Website Graphic and Process Tweaks (GHD026)

Saturday’s GHDR Goal reflects my recent desire to slow down the pace…accepting incremental progress on website updates! I deliberately picked something to do that was more incremental, and for once I was actually OK with not finishing it. Instead, I felt good about making a good chunk of progress that would likely resolve in a couple more days of work. In the past, I would have been incredibly impatient and displeased with the lingering work. I don’t know what’s changed…maybe I’ve finally worn myself down, or listening to The Bird and the Bee on endless loop put me in a good mood.

In addition to the incremental progress on the website, I’ve made a few process improvements that are worth sharing.

Website Improvements

Yesterday I acknowledged that my website doesn’t keep up with my workflow, noting that this lag been a constant irritation for the past few years. For people visiting the site, the speed is probably OK because they are hitting high-speed cached copies of content, but when I am writing new stuff the cache doesn’t help me. Saving and updating posts takes several looong seconds, as does processing thumbnail images and post-meta updates. It makes me not want to do anything on the site.

I have two choices: either (1) move to a faster platform than WordPress which would involve porting a zillion posts and comments and custom pages, or (2) speed up WordPress so it isn’t chugging so much. For now, the easier thing to do is to speed-up WordPress. I’ve done just about everything I can to optimize the existing platform, so my next move is to upgrade my server from the current (and obsolete) (dv) 4 on MediaTemple to a (dv) developer level 3. My current server technology on the (dv) 4 is four years old, so moving to the newest equivalent service should be a big boost. Unfortunately, this means doing a server migration from the old to the new; it’s has not been an automatic process for me because of the number of sites hosted on my main server.

So today, I did a couple of things:

  • I made a list of everything that would have to happen if I pursued option 1. It took an hour.
  • I went through the list of domains hosted on my current website and decided what would stay on the server, and what would get moved to a WebFaction instance I’ve been testing. I was able to also remove several dead websites and make a domain checklist to help manage the migration.

Neither task achieves the desired end goal of “moving to a new server”, but these two tasks and their enabling decisions make the future tasks a bit easier.

I also made a minor improvement to the default post thumbnails, replacing the black default to a lighter-colored SEAH version.

"Thumbnail Changes" Additionally from now on, thumbnails will be used for posts detailing something made. I think this will highlight “tangible stuff to look at” articles for readers who are more interested in “stuff” than “process”. Why? Personally, I dislike it when click-bait websites post a picture for the sake of having one, and have been particularly irritated at how my Twitter feed has become polluted with images in general.

Process Improvements

A contributor to that feeling of satisfaction is, I think, a feeling of contentment from having adopted Quiver (a “programmer’s notebook” somewhat like Scrivener and Evernote) as my main continuity journal of all things. Here’s a screenshot of it from late Saturday:

Quiver Notebooks The idea behind a continuity journal is to help “bookmark” my thoughts among the myriad projects in one flexible space. I never had a program I liked very much for this, but Quiver has now become that app. Maintaining a continuity journal helps me in several ways:

  1. I can capture decisions and issue lists of commands to myself. There are two modes of thinking I generally use: analysis and execution. Converting the product of analysis into a set of easy-to-follow steps cuts down on the “uh, what should I be doing?” fuzziness that occurs when restarting a project. Avoiding fuzziness at the beginning of a work session is important for reducing my susceptibility to distracting thoughts. I try to make sure to put an easy “collection task” at the top of the list before I switch-away from the project, because these don’t require a lot of thinking to get started. For example, “collect tools for painting a wall” is a focused task, and the act of collection puts me into the right mode to work. If I had instead listed, “paint wall” as my first task, I would have to THINK a little more, and thinking at the beginning of a task is a prime opportunity for distraction to set-in. Especially if the task is a yucky one!

  2. I can journal my way through difficult problems. I think much better when I’m writing, and with a text editor I can restructure and refine my thinking through rewriting. This is a great way, I find, to work through tough problems that have more than 2 moving parts. By externalizing my thoughts to the writing application, I don’t have to rely on my poor working memory to make comparisons.

  3. It’s a useful and highly-accessible reference. Quiver is particularly good for me because it supports Github-flavored Markdown, a simple text formatting language that I find suitable for my daily writing. I use it on davidseah.com, and now I can use it in Quiver. Because it’s Github-flavored, it supports code in-line with my notes very well. Evernote and Scrivener suck for documenting code, as they are general writing tools. Anyway, having those references in my continuity notebook is great when I’m doing activities (1) and (2), because I can open them in another window and refer to past decisions and knowledge bits.

Ultimately, I’d like to start moving refined pieces of knowledge from Quiver to the website, but that will have to come after the server transition is complete.

Stuff Learned and GHDR Points Earned

So while not a lot of shareable work was produced for posting on the blog, I did make some good progress on breaking down the hairy server move problem into more relaxed steps. And because I am now using Quiver as a continuity journal, I am feeling very confident that I can be more focused and productive when switching between projects. A big challenge still is JUST STARTING the work, but at least the continuity journal helps capture the random things I do as a consolation prize.

Today’s points are not related to deliveries again, but still score major points for performing unblocking actions!

PTS DESCRIPTION
10 Result that makes a future result possible!
5 I reused a past result (the SEAH MICRO logo) to make a new default thumbnail graphic.
5 I eliminated some options after researching it! This was deciding to do a server migration instead of architecting a whole new system of blogging (though I made a list for that too)
3 Overcame resistance! Booya!
2 Made outline to clarify decision making. This is the entirety of the new continuity notebook.
2 Reduced scope of a task to make it faster. Whittling down the task of the server move to just a collection task for today.
1 Researched topics related to technology for servers, etc. Quite a lot of googling.

That’s 28 points. Not too bad.


About this Article Series

For my 2016 Groundhog Day Resolutions, I'm challenging myself to make something goal-related every day from February 2nd through December 12. All the related posts (and more!) are gathered on the Challenge Page.

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I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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