ReelThoughts: April 14, 2008

"Upgrade Update"

Commentary by James Berardinelli


Originally, I had hoped the site redesign, which I have unoriginally dubbed "ReelViews 2.0," would be ready by May 1, but I underestimated the amount of time necessary to add reviews to the newly created database (the underlying foundation of the redesign). As a result, the changeover will be a month later than originally planned, but June 1 is an achievable target. So, what will be available when you log in on that Sunday morning and what will be still to come?

First of all, no content will be lost even though only 20% of the reviews will be in the database at that time. There will be a link to the current "Archives" page that will serve as a gateway to the existing site. All of the unconverted reviews will be accessible that way until they have been ported. However, after May 31, no updates will be done to the old site and some of the "front" pages (the main movies and ReelThoughts pages) will be replaced by their new counterparts.

As of June 1, all reviews written in 2007 and 2008 will have been converted to the new format. In addition, approximately 400-500 older reviews will have also be in the database. Many of these are among the most frequently accessed titles. There will be no broken links. All reviews linked in the new format will also be re-formatted. After June 1, older reviews will continue to be ported over at the rate of about 50 per week, so it won't be until sometime in 2009 when the entire ReelViews content will be available via the database.

ReelThoughts will undergo a similar transformation. At the outset, only the most recent few months of older posts (probably all those from 2008) will be available. Older posts will gradually be added. At the very end, I'll probably convert the old "Commentaries" into ReelThoughts posts so they aren't lost altogether. (I had initially planned to purge the Commentaries due to low traffic but was convinced by readers of the value of keeping them around.) The format for ReelThoughts will change so that scrolling isn't necessary to locate older entries. When I first set up ReelThoughts, too little thought went into formatting. That will change.

The "static" search pages will be gone. Access to the archives will be available via a text search box that will appear on every page and an advanced search page that will provide a number of options. On June 1, it should be possible to search by title, by director, by cast member, by "star rating", and by year of release. Annual Top 10 lists and my Top 100 will also be accessible via this page, although possibly not at start-up. My fantasy novels will also still be available. In fact, I don't foresee any significant content being lost. If it's there today, it will be there in the future.

The overall goals for the redesign remain the same: to give the site a cleaner, less cluttered look and to bring it up to date with the latest web standards. A lot of this is behind-the-scenes work, but it will make a difference in how the site works and will open the possibility of interaction if I ever decide to introduce a forums section. (Something that's under consideration for a future enhancement but which will NOT be available at start-up.) Also, there are known issues with Apple's Safari browser that should be fixed as a result of the upgrade.

Finally, a "programming" note... From now until May 31, I will be reducing the number of ReelThoughts posts to three per week to allow more time for database conversion. The plan is for ReelThoughts entries on Monday (random topics), Tuesday (DVD and Blu-Ray updates and discussion), and Friday (new theatrical openings). ReelThoughts will return to four posts per week in early June. Also, for April, May, and June, there will only be one planned new review of an older movie per month. (April: The Maltese Falcon, May: The Sure Thing, June: Back to the Future). New reviews of older movies will return to a bi-weekly schedule beginning in July, then go weekly once the database conversion is complete.


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