There’s a whole lot of new News today

March 17, 1999:   The first thing I want to do is thank everyone for the tremendous amount of patience you’ve extended me in recent weeks. We’ve had a veritable avalanche of poems submitted, and I know some of you have been waiting a very long time to see yours posted. Thank you, indeed, for waiting so nicely. But I’d also like to ask you to be patient with me just a few moments longer, though on a slightly different matter. You see, this entry is likely to get really extensive today…

The New! Passions in Poetry

There have been a lot of changes to Passions this update, almost all the result of great suggestions from our wonderfully active visitors. For many of you, of course, the biggest news is the huge influx of new poems on the site. Some of you read the post I made in our Forum a week or two ago concerning the tremendous backlog of unposted poetry. In that post, I pointed out a number of things the resident poets at Passions could do to get their poems posted more quickly. Things like doing a spell check, removing extra spacing, not capitalizing their entire title. In short, all the things I’ve been doing by hand to make the poetry we post look good.

Well, after I made that post in the Forum I had something of an epiphany. All that tedious stuff I had been doing to every poem was, uh, tedious stuff. Which is another way of saying "computer stuff." If you’ve already read the article posted below, How Athena Learned to Program, you know that almost this entire web site is generated by a computer program. Well, gee, I thought to myself, since Athena is already writing the web pages, why can’t she just edit the poems for me while she’s at it?

It turns out Athena was willing to help where she could. She’s real good at taking out extra spaces and line breaks, and she does a fair job of capitalization. Probably the biggest help is that Athena now reads the poems directly from the web server into the database, without the long and (need I say it?) tedious cut and paste I’ve used for the past several months. Unfortunately, though I frequently forget it, Athena is still just a computer. Her native language isn’t English, and there’s still a lot of things she can’t fix for me. But she’s been a tremendous help and is largely responsible for this huge update.

That solved our biggest problem and almost got me caught up on the backlog. But, as so often happens in life, solving one problem created a few more.

A Whole New! Look

One of the first problems I noticed when the new poems were added was that it was hard to tell which were new and which have been here a while. In the past, it was easy. All a visitor had to do was look at the dates. But many of the poems in this latest update go as far back as January. In some cases, they were skipped over because I didn’t want a single poet dominating a page with too many poems, in other cases because they required a lot of editing. Now, though, as those older submissions were merged into our lists, they became lost.

The solution was pretty simple, actually. All of the poems from this update now have a New! button next to their dates. That should make it fairly easy to tell which ones you haven’t read yet, right?

Oops, another problem. We just plain got too many poems! It’s a wonderful problem, but still a problem. Our largest page is the Love Poems one, and it was already taking a good 2.5 minutes to load after our last update. With so many new poems added, that load time almost doubled! Our regular visitors don’t mind waiting, but our new visitors don’t always know the treat they have in store for them. They get impatient. They leave.

The solution, again, was fairly simple and has actually been in the planning stages for almost a month. Each of our major categories now has subcategories at the top of the poems list. So, instead of one great big huge list, we will now have several smaller ones. Of course, it has the added benefit that it should now be easier to find a poem on a specific topic. It’s not a perfect solution, though. The Love Poems page still takes far too long to load. But it’s a start, and over the next few weeks I’ll be moving poems around a bit to lighten the load. Anyone who has suggestions for new subcategories, by all means, drop me a note.

A New! Feature

There’s one more major change to the web site, but it’s one you might accidentally overlook. About six weeks ago, I added a "Comments" field to the Voting form. And we’ve been getting some really great (and sometimes hilarious) comments on the poems.

Well, those comments have now been integrated into the database and Athena is now adding them to the poetry pages. Beneath the Response Panel is a new section for any comments that have come in on a particular poem. Obviously, not all the poems have votes, and not all the visitors who have voted wrote comments. But those that are there are pretty entertaining, and many should bring a pleasant smile to a hard working poet’s face.

In Closing (can’t really use the New! icon here; oops, I just did)

While we’re still talking about the Voting (we are, aren’t we?), I want to mention that our next update will include the results of February’s tally. I almost included it in this update (I know who won, I know who won…), but I figured you people could only handle just so much excitement. 🙂

In a similar vein, I’d also like to mention that our Forums are becoming far more active (thank you, Sunshine!) and you should feel free to post your public comments about a poem there. Our resident poets work very hard, and it’s always nice to get a little positive feedback. You might also like to check out the poems being posted in the Critic’s Corner (our second Forum – use the drop down box to get there.)

Our next issue of Digital Passions should be going out to everyone a few days after the next update, and there’s going to be some really killer surprises revealed. Along with some killer poems I’ve been saving just for the newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. (If you’ve had a poem posted at Passions, you’re already subscribed!)

I hope everyone enjoys the new poems, the new look, and the new features. But don’t get too complacent and start feeling like you know your way around the web site. Because in the words of the great Gypsy Rose Lee, "You ain’t seen nothing, yet!"

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