Juggling TidBITS Infrastructure Issues


(Adam Engst) #1

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2018/04/09/juggling-tidbits-infrastructure-issues/

Our new Internet infrastructure has been live for a week, and we’ve been getting lots of feedback — most positive, thankfully! — from readers. Adam Engst shares a behind-the-scenes look at the main comments and problems we’ve faced.


(Kevin Patfield) #2

Congratulation on the changes, everything is very positive from my point of view.

I did have a little bit of trouble with my new membership credentials – after the expected password reset 1Password insisted that both my email address and password were the gogbbledegook string I asked it to create. After manually fixing that, log-in works just fine.

I really love the formatting of articles through the web interface. For many years now I have used Safari’s “Reader” interface for virtually everything I read on the Web but the new TidBits HTML format actually looks better to me than the Reader version. TidBITS is one of only two web sites that I can say that about (the other is MondayNote).

Keep up the great work Adam and everyone.


(Adam Engst) #3

Tonya experienced the same thing — no idea why 1Password would put the password in the username field for some people.

I’m so glad to hear that!


(Steve Nicholson) #4

I’m really liking the new site. The article formatting is nice and clean and readable. The old design, while charming, was getting pretty dated. The only thing that seemed less than ideal with the new system is not being able to jump back to the main article from Discourse, but I’m happy to see you’re working on that. I think the Discourse editor is going to make me happy. Markdown formatting is a great feature. Formatting in the old system was hit-or-miss, especially adding links.

So far, everything is working great in Reeder on my 10.5” iPad Pro.


(James R Cutler) #5

You wrote,

As far as the information density goes, it’s fascinating to see how some people feel that white space is somehow wasteful, that if there’s an empty area in a window, it should be filled with something. We could increase the information density in a variety of ways, but all the ones we’ve thought of would detract from the usability and readability of the site, or would just be worthless.> Blockquote

First, yes, the information density is lower than necessary.
Second, whitespace carries information regarding change of context.
Third, text to edge of window greatly hampers readability for some of us.
Fourth, Reader mode allows great variability in text box shapes – nice for those special reading circumstances.
Last, I don’t look for massive changes, just tweaks to satisfy the First comment.


(Michael Tueller) #6

I’m using sendy since about 3 years, with Amazon SES and there were almost zero problems with this setup. Some features might still require some extra coding/setup (e.g. signup forms), but I’m very happy with it. The non-self-hosted offers were just too expensive for my case.


(Andrew Laurence) #7

On reading this lovely gem…

More heartrending were the messages from a few readers who said that they were still using the much-beloved Eudora, which couldn’t parse the new format either. I’m not surprised — Eudora’s final update to version 6.2.4 happened in late 2006, and the state of, well, everything has changed significantly in the last decade. Plus, Eudora is a PowerPC app that requires the Rosetta environment, which means that anyone still using Eudora is also relying on Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or earlier and hasn’t updated since at least 2011.

…I was reminded of this tweet sent to me four years ago.


(Michael Sherman) #8

Looking good to me. Hang in there.

I logged in with 1Password - no problem.


Everything You Need to Know about the TidBITS 2018 Infrastructure
(Corlin) #9

Well I like the new changes!
Going with “Discourse” was a great chose. I have a quick question.
I have the Discourse app and use it for several other lists. I like it a lot.
Will you folks be giving out invites so that I can read TidBits on the Discourse app?
Or will it be web only?

For me having one interface for all the lists, and discussions I want to keep up on, is a bonus.

Anyway great job on the new site!

My bad!.....
The app I was talking about is "Discord" ...Not Discourse... 
I thought they were the same.
Please disregard the above.

(GraphicMac) #10

I think you’re smart to ignore (for now) “design-related” commentary.

People always claim to want change, but they don’t actually like it. It’s been my experience that 90% of the time, people get used to the change fairly quickly, so addressing design-related changes immediately is a waste of your time. The other 10% may have valid concerns, but 50% of them are using it as an excuse to leave (when in reality, they simply weren’t engaged with your site anymore regardless of the design). What’s left is generally minor tweaks that you can do in off times after the infrastructure issues are dealt with.

As for me, this redesign will actually put TB back at the top of my visit list after a very long time of barely even being on it.


(B. Jefferson Le Blanc) #11

I like the new designs, both with your e-mail and your web site. I know they’ve been years in the making. Adam has been talking about a site upgrade since forever. :smile:

I had to make the switch from Eudora a few months ago. Not everything made it through the conversion to Apple Mail so I’m keeping Eudora around in case I have to refer back to something that didn’t make the move. I was using Eudora OSE rather than Eudora 6.x, which was based on Thunderbird, a slightly more modern browser, using a plug-in to render the Eudora interface. Eudora’s toolbar icons are still best in breed, in my opinion, even after all these years. But OSE development was also dropped some years ago, making an upgrade of some kind inevitable. Frankly, I chose Apple Mail because Thunderbird development has been discontinued as well, except for occasional security fixes. Apple Mail may not be the best, but we can be pretty sure it will be around next year, something that cannot be said of any third-party e-mail client.

I had trouble with my password reset, as described in the article. I’m heartened to learn I wasn’t alone. I doubt my replies to Lauri had much if anything to do with it, but I said you had erred in your selection of an e-mail service. As it turned out, you were able to solve the problem by selecting a higher level of service so you didn’t have to share IP addresses with bad actors who were blacklisted by spam blocking services. I would think that SendGrid would find a way to deny access to their IP addresses by such people. But even if they did it would take a while to get the IP addresses cleared by watchdogs like SpamCop. Frankly I don’t know how they justify using, let alone charging for, a service that is so open to abuse. I guess it’s just another case of caveat emptor.

Anyway, Lauri did a great job helping me. She even took the time to dialogue a bit with me about it, rather than just sending me pro forma replies. Kudos.

As for bounding back and forth from Discourse to your web site, when I clicked the Discourse link, it opened in a new page. I could just as easily have opened it in a new tab. The procedure may be different, but it’s no less functional.

I’ll have to give some thought to upgrading my TidBITS membership in light of your new e-mail server costs. :frowning: There’s obviously a big difference between $20 a month and $80. It’s clearly a burden on a small business, and an unexpected cost at that.


(Tonya Engst) #12

I too was struck by the text about Eudora users. I have such fond feelings about Eudora and although I use Gmail, sometimes loading it into the Gmail Web app or into the Mailplane wrapper app on the Mac, and sometimes loading it into Apple Mail where I can delete unwanted messages so much more efficiently, it’s not the same and I just deeply miss the ability to file my email effectively and efficiently. Anyway, I was smiling from ear-to-ear, Andrew, when I saw your post. :slight_smile:


(Jolin Warren) #13

If you’re using Mac Mail, I highly recommend MailHub. I came across it when researching my switch away from Eudora a few years ago, and, dare I say it, it makes filing and managing my email much more efficient than in Eudora. It will even file messages as you send them. It also adds in some Eudora niceties like the combined to/from column (identifying emails you sent and displaying the recipient instead of the sender). Why that’s not a standard mail client feature, I’ll never know.


(Jolin Warren) #14

For my part, I’d stopped participating in TidBITS Talk because I never figured out a good way to manage the volume of messages when switching between my phone and computer. I missed TBT, but am back in the game as it’s easy to keep on top of things with Discourse. :grin:


(Adam Engst) #15

In what ways would you suggest it be increased?


(Adam Engst) #16

That’s great to hear, and I might loop back to pick your brain about it after things settle down. SendGrid is doing a good job and has great features, but I worry that it’s going to end up costing us about $150 per month overall, whereas Sendy and Amazon SES might be around $35 per month.


(Adam Engst) #17

x-eudora-settings will live forever.


(Adam Engst) #18

Well said! My experience with major magazine redesigns is that there are often some more radical bits that end up getting toned down after a few issues, and there are some useful little things that often got lost in the redesign. I figure that after all the big stuff settles down, we’ll have the brain space to look closely and see what small changes really would be appropriate.


(Adam Engst) #19

It turns that one of my failings is that I don’t drive major infrastructure projects quickly, often because I’m so busy with producing and editing content each week, and helping readers with questions. But it’s also because I’m (rightly!) scared of how much work is involved, and how much it will all end up costing. It’s always easier to do nothing. But I can’t express how happy I am to be on this new system, despite the stress of getting it all working right.

@lauri.reinhardt is indeed fabulous at what she does. We met her when she was doing tech support for eSellerate, and she was so good to work with that when we heard she’d left eSellerate and was looking for more work, we jumped at the chance to get her to help us with TidBITS and Take Control.

Hmm, I wonder if that’s a browser setting. When I click a Discourse link on our main site, it opens in a new tab for me.

Thank you for such consideration and the ongoing support!


(pbh6) #20

Hey Adam:

FYI, the new infrastructure has messed up the formatting of the weekly email message on my machine. I am reading them in Outlook365 on a Windows 10 machine. The problem seems to be that Outlook’s CSS doesn’t recognize the image size in your messages. The images are much bigger than the window in which I am reading them, and consequently the text doesn’t wrap in the window but follows the size of image. It is similar to the problem described at https://medium.com/@jasemiller/a-fix-for-outlook-image-issues-in-html-email-campaigns-b8dd1c8f7d16.

I can open the message in my browser and read it there, but it would be nice to be able to read it in email.