make it work the way it should (especially since we were already planning to open up the feature to everyone in the near future), we just went ahead and flipped the switch.

So, as you may have noticed, all accounts now have access to edit your comments after they've been posted (as long as you are logged in to the account that was used to post the comment and the comment has not been replied to). Happy editing!


New Styles



This code push brought us a stunning seven new base styles (along with a bunch of new themes for existing styles!) with which to decorate your journal. (And super huge thanks go to [personal profile] momijizukamori, who despite having a username that none of us can spell on the first try, has been rocking the styles submission queue -- some of these have been in the backlog for conversion into system styles for a while, but thanks to the efforts of the styles team, that backlog is really starting to disappear! The next code push should bring at least another four new base styles.)

The new styles, with profuse thanks for their designers, are:

* Database, by [personal profile] ninetydegrees
* For the Bold, by [personal profile] timeasmymeasure
* Heads Up, by [personal profile] momijizukamori
* Hibiscus, by [personal profile] branchandroot
* Line Up, by [personal profile] timeasmymeasure
* Strata, by [personal profile] yati
* Wide Open, by [personal profile] mmmag

Check them out and see if any of them strike your fancy. And, if you have a layout or a theme you think others would enjoy using, check [site community profile] dreamscapes for information on how to submit it for wider use.

There's also a new mood theme available: [personal profile] angelikitten's Rainbow Child, which is pretty darn adorable.


Google Maps



And, finally, something we've taken away, based on your feedback: if you use the Current Location option when updating your journal, it will no longer automatically link anything you type to the Google Maps result for what you type. This auto-linking feature was introduced on LiveJournal when the feature was originally added (and therefore included when we forked our code from LiveJournal's), but many people have let us know they didn't find the feature useful. If you still want to include the Google Maps link to your location, you can add the link manually when you update; the length of the field has been increased to allow more text in the box, which should accomodate links to most locations.


Accessibility Team News



News from the [site community profile] dw_accessibility project team this round includes a warm welcome to [personal profile] deborah; she's been knocking out accessibility-related bugs left and right for a while, and as part of our efforts to increase redundancy and make sure everyone's got backup, she has recently stepped up to be the co-volunteer-team-lead of that project. Thanks for your tireless efforts, Deborah!

Accessibility is very, very important to us: we want to make sure that people using all kinds of assistive technology can use Dreamwidth equally well. Accessibility is an ever-shifting target, though, and to help us best prioritize our efforts, we'd really like to know the details of your particular assistive technology setup, both to be able to better accomodate particular assistive tech and to make sure we're testing new features and functions with various forms of assistive tech. If you use any kind of assistive technology to access the site -- any kind; we take a very broad definition -- please take a second and drop a comment on our assistive tech semi-poll to let us know.

We're also gathering some accessibility-related feedback about the use of skip links and the beta icon browser so we can make good decisions there.


Request(s) for Comment: beta features, blogging languages



We occasionally like to poll y'all on your thoughts about the best way to handle feature design, so that we can work out most of the trouble spots before they get out of development, under the theory of "problems are easier to spot before the code gets written". We have a few things we'd like people to take a look at and weigh in on:

* Specifying blogging language: This came out of a [site community profile] dw_suggestions submission, and the developer implementing the suggestion has a few different (conflicting) possible ideas on how to handle the questions that arise. The feature will be intended for people to easily find other people who write in their language(s), and hopefully make it easier for non-English-speaking areas of Dreamwidth to create a stronger community.

* New Javascript on journals beta test: last time around we made a "last call" for people to test the Javascript-to-JQuery conversion, intending to opt everyone into the beta (for one final round of tests) with the next code push. A few last-minute problems cropped up with a wider testing audience, though (which is why we run these things through the beta features system first -- there's always people with setups we just can't test for or using the site in ways we just can't predict), so we've decided to do one more round of opt-in testing first. If you previously opted into the new-Javascript-on-journals beta and reported a problem, please try turning on the beta test again and see if it's been fixed. (And if it hasn't, let us know.) There are two beta tests running right now: the new journal JS is the first of the two. (You're welcome to turn on the second, the new Create Entries beta test, as well! But that has a bit further to go before it's ready for prime time.)

* Finally, if you enjoy telling us how we should do things, [site community profile] dw_suggestions is the place to go. You can make a suggestion -- suggestions coming in through that form go into the moderation queue for [site community profile] dw_suggestions, where I will either let you know why we can't or won't implement the suggestion, let you know that your suggestion is already planned, or let the suggestion through to the [site community profile] dw_suggestions community. Once posted -- I was a little behind, but I caught up this morning -- users like you read and discuss the suggestion, and after the discussion we'll move the ones we like into our Bugzilla database for a developer to implement. Check out the User's Guide to Suggestions, and then dive in and start giving feedback.


(Anti)spam



No matter how hard the [site community profile] dw_antispam team works -- and they work pretty darn hard -- there's always going to be a few spammers slipping through the cracks. This month in particular, although the "dumptruck of spam" we were getting in April and May has mostly stopped, we've been seeing an uptick in the number of private message spammers.

If you receive spam via private message, your Inbox will have a "mark as spam" link at the bottom of the notification. Please use that to report the spammer: the Terms of Service team doesn't handle spam reports directly. (We have a dedicated antispam team for that to make sure that spam fighting is their top priority.)

Meanwhile, if you see an account that's keeping to itself but is designed to be search engine bait, please do report those to the Terms of Service team by opening a support request. These generally will be posting what looks like individual blog articles, with fancy formatting, on a variety of topics, with a handful of links thrown into the bottom. The biggest giveaway is fairly stilted prose (they assemble the posts by scraping other blog posts and running a script that replaces two or three words per sentence with synonyms), at least one picture per post that has very little to do with the actual content, and at least two or three links per post to the same place. They exist to boost scuzzy sites' search engine results, and we want to get rid of them as quickly as we spot them. So, if you're browsing the Latest Things page and see a spammer, please do report them. (And a special thank-you shout out to [personal profile] needled_ink_1975, who's been responsible for finding so many of them that I'm pretty sure we should give her a special spamfighting medal by now!)


Real Life Should Not Be A Disaster Movie, Dammit



The past month or two has brought a ridiculous number of disasters, from the Colorado wildfires, Minnesota flooding, Florida flooding, Ohio/West Virginia/Maryland/DC/Indiana/Kentucky/Pennsylvania derecho storm, flooding in Nigeria, Uganda, and many parts of South Africa, monsoons in India, and many more cases that I've probably missed, where Mother Nature is apparently teaming up to kick our asses even though disaster season is only barely underway.

(Before people ask: yes, Dreamwidth HQ was in the path of last week's derecho. We're fine, but we did lose power for two days and our post office is still in the outage area. If you've sent a payment by check or money order in the past week or so and it hasn't been applied to your account yet, it's probably been delayed by the cleanup efforts. If your account expires while you're waiting for the payment to be applied, open a support request in the Account Payments category and let me know and I'll extend your time for you.)

If you'd like to donate to relief efforts, the Red Cross is active in disaster recovery for many of the mentioned disasters. The Denver Post has a list of how to assist the wildfire relief efforts, and the Carlton County Pine Journal has a list of how to assist the flooding relief efforts in Minnesota. Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières helps by providing urgent medical care to victims of wars and disasters (and do an amazing job at it, seriously). If you know of any other charitable organization that's providing relief efforts for any of the (too damn many) natural disasters we're seeing lately, sound off in comments.

I also know that many members of our Dreamwidth community have been affected by one of these natural disasters. I've had a few people ask me to share information about personal fundraisers being run on behalf of DW users whose homes were destroyed by disaster or who had significant financial hardship because of disaster. I really wish I could, but for the sake of having clear and easily-articulated criteria for what gets linked in official announcements (with all the implications of endorsement that carries), we only link to fundraising by registered nonprofits.

That having been said, if you (or one of your DW-using friends) are running a personal disaster-relief fundraiser, you can drop a link in the comments. (Necessary cover-our-asses disclaimer: we do not endorse any fundraiser that may be mentioned and you give to individuals at your own risk.) And if anybody with a paid account lives in the affected areas and is dealing with disaster cleanup, open a support request in the Account Payments category and let me know and I'll extend your paid time a bit so you don't have to worry.

*

And that's it from us for another update! As always, if you're having problems with Dreamwidth, Support can help you; for notices of site problems and downtime, check the Twitter status page; if you've got an idea to make the site better, you can make a suggestion.

We'll see you in what will hopefully not turn into another two and a half months for our next update. In the meantime, I most definitely do not give permission for any more natural disasters to happen.

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