Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Overview of the Improvements in Seaside (Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0)

The following blog post describes and details all of the changes we made to the new Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0, organized in several categories:

Overall Site Improvements and New Pages
  • Greatly improved compatability - and now more Apple friendly. For non Windows users. Pacific NW Portal previously used to suffer from annoying compatability problems that prevented the site from displaying properly on Macintosh and Linux machines. Those problems have been eliminated. Significant improvements to the codebase, including enhanced CSS stylesheets, mean Pacific NW Portal should look beautiful no matter what operating system or browser you're running. (For example, if you run Apple's Safari, you should see Pacific NW Portal display just like somebody using Microsoft's Internet Explorer would see it).
  • Coverage of Montana. You asked for it, you got it! By popular demand, Pacific Northwest Portal now covers five states - Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and - Montana! Not only will you be able to find links to progressive Montana blogs in our Regional Blogs Directory, but Montana is now included extensively in our Highlights section (more on that later in this post).
  • New Blog Submission page. Progressive writers who haven't made it into our Regional Blogs Directory and aggregator can now submit their blogs through a special submission page. You can also use this page to submit corrections for out of date or mistaken information.
  • Footers improved on all pages. The footers at the bottom of all Pacific NW Portal pages now use only Trebuchet MS font instead of Garamond, thereby eliminating the font from all main pages. They also have an updated link to the latest version of the Creative Commons license.
  • 2006 Elections Digest page. The 2006 Election Digest page allows you to browse recent posts about major races within the Pacific Northwest, like the races for U.S. Senate and the 8th Congressional District (Washington) or Governor (Idaho and Oregon).
  • Feed Reliability Improved. Feeds should load more quickly and more consistenly in the future. We've also removed clutter in the codebase to facilitate faster loading.
  • Improved Graphics. All the Garamond text headers have been removed and replaced with softer, smoother image headers using the same font used for Pacific Northwest Portal's title graphic - Book Antiqua.
The Front Page
  • New Syndicate Member. We are delighted to welcome Loaded Orygun to Pacific Northwest Portal's front page. Loaded Orygun, jointly written by Neiwert Award winners TJ and Carla, will help anchor the Oregon column in the second row, just below Blue Oregon.
  • Washington State Political Report Moves to Front Page. The Washington State Political Report, an original member of the Expanded Washington group, is moving to our front page in the fourth row. The Report has been promoted to the front page for its timely and frequent updates, extremely well rounded coverage, and sensible commentary.
  • Faded Tri-State Graphic. A recurring complaint of some visitors is that the light purple tri-state graphic we've had in place as background at the top of the front page was too annoying. As a result, we greatly increased the fade on the graphic so it's more subtle and easier to read the text on top.
  • Reorganization. The elements just before the columns of syndicated blogs on the front page have been improved. You'll now see Regional Focus (three links to top stories from around the NW), What's New (recent site improvements and news from NPI) and Quick Links, one of which points to NPI's homepage. (The other two point to Pacific NW Portal utilities).
  • Go Beyond The Front Page. Too many Pacific NW Portal visitors end their visit at the front page and don't bother to look inside the other sections. To help point you to content throughout the site, the bottom of the front page has been completely revamped to include a graphical site map which links to the other major pages. You can access this element by clicking the "Explore Pacific NW Portal" link in the Quick Links area.
  • Welcome Center. Finally, the front page includes a new Welcome Center, on the right side of the page just below the navigation bar. The Welcome Center will greet you and display a small photo based on the time of day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). The Welcome Center also includes an autorefreshing menu of tips that can help guide you to content on other pages of Pacific NW Portal. Lastly, the Welcome Center includes a "Breaking on the Regional Wire" shortcut which displays the latest post on the Wire. (Keep reading to find out more about the Regional Wire).
The State Pages
  • Name Changes. Expanded Washington and Expanded Oregon are no more. We decided it was time for a name change. The Evergreen State page is now called The Washington Outlook, and the Beaver State page is now called The Oregon Dispatch.
  • Syndicate Overhauled. We have dramatically reshaped the syndicate on both state pages, replacing almost a dozen blogs. New syndicated blogs on The Washington Outlook include McCranium, Pike Place Politics, and MajorityRules Blog. The Oregon changes are even more drastic: new blogs include Olson Online, Onward Oregon, Portland Freelancer, Worldwide Pablo, and Ridenbaugh Press. We believe these blogs will provide much better local coverage of Oregon politics, and will remain frequently updated.
  • Statistcs Update. The statistics on both state pages were updated to relect the latest estimates from the U.S. Census.
  • Regional Wire Shortcuts. As on the front page, both state pages will display a shortcut to the most recent posts on the Regional Wire (and again, more on that later in this post.)
  • Completely Revamped. The Highlights section has been completely redesigned from the ground up to present the best of the regional blogosphere. On the left side of the page is the "Regional Wire", which displays the most recent posts, sorted chronologically, from the hundreds of local progressive blogs in our Regional Blogs Directory. On the other side of the page is "Under the Radar" which showcases quality content that's not always easy to find.
  • The Regional Wire. The Regional Wire is Pacific NW Portal's new highly intelligent aggregation system, tasked with constantly monitoring the hundreds of local progressive blogs in the Regional Blogs Directory for new posts. The Regional Wire covers all of the five states represented by Pacific NW Portal. The Wire is capable of displaying recent posts either from across the entire region or by state. On the Highlights page, the Wire is borken down by state - Washington, Oregon, and Idaho/Montana/Alaska. As previously mentioned, Pacific NW Portal's front page features a "Breaking on the Regional Wire" shortcut that changes to show the one most recent post from across the NW blogosphere. The Washington Outlook and the Oregon Dispatch also feature shortcuts to the Regional Wire which display the three latest posts from within the state.
  • Under the Radar. The "Northwest Bloggers on Daily Kos" diary tracker has been retained and incorporated into the "Under the Radar" area on the Highlights page. The tracker will now show you the latest six diaries from NW Kossacks, instead of four . Below the diary tracker is the Podcasts aggregator, which displays recent episodes from NW podcasters. And below that is the Electoral Buzz feature, which displays posts from candidates' blogs (yes, you read correctly - that means candidates like Jon Tester, Larry Grant, and Darcy Burner). Finally, below all this is the special content archive, where you'll find links to past special sections we've put together.
Regional Blogs Directory
  • Massive Upgrade. The Regional Blogs Directory has undergone one of the biggest tranformations in its history. The directory is now much more user friendly, has better graphics, is newly freshened, and includes exciting new features.
  • Tips At The Top. The top of the page includes links to other Pacific Northwest Portal directories and hints on how to make the most of the Regional Blogs Directory.
  • Click on a state. Below the tips is a horizontal graphical navigational system. Clicking on any state's outline (there are five to choose from) will take you down the page to that state's blogroll.
  • Blogroll refreshed. Over forty new blogs have been added, including a dozen from Montana (The Treasure State). We also removed links to ten dead blogs that have disappeared off the Net. Our total blog count now stands at 242, up from 212 in our last directory update back in November 2005.
  • See more with tooltips. The most exciting change we've made to the directory, though, is the new mouseover feature we've added. Just mouse over any blog in the directory and a tooltip menu will pop up and display additional information about that blog, including the writer's specific location (city) and a description. Try it out right now!
Other Pages
  • About Us. The About page has a newly updated site map, the history has been brought up to date, and Pacific Northwest Portal's policies have been revised for better clarity.
    Contact Us. We're introducing an improved, simpler feedback form, we've added user comments, and refined the Knowledge Base to better help you troubleshoot any difficulties viewing the site.
  • Toolkit. The Toolkit page has a couple of minor improvements: first, a new Regional & National Labor Report has been added, bringing you headlines from several labor-oriented blogs, and second - the broken traffic camera images for Portland and Boise have been fixed.
  • Resources. The Resources section has been greatly improved. As before, you'll still find links to the NW Media and Democratic Party Directories at the top of page. The Community Center, however, has been reorganized into a new layout for better presentation. Instead of three narrow columns, information displayed in two wide columns and a row underneath stretching across the page. And when you click on the Drinking Liberally thumbnail on the page, the page will darken and show you an expanded view with a map of all the U.S. Drinking Liberally chapters.
So there you have it. Those are all the changes that comprise Seaside - the new Pacific Northwest Portal Version 4.0. Why not take a look yourself?

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