We've had a great 2012, and 2013 is shaping up to be even better. We're independent from the Michigan University systems (MSU/UMich) and profitable to the extent that bills are covered and we make enough to put towards investments in future growth. I want to thank MSU for getting us through some dark times, and we've come out way head. We've stabilized hardware; increased performance and traffic, taken steps to change the platform from something that hurts us to something that works for us. I'm going to skip some of the nerdy webgeek stuff, and cover upcoming stuff in a really high level. There are some major changes coming to the site, but none of which should really fundamentally change who or what we are.
At its core, E2 is a community who has made-do without a particularly accommodating website. There's a high barrier to entry here with a custom markup system, an often undocumented set of rules and social standards, and a set of jargon all of its own. We have a messaging system and a drafts system that are both very advanced, but our editing, search, and feedback mechanisms are very, very primative. Ecore, our engine as produced by the old Everything Development Company has lived a long time as a semi-community developed product, but we are abandoning a strict change regiment of things that might be useful to other sites. Our code isn't even easily-usable by our nearest-neighbor Perlmonks anymore.
Changes coming in early 2013:
We are abandoning themes: Jukka, Classic, ekw, basically anything non-zen is going away. In fact, we're going to pave zen under in its own way, see below. Our supportability of stylesheets is going to wane a bit during the transition, so KernelBlue is going to itself get cleaned up and changed a lot. I'm not sold with blue and gray as the default color scheme, but it's not a bad choice to start with so we'll start in that direction. I think for people who are going to want to handle customer stylesheets, we're going to provide you a way to give us a SASS overlay that can get compiled in on top of our layout packages. This way, we provide a base level of functionality and then make a way for users to modify that. Our current CSS system falls apart under any sort of rapid change.
Nodelets are going away, we are moving to One Page Layout: The more we have to support it, the more I think that a massively customizable page in the way that we have it is a bit of a misfeature. We've focused our development effort for so long on widgets and knobs and little site layout customizations for people that a huge chunk of our code is to accomodate for various preferences. Nodelets are going away in the sense that we are moving to a setup where we will intelligently feature Other Users, New Writeups, Chatterbox and your Message Inbox in a way that makes sense in a consistent layout. Every other nodelet can either live as a static page somewhere or isn't needed.
Prominent help features: We need a button where you can just click help. Seriously. People have tackled a lot of the documentation about the hows and the whys, and it just needs to be accessible in a place that makes sense
Properly international-ready database: Right now we fudge non-US characters. We fudge it so, so badly. It's going to take like a two hour downtime to fix that, but I'd like to do it sooner rather than later. The database conversion to UTF-8 is tricky, but it's a long time coming.
Writeup microdata: We need to be able to tag writeups as being about a person, or a review, or in other ways that Google/Bing/Baidu can find them. I want to increase the visibility that content here has to the outside world, and microdata is a huge way to do that. We're going to probably start with a book review push as a consistent test of the tools. We have the technical underpinnings of this nearly completely done; the only barrier is a cleanup of the interface to be able to add to it. Whenever you see Google listing reviews for something or Facebook being able to take an accurate snapshot of a user, that is it at work.
Consolidated editorial tools: The editor tools right now are a piled up mess through years of people just tacking onto them. I want to rethink how we manage and scope our website use, both for editor and userland tools.
More robust search interface: I'd like a better interface to search, and possibly move away from our custom search solution over to something that allows us to refine results in realtime. Being able to find content on E2 is one of our huge weaknesses. See IMDB for a site that I think does it correctly.
These are all the things that I think we're going to get accomplished in the first half of this year. I've finished the platform pieces that I needed to finish to make the redesign happen, so that is going to be my top priority
My general goal with E2 is to help the fantastic writers and editors promote themselves and to gain recognition across the web. We have a great community of readers, writers, and editors and we can expand that so that it is fed off of organic growth from around the web. We are an independent place, and it is time to stand and succeed on our own. Last year was a fantastic one, but I'm incredibly excited about what is to come. I'll have more information on the goals of the redesign in an upcoming root log or site announcement.