Jammer's Reviews

Jammer's Reviews version 6.0

March 21, 2012

Every few years I've got to get my webmastering on. In 2007 I made a complete overhaul of Jammer's Reviews from a structural and architectural standpoint, while making some minor design tweaks and adding a major new feature (the user comments, which have been a huge success thanks to all of you). Well, it's 2012 and I've done it again. Over the past several weeks, I have been hard at work tearing up the foundation of this website yet again, hopefully for the last time.

Last time when I reworked the foundation of this site, I'd hoped it would be for the last time, but I made some crucial errors in that process. Most notably, I did not completely separate the content from the design. I separated style from markup, but a lot of the markup was still within the review page content. This meant that, while I could make global style and script changes, changing the actual underlying HTML was not possible to do globally.

I have now finally fixed that fundamental error. It meant basically going through every single review, article, and index on this site — more than 880 in all — and pulling out and reformatting the content. It was a long and arduous task, but as a webmaster who wants to stay current, I felt the need, and I had the opening in my schedule to get it done.

The review content now exists completely separately from the new templating system. I can now make global structural changes to the entire site by changing a few key template files, which is great for the future. I did not employ a CMS to do this, although I considered it. In the end I decided to build my own PHP-based template system while converting the PHP/HTML review pages to purely PHP data pages. This allowed me to keep all the existing URLs without having to find a way to port over the 8,700 user comments (which were tied to the existing URLs) into some other system.

So, what are the benefits for you the user? Let's go through them. If you are particularly observant, some of this you might have noticed last week when I switched things over to the new system. Other features just went online now, as I was working on them as recently as today (and may be refining in the coming weeks; if you notice any bugs, broken links, or missing or truncated reviews, please e-mail me).

Comment Browser

In order to make it easier to interact with your fellow readers, this new feature allows you to view all the comments on Jammer's Reviews in one place (although not comments from Jammer's Blog, which is still separately maintained in WordPress). The default view shows the latest comments from everywhere on the site right at the top, and you can page backward as far as you want. You can also search all the comments by the containing text, by the author name, or by specific or partial URL. So, if you wanted to see all reviews for TNG season five, you could simply do a search by URL for "st-tng/s5". Or if you want to see all comments I've made, you can search the author field for "Jammer".

You can bookmark any of these custom search pages to revisit later to view new comments posted. If you want, you can even get an auto-generated RSS feed to follow for any custom search of your choice.

Important: As a result of the new comment browser, the URL for the old comment RSS feed has been changed. Please find the new address on the RSS feeds page or get custom comment RSS feeds from the Comment Browser.

Pages for every review

For years — more than a decade, even — there have been sections of this site that, because the format of the reviews was shorter, I simply rolled them into single articles. This was the case on all the TOS reviews, the first two seasons of DS9, and the first four seasons of TNG. Aside from the inconsistency from the rest of the site, the biggest problem with this arrangement was that comments for those seasons were all rolled together into a single stream, making it difficult for people to discuss one episode out of those seasons. It was sort of a conversational mess.

So I've gone back for those seasons and created individual pages/URLs so that the comment streams are separated. This meant that the existing comments had to be moved from the single stream to individual reviews. I went through and manually moved the comments to where they best made sense. If the comments talked about multiple episodes from a season, I generally moved them to the last episode discussed, except in cases where the conversation was clearly geared toward being placed earlier. It wasn't always easy to pick the right place for each comment, but I did my best, and this will make for more focused conversations on those episodes/seasons going forward.

Improved mobile experience

Mobile website usage has exploded in recent years, and I've found personally that I am annoyed when a website I visit for reading doesn't have a mobile reading interface. To that end, I have made some improvements to my site to make it even better and more seamless for mobile users. There is now an auto-detect feature that will take you to the mobile site if it detects you are using a mobile device. This can easily be overridden, although you will need to have cookies enabled in order to do so. Mobile navigation has been improved, as have the stylesheets and the simplified form elements, which should make reading and leaving comments via mobile easier. I also intend to improve the mobile detection/interaction between Jammer's Reviews and Jammer's Blog in the near future; at the moment, that may not yet be working seamlessly.

HTML5 compliant

In trying to stay current, the entire site now employs the HTML5 doctype and has been HTML5 validated using the W3C validation tools. I have also cleaned up the HTML throughout the site and made an effort to improve the semantics. It's not yet perfect, but for the most part it's pretty clean and correct. Additionally, I've worked some jQuery into the site's JavaScript scripting, though I have not yet rewritten the old scripts using jQuery methods. Perhaps eventually.

Design tweaks

I've made a few design tweaks, the most notable being that the width of the content pages now max out at 1100 pixels. Thus if you maximize the page on an HD monitor, the page does not become so wide and unwieldy, which had long bugged me. This also makes the home page and interior page designs more consistent. Also, some new icons in the upper-right corner of the interior pages link to various delivery methods (RSS, mobile) and social platforms (Twitter, AddThis). No biggie; just a little bit cleaner approach to the page header.

TNG season six reviews

Not part of this process, regrettably. I'd imagine if there's one thing that would've been what you wanted, that would've been it. Apologies. I fully understand that I've now dragged this project out literally longer than TNG itself was actually on the air. (Groan.) I assure you I will indeed be getting back to it, likely this spring.

Feedback welcome

So, have at it. The vast majority of the site is unchanged, under the old adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Feel free to discuss below.

Site Info

18 comments on this article

Rikko - Wed, Mar 21, 2012 - 10:47pm (USA Central)
I'm glad to hear you've been working on a site's update. :)

I was fearing you'd feel uninterested about the rest of Star Trek: The Next Generation.


First time posting, but I've been quietly following you since early last year :)

I'm slowly watching all of TNG, since I love the premise and cast involved, and everytime I finish an episode I rush to your site to read your opinion about it.

So far I've temporarily stopped at Season 2, because well...the series kind of suck. But from what I heard, it gets better later on, so I'll resume my space journey soon enough :P


Ok, that was long enough for an intro.
Elliott - Wed, Mar 21, 2012 - 10:51pm (USA Central)
Thanks for the update, Jammer. I have no idea what is involved in coding a website like this; that's to say whether the following suggestion is an easy add or would require a total retrofit as you described having just done:

It would be helpful, I think to many, to add a feature which allows one to delete his own posted comments. I've noticed many commenters amending their previous posts for everything from spelling errors to missed points to posting on the wrong episode entirely.

Had I known you were updating your site all this time, I would have made the suggestion during the remodel. I hope that's helpful. Looking forward to season 6 reviews when they come out. I think I can guarantee your followers would rather the reviews trickle in one at a time, provided they begin to do so sooner than come in bunches as they did last time.

Best,
EE
Jammer - Wed, Mar 21, 2012 - 11:44pm (USA Central)
Thanks for the suggestion, Elliott.

The problem with allowing users to remove or edit their own posts is that it would require a registration system so that every user could be identified in order to allow deleting or editing of only their own posts.

This would be complicated with the existing commenting system. I would either have to (1) replace the commenting system with something that has more features (and thus figure out how to move all the existing comments into a new system, or (2) rewrite the existing system's code so that it could store and process the additional registration information.

This would also require all users to register prior to leaving comments -- something I don't want to do as it might discourage some users from posting.

There are probably other more simple ways I could address the issue of corrections or deletions, but given the relatively small number of desired corrections/deletions I generally see, I don't think it would be worth the time investment on my end or the inconvenience for the users to require registration.
Jammer - Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 2:28am (USA Central)
Rikko (and everyone),

I can't stress this enough, but the reason I haven't finished the TNG reviews has nothing to do with a disinterest in the final two seasons of TNG and everything to do with my routines and workflow and daily life and momentum patterns and, yes, some general laziness while having other interests (including watching current things on television or reworking my websites) -- and also the desire to not be beholden to my hobby after spending an entire day at work (not to mention being an absentee husband by disappearing into my personal projects when my wife and I both get home from our day jobs).

Surely I could manage my time better and get through this project in a more timely manner. But it hasn't worked out that way. That's life. I have long striven to balance this website with everything else I want to and must do.

Believe me, I want to finish this project. I started reviewing Star Trek in 1994. I am looking forward to the day when I can say I have finally finished the project I started 18 years ago. (Eighteen. Fucking. Years. Wow.) I'm hoping and expecting that 2012 will be the year when I can finally say that. I realize I've said so many times in the past that I would be getting this done "soon." That's why I'm loath to even hint at dates again. But I absolutely plan on finishing this journey. I just need to get the momentum going again.

I am not trying to be defensive here at all. I just want to clarify why things take so long and explain that even though I may seemingly disappear for endless months at a time, it's not because I have given up; it's just that I have other things going on and I decided long ago that I would not turn this into a second job and assign myself deadlines and make this into a chore. While doing so would probably be a better way of motivating myself to get it done, I just haven't put myself there mentally, because there's no need. It will get done eventually. I look forward to that day, hopefully soon in the 2012 future.
Latex Zebra - Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 7:29am (USA Central)
Must remember to use the same ID when I reply!

I, like I imagine hundreds (maybe more) of other people come back daily to check for updates to the TNG reviews or your blogs and I welcome the new look. Great to have more discussion options.
Understand about delays with the new reviews as I encounter similar problems when I have to promote something, you end up making it not fun by working to a deadline.

Still with the new layout is there a way you can trickle the reviews episode by episode giving us little often rather than much but with huge gaps?
Jammer - Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 2:09pm (USA Central)
I will definitely consider posting the next batch of reviews in smaller clusters rather than large updates of a dozen like last time. That might make more sense given the overall flow of things, and would definitely encourage discussion on more of the episodes individually.
grumpy_otter - Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
I'm with the Zebra--a trickle of 1-2 per month would be a DELIGHT!

I still check your site at least weekly, and still occasionally hold my breath, so a carrot once in a while would be nice!

And great idea to split the reviews. I didn't understand most of the jargon, but that's a good one!

@Rikko--I am SO jealous that you still have most of TNG to look forward to!

Captain Jim - Thu, Mar 22, 2012 - 11:02pm (USA Central)
What happened to the option of having an email sent to you when someone adds a new post to a review you've commented on? Was that a casualty of the upgrade? If so, I lament its passing.
Jammer - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 3:11am (USA Central)
Captain Jim: Yes, I nixed that feature in the design cleanup. You might try using the RSS feeds for specific threads instead.
Latex Zebra - Fri, Mar 23, 2012 - 6:56am (USA Central)
Excellent news if you can do that. Given we're getting to the business end of the series there are some great episodes to discuss.


A few stinkers as well I recall too.
karatasiospa - Sat, Mar 24, 2012 - 7:29am (USA Central)
The comment browser is very useful. As for the TNG reviews i also believe that it would be better if you will post them in smaller clusters but more frequently say 2 a month.
Elizabeth Palladino - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 4:43pm (USA Central)
Thanks for this website. I'm stuck home a lot caring for my husband (25 years older than I) who has Alzheimers. I watched some TNG's that I rented from Netflix, and fell in love with the Star Trek universe all over again. I'm buying TNG in complete series, and am re-watching the whole thing--am currently up to Shades of Grey (yeah, I know) on Series Two, and then will start Series Three etc.--then go on to all the other seasons and shows. I love watching an episode and then reading your reviews. I usually like them better than you do! Very entertaining, even the "duds." It sounds like you work very hard at what you do--know that it is more, more, more than appreciated.
Elizabeth Palladin - Sun, Mar 25, 2012 - 10:51pm (USA Central)
Of course, what I meant was I usually like the episodes better than you do--unclear sentence--grrrr.
Todd F. - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 8:20pm (USA Central)
For what it's worth, while your reviews are usually very well written and sometimes thought provoking, at this point, don't feel any need to do any more reviews of a twenty year old tv show (aka Star Trek: TNG). If readers haven't formed their own opinions of seasons 6 and 7 by now, it's too late.
Mark Dooley - Fri, Apr 13, 2012 - 4:33am (USA Central)
Hi there

Greetings and Cead Mile Failte from the Emerald Isle.
I am at a loss for words to express my thanks and awe at the amount of work you've done over the years. ALL 18 of them!
I remember being recommended your site by a friend when I was studying computing in Glasgow.
A bit dubious about it all back then but I've been around since then and through all your reviews.
I agree, LIFE does get in the way of hobbies and stuff you want to do as well as trying to enjoy the company of loved ones.
18 Years - That's how old my daughter is!
She used to sit on my lap and watch TNG & DS9 with me and has only recently completed a marathon viewing of those series and Voyager!
18 Years.
Only two words left - THANK YOU!
I might post another comment if I'm still around in 18 years time! Probably on a holodeck somehwere! ;-)
RK - Mon, Apr 16, 2012 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
Todd: I can only speak for myself, but I don't read reviews to form an opinion, only to see what others' perspectives are. We certainly have formed opinions of the last two seasons of TNG but we want to see Jammer's take. Also, 26 out of 28 of Star Trek's live-action seasons have been reviewed, so it'll be nice to see it finished.
Dandere - Sat, Apr 28, 2012 - 8:48am (USA Central)
Hi Jammer, I've been following your site for years since back when the episodes were airing for the first time, really impressed to see the site is still online over 10+ years later. Thanks for all the hard work.
Jasper - Mon, Jun 18, 2012 - 9:46am (USA Central)
I sorely miss the option of being sent emails when a new message is being posted to a page. For me, that was the reason I was able to have discussions on your site, now, I probably won't be responding to comments that are a reply to something I said. I don't think I am the only one, and I do think that is a big loss for the site.

Additionally, it sometimes made me visit the website even when I wasn't watching the series, just because someone posted on the page I posted on as well. I think you are just shooting yourself in the foot and losing page view over this.

(Of course, there are costs involved with sending large volumes of emails, but since you haven't mentioned them, I assume they weren't part of the decision.)

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