Do you remember the old Andy Hardy movies with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland? They used to show reruns of them when I was a kid. What distinguishes them in my mind was that in every one of them, they always "put on a show" to raise money for something or other. Somebody's dad always had a barn or the equivalent in which they could stage their remarkably professional productions.
It always looked so easy. Sets and lighting equipment would mysteriously appear as if out of thin air and the orphanage would be saved. Of course anybody who ever had anything to do with trying to "put on a show" knew that not only were the chances of making money from the venture limited, it also usually took a hell of a lot more work then was ever seen in those movies.
Being an and old hand at putting on shows, you'd think I'd know all this – that I would be prepared for the amount of work it would take for doing its modern equivalent: building a web site. Back in January, when my friend Ashok Banker approached me with the idea of taking over his Epic India web site and turning it into an Arts and Culture magazine, I immediately forgot every thing I knew about how difficult any project could be.
What would I have to do? We had a technical wiz kid at our disposal named Banwari, who knew more about HTML code than I even realized existed, and who would handle all the tech side of things. Ashok's name as the author of the modern Ramayana would at least guarantee an audience – nothing for me to do until it was up and running.
I held onto that illusion for about a week, or until Banwari had installed the new system we were going to be using for publishing. Textpattern works pretty much the same as any of the other blog and multiple blog publishing systems. That meant we had to build templates for each page of the magazine with HTML code.
In order for that to happen, I had to articulate what I wanted the site to look like to somebody in writing. This turned out to be a lot more difficult than it sounds. It didn't make matters any easier for me that both Banwari and Ashok are in India. If I wanted to talk to them and get a response, I had to be awake in the middle of the night, which made coherent thought even more difficult.
On top of that, there was content to worry, too. Articles are easy enough. I've got close to 800 from almost three years of daily writing I can use to fill up space, and there are some other folks out there I know are interested because I sent them passwords and usernames on Monday. Last time I had checked I'm still the only author who has anything online. Maybe someone will have put something into pending by the time I finish this, but I won't hold my breath.
(Aside: If you want to write at Epic India, head over to the site and you'll find an email address you can use to get in touch with me. Check the Blogcritics Yahoo group as well. We want a very specific kind of work, so we might not be for you. Check it out first.)
I wasn’t concerned with the type of content, anyway. It was what the pages were going to have on them aside from the articles that concerned me. For now we've limited page size to seven article headlines on each section page, and a headline box and article headlines on the home page. So I had to figure out what to do with the header, the sidebars, and the footer.
It's been a long time since I've done any design work whatsoever, but I was able to come up with a logo/title for each section page and start seeing the page in terms of its components instead of the actual content. I've got a rectangle across the top, a long skinny rectangle down each side, and another one like the top along the bottom.
We had some necessary text that filled up some of the space in the sidebars, links, and such (always make sure you use the site's final address for the links as they don't work if they still have the test page addresses assigned to them when you go live), but that still leaves lots of room to play with. I'm still looking to add some colour in the form of some more pictures similar to the ones seen in the right hand side bar. I'm open to suggestion if anyone knows of any that can be used on a semi-permanent basis.
At one point we had thought we would be ready to go live on March 1st, 2007. We were 90% ready on March 26th, and both Banwari and I were still madly tying up loose ends up until today. The problem with an international site is that there is no real down time when you can do upkeep – when the site is empty of visitors. When one side of the International Date Line is asleep, the other is up and about. It makes it kind of hard to do any edits when nobody's looking.
There is the plus side to all this: the amazing feeling of accomplishment I felt when it went live on the Internet and I saw that it worked and looked like what I had envisioned last January when Ashok asked me if I was interested in doing this. You don't get that when you put a show on in your Dad's barn with little or no effort.
Now, if only there were other writer's names on the pages and not just mine. That would be ideal.