It has been months in the making, but the new Some Random Dude is finally launch worthy. This site was completely re-thought from the ground up in concept, purpose and process which is why it took so long to get to this point. The site is currently in an alpha state, so there are many improvements and changes that will need to occur in the weeks and months to come. However, I feel as though the site is ready for public eyeballs. There has been a lot of thought put into this new site, so I am going to explain a little of what this new site is all about and where it is going to be headed.
A Completely New Direction
The old site, in retrospect had quite long legs – I am amazed how long it lasted. The problem was, when I started the site out, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do or where I was headed. What ended up happening is that the site would be quickly and misguidedly hacked to fit the latest direction I wanted the blog to go. What resulted was a hodge-podge mess that began to collapse under its own weight.
Before I even began the wireframing of this site, I sat down and put a lot of thought into what I wanted this new site to achieve. So while I am certain much of the structural and visual elements of this site will evolve, the underlying function will remain. Here are a few of the directions that drove this redesign:
Centralization of Information
The old site was essentially an island separated from nearly all the other content I create, share or find on a daily basis. If I did want to export it to my blog island, I would have to manually ship it over and publish it. That all has changed with the new site. The new Some Random Dude, is as much an aggregator as it is a blog. I am bringing in content from my profiles on Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr, Delicious, Twitter, and Google Reader. The goal was to take advantage of web apps that already to a great job at aiding in the generation of specific content to work for this site. This is nothing new – many people are “lifestreaming” nowadays – it just seemed to make sense as the next step for this site.
One of the inherent problems I have found with many of the lifestream implementations I have found is that it treats all content equally when I find that to be terribly problematic. I am trying out the idea of tiered content – long format (blog articles), medium format (Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr) and short format (Twitter, Delicious and Google Reader). The default feed contains only long format and medium format posts so as to not post-spam people to death. However, you can subscribe to feeds containing just short format posts, medium format posts or long format posts. I am still working out how each tier should be structured to fit its format – that will likely be a continual work in progress until the site is completely finished.
Focus on Quality and Quantity
With the various formats of content, I hope to impose a greater focus on the strengths and weaknesses of different types of content. I want my short form content to come in regular intervals while being relatively informative/entertaining while leaving long form content for in-depth and well prepared content. The problem with the old blog is that I tried to fit short, medium and long format content into a one-size-fits all blog post and it just did not work. Now I can keep small, isolated thoughts outside of full articles while still being able to publish thoughts as they come. The intention for this is that posts will be much more frequent while not infringing upon the quality of the most important content on the site.
A Broader Scope
One thing this new blog is going to do is branch out from the normal content that I normally would publish. While many blog “experts” advise individual bloggers to specialize on a specific subject, that is just not how my mind works. There will definitely be posts on Flash and code examples (more on that below), but there will also be posts on many other subjects completely outside of the web design/development umbrella. Some may like this, others may not.
An Entirely Open Source Project
Perhaps the biggest piece of this project is that this entire project (and by entire, I mean entire) will be open source. Obviously, the WordPress theme I made will be offered up. The plugins made from scratch and pre-existing ones that I hacked/altered for this site will be made available as well. In addition, my entire AS3 library that I have been meaning to release for well over a year now (all 150+ classes and counting…) will be made available. All custom icons/graphics will be offered up in source format (Illustrator or Fireworks) and I am also hoping to wrap up all the Photoshop, Illustrator and Fireworks files of the initial grid design and site layout. Everything I can possibly offer up, I am going to. This kind of thing does not happen overnight however and while the site is launch-able, the code is not ready to be offered up. The plan is that the day the site hits version 1.0, the code will be offered up along side it.
As Open As (Safely) Possible
I also hope to continue to open up as much information as I can within reasonable limits. All traffic numbers are currently public and I will continue to make any worthwhile information open and transparent. I doubt any of this will be interesting, but it is more of a gesture than anything.
Ultimately, a Work In Progress
In all honesty, the site is still a significant mess. Trying to move 2.5 years worth of posts that were published (ahem) haphazardly has been a chore to say the least. Changes will be made, improvements will come. Most pages are simply shells of what they will eventually be. I wanted to make the information available and then pretty it up later. The site definitely is in flux – however, this time there is some organization behind it. There are portions of the site in particular that I am currently unhappy with, I may spend an article or two discussing them.
The first step is to get some good posts out the door as quickly as is feasible. I cannot remember the last worthwhile article I have written and that frankly saddens me. The second step is to get out of alpha as quickly as possible. There are some much needed features that have to be added and some bugs that need to be fixed. Obviously, getting to a 1.0 so I can offer up all this code is important, but it is going to be a while before I get there.
Alex Scammon, Jon Christopher, Kellie Okai, Dave Johnson and Ryan Teuscher. I know I’m missing some names here – my apologies.