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Deadline for Fall 2006

 
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Should I push back the fall contest entry deadline to work on the website?
No! A deadline is a deadline. You should stick to the October 31st deadline even if it means using the old website.
20%
 20%  [ 1 ]
I'm neutral on this.
60%
 60%  [ 3 ]
Yes! I need an improved system. In fact, I've withheld my best ideas in the past because of the open nature of the contest.
20%
 20%  [ 1 ]
Total Votes : 5

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ScottyDM
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Joined: 12 Feb 2005
Posts: 1137
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 5:37 pm    Post subject: Deadline for Fall 2006 Reply with quote

Greetings!

I have been hard at work on the new Anthrofiction Network website design--the one that's integrated with a live database and uses a login system. This new website is on a test URL and hosted on my backup machine (because I needed to install a bunch of new stuff).

The new site design isn't done yet.

Even if it were, one day is not enough time to test it.

But I'm far from done, weeks away. My account creation/login system is very close, but I also need (at minimum) a story entry system and a scoring system.

The good news is that once it's done it will be insanely great!

So what should I do at this point? Continue with the current system and current deadline of October 31st at midnight GMT (about 26 hours from now). Or do I halt the contest and rush to complete the remake of Anthrofiction Network? This latter option will push the deadline back by several weeks and maybe as much as a month.


A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with the acquisitions editor for a small press that publishes anthrofiction. Because I sensed they were understaffed, I offered to help them (for free) with editing services (foot in the door). I had e-mailed him a sample of my writing and conversation turned to the sample. I mentioned the contest and that the story was in the contest and had been posted on the Internet for a few months.

<long silence>

The guy only pays a penny per word for stories, but he doesn't want to buy anything that's been published before. I can't really blame him. Who wants to buy something that isn't fresh? Posting to the Internet is the same as publishing and the new website design is to solve that problem.

Okay, so maybe you're not good enough to sell a story... yet, but some of you are getting there. Maybe you have no intention of trying to sell any stories, but you might someday.

The site redesign is about not taking away your options. It's about eliminating the, "If I enter this story I can never sell it," choice. I want everyone who thinks in might be fun to enter the contest to put forth their best effort.


So, do we forge ahead with Anthrofiction Network as is for the fall season? Or do we wait for the better design? Let me know what you think.

Scotty

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Almost real enough to be considered non-fiction, if it weren't made up.
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Nadan
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Joined: 04 Jul 2003
Posts: 163
Location: Southern California, USA

PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Scotty. I hadn't answered yet because I thought I should leave off. I have not finished my story yet (I have only a first draft). My having more time or not is not an issue as far as I am concerned. I think getting the security up and running is great, but I don't know that it's pertinent to this season. I don't know. I would hate to make the call. That's why I am neutral here.
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Charles
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Joined: 31 Oct 2006
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting question.

More time might bring more entries, which is good. And it might lead to more editing, which is good.

But ... dear me, how I so HATE waiting!!!

Patience is for medical professionals, that's my take on it!

But seeing as this is my first post ... and I'm new also to the contest ... who am I to judge?
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Tygon
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Joined: 03 Apr 2001
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Location: Isernhagen, Lowersaxony, Germany

PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm... I have already handed my story in... but getting the new site up first might be a better way to go... of course, I am not really the right one to judge that...
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ScottyDM
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Joined: 12 Feb 2005
Posts: 1137
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've decided to postpone the deadline.

First, while I do have a few entries, more would be better.

But the real reason is to maintain my momentum of development. What I am hoping to complete:
  1. The user login system (I'm very close).
  2. The improved story entry system.
  3. The improved balloting system.

Most of the time is in the login system because I've had to setup MySQL on my test server, setup PHP as an ISAPI app rather than a CGI on the test server, get them to play together, learn SQL and new PHP functions, write a bunch of new pages for the website including a privacy policy and ToS, create some new web forms, rethink the website structure and navigation, and get it all to work. Most of this is done, but some bits haven't been tested. I'm hopeful that I'll have the user login system done in a day or two. Once this is working I'll publish the URL for the test site here and y'all can try to break it.

The story entry and balloting systems will build on much of that, and most of the web page copy is already written--but they'll probably require more debugging than the login system.


The Past

The present system is a mess. I have one big "database" file with everything it it but the stories: the rules (several versions), the contest info for each season, all the biographical info you entered, metadata about your stories, every single valid ballot (last spring someone entered the same ballot twice, so no scandal), and an aborted attempt at storing results in a useful form. The result is that this "database" file is becoming bloated and more dangerous to change with each season (I could accidentally mess something up).

The present system is a kluge. I've got "patch" files for contest results--which is why you don't see good summary results when you look at the past contests. All my results are hand entered into a spreadsheet, triple checked, then hand translated to a bit of bar-graph generating code, checked again, and I then take a screen shot, save the results as .png files on the web server, build my "patch" file around the screen shots, and finally graft the patch into the "story.php" page. Yuck.

I don't really have a mailing list either, but the data is buried in that "database" file. There's no clean way to get it out or into my e-mail program except by copy/past through my text editor. Or I could create a mailer page for the website, except the only security would be to make the URL of such a page secret.


The Future

I can see how having a live database would help with this, and having a login system would help with security and make secure pages possible.

The three bits I've mentioned above are the minimum I need to have working before I open for judging. Beyond that I want some management pages that allow me to edit rules and each season's contest data, as well as manage e-mails. At some point a co-manager would be nice. I don't really have time to do much promotion.


The New Dates

I've set the new entry deadline to November 21st (3 weeks from now) and set the end of judging to December 12th (3 weeks for judging). That's kind of short for judging, but we'll see what happens in December.


Wow, I hope all this gets done well enough before the 21st that we have a chance to test it properly.

Scotty

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Kayngi
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Joined: 27 Oct 2003
Posts: 1798
Location: Midwest, USA

PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heck, I had my story done but I hadn't had a chance to edit, due to general busyness and going out of town. I'm glad I have time to edit.

And I'm IN the medical profession and I'm not a patient person! Nor are my patients patient...

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ScottyDM
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Joined: 12 Feb 2005
Posts: 1137
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Mon Nov 20, 2006 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's Happening?

First of all, what a lot of work! Most of it was learning new stuff:
  • Better programming practices with PHP: My previous projects were trivial. The first version of Anthrofiction Network was a bit gnarly and has some very ugly code, and this new version could have been three times worse. I was forced to learn some proper technique and the new code is now even cleaner than my trivial sites.
  • MySQL, including SQL in general. This was a matter of creating something, playing with it for a day or two, destroying it, then repeating the process. A lot of the effort was required to figure out what I need. The design of all the schemata and tables isn't quite complete, but it's well on the way. I'm making a lot fewer mistakes now.
  • New stuff in PHP. For example, what's a cookie and what's the difference between a session cookie and a persistent cookie? Also, in PHP there is a thing called a "session"--what is that and how do I use it? (I'd essentially done "sessions" in the first version of Anthrofiction Network, but manually. I could have saved myself a pile of effort.)
  • Software installation. In the past I'd kind of "hacked in" a working copy of PHP on my production server (as a CGI), and failed at installing MySQL--well, I'd installed it then broke it. On the test server I now have the very latest version of PHP (as ISAPI routine) and the very latest MySQL, and they play together beautifully.

The result of all this is that it took me weeks to get a system going where one could create a user account from a web form and have it stored in the database, and several more days until I could have logging in actually be logging in.

The good news is progress is accelerating! Now I'm mostly up against the slog of designing and creating clean code.


What's the Schedule?

I might possibly have a system done where you can create an account and upload your story--in time for Wednesday night (the current deadline is Tuesday night). But there will be pieces missing and it won't be properly tested. Plus I won't have voting ready until after Thanksgiving weekend.

Therefore, I've decided to not push the entry deadline back, but to maintain the November 21st (at midnight GMT) entry deadline. We will be running on the old site.

The deadline is in less than 22 hours. However, I might be persuaded to push it back 24 hours, simply because Tuesday night is lame and Wednesday night is still enough time for me to hand prep your entries and have them ready to go by Thanksgiving day.

I've received several entries so far, but I haven't read through them to see if they fit. I will do that now and set out e-mails to every entrant within the hour. If you'd like to reenter your story (edits), or enter another (max of two per season), or enter a story--do it quick!

Of course the working contest site is: Anthrofiction Network.

I'd like to have an accelerated time for scoring this season. The stories will be ready so you can print them out and take them with you when you visit family for Thanksgiving. Something to do while digesting the bird and possibly a topic of discussion.


Where's the Test Site?

It's at test.anthrofiction.net Be aware that: pages may function one moment then spew error messages the next, there are missing pages, and the "Short Stories" section is pretty hosed right now. I'm live editing pages on the site. ((Edited out the direct link to the test site. This was not to make it difficult for you, but impossible for search engine spiders. Sorry for any inconvenience.))

It should be much improved within 24 hours.


Thanks for your patience.

Scotty

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Kantaro wrote:
Almost real enough to be considered non-fiction, if it weren't made up.


Last edited by ScottyDM on Tue Nov 21, 2006 6:30 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Tygon
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2006 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darn, I completely forgot... do we have to re-subit out stories? I do not plan to change anything from the version I had sumitted earlier.
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ScottyDM
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Joined: 12 Feb 2005
Posts: 1137
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2006 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nope. You do not need to resubmit. Your story is in the contest.

I e-mailed the PDF file of your story to you as it will appear in the contest. If you're satisfied with how it looks don't do anything. If you'd like to change something then resubmit.

Scotty

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Almost real enough to be considered non-fiction, if it weren't made up.
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ScottyDM
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Joined: 12 Feb 2005
Posts: 1137
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2006 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Time to Read and Score the Stories!

Only three weeks, so get out there and promote the contest and let's get some readers.

Scotty

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Almost real enough to be considered non-fiction, if it weren't made up.
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