Planning OSNews Version 4

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So we’re really beginning to talk about the next iteration of OSNews. There are several things we’re talking about right now, but since I’ve gotten a lot of web experience since the coding of OSNews 3, written several new and powerful web applications, and since we’ve, since rollout introduced several new features and several new optimizations, including multiple caching techniques, I’ve been trying to decide whether it’s best to just fool with the interface, or whether I want to actually rewrite parts of the front and backend. I’ve written lots of apps for work – some are completely AJAX based, some don’t use Javascript at all. Some are completely object-oriented, some are procedural. Some are very tied to MySQL, some use Microsoft SQL Server.

There are definitely ways to continue to optimize OSNews, but it would require some major changes. I’m not sure I’m up for that, and it would also mean changes to the mobile site. That said, I think the smartest thing to do is to do some rewriting.

I told David today that I have some requirements – yes, requirements, if *I’m* going to be coding OSN4. At the top of the list is reliance on CSS for the majority of layout and liberal use of javascript for the UI. I want freedom to go for the whole kit and kaboodle — AJAX (where it makes sense) and javascript in many places to accomplish what we can on the client side. Things like moderation should not require a page load – or two, as it currently is.

I love our claim that we render everywhere, it’s unique and we are probably one of the best sites on the net for mobile use. But I’m so over coding in HTML 3. It took me less than an hour to get threading working properly on this site. It took me days to plan and code it on OSN.

So, as I approach the run for OSN4, I’m thinking of what we ought to be implementing and the best way to do it. We’re going to do some slimming – we’re probably give up themes initially. We’ll probably give up multi-mode comments: you’ll get to choose between flat mode (all comments, in order) and expanded threaded. We’ll probably scale back some features, but expand others.

Either way, it’s sure to be an adventure as we get there.


  1. As long as mobile is set on and autodetection still happens on your side and redirects to mobile site, sounds good.

  2. I for one wish that there was more use made of nesting/threading on comments. For example, when I contributed a story, one person emailed a comment to me as they didn’t think that it was worth adding a new thread to the comments at such a late stage. Also, note that there is very little scoring on comments that are made after the first 50.

  3. Oh, and in addition to my other point…

    …to what extent are you going to raise the bar for browser sophistication? Are people still going to be able to browse OSNews on their Amiga etc?

  4. …to what extent are you going to raise the bar for browser sophistication? Are people still going to be able to browse OSNews on their Amiga etc?

    I don’t know yet. Obviously, we don’t want to completely knock out large sections of our audience. I guess we’ll have two sites: a mobile site and a main site, and there must be a way on the main site to allow people to degrade from the main site to the less-featured mobile site.

    Obviously, I’m in the earliest planning stages. But this is exactly the kind of thing I need to architect out.

  5. We have an ace in our sleeve when it comes to old, nonstandard, or just plain strange browsers: We have our most excellent autodetecting capabilities and our mobile-friendly site. The new OSNews looks like crap on Netscape 2? Shazam! Netscape 2 goes on the list and Net Luddites enjoy the refreshing clean taste of the mobile OSNews design. Problem solved.

  6. Not really. Especially for Netscape, it is very difficult to autodetect it correctly, because many browsers are immitating its user agent. While our autodetection works for unique browsers, it won’t be as effective for things like IE3 or NS2.

  7. I started coming to the site back in ’99 and it was great. There were great articles and good posters. Up until recently, OSNews still had good stories, but now when Thom posts some Novell/Microsoft article, it’s like throwing red meat to deranged, rabid dogs. OSNews has now become a haven for GPL jihadists and linux distro fanboys. Hell, there’s not even anybody left with technical skills. Look at the tech articles comments. 0,1,2 comments. The problem seemed to have started when a couple of Eugenia’s articles got posted to Slashdot. Then we got those rejects starting to trickle in, but it wasn’t too bad. At least with Eugenia moderating, we still had a little bit of sanity in the comments, but now it’s just a disaster. It’s like rubbernecking at a car accident when you read the comments.

    Look at arstechnica, which actually started after OSNews. Look at their subscription base. Look at how they set up their site. I doubt an extreme makeover can change the numbskull clientelle of OSNews, but who knows.

    David Adams, do you read the comments?

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