Initial Reaction to Ning

Ohhh Ning…As I first heard of this project and signed in for the first time, the first though the entered my mind was yet another wonderful “Google Sites” worthy aggravation. But…I was wrong. I was very wrong actually. Seeing as I ran into a few problems with Google sites, I was sort of pessimistic with these “start you own web page in minutes” sites that claim you have “full customization.” So of course the first thing I did was browse my way into the “full customization” section, and I have to say, I am more than happy with what I see. Because the first thing that caught my eye was the wonderful three letter C-S-S. What a relief. But I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any fine print such as:

Fully customize your site's appearance using CSS*
*Ning currently supports only 15% of the W3C’s approved CSS tags. This means you really can’t do anything. Yes that means we lied to you. And no we are not liable for the damage you cause to your laptop when aggravation causes you to toss is across the room.

So I took a look around, and not only Ning support CSS, they also offer tutorials, tips, and tricks so people who might not know it that well will know how to do it. Okay so after I got over my CSS excitement, I started to look more seriously at what Ning had to offer. And from what I can see, they offer pretty much everything. You can add streaming videos, chats, blogs, youtube, and hundreds of other options for applications. There is even and application available for you to use if you don’t see an application you like. The “sharendipity” application allows your members to build custom software and explore those created by others within your network…so far this is looking pretty good compared to the Google sites XML custom widgets pain in the ass. I also like that it seems pretty easy to get your site circulating quickly. I just hope my enthusiasm about diving in and getting going with Ning isn’t quickly suppressed like it was with Google Sites. If I was able to enjoy the last project, then I should love this one.

I just hope this project progresses better than it started for me. I haven’t been able to do anything for this project as of yet, and really need to catch up. But even though I haven’t been able to dive into yet, I already learned a valuable lesson in the last weak… even if you feel perfectly fine, when the doctor tells you to stay in bed, stay in bed. Believe it or not, he knew what he was talking about. Imagine that. And to whoever started mononucleosis…. I hate you lol.

Well, time to get to catching up. Looking forward to finishing up strong.

Wrapping up Google Sites

Okay so as I'm wrapping up this project, I have to say that I am very happy with it, but it was also very time consuming. I tried the photoshop approach for the sites logo and background, but that ended up taking alot more time than I had planned. I first tried to upload my custom logo and background and content area background, and realized even this was going to be a pain. Biggest problem with that was a constant issue with the spacing and size of the images. It really kind of ruined all the work that I had done and killed my layout idea. So I went back to the drawing board and am finally happy with how things came out. I set the site template to a blank slate, and in the colors and layouts section, I unchecked all of the "template defaults" and set them all to "none." This left me with absolutely nothing and gave me the range to arrange things the way I wanted. So now again my problem with having the background and content appear the way I wanted them to came back to haunt me. When you upload an image to google sites for a background, the image always appears the same size as it was saved, meaning that the background wouldn't resize accordingly, and therefore would look wayyy too different when the page was view on different monitors. So my solution to that was to create a background image that included the site background, top banner, and content area background all merged together. To avoid the problem of the image repeating or appearing too different on different monitors, I set the base layer (site background) to 1700 pixels wide by 3000 pixels high. Then I left about 30 pixels space between the top of the page and the title banner. This way the "google search" bar would fit nicely in this space on the website. Then I made sure that my content layer would appear as I wanted it too and where the content of the page was going to be. So after carefully mapping out my spacing, I got it just right.

The next thing that I wanted to fix was the navigation menu. Google sites only has the option of the vertical navigation in the left sidebar. But I didn't like the way the side bar appeared with my custom background image, so I deleted it so that the actual content would be centered in the page and fit well in its designated space. So now I had to figure out how to get my navigation to fit into my layout. So I made my own custom widget and added it to the site. I brushed up on my XML scripting, uploaded it, prayed, and thank god it worked. But my only problem with this was that I could only add the widget into the "content" section in google sites. But this would therefore Add the navigation bar into the white content area and screw up all the spacing. So I changed the site layout for the "header" space to be 200 pixels. This way the content (if it had a visible title or background color) would actually be overlapping the title banner. But I accounted for the titlle banner's height, the padding on the top, and where the content was actually going to appear. Then I saved the page and viewed it again (making sure to pay attention to how it looked when I previewed it as a viewer) and it works perfectly. Google search sits on top of the title banner, everything is centered, and the navigation menu appears just above the white background for the content.

Then I decided that I wanted a new little toy for the Homepage of the site, so I decided to create an Image scrolling marquee banner. Then I created individualized title images for each page and fit them into the design. Now all that's left is a few little tweaks to the alignment of the content, and everything looks good to go.

So bottom line with this project for me is that I spent a good amount of my time working in photoshop: 1. because google sites was too limiting, and 2. because I'm a perfectionist and I got a little carried away. But I have to say, I'm very happy with the work that I did in this project, and I think the site looks great.

Response to "Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship"

Okay so I actually found this article somewhat interesting. The oral presentation that I put together covered Web 2.0, so therefore I already had a pretty good background on social-networking sites before reading this article. But I have to admit, even though I do have a facebook, I personally am not all that wrapped up in using sites like that. I am more like Clay Shirky from this article in that I simple see them as YASNS: “Yet Another Social Networking Site."

I did find it interesting however, that the article pointed out that they choose not to employ the term “networking” because networking emphasizes the initiation of relationships, and although it is possible through sites like Facebook and Myspace, it isn’t the primary focus of Social-networking sites. They then point out that these sites are unique because they “enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks.” In my opinion, as it is pointed out later in the article, this corresponds with what I believe to be a major factor that separates social-networking sites from other forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC): identity management. Sites like Facebook give users the ability to decide what information they want to display, distort, or withhold altogether. To some extent, almost everybody who uses these sites are guilty of being “Fakesters” (as the article calls them) at one point or another. Along with the ability to edit your information in order to create a “cyber” image of yourself, impression management is also impacted by which friends and groups you choose to be associated with. Unfortunately, in my mind, these abilities have almost turned sites such as Facebook into an online popularity contest for some users, especially college-aged. You want to portray yourself in the best light possible for the crowd you are trying to attract. And this is the primary reason that I became turned off from these kinds of social networking sites.

Getting back to the Web 2.0 aspect, I do think that social networking sites are a great platform for business, small business, and even non-profit organizations to advertise themselves, get there name out, and possible increase their success. I also find it kind of interesting that the boom of SNSs came from 2003 onward, which was during the first years following the “dotcom crash” in 2001. And hence, spawned during the birth of Web 2.0.

Progress on Google sites

Okay so working with Google sites soon became aggravating. I really want to change the design, look, and feel of the site, but you are really limited in what you can do. Sure there are hundreds of templates, but even if you change the colors around the site will still be boring. I want to give the site the personality that I feel it needs, so I really decided to pretty much scratch the idea of trying to do it within Google Sites. I think what I'm going to try and do is maybe photoshop some images and try and set those images as backgrounds for the page and content. Maybe I can try and whip up a nice banner for the site too. I think I'm going to have to create logos for the titles of each page too because you really don't have too many options for style with them period. Hopefully I will be able to figure something out and get this site the way I want it.

Introducing Google Sites

Okay so when I first heard that our next project is to redesign a website, I have to admit, I liked the idea. I really enjoy working with graphic and web design, and I have a pretty good background on it. I've have created pages from scratch using nothing but HTML code, and I'm also good with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), JavaScript, DHTML, and Ajax. That being said, this is where Google sites disappoints me a little bit. When I write my own code I have the freedom to do whatever I want, and I can rework the code in order to make everything look and work just the way I want it too. But with Google sites, I have some pretty strict boundaries and I can see myself getting frustrated with it at times. Granted Google sites is meant for simple, quick page design, and it's really good for people who have absolutely no idea how to write code. However, I feel like Google sites is more of a restriction than a stepping stone for people who have a pretty good background in writing code and script. Although I don't have quite as much freedom as I would like, I am determined to work with the site to get just what I want. I'm sure there are some tricks, back doors, and loopholes that I'll find/figure out along the way.

The end of a project, but not the end of the page

Coming to the end of this project, I have to say I am really happy with my addition to Wikitravel. I feel like I really helped contribute to the site and also added something that I think could be a popular page. Although it took some time for me to really get the "Understand" section completed the way I thought it ought to be, I really think it is both my best contribution thus far, and also it was a necessity to the new page in order to really set the scene of the Mohawk Trail. I think I did a pretty good job with the basics of the "get in" section. I used routes coming from Boston and New York, primarily because it includes popular highways that will make it easy for other people from different areas to get in fairly easily. As a base, I also added a few posts under "do" "see" "eat" and "sleep." I wanted to do add the beginning of a little something in order to give the page some depth and make it more appealing as well. Although the project is coming to an end, I don't plan on discontinuing my work with this itinerary. It's my baby lol. Eventually I hope to add to each section and then break them up into the different towns, cities, and destinations, and I think that will really help pull it together as an itinerary.

I have to say, I was wrong about this project in the beginning. I really didn't see it being something that I could get into like I did with the enthusiast blog, but I stand corrected. I put my own spin on it, took something that I cared about, and really feel like the page is already being recognized by Wikitravel users. The project may be coming to an end, but as I said before, I plan to continue watching and contributing to the growth of this page.

Mohawk Trail Discussion

I went ahead and created a comments page for "The Mohawk Trail" itinerary. If you are viewing the page and click on "discussion" up on the top left (near "edit) then you will be redirected to the comments/discussion page for the article. I took the time to briefly clear up that some of the info may be found here in my process blog, and I also explained that the itinerary was part of a group project and that I was looking forward to continuing to watch and help to make the new page blossom.

Everything is starting to come together fairly well if I do say so myself. I'm actually enjoying this project.