Another Happy New Year message!
I can't imagine what got into me, but I decided it was time to really double check the site for broken links. Out of 3732 URLS, there appear to be 166 broken*, so it's time to work through them and see what's happened. Not sure when I'll be finished...
I've also started thinking about future plans for the site, starting with soliciting ideas for improvements. Top of the list comes a way to search within a certain distance of a postcode. Need some serious code for that one.
* Thanks to the brilliant link checker, Xenu, an old tool written by Tilman Hausherr
I'm writing this a week after I managed to change my web hoster for this site, yet again. I'll spare you the reasons for this, but suffice it to say it ISN'T about a cheaper service, but a better one. One of the benefits is that the site is finally protected by SSL, and now that I've worked it out, you should automatically be redirected to the "https:" version of the site. Easier for me too is that I can go back to using ftp to upload the changes which had been broken by the previous hoster.
But hopefully, you haven't noticed any of this!
A Happy New Year to all our readers! :-)
I happened to be in front of the computer this morning and realised that I'd made some updates yesterday but hadn't sent an acknowledgement to the original requester. One thing led to another, I checked the site stats (a bit of an upturn in the last couple of months after a steep decline in the last two years, I wonder why?), then updated the map. This in turn prompted me to tweak the map page so that the bullets on the key more closely matched the bullets on the actual map. The old key bullets were a hangover from when the map was a Google Fusion Table (see May's comments below), but now I'm using Google Maps which doesn't have the same colour palette for the bullets I'm using. Then of course there were a few other bits to tweak, like rounded box corners which I've been gradually adding to all pages, plus a few other subtle changes.
Stops me getting bored with the site, I guess.
In what is becoming a busy period for site updates, I've decided to forego the occasional exciting CD dropping through the door and move to a simpler method for folks who want to express their thanks via a donation. I've registered with Ko-fi and have set up a donation page for the site with a suggested purchase of a beer or a coffee (see link below). As well as the Amazon link I've removed the direct Paypal link and now only use the one place. To be honest I'm always a bit surprised when I get a donation, I'm not expecting to make significant income! I'll be replicating this news feed on the Ko-fi page too.
As for the link-checking, well it is taking a LOT longer than I expected. I'm through a few of the regions, albeit with outstanding queries for some ensembles, but there are quite a few still to do. With many of the ensembles starting up again after recent events there are quite a lot of other updates coming in too.
Another site design refresh, but with very little visual change. I've upgraded the underlying Bootstrap framework to V5, which hasn't broken many things, and has made a few things better. I've FINALLY made the header line up with the rest of the page - if you're reading this on a mobile you won't notice the difference, but it should be neater on a full size screen. Quit a lot of HTML changes underneath, which unfortunately I have to process manually for the pages that aren't "listing" pages, and then update the generator program for the listing pages.
I've also done something I shouldn't have put off for so long which is to do a complete link check against the site. It's shown up more than 100 links that aren't working, so I've started the task of fixing them. Early signs are that they don't represent orchestras that have folded, more often they have changed their website address. It seems like the .org domains are not as popular as they used to be - or it may be that .co.uk ones are simply cheaper...
Nearly three years since the last comment here, and of course the main topic of conversation has been the almost total cessations of amateur music ensemble playing during the last year. With a following wind today represents the start of a return to some kind of normality that doesn't involve playing at a microphone and attempting to share our sounds with someone a long way away.
Another little event passed by a bit unnoticed, which was the 20th birthday of the amateurorchestras.org.uk domain. Little did I realise, etc! I originally started a list of London orchestras in the mid 90s on another domain, but the current site actually started when I picked the rather wordy domain name in 2001.
Oh, and another thing that involved a little bit of work was the retirement of Google's Fusion Tables function. I was using this excellent tool to provide the country map, and it made the job really quite straightforward. I've now had to use the Google maps native function which is considerably more hostile to simple updates. This means that the map is sometimes a little out of date compare to the main listings since I don't update it quite as frequently. Eventually I'll get fed up with it and try to find a better method, but Google maps is at least zero-priced.
It's been QUITE a while since I had any news of note. In the interim the number of ensembles listed on the site has passed 1,400 and the number of members of the Facebook group has breached 5,000.
This note coincides with quite significant update to the underlying template of the site, although with any luck you won't have noticed many changes. In particular I have incorporated a new version of the Bootstrap framework. Inevitably (I suppose), many things were broken, and it's been a bit of nuisance fixing them. Given that my day job is working on a system where 30 and 40 year-old programs still run on the modern levels of hardware and software, it's an eye-opener. Of course in the changes I hope I've managed to improve the layout a little. There are some subtle changes of layout, but otherwise most will appear much as before.
As always, if you have any ideas or improvements you'd like to see, or if you're even reading this, then I'd be happy to hear from you!
Searching has been one thing that I've been contemplating for some time. A quick look around my hosting site has revealed a little piece of cgi code that might work. In order to test it, I'm putting the code snippet here.
If you try it and it works for you, let me know.