jazzsequence.com redesign

i’ve been thinking of redesigning jazzsequence.com.  i love this design, i do, and it was a huge project to design, since much of it was written by hand, but i’ve been thinking of ways to monetize the site, if possible, and this layout isn’t very conducive to that.  it’s a good blog layout, and if i just wanted to do a small strip of ads down the side i could do that (and sacrifice the ridiculous widgets i have now), but i don’t really want to do that.  plus, i’ve been really into magazine-style layouts recently, and i came across this theme a while ago and i think it’s awesome and want to do something somewhat related.

so i started a list of things that i want the new theme/layout to have:

  • adspace
  • asides section
  • latest post
  • magazine style?
  • tag cloud
  • flickr stream
  • social networking/sharing links (on posts and in block)
  • gravatar-ready
  • twitter
  • rather than lifestream page, link directly to profilactic

i really like what The Morning After does for the asides section, and matt mullenweg styles his links/asides different from his regular posts as well.  i am using twitter tools to feed notifications of new blog posts to twitter, but it could go the other way, too, if i enabled it, and the asides section (as seen in something similar to the TMA theme) would be a perfect place for those.

so that’s what i’m thinking right now.  i’m also working on a website for a pair of designers who want to have a design blog, and my other thought is that i might use something similar to one of the designs that doesn’t get used for their site.  or something based on that.  their layouts are very grid-based, with room for 260px square ads and 125px square ads along the sidebar, with a magazine style and a big featured post area with lots of room for the post body (~700px).  having just discovered blueprintCSS, grid-based design is another thing that’s been on my mind and, while i like dirty, the clean simplicity of the layout would be a good compliment to a dirty/grungy style like the design that the site has now.

anyway, i’m sure as i get closer to actually doing the redesign, that i’ll post more musings on it later.  right now, gavin needs my help with The Magic Schoolbus: Volcano Adventure.

New ThinkTank Studio beta site launched!

class=”aligncenter” Hi.  You’re looking at the brand-spanking-new ThinkTank Studio website.  We’re still working on adding in a Theme Switcher to allow you to change the look of the site, but we decided it was time to launch the site anyway.  This is one of our favorite themes that we’ve built for the site anyway, designed by Erin.  Stick around, and come back soon — we’ll be updating a lot!

quick note about jazzsequence network…

looks like the single sign-on thing isn’t working right….when you create your wp account it doesn’t pass the authentication to the members/community site.  sorry about this folks, i’m getting it worked on.

UPDATE

well i got the join link up top working…sorta.  it’s just not using the single sign-on.  but it’s a temporary fix…

UPDATE 2

okay, so the links at the top work to get in but the user registration is separate from the wordpress registration for the time being.  i’m leaving it that way until i can find a solution to integrate the two.  :/

thinktank makeover, jazzsequence network

verily it was decided that it was time for a makeover of the thinktank site.  this came down from on high because we went to some other web designers’ sites and realized most, if not all, our contemporaries tended to be a lot more conservative in their presentation on their own website.  now, this seems counter-intuitive to me — i mean, it’s your site — you should show off how insanely badass you are.  but no, most of them are fairly boring, professional-looking sites.

well we didn’t want to do that.  but we did want to make it a bit more like what other people were doing.

so i had a brilliant idea to try to find a script or something that would allow for a dropdown menu that would choose the theme for the thinktank site.  so you could pick which one you were looking at.  not only would it be cool just for the cool gadget factor, but it would showcase our skillz and make us look more badass and give a lot of variety to the site.  it would (in theory) be as good a representation of what we can and do…do…as the portfolio itself!

BEHOLD!  thinktank-studio.com and the glorious dropdown of awesomeness!

(as a sidenote, we’ve been watching way too much how i met your mother recently…..)

i’ve got a couple more themes for the thinktank site in the works and erin’s gonna make some so it should be pretty sweet.

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in other news, it’s not quite done yet, but i’ve created a kickapps community for jazzsequence.  you might remember me talking about kickapps a couple weeks ago in this post.  mostly this was an experiment to set it up, get it working, and know what it’s about so i can start building it for other people.  but it’s also cool in its own right and i think could take the place of the now-dead forums and such if, you know, i still *have* a community….if you have a login on the jazzsequence.com blog, you should already be able to log into the members area with the same info.  if not, make one, and be awesome.  there’s blogs and message boards and stuff (at least when i set it all up).  you can see what i’m talking about at members.jazzsequence.com.

thinktank affiliate buttons, vista experience, computer woes resolved, and other stuff

so we got a new client for thinktank.  it’s a wordpress blog, and it’s mostly maintenance and updates, but it’s still pretty cool.  our client wants to build/integrate a social networking component, so i did some researching and found KickApps Social Networking Software.  the more i read into it and compared the alternatives, the cooler (and more KickAss) KickApps became.  they run a SaaS — Software as a Service, an intriguing concept Wired wrote an article about a while back.  what it means in this case is that the social networking software is provided by and hosted on KickApps’ servers.  you setup the gateway, and everything else lives on their side.  which means less twiddling, infinitely easier setup, no maintenance (other than cosmetic stuff) and also means, for them, that they get to control the flow of traffic and how things work monitarily.  you see, as a free service, they control 2/3 of the ads that show up on the site.  1 of the 3 ad banners you control and can set up as you please.  there’s an option to buy out the ads, but according to the video on their site, it starts at $100/month for 5000 clicks — not a small-scale deal.  they have an impressive client list though; professional sports teams, vibe, npr, universal music, etc.  and it plugs right into the standard cms apps.  not just joomla! and drupal but also wordpress.  it’s exciting enough of a concept to tempt me to create an account and set one up here.  even though, you know, no one visits me, really.

i also just finished optimizing this blog for search engines.  from which i learned a few things about seo-friendly coding, and hopefully does something to counter the last part of the paragraph above.  all this seo’izing and working on a new blog made me think of making affiliate buttons for thinktank.  well, the other thing that made me think of that was the email i got that said that firefox set the world record for most downloads in a 24 hour period for the firefox 3 download day campaign.  it all made me think that creating more ways for people to link back to thinktank couldn’t hurt, and the buttons are prettier than my cleverly unobtrusive “website designed by thinktank” tag at the bottom of our sites.  oh, the other thing the seo stuff taught me (or reminded me, really, i already knew it, but i wasn’t implementing it) was that it’s better to link the whole phrase “website designed by thinktank” than just the “thinktank” which is what i was doing before.


in other news, i got my computer working again, although i haven’t had a chance to look at the old hard drive, see if it’s usable, and figure out wtf happened.  for, you know, fun, and because i wanted to figure out what hardware i should get, or more accurately, if the hardware i was planning on getting would be comparable, i downloaded 3Dmark06 — the standard benchmarking tool that gaming magazines use to rate.  it seemed kind of silly to be using this benchmarking tool that i’ve read about in computer gaming world, but i wanted to see how erin’s system (roughly the equivalent of my broken system) compared with the media center which i was using (roughly the estimated equivalent of what i would be using).  i made a fatal error in doing this — while the mainboard and processors would be comparable (the mainboard i got was a mini version of the one i’m using in the media center) the fantastic graphics i was experiencing in guild wars on the media center was not due to a highly advanced onboard graphics processor which was my assumption at the time.  in fact, it was from the graphics card i got for the media center specifically because i needed s-video out to go to the tv.  as such, erin’s computer with an nvidia geforce 6600 ranked about a 600 and some change on the 3Dmark06 test.  the media center (not designed as a gaming computer by any means and only holding 1gb ram) ranked a 300.  these were, of course, piddly compared to the high scores of people who actually cared to build a gaming system and uploaded their scores to futuremark’s database.  so my plan was to get 4gb ram to overcompensate.  but, as i wrote in one more to file under “it’s always something”, i only had 2 ram slots and my power supply wasn’t spiff enough anyway.  so, having to order a new power supply, i also ordered a new graphics card as well, an off-brand nvidia geforce 8400gs.  it was the cheapest and most powerful solution.   when the power supply came, i started installing vista ultimate, and when the graphics card arrived a couple days later i started transitioning over to my new/old system.  in all, it’s performing well.  my new 3Dmark06 score is around 1600, and guild wars nightfall looks gorgeous — pretty much like the screenshots on their site.  so i’m a fairly happy camper and using a mostly functional operating system again.  while vista isn’t as simple and intuitive as osx and the start menu is all fuXX0red — seriously more messed up than previous versions imo — it works, the glass effects are pretty and it is better than XP and it’s no 95/98 by any means.   it’s definately an advance, albeit not a ground-breaking one.  there are a couple issues:

when i started using vista on the media center i discovered a problem — while i could create new folders (and new files through the right-click option) i could not NAME them.  i.e. New Folder.  New Folder (1).  New Folder (2).  etc. etc.  no matter what i did, i couldn’t get it to work.  apparently, after googling a bit, i discovered this was fairly common and required a registry hack to fix.  annoying, and a waste of a couple hours of banging my head on the computer screen.

random lockups and freezes in explorer, especially when accessing files on a shared network drive.  both vista computers do this so i can only assume this is fairly normal as well.  also, having to log in to the network drive after every reboot is obnoxious and i’m still trying to figure out how to save my password.  :/

so that’s the scoop.  a few quick, final closing remarks:

to answer the comment in my last post: avatars are user icon things for social apps like blogs and forums and messaging programs, but also are used by microsoft to visually represent different users.  it’s sort of the digitized representation of yourself to the world.

i’m planning on sending off my 8mm reels to get transferred to dvd in the next couple weeks.  once i get the dvd back i will rip the video, add new soundtracks and post them here (possibly to youtube as well).  i’m also going to do something about the gavin video and the guy in a hat video (guy in a hat might need to move to youtube also, just for kicks).

i want a google phone.

yes, i’m playing guild wars again.

look for joss whedon’s Dr. Horrible in a couple weeks.  it’s gonna be aweX0me.