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Author Topic: A Simple Look...at AngelinaBelle  (Read 19311 times)

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Offline Eliana Tamerin

  • Comrade
  • *
  • Posts: 2889
  • Gender: Female
  • SMF Version: 2 RC2
  • SP Version: 2.3.2
A Simple Look...at AngelinaBelle
« on: November 29, 2011, 09:19:47 AM »
You may have used SimplePortal for years, or you may be a newcomer to the mod, but have you ever wondered about the people behind it? A Simple Look will take you behind the mod and let you get to know the people who help make and support it.

We start with our support specialist, AngelinaBelle. You may have seen her around, answering your support questions and helping you with your SP install. Now she answers questions about how she got involved and more!



How did you find SimplePortal? Have you actively used it as a user?

I was actually looking for some way to add a forum to an existing static website -- one that was frequently updated by the webmaster on behalf of the officers of the associated club. I had picked SMF (1.1.x at the time) because I thought the administration center was easier to understand and navigate than phpBB's. Then, I went looking for ways to link it into the static front page. Somehow, I came across the idea of a portal that would allow forum members to choose what to put on the site's front page, without needing to wait for the webmaster to do all the work.

I chose SimplePortal because it had been recently updated, and because it had more downloads than the other portals. I figured that made it worth trying out first. I have been generally satisfied with it, so I have never tried the other portals.

Initially, I had a hard time selling the club officers on the more dynamic website, where club officers could choose to ask the webmaster for help or else to do stuff themselves. Like send announcements via email to all members. And change the front-page announcements just by writing new articles.

How and why did you get involved with SimplePortal?

I got involved with the SimplePortal Team because I had support and customization questions myself, as I was setting up the website for a club. Because this is a volunteer project, I felt it was fair to pass the favor along by answering other people's questions.  Also, I discovered a tricky little javascript bug and made a couple of feature suggestions. Pretty soon, Sinan asked me if I was interested in joining the team.

What are the difficulties of providing support for such a huge mod?

I don't know anything about supporting any other kind of mod! I also provide some support for SMF, which is even bigger than SimplePortal.

I think the most difficult part of support is figuring out exactly "who" is at fault for a problem. Is it a SimplePortal problem? An SMF problem? A problem caused by another mod? A problem with the server?

What would you suggest for those who come here for support?

Read the documentation, of course! Then, if you are working your way through a tutorial, and come to a part you don't understand, stop right there, and post a support question. Explain EXACTLY how far you got, what the result was, exactly what error messages (if any) you have.

The more specific information you can give, the more quickly someone can help you.
The next big piece of advice I would give is -- read the SMF documentation. Learn to use SMF features like attachments.
The more you know, the better questions you can ask.

Finally, if you are hoping to get help with some custom code for a php block, or to go into one of the SMF or SimplePortal files, learn a little about HTML and PHP. This will make your life so much easier.

What about documentation?

As a Support Specialiast, I find that I give the same advice over and over. That's why, soon after I got the green badge, I was pushing for some documentation. Turns out that Chas Large, another SimplePortal user, had written a whole bunch of documentation already. It just needed some kind of interface. After some discussion and tries with an earlier documentation interface, Sinan created a new interface that takes documentation out of a forum board, uses a message subject to label the navigation buttons, and used the generic button menu interface to navigate the documents.  All I needed to do was update some of the images and text to reflect the latest version of SimplePortal, and organize them in the hidden documentation board.

I feel like this documentation really does cover most of the most-asked questions -- at least the ones that require more than 1 line of explanation.  I have added some documentation, to cover installation problems (this is really not a SimplePortal problem, but since it affects SimplePortal users, I figured it was worth covering here), and try to make improvements based on what SimplePortal users say about the documentation.

I only do support and write documentation in English. But I know that some of the moderators on the other support boards have added plenty of "how-to" documents over time.  I think this is a big help for the users.

What's the feature of SimplePortal you find indispensable?

The articles. With a little customization, I've got 2 categories of articles in articles blocks displayed on my website's front page. This lets me show the "most important announcement" first and "the list of the rest of the announcements" second. It also allows these articles to be drawn from any board on the forum, which is important, as I've got "sub-portal" pages drawing on those same topics, using BoardNews blocks. It makes it easier to keep information organized and up-to-date for forum members.

How do you see the future of SimplePortal and what do you want to see?

I'd like to see the portal page treated more like any other SimplePortal special page -- why does it have to show ALL articles in its center section?  I'd like the articles display, articles block, and boardnews block all to use the same display template. I'd like the articles block to allow selecting all articles, or articles from only one or more categories. I'd like to have an easier time figuring out which blocks will get displayed on which pages.

In the intermediate term, I see fewer problems installing SimplePortal. I know that upcoming versions will do fewer modifications of SMF code, and use SMF's integration hooks. This is no surprise, as Sinan (as a member of the SMF development team) also introduced quite a number of those integration hooks specifically to alleviate this problem.

In the longer term, I see Simple Machines software evolving to better deal with the needs of a portal or CMS integrated with a forum, blog, gallery, etc. I see SimplePortal evolving right along with these changes.

What would you change in SimplePortal if you could?

I would like to see another awesome coder working on this project. There are only so many hours in a day for our founder to write code!

If you could change the name of SimplePortal, how would you name it?

I thought it was pretty bold of Sinan to choose the name SimplePortal. It sounds as though it is the OBVIOUS companion to Simple Machines Forum. I wouldn't change it.

Do you have any memories you made in this community which makes you smile?

The founder of SimplePortal behaves in such a nice, polite, respectful way. I think this shows in the team he has built. It makes me smile when I see the friendly, considerate, respectful responses they give to all the users all the time. Maybe others would find it a little boring here, but I appreciate the general lack of drama on the team.

One thing that really made me smile was, when I joined the team and first saw the private team boards, I saw that Sinan had said I was not a very good coder. Not surprising, since I hadn't even figured out exactly how SMF worked at that point, and knew very little PHP. But it surprised me anyway. Now, I laugh whenever I think about it.
Ms. Eliana Tamerin

It should be painfully obvious by now that I don't respond to support PMs. Don't send me PMs for support. They will be ignored and deleted, post on the Support Boards to get support.

Offline [SiNaN]

  • Mr. SimplePortal
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  • Posts: 6782
  • SMF Version: 2.0.10
  • SP Version: 2.3.6
Re: A Simple Look...at AngelinaBelle
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2012, 04:42:44 PM »
I don't know why it took me so long to reply to this great post but better late than never...

Also, I discovered a tricky little javascript bug and made a couple of feature suggestions. Pretty soon, Sinan asked me if I was interested in joining the team.

Although I'm getting old, I'm glad I still have the eye for a good team member candidate. :P

I think the most difficult part of support is figuring out exactly "who" is at fault for a problem. Is it a SimplePortal problem? An SMF problem? A problem caused by another mod? A problem with the server?

I guess, in most cases, that's me who is at fault, lol.

The articles. With a little customization, I've got 2 categories of articles in articles blocks displayed on my website's front page. This lets me show the "most important announcement" first and "the list of the rest of the announcements" second. It also allows these articles to be drawn from any board on the forum, which is important, as I've got "sub-portal" pages drawing on those same topics, using BoardNews blocks. It makes it easier to keep information organized and up-to-date for forum members.

Sadly, as the developer of SimplePortal, I find the articles features to be pretty primitive and insufficient. The current one is nothing more than display a number of select topics. I'm really hoping to get a proper article system implemented some day.

In the intermediate term, I see fewer problems installing SimplePortal. I know that upcoming versions will do fewer modifications of SMF code, and use SMF's integration hooks. This is no surprise, as Sinan (as a member of the SMF development team) also introduced quite a number of those integration hooks specifically to alleviate this problem.

I tried to stay objective at that, lol, and that's why SimplePortal will still need a few changes here and there. Unfortunately, we won't be using them until we drop SMF 1.1 support though.

In the longer term, I see Simple Machines software evolving to better deal with the needs of a portal or CMS integrated with a forum, blog, gallery, etc. I see SimplePortal evolving right along with these changes.

Yeah. If we have a more flexible base to build upon, things should be a lot easier and faster.

I would like to see another awesome coder working on this project. There are only so many hours in a day for our founder to write code!

As if you had already found one, now you're even asking for a second. ;)

I thought it was pretty bold of Sinan to choose the name SimplePortal. It sounds as though it is the OBVIOUS companion to Simple Machines Forum. I wouldn't change it.

Lol, that's what I had in mind when I gave that name and that's also the reason why I tried to do everything SMF way in SimplePortal.

The founder of SimplePortal behaves in such a nice, polite, respectful way. I think this shows in the team he has built. It makes me smile when I see the friendly, considerate, respectful responses they give to all the users all the time. Maybe others would find it a little boring here, but I appreciate the general lack of drama on the team.

Although I can't comment on the first part, I couldn't agree more about the team we have here. I'm really glad to have this team take care of my "baby" and I can't thank them enough for what they have done until now and will do in the future.

Lastly, thank you Angelina for taking your time to answer those questions and Eliana for serving it to us!
And slowly, you come to realize... It's all as it should be...

Offline AngelinaBelle

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  • Posts: 4870
  • Gender: Female
  • SMF Version: 2 RC3
  • SP Version: 2.3.2
Re: A Simple Look...at AngelinaBelle
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2012, 10:13:18 AM »
Well, you can really tell we all get along well on this team, and think well of each other.
I like that.

Thanks for your nice comments, Sinan.

I like the basic idea of articles implementation. Because every article is just a post, you didn't have to create any functions or tables to store articles. I just have to press the "add as article" button, and the topic is an article. I think this is the power of simplicity. I would not really like to see this change.

I like simplicity.

The only things I would change about articles?
* Make it so I can have articles without forcing the portal page center area to, effectively, be an articles block.
* Re-use the same code for the articles block as is used for the portal page center area.
* Give the articles block an option to select one or several article categories for display.  This way, I can have several SimplePortal pages, each with its own, specialized articles block.

This way, articles remains simple, and becomes even more powerful. And I can stop maintaining the articles customizations I've already done for my club's website.
Please to keep this website running, if you like SimplePortal, make a
one-time subscription. Thank you for your support.

Have you tried the SimplePortal documentation?