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Ruminating About Developing Ruminations For Karo
If you have ever wished that your client had a sense of humor, you should try working for a comedian. I've spent a good portion of this year creating a website for Aaron Karo, a published comedian, called Ruminations.
Phrases like "please tell me you are joking" take on a whole new meaning in this context. When you are working on a funny website for a funny client, it is difficult to lose your sense of humor. I have often wondered what it would be like to hang out with a real comedian, because it would be like being privvy to jokes before they become part of an act. You know: the impromptu funny remarks that are the hallmark of any time spent around people who have a penchant for being entertaining.
During the course of the project, I had the distinct privilege of attending one of Karo's live performances here, in Austin. Afterwards, like an overgrown kid being sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I got to attend the afterparty...
Hanging out with Aaron Karo fulfilled my expectations and proved to be a tremendously enjoyable experience. RTFA for more details.
You are probably expecting juicy details concerning the afterparty, but I'm afraid this is going to just be about my experiences creating the Ruminations website.
Disappointed? Sorry, but I must disavow all knowledge of what happened to a certain valedictorian...
Except, with Ruminations, posts are not just a hodge-podge of vaguely interesting web content. Ruminations are humorous anecdotes submitted by visitors registered on the site. Every "rumination" then has a certain number of "gourmet" points, based on how many members consider it to be "gourmet". The use of the word "gourmet" bothers me, however; I always get hungry after clicking several choice ruminations.
The "gourmet" points feature was created as a custom Xaraya module that is loosely based on the code for the Ratings module. Using Hooks, the module could allow visitors to "gourmet" any type of content posted to the site, not just ruminations.
Ruminations, for that matter, are an Articles publication type. Most content on a Xaraya site usually is.
Since the main pages of the site require database calls for information that is consolidated from both the Articles table and the UserVotes table, a "leftjoin" function had to be added, including customized changes to the Articles function for getall.
This was all completed and working, post-launch, but was very under-indexed, resulting in incredibly slow page-loads. After working with Rackspace for a few days, we isolated the lag time to interaction with the new UserVotes tables and subsequently added relevant indexes for just about every field involved.
That sped things up considerably!
Hosting vendors were a major problem at almost every step of the project, however. Towards the end of the project, the site was moved to a faster server, but the hosting vendor jacked up the transfer rather badly. They didn't match the software configuration of the original server (also hosted by them), leaving out several key applications, and eventually caused Karo to switch hosts as a result of the problems that this caused.
The second host, now Rackspace, was far from a smooth experience too. If you get a Rackspace server with RedHat on it, make sure to get a sufficiently high enough version to support initial deployment with the apps and plugins included that you are likely to take for granted as present with any other host.
So, we spent some time hassling with hosting.
The hosting vendor that we spent the most time on, by far, though, was the one for the Lyris mailing list API. I personally think that we were the impetus behind the vendor finally configuring their software correctly, but I doubt that any of their other clients make full enough use to even notice that it works correctly now... for the most part. I still have a routine enabled that emails both Karo and myself whenever the mailing list API server goes down. At least once a day there is a short barrage of email.
All of the above notwithstanding, the most frustrating part of working on the site had to be Karo's insistence on a custom URL schema that allowed usernames to be used as ShortURL indicators so that you can have pages like Ruminations.com/StEgo.
Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the process of creating the site. When vendors were not busy getting in my way, I had a lot of fun working with Karo to help him realize his dream for a site.
If you are in need of a few laughs, go ahead and check out Ruminations.com. Just try not to get caught reading ruminations when you are supposed to be working until we can work out a corporate styled covert theme for the site that will help keep you from getting caught ruminating at your desk!
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