AJAX and some of the new controls, combined with our recent upgrade of the Q1 2008 Prometheus suite of controls for .NET 3.5, will make it possible to bring more "compelling" user experiences to both the Control Panel (IMO fairly dated and more difficult to use as the features kept getting piled on) and individual content types on the guild pages. I put the word compelling in quotes because, while marketing people always use that term when describing the user interfaces you'll be able to whip up with their latest tool, I never quite understood its placement. What, after all, does a treeview compel a person to do? That is, other than click the nodes on it.
Anyway, this transition should be a bit smoother than the last one, since we'll be pulling the web servers out of the load balancer one at a time, upgrading to the 3.5 framework, and then pushing the migrated code to the servers. Once there, we'll do full regression testing on each server to make sure everything's working as expected. After that, we put the server back into the load balance mix and move to the next.
I think we'll be moving away from the "Service News" type of thing and focus more on keeping the new Change Log current. Writing news about enhancements to the site is normally done after the fact, and some things that have been done are inevitably left out. By going the route of the change log, we'll be keeping you up to date on changes as, or before, they're being worked on. There might be some kind of summarized grouping by time, or by release version, but really, what does the version number mean to anybody anyway? For us, it's helpful with our source control system, but for end-users, it's odd. It's like in WoW, you'll hear "oh, that's been that way since v2.4.1041blahblahblah." What's wrong with, "oh, that's been that way since December?"
I guess the geeks (not excluding myself -- my son will testify to my lack of "coolness") are still allowed to name things!
Speaking of coolness, I'm writing this blog entry using Windows Live Writer. I was working on the API's to make it possible for people to post to their GuildPortal blogs with richer tools like WLW and others when I realized how long it's been since I updated mine. It's neat -- you can save a draft locally and publish it to your GP-hosted blog only when you're completely done with it. Even if you're offline. The code that GuildPortal needs to make it function with WLW will be going live along with the framework upgrade, sometime over the next week (we're still ironing out the best time based upon bandwidth usage and the availability of caffeine if it ends up being like, really really late).
Makes me wonder about the possibility making other parts of GuildPortal able to disconnect and let you browse forums, post replies, send web-based mail, etc., and then upload what you've done the next time you're connected. We had an offline forum viewer for a while back in the days of .NET 1.0, but it was a serious dog (the networking code wasn't all there and, honestly, XML containing all the information is too verbose -- we'll probably look at JSON or something more lightweight).
We have been extremely cautious in our moves to new versions of our development tools, servers, frameworks, and just about everything else. We'd rather put off throwing shinies out there for a bit, if it's a trade-off between that or performance/reliability. The new version of the framework is very stable, full of goodies, and ready to go.
It'll also help us justify the ungodly amount Microsoft is charging for licensing!
We're looking forward to supporting Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, and other hotly-anticipated titles (I only remember those two right at this moment because I'm going nuts waiting for them), enhancing support for games that have been around since the start, and yes, introducing a shiny or two.
As always, thank you for choosing GuildPortal as your guild's home on the web!