UPDATE: I’ve now addressed a number of the comments and suggestions, fixing some bugs and adding various new small features.
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Over the last few months, I’ve added quite a number of new software features to this website. Although some of these were connected with the development of my system for displaying books and other long-form content in HTML format, they are generally available on all the other posts and articles, so it makes sense to provide a summary description of them.
I’ve also come across several recent comments complaining about some of these features, claiming that they actually interfere with the use of the website, perhaps on smartphones and other Mobile devices, so this comment-thread will help me decide whether or not to modify or deactivate them in certain situations. Suggestions for additional features would also be welcome.
Here’s the brief summary listing of various new features, not exhaustive, and in no particular order:
(1) “Secure” https: protocol.
I recently switched the website over to the “secure” https protocol, which is being more and more strongly encouraged by Google and other browsers. Some of these “secure” https pages may contain residual non-secure images or other items, which generates browser warnings, so please notify me if you encounter any of these.
(2) Paragraph Double-Clicking, Linking, Bookmarking
Navigating, linking, and excerpting long-form content containing tens or hundreds of thousands of words such as books required me to build a great deal of new software, which was also activated on the rest of the website as well. Among other things, double-clicking (or pressing-and-holding) on a given paragraph tints the text and opens a series of buttons, allowing that paragraph to be linked or bookmarked, and also provides buttons to navigate to the top or bottom of the chapter or the entire page. Dragging/highlighting text with a mouse also activates those same linking and bookmarking buttons, corresponding to the highlighted text.
There have been some complaints that this feature inconveniently interferes with regular copy-and-paste operations, especially on smartphones. It would be easy for me to deactivate it by default for non-books, so I’d welcome the opinions of commenters.
As mentioned above, users may insert several different Bookmarks into locations in particular articles, which allow those locations to be permanently saved. Obviously, this feature is much more important for long books than for short blogposts.
(4) Tweeters Page
Although I don’t use Twitter myself, many other do, so the system now contains a Twitter Page allowing you to select up to 9 Tweeters to follow, with their most recent Tweets displayed in three columns on the screen.
(5) Columnist Customization.
For some time, the website has allowed users to modify the order in which columnists are displayed by dragging-and-dropping them, with the resulting order being saved in a permanent cookie. Columnists who publish very frequently now will also have up to three recent items from the last five days displayed on the screen. In addition, you can override these defaults and modify the number of items displayed for each columnist by positioning your mouse over a columnist bar for a couple of seconds. This opens up a selection-field, allowing you to choose 1-3 displayed items for each columnist.
(6) Automatic Comment Truncation Hiding
Many comment-threads are sometimes rendered less readable by very long comments. If the commenter is seen as worthless, he may be put on the “Ignore” list, but often this is not the case, and it is merely the length of the comment that is the problem. The User Settings popup on the top Menu now allows the “Comment Limit” to be be set to “Short” (about 400 words) or “Long” (about 1000 words), with the remainder of each comment being hidden, but fully displayable by clicking the “Read More”.
(7) Text Search Bar
Although browsers allow crude text searching using Ctrl-F, this approach doesn’t distinguish between article text, sidebar, or comments, and also lacks and/or capabilities. Most importantly, long-form works such as books are divided into numerous chapters, and the contents of these are usually hidden from the browser. Therefore, I added a much more powerful and sophisticated Search Text bar, which appears at the top of each article or post.
(8) Read Aloud
I’ve just added a “Read Aloud” feature, which reads via machine-voice the entire text of an article or a particular paragraph. It is activated by selecting “Enable Read Aloud” in the User Settings popup, which causes a “Listen” button to appear. Pressing this button begins the reading, with optional Pause/Resume/Stop features. Double-clicking on a particular paragraph allows the reading to being in that location. The default voice is “UK Female” but adding additional options would be easy.
There are quite a lot of other small recent software enhancements, but these are the ones that most immediately come to mind.
(9) Take this opportunity to provide your software suggestions and complaints
What prompted this Open Thread was that I happened to read a comment-thread which contained various software complaints. For example:
On an iPad this appears if you click on the text. I just ignore it. But I can appreciate that on an iPhone it might be worse.
It doesn’t bother me the way the “View all posts” that appears as an action while you are in a selected thread.
It should go not to post #1 but to the post that you selected that option on.
It really wrecks my ability to follow complex threads because I know I can’t use “this thread”. Unless I feel like scrolling down through dozens of posts.
My right arm arthritis is bad enough as it is.
Now I’m usually busy with my own work and only very rarely read the articles published on this website, let alone the enormously long comment-threads. Therefore, leaving software complaints in those comments is pretty pointless. There’s the opportunity to actually get them to my attention if you’d like.