Doni: I’m pleased to host this Dish that features Jim Gore and Joe Domke, aNewsCafe.com’s tech team. Well, really, the team is made up of just two people, but they do as much as a whole team.
Back story: I’ve been friends with Darcie and Jim Gore since their kids – Jeff and Laura – and my kids – Sarah, Joshua and Joseph – attended the Redding Co-op Preschool. Actually, Joe and Jeff weren’t even born when Darcie and I first became friends through the Co-op.
Some years later, when I returned to college, Jim
tortured tutored me in math so I could master Patterns of Mathematical Thinking, a transferable-to-the-CSU-system math class for non-math majors. No exaggeration: If I hadn’t passed that class, I wouldn’t have transferred to Chico and received my degree in journalism. I’m eternally grateful to Jim for that.
Professionally speaking, Jim was the head of Shasta College’s data processing department for many years before he retired and he and Darcie moved to Elk Grove in 2008. Ever since aNewsCafe.com’s inception, Jim’s been our computer programming genius, the guy who writes code on our site’s back end to make the front end make sense, which kind of brings to mind one of those horse costumes, but I digress.
Joe Domke is – full disclosure – my youngest son, who lives in the Czech Republic with his wife Marie. Joe gets the credit for starting my blog, Food for Thought, in 2007 after I
was dumped after 10 years, which reminds me, I keep meaning to write the paper’s editor a thank-you note lost my job at the local newspaper. Joe took pity on his mom and created the blog as a way for me to continue writing and justify that journalism degree. The little blog gained readers by the thousands, which propelled the blog to Food for Thought: A News Cafe, and finally, into aNewsCafe.com, which we’ve even trademarked. Many of you have been with us from the beginning, which makes me so happy.
On aNewsCafe.com, Jim does the programming, and Joe makes it pretty. Joe also places all the graphics, ads and posts and readies the latter for copy editing.
Welcome, gentlemen. I know you two are busy working on our site’s redesign that we’ll roll out in May, but being as though Joe flew out here especially for these meetings, I thought I’d interrupt for a second and catch up with you. I know you’re both men of few words, and generally speaking, more comfortable staying behind the scenes, so I really appreciate you coming out from behind your Oz curtain to talk with me today. Good morning, Jim. Dobre den, Joe.
Jim: Good morning, and … pay no attention to that man behind the curtain … I kind of like that Wizard of Oz reference. About that “computer programming genius, who writes code…”, it should probably be “hobby-quality-coder, who happily finds quality code in the public domain.”
Joe: Hey. You know, Mom, you can speak English with me. It might be easier for readers.
Doni: OK. It’s just that I like to practice the limited amount of Czech I do know so I can talk to Marie’s family
and in case I ever have a Czech grandchild. when I visit you. But fine. I won’t torment you with my poor Czech. So, who wants to go first and tell a little about the redesign, and how things are going?
Jim: This is so much fun… too many good ideas… and lots of resources readily available.
Joe: It’s going well. Jim’s been doing the heaving lifting, as far coding goes, and I’m polishing it up to get it to look like what we talked about in our site brainstorming sessions.
Doni: Uh huh. You bet. That’s my goal. Polished. Pretty. Functional. Intuitive. More room for content. More opportunities for advertisers. And more social media exposure, like via Facebook. That reminds me, Joe, thanks for taking control of our Facebook page again. I won’t bore people with the gory details, but our Facebook group was still attached to some people who no longer are affiliated with us. So, in effect, we’re starting over with Facebook. Readers, click here to see it and give us a thumbs up if you like us.
So, although we’re still tweaking things – and when I say “we” I mean you – can you give readers a hint of some of the redesign features?
Jim: Well, the redesign should have some new stuff, and some stuff that we hope will just be easier to find and easier to read. We are reworking the header to include quick links to local weather, and YouTube and Facebook pages. Our navigation bar is being reorganized, too. The current carousel of images will be replaced with a “slider” that will better highlight the latest feature stories.
Joe: That reminds me; what’s the best way to move the columnist container to make room for a wider feature slider? Give us one second, Mom.
Doni: Oh, sure. No problem. Maybe I’ll go … start a load of laundry or see if Darcie wants to go to a movie or something. Yell if you need me …
Jim: Joe, if you will take care of the pesky cascading style sheets, I’ll adjust the PHP program that gathers the contents.
Joe: Sounds good, PHP is beyond me. I’ll make changes to the CSS to alter the the colors and size. I’ll make a mock-up page so you can see how it will end up looking, Mom, just give me a few minutes.
Doni: OK, I’m still here. I don’t want to miss anything exciting. Besides, you might have a question for me. Waiting. Patiently. Stiiiill. Waiting.
Jim: Not to put you on the spot, Joe, but you remember when you first worked for me at the college as a high school student? Did you think moving to the Czech Republic would keep me from further suggesting things to investigate? (Who would have thought of Google Chat, not to mention Skype, back then.) I never would have guessed that I’d be trying to decipher program comments written in Italian (not all plug-ins are written by English speakers).
Joe: I never even imagined that I’d be living in the Czech Republic, let alone working from home for a Redding company. I am grateful to have a way to get in touch with you whenever I need your help with a difficult technical problem, but I’m sure you don’t miss the days when you were getting instant messages at 4 in the morning when something on the site broke.
Doni: Hey, I remember those other days – when Joe was working for Jim at Shasta College! That was so generous of you, Jim, to take in computer-savvy kids like Joe and teach them the tech ropes. Gosh, I’m trying to think … I’m not sure Joe was even driving then … I know he was still living at home … was he a senior or junior …
Jim: I don’t recall him driving, but he did “Excel” even then. Hey Joe, did you see the new “marquee” plug-in…
Joe: Ugh (that groan’s for the pun and the program, not a big fan of spreadsheets). That marquee looks great, it’s perfect for special announcements.
Jim: You can have different marquees, like for ArtHop or Win-River or whatever. If you want text to be red or blue, you can change that font color. You can do styling with HTML, you can put raw HTML, a link, formatting … it’s a versatile plug-in. There’s some logic in here … Now, Darcie made me slow down the text motion – she didn’t want any viewers getting motion sickness …
Joe: Darcie’s got a good point, we don’t want readers losing their breakfast on their keyboards.
Not to change the subject, but Joe, your mention of breakfast reminded me that I’ll be posting a food story this week about making the perfect poached eggs. Remember the other day when we made Eggs Benedict, and your brother taught me how he poaches eggs? It’s really interesting … you just start with a pot of simmering wa …
Joe: Yeah, interesting. Oh, you might include your hollandaise recipe, too.
So, Jim, speaking of moving text, I found something that looks perfect for our lead stories from this list of content sliders. It has text-wrap around images and the animation is pretty smooth. To assign a story to it you just check a box while you’re editing the story … it’s down by the extra zones, like for ProImage and GuestAuthor. I’d like to play around with it a bit, can I edit your theme or do I have my own?
Jim: That’s cool about the content sliders. I look forward to hearing more about that.
Doni: Sorry to lean so far into your computer space, but what’s cool? May I take a peek? Helllloooo. Excuse me? Jim, Joe?
Jim: I hear you, Doni. Hello. Let me answer Joe’s question about themes.
Yes, Joe, you can have your very own copy of the theme. That way, when I am performing unsuccessful experiments, you won’t have to wait for me to put things right again. And when your stylesheets temporarily make things appear in the most strange and wonderful ways, I can still keep plugging away with the back end. And Doni, the thing that Joe found to better highlight featured stories (a slider, they call it), is just what we were looking for!
No segue, but could I interject a note of thanks here?
Doni: Why, sure, Jim. But <blush> that’s really not necessary. Really, what I do here on aNewsCafe.com is truly a labor of love …
Jim …um … OK, but what I really wanted to do was acknowledge the providers of our technical foundation: The folks at Bluehost, where our first server was so impressive that we added a second Bluehost server as we added viewers. Also, I thank the folks at WordPress, who keep improving their software and making it even easier to use. Oh, and not to forget the folks at ProThemeDesign who wrote and support the custom theme that was the foundation for ours. And I can’t even remember all the authors of plugins we have used over the past four years. Finally, let’s not forget Google either – without them I might never find so much good stuff. It’s amazing how technology has evolved in just the last few years.
Doni: Ditto what you said, Jim. Absolutely. Thanks to those providers of our – what? – oh yeah, technical foundation. So true, so true. I mean, without foundation support, we are … What are we, Jim – Joe?
Jim: High quality writers and performers without an audience?
Doni: You guys are scaring me. Are you trying to be funny? I never know with you two. You’re so deadpan.
Before I forget, can we – you – do that deal I wanted where readers can comment about anything, not necessarily to any particular story? My working title is “What’s on Your Mind” but it could change. Your thoughts? Either of you? And, also, we want a prominent weather box to super highlight Chris Fontana’s epic weather forecasts. Oh, and a staff box so we can showcase everyone, especially the behind-the-scenes folks, such as managing editor Kimberly Ross, and you two guys, and others who work so hard but don’t bask in the glory and recognition of a byline. Oh, wait, and I wanted a tip jar, for readers who want to help our journalism cause. And one more thing, an aNewsCafe.com staff picks of their favorite bloggers, kind of like bookstores do with their staff picks …
Jim Anything’s possible, right Joe? (Always say yes, never say when – was it May 2011 Doni was talking about?) But seriously, not a problem! Today I’m inspired by Ron & Dave at Best Choice Home Improvements, who whipped out a long list of fix-its on a house that we sold my daughter – on time, under budget, even taught us a few things while doing it. Not a bad business model…
Joe: ... “What’s on Your Mind” and a weather box … slow down, if I don’t write these down I’ll never remember it all. I guess I should pick up the pace a bit if we’re going to get all these new features working.
Where can you change the font of the marquee? Do you have to make a change using the theme editor?
Jim: It’s just a part of the text, so be careful if you change a font color to change it back, we don’t want the entire site in red text, just because snow has closed I-5.
Doni: Oh, ‘theme’! That’s a word I do recognize. Like when you’re planning a party, say, a wedding or a baby shower. A theme makes everything so much easier. For example, for Kat’s shower, we had this adorable jungle theme … monkeys, lions …
Joe Oh, so the marquee text supports HTML, that’s cool.
Jim: … and there’s a bit of logic that says that if you’ve shown a story in one place, don’t show it again on the same page …
Joe: … uh huh.
Doni: Guys? Anyone want a snack? Beer? Pizza?
Poison blow dart to the neck?
Jim: If you put ads here, this zone needs content with consistent depth.
Joe: You know, that’s a good place right there for a dedicated zone.
Doni: Dedicated. Another word I know. Without the dedicated staff, contributors, community partners and advertisers, aNewsCafe.com would not be possible.
Joe: Yeah, without people like managing editor Kimberly Ross, cartoonist Phil Fountain and all the local journalists and photographers, we would look less like a professional news site and more like an amateur blog.
Where were we, Jim? Oh yeah, and the navbar … could you do a sub bar? We need to figure out how many categories we’re talking about.
Doni: Hey, excuse me, but what about my idea about deputizing some of our most trusted readers and friends so they can automatically upload photos? I mean, it might be a car wreck that stops traffic in Palo Cedro, or a rock slide on Highway 299 or a rainbow in China or a marketplace in Paris. Whatever our deputized peeps think is interesting, we trust them to upload it. I predict it will be one of the most popular parts of the redesign. It’ll be risky, like flying without a net, because we won’t moderate the images.
Jim: Yes, absolutely. I agree. Just one moment, Doni.
Doni: So, when you say you agree, do you mean yes, we can do it, or that you agree that it’ll be like flying without a net?
Jim: In a word, yes.
So, Joe, the approach we’re looking at with two horizontal bars, it wasn’t always functioning for me (I use a touchpad instead of a mouse, and I don’t have the motor skills of a teenager). We don’t want to make it frustrating for people to navigate.
And Doni, I thought that managing photo entries might be a challenge. But I was reviewing it with Darcie, and she showed me how she had already done that, making it look really easy with her Android phone. I think we should call it phone-o-journalism.
Doni: Oh, that made my day. Phone-o-Journalism!!! That’s perfect! I love it! You know, I’m meeting with four high school students – Rudi Enriquez, Brianna Herold, Moranda Ingraham and Felicia Hughes – this week for the Redding Rotary Job Shadow Program. They’re interested in learning more about journalism. And I also have a meeting in Chico this week where I’m a member of the university’s Journalism Advisory Board. I can’t wait to share these new-world journalism details with them. Bubbye newspapers. Hello electronic journalism.
Joe: “Phone-o-Journalism” – we should get that trademarked!
brb. Damn, after a quick Google search I see that someone’s thought of it …
Back to the the nav bar, I really like the look of the tabs being graphics, but that means making a new image whenever we change the categories. Is there an easier way to do it, like have a single background image with text over it?
Jim: there’s another technique called sliding doors …
Doni: I like the sound of those. Like bypass doors? That’s cool. Do we get windows, too. … Am I the only one hearing crickets?
Jim: … Sliding doors are simple if they’re the same length. It could be we’re OK on fixed width. We should get an idea of the starting categories.
Joe: I would like to have some image on the back, like if ArtHop had a little element on the nav bar, one little image for the ArtHop tab.
Jim: We could do that.
Joe: I like these tabs with the dropped shadow. Something to make it stand out.
Jim: We could do that with the styling. I’ll put a span tag around each element, and you can assign the attributes you want in the style sheet.
Joe: Oh, right. Makes sense.
Jim: I don’t know if you’ve worked much with CSS.
Joe: Sure, but just for little things.
Doni: CSS, HTML, PHP,
BFD, whatever. Well, gosh, look at the time, would you? This has been – an experience. Thanks so very much, you guys, for allowing me to sidetrack you in the middle of your work. I know you have a lot to do, so I’ll let you go. Thanks for the chat. Bye, Jim. Na shledanou, Joe.
Readers, before aNewsCafe.com gets too far down the road of the redesign, we want to know what you think. Be blunt. We can take it. (I’ll go get my bite block and crying towel.) No, seriously. We want to know. What do you love about the site? What are you not so crazy about? What do you wish we had? Do you have favorite features? You can leave a comment here, or you can email me a private message at email@example.com.
p.s. Don’t forget to click “like” on aNewsCafe.com’s Facebook page.
Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.