DK4 is the next generation platform for Daily Kos. You can access it here: DailyKosBeta.com.
I huddled with the development team all day Friday to discuss progress, fine-tune features, and set internal deadlines for various fixes.
The overall transition date remains February 4-5. That's less than three weeks away, which remains aggressive. Beta tester extraordinaire Gabriel D, who has spent countless time deep in the weeds of the beta site, is skeptical:
We've done only cursory tests on the messaging system, so all they've seen so far are the obvious stuff. What are we supposed to report? Messaging is so clunky to use that it really needs to be reworked from the ground up? How's that helpful to them? But getting specific seems like such a waste of time. Messaging as it currently stands is just barely usable. I'll take it over nothing, but that's not saying much.
There are still tests to run on diaries to make sure they display properly, let alone don't end up getting eaten on the transfer over.
The commenting system keeps backsliding. How is anyone supposed to believe this site will be ready when one of the fundamental components won't stay fixed?
Just the past couple days alone, I've sent in about a dozen bug reports on various other issues, ranging from troubles with groups (speaking of, don't change our group name for a while, please), to the personal (my above comment on how the site doesn't play nice with my chosen windowing theme).
And then there are going to be things that won't be fixed. For example, elfling has said no fix for long string diary titles. That's just begging for trouble. And I have to wonder why it's not possible for titles, but ct is working on a fix for exactly the same problem with sigs. There is no reason for any long string to run off the side of the page. If there's no way to auto-wrap, then at the very least, truncate long strings that go past a certain width.
All this and more, and yet kos is saying DK4 is going to be ready by the 4th? I admit, I'm not the dev team--and I'm not impugning them here--but if they couldn't get an update rolled out on time (and it's been a week and it's still not out), how the hell are they going to manage the full transition? The only major updates to the site we've seen are those we've had to pester them about relentlessly to fix immediately. We shouldn't have to do that. It's not fair to them or us, and it sets up a dynamic of us being really annoying squeaky wheels so we can see some fixes implemented. That's a serious problem. I don't want to be an annoying pest, but if that's what it's going to take to see some fixes implemented, then that's what I'll start doing.
If they want me to believe the transition is going to happen on time, I've got to see more evidence than the occasional post by ct or elfling (as wonderful as that is) responding to a bug here and there. I need to see some major systemic improvements throughout the site. (That includes at least one diary letting us know the improvements have been implemented and a few brief notes of the more salient ones so we know what to look for.)
Yup, the developers have a busy three weeks ahead of them if we're going to meet our deadline. But they know better than anyone what's on their plate, they are aware of the bugs still plaguing the beta, and they're comfortable that they can handle it. We'll see.
We went page by page and I mandated a bunch of minor aesthetic fixes, such as retooling particular font sizing and standardizing page layouts for a more consistent site-wide look. We also got rid of the graphical drop cap at the start of diaries. I miss it, quite a bit. I loved that element (even as many disagreed). But it was presenting some technical challenges, and I didn't want the dev team spending more time on something that was purely aesthetic. It may return post-launch. We'll see.
But when we got to the diary publishing page, it felt like a real disaster. Right now, diarists can write their piece, preview it, save it, and publish it directly. That's pretty much it. In DK4, diarists can schedule pieces to run later, and they can queue them up in any group blogs they may belong to. The diary publishing workflow on the current beta wasn't doing it for me, so we scrapped it entirely and designed a new one. I don't know when it'll roll out to the public beta, but hopefully soon.
(Incidentally, that's really the answer for any bug fix or functionality update: "hopefully soon".)
We also finalized (I think) what we used to call "master tags". It was really a misnomer -- "master" suggests taxonomy, that these are top-level categories. However, if that were the case, we couldn't feature a "master tag" such as "health care", since that master tag would have to be "health". So we decided to focus instead on a more subjective list of tags that are already frequently used or should be more frequently used: Civil Rights, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, White House. This isn't the be-all of tags. Just a few select broad tags. People will use whatever is appropriate for their pieces, as you can see from the Tags page.
Internet Explorer 7 continues to be a curse on us all. Several IE7-related bugs were fixed, but a bunch more remain. I'd love to pull support for that browser, but with roughly 10 percent of our audience using it, that's not an option. I look forward to the day I can pull the plug on that browser.
Other than that, we're plugging away. Most of the broader meta discussion over DK4 has seemingly melted away. People seemed resigned to the changeover, one way or another. It may be a benefit or curse of an extended open beta, but if nothing else, it has given everyone a long period of time to get used to the idea that big changes are in the cards.