New feature overview: Page Markers

Now that you’ve all had a week and a half to play with Protagonize 2.0, I figured it’s time to start posting some introductory overviews and walkthroughs of the new features you may or may not have noticed in your initial experiences with the new site.

Today, we’ll take a brief look at a revamped feature from the old site: Page Markers, which have changed a lot from what most of you were familiar with previously.

Revisiting Page Markers

Your experience with Page Markers on the old site was probably quite one-sided. First off, the “Add Marker” button was buried at the bottom of pages, visually tiny, and the intended functionality was not particularly obvious to new or casual Protagonize users.

Enter Protagonize 2.0 and the “rethunk” (ahem) page marker:

Adding a page marker

As you can see from the screenshot above, adding a page marker on the new Protagonize is a much simpler, cleaner and more obvious process. Taking a page (pun intended) from e-readers and reading apps like the Kindle or Apple iBooks, we’ve introduced a visual page marker at the top right corner of every work page on the site. The new marker is placed at the top of the page — more logical if you haven’t read it yet — and finger-friendly, as well,  making it much more convenient for tablet or other touch-screen readers.

To add a new page marker, simply click the “unmarked” marker; to remove it, just click it again. Super simple.

Viewing your markers in a work

Markers list on ProtagonizeIn addition to the new page marking system, there’s an improved way of keeping track of multiple markers you may have in a story, poem, exercise or other work.

By clicking the new markers list menu on a work page, you can see all pages you’ve marked in any particular work at-a-glance (see screenshot at right.)

The new pop-up marker menu gives you quick access to all page markers you may have in the work you’re currently reading, so you can jump back to any spot in the story that you left off at, any time. Markers in the menu are sorted from newest to oldest, so your latest marker will always be at the top of the list.

What’s next?

Markers tie into another entirely new feature, too: the Reading List.

When you add a page marker, not only does it show up on your reading list under Markers, it shows up on the reading lists of authors who follow you, so they can see what you’re reading or interested in.

In the next day or two, we’ll discuss the new Reading List feature in-depth. Stay tuned!

Posted in General, Site mechanics, Tutorials & Walkthroughs | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Writers, we have lift-off!

After a metric ton of blood, sweat and tears, we’re live with Protagonize 2.0.

It’s alive! (… cue Frankenstein intro music.)

Protagonize 2.0

Our migration and deployment to v2.0 took a little longer than anticipated (as usual), so I apologize to those of you who’ve been waiting on pins and needles for the last couple of hours, expecting things to go live on time. Hah, like that ever happens. :)

I’ll preface this with a couple of notes: there are still a few things that will likely change pretty dramatically, and there are still some outstanding issues with older browsers (particularly Internet Explorer 8). If you’re not using a current/updated browser, you may encounter some problems until we get things completely sorted out for IE8.

Also, due to how the internet-of-things works, you may find that you’re being redirected to a web site URL that doesn’t look like “protagonize.com” for a few hours, initially — it will just be our beta site address (in this case, beta.protagonize.com, which is actually the new live site). This is just due to the delay in domain name migration, so don’t be alarmed; it’s totally normal. Things should settle down within 24 hours on that front, and you’ll find yourself going to the proper spot once your ISP catches up.

Notifications and emails from the site may also be out of whack during that 24-hour transition period, so please bear with us and don’t fret if you miss an email notification in the meantime. Your notifications are always on the site, too, so you can just check there if you’re worried about missing anything.

What does that all boil down to? Well, the new site should be fully functional, so go nuts! All of your stories, poems, comments, and profiles (etc.) should be there, upgraded to our glorious (ahem) new interface. If you find that you’ve lost something in the process (which is highly unlikely), please let us know and we’ll look into it.

Also, as our profile and group image formats have changed pretty drastically, you may find that your author profile image looks wonky in some cases. In most cases, it’s just because the original you had uploaded was smaller than the new format. If this happens, just edit your profile and re-upload a new image.

I’ll be posting introductory guides to our major new features over the course of the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, feel free to explore all of the newfangledness to your heart’s content. If you have questions about how various things work, feel free to stop by the New Members group or the Protagonize Pub and ask. Our moderators, or myself — or one of our helpful beta testers — will be happy to answer questions about the new interface.

That being said, I’m off to sleep for the next dozen hours or so. Enjoy!

Posted in Collaborative writing, General, Maintenance, Site updates | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Say hello to Protagonize 2.0

If you’ve been watching our Facebook page recently, you’ll know that I’ve been teasing our fans and members with hints at a big announcement for the last week. Not to mention the various screenshots posted over the last few months.

Well, here we go.

It’s definitely been a long time coming, but today’s a huge milestone for both myself and our writing community as a whole. I proud to finally say that I’m able to announce a firm launch date for our new site: Protagonize 2.0 will officially launch on Wednesday, August 15th, 2012.

A very big day all around!

You’ve all been amazingly supportive and patient with the ongoing development of our shiny new site, for which I’m very grateful for. As I’m sure many of you know, Protagonize is operated and developed by a very small team (of one), and our awesome volunteer moderators. Our beta group has also been very helpful in testing new features and helping track down bugs throughout this process. Our re-design has been ongoing for many months, including frequent delays due the balancing act I have to perform between Protagonize, my day job as a consultant, and my (growing) family. Again, thank you for your patience.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting blog updates highlighting some of our new features and describing how they work, the goal being an easy transition for all of you to the new interface, and a better understanding of how stuff works. I realize many of you are very comfortable with using the site right now, but I’m sure you’ll agree that the change is a welcome one. Plus, who doesn’t love new toys? :)

There are still a few tweaks and issues to iron out over the next few days — hence the 10-day window before our official launch — but I’m really looking forward to sharing the new site with all of you. I’m sure you’re all going to love it.

As a parting gift, I’ll leave you with a look at the new Reading List page that all of you will soon find on your author profiles (click to enlarge). Enjoy!

Reading List

Posted in General, Site updates | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Commenting, fluffy kittens, and you

Commenting

What’s a good rating to receive? A high 5? 4? The much hated 0.5? Really, no rating is perfect without an honest opinion to back it up.

We’re all writers here, and I’d wager that most of you are like me and prefer words to numbers. Words are more expressive, and symbolic of something more. Beyond the meaning with give the assembly of letters, word show that people care enough about something to transcribe their feelings and thoughts into language.

There’s been some recent chatter surrounding comments and ratings, specifically in regard to so-called hater raters. This blog isn’t about that, but if you’d like to know about Protagonize’s policy on low ratings please read Nick’s blog post from a year and a bit back. Rather, this post is about commenting on Protagonize, and my thoughts on it. And just what do I think?

It’s really fluffy.

Unlike puppies, kittens, bunnies, or slippers, fluff is a bad thing in this case. I’m sure a lot of us have been told in middle or high school that something we’ve written has “too much fluff.” That’s the stuff I’m harping on here, the strings of words that do nothing but fill space.

Like, “Oh my gawd I love this!!!”

What do you love about it? Do you love the story itself? The choice of words? The characters, setting, names, tone, mood, lack of spelling and grammatical errors? Tell the writer what it is you love, no-one can read your mind!

I know that the Protagonize community is capable of engaging with a poem or story beyond a superficial level. I’ve seen the lengthy comments that come from members of the Critiques Wanted group, I’ve (metaphorically) sat on a judging panel for the Seasonal Poetry Tournament, and I’ve seen the thoughtful reviews that are such an important part of the Seasonal Prose Competition. We’re capable of critique. You’re capable of critique.

So why not try it out?

Giving a critique doesn’t mean you have to be rude or condescending, and in fact those are two things a critique should never be. The purpose of a critique shouldn’t be to make yourself feel high and mighty or more knowledgeable than others; the purpose of a critique should be to help an author correct mistakes he might not have seen, to grow as a writer. Leaving behind a piece of fluff with a 5.0 rating does very little to help the author, other than validate that a good job has been done and an audience is present.

Abraham Lincoln perhaps said it best: “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”

So that’s my challenge to you. Read something, click that sometimes scary red Critique button, and engage with the author. I promise that it will be appreciated and welcome over a simple squee of delight.

Image courtesy of jonathanb1989 on Flickr.

Posted in authors, Collaborative writing, General, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Happy 4th birthday, Protagonize!

Protagonize is 4!It’s hard to believe that it’s been four whole years since I launched Protagonize one cold winter night in late December, 2007.

In 2011, we saw the launch of group submissions (and in fact the whole of the groups feature), as well as a number of other smaller improvements spread out throughout the site. Performance enhancements and optimizations were the focus of the fall. Statistics-wise, our community has grown to nearly 20,000 authors, with over 25,000 works published and over 104,000 pages of content written on the site since its inception.

All-in-all, it’s been a quiet but progressive year for Protagonize.

While it may seem that I’ve been keeping with the site overhaul I promised a few months back close to the vest, I’ve actually been working away on it since the summer. It’s a pretty massive overhaul from a visual and user experience standpoint, but it also required a lot of work behind the scenes to make the new interface work with our existing site structure.

Now, the announcement I mentioned a few days back in my holiday post: the new interface will be going into testing with our beta group sometime before January 15th. This is a pretty major step in the process of launching the new look, and I’m glad to know we have an awesome group of ~70 beta testers from among our site’s authors.

This time around, we won’t be accepting any new beta applications, but anyone who purchases a Plus subscription ($50 CAD) prior to the start of beta will be automatically added to the the tester group. Once the beta test officially kicks off, automatic beta membership from Plus subscriptions will end. If you’re in the fence, this will be your last chance to help out the site and get to experience the new interface early!

Note: If you already have beta access, you’re all set to beta test when I flip the switch. I’ll be posting more information about how beta will work once we get closer to mid-January.

With that in mind, here are a few actual screenshots of the new, fully-functional reading interface running on an iPad 2. You can click through each image to see the full-size version. (Some bits are subject to change, as usual. :)

You’ll notice some familiar faces, too, I’m sure. Enjoy!

Continue reading

Posted in General, Site updates | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments