A new day, a new SWAG

2013 May 10

As you may have noticed, SWAG's had a little face lift. It's actually a lot more than just a face lift, it's a full rebuild of the entire site from the ground up, and as the web developer pushing the technology base of SWAG I have to say that I feel very good about it. For those of you keeping up with the news posts and even some of my blog posts, you'll have noticed, it took me a LONG time to get here. My previous post about this was nearly 2 years ago now, and that's really just crazy. In that time I've done a lot of work, a lot of planning, and what you have before you is the culmination of all that work. It's not perfect, I'm sure we'll have a few rough spots here and there, but it's a lot better than where we where, and more importantly, it's a code base I know inside and out, and that make maintaining it and creating new features, or solving various problems that much easier.

Rough Spots:

Speaking of rough spots, we have already identified a few. There looks to be an issue with mails. Luckily if you have a login already, it should still work, so the password retrieval feature is probably not absolutely required right this second. It's a far bigger issue for new users. I'm hoping I can solve it this weekend.

New Features:

Community Gallery: Before our last upgrade SWAG use to include a "Community Gallery". This was essentially a gallery for the non-guild members. It took a lot of effort and a lot of time, and I made the decision to discontinue support for it in the last upgrade. Since that time our tools and platform have both become stronger, so I am re-establishing the Community Gallery aspect of the site effective immediately. These images will all be approved before going live and they will be maintained in the same gallery as the guild members, so there won't be any sort of delineation here.

Guild Member Image Submissions: Speaking of image approval, if you are a current guild member you have effectively been given a trusted status. Your images will no longer require adminstrator approval in order to go into the gallery. As such I've put a few things in place to help us all out. As a community website we have to cultivate the sort of community we want. That means I'm putting the power into your hands to mark items you feel are questionable. As a guild member you can mark an image as "offensive". This will bring it to an administrator's attention and we can review whether it matches the SWAG guidelines for submission. Please, both when submitting images, or bringing an image to the attention of an admin, use your best judgement and build the sort of community in which you'd want to participate.

Social Media Sharing: We have some social features now as well. Blogs, Images and News articles can all be share on facebook, twitter, google plus or linkedin. These seem like the best of breed social networks right now. When SWAG was born, there really was no such thing as a global social networking site. Since most of us participate in one or more of these, it seemd appropriate to make this possible. When sharing on services that support some sort of hashtagging, it would be great if you could include a #swagonline tag. Serious social networking is a good path forward for drawing in some serious activity from other fellow artists.

Social Media Following: In addition to sharing content socially, there is also a section of your user page which supports adding links to your specific social profiles. Again we're supporting facebook, twitter, google plus and linked in. I and Xanamiar have both updated ours, so you can see how this is going to work. For both social sharing and these follow links, if there is enough request for other networks I will give serious consideration to adding them.

Bookmarking: There's a completely new feature that allows you to book mark things on the site you like. This is in a trial stage right now and currently lets you bookmark any block, image or forum post. Expanding this is easy, let me know what you think of the feature.

Blog Images: The old blog image viewer was one I'd written myself many many moons ago. There are so many better tools out now, I adopted one.

Responsive Design: The site's layout is reponsive, which is to say, it should scale nicely for smaller devices than your computer. This is a new thing for me, and since I used media queries some devices may or may not show any differently than your desktop. YMMV. This is an area I expect to change a bit yet.

Profile Pictures: I've enabled profile pictures and incorporated them heavily into the site. Read the policy on these before uploading and really, I'd heavily suggest you use a PNG here. The nice rounded corners are for the people who do. I may in fact require the file type to be png here shortly. *Puts that on todo list*


I've removed all the personal contact forms. These might come back eventually but with the social following aspect of the site, it seems a better way to get in touch with the artists and a more "clear" way. I can't tell you how many emails I've gotten that were intended for artists over the years because there were two contact forms on the same page. The site specific contact that goes to me will likely show back up soon, but for the time being I didn't see a reason to stress about it.

New Guild membership is kind of a non-starter right now. I think that's unlikely to be problematic since everyone can submit images. I'd like to develop a process where by the existing guild member help to elect new members. This essentially means the Guild Council is disbanned, which is just as well, manual review of guild applications was never a strong suit of any of us.

All your private messages are gone. I'm sorry, but the last poll I took (2 years ago) was pretty much 100% affirmative "we don't need to take them with us". You still have a PM system on the site, and in fact it's grown a lot in capability. I have the most basic system in place right now, but if you have things you would like it to do, let me know, it might be possible.


In short, there's a lot of stuff that's happened here. I probably didn't even get it all. The system still needs some love, but this is a platform where I can idly do that w/o worry and the old platform was not. I'd like to do a few things on the design still, and I'm sure there will be some general clean up as time progresses. In addition to this, building a system for actually tracking the request life cycle is a legitimate possibility now, and is basically the next thing on my list.

Our platform is Drupal, and it's a great platform. I've been so heavily involved with it of late that between my work and my home life, I've neglected SWAG. I can't say I'll be more active in the forums, I likely won't be, but I will be working on the site more, and aggressively trying to make it more maintainable to never repeat the situation we just escaped. My duties in the Drupal community have me working very heavily on the next major release of Drupal core (Drupal 8). That commitment is likely to take a signficant amount of my time for the rest for 2013. In case it weren't officially understood, both Xamaniar and Hisham are full site admins and can do ALMOST anything I can. In fact they can give themselves the permissions to do things so they can do everything I can (Don't do that guys, I denied you the stuff you don't want anyway ;-) ).

I think we're in a good place now. I'm certainly very happy with it. Xamaniar has put up a wish list area on the forums for Guild members. I will be providing us a better tracking solution eventually, but if you find errors with the site, feel free to post there. I'll be checking the site more regularly.


One Last Thing:

For those of you who didn't know... which is likely most of you, I have 2 kiddos these days. My son was born 13 months to the day after my daughter and I never announced it on this site. My daughter is 3, my son is 2, they'll both be incrementing their age here in the next few 5-6 months. Just wanted to pass that along.


Well I'm obviously not a member of the guild but I've been lurking around here for just over 3 years now (a fact I just realized) because I love both Star Wars and art and you guys do both so well. So I just wanted to say thank you to you Eclipse (and everyone else involved) for creating such a great site in the first place and then for upgrading it to make it even better. :)


Thanks Mercy, it was a labor of love, and it feels really good to have it back to a maintainable position. The speed with which I've been able to fix various bugs people have found is also really encouraging. I'm hoping this will lend itself to a better swag overall.

BTW, If you'll re-upload your profile pic as a png-24 image, it will automatically round the corners like other people's profiles. ;-)



That sounds like it was an incredible amount of work.  Thank you!  I've seen this site come a long way over the years.  Nice to see it's still going strong!!


By the way - how do upload a profile pic?  It's not jumping out at me.


edit:  got it.  Thanks for the help.


Guild Council Disbanded....  end of an era.


Where do I go to pick up my severence check?

Oh, that's right...labour of love and all that...  Nevermind. 



Yeah, as much as I appreciate everyone who stepped up to participate with that, we really all failed to some degree, myself included. The technology we were sitting on at the time really didn't support what we were trying to do with it either so that's on me too. Still, I feel like we're in a much better spot now, so all is well.




*arives... stands...looks around in awe,,, blinks...* This is so..... Sweeeeeeeeet!

Guild Council disbanded??? Uh-oh, I hope it wasn't in Order66 fashion ;)

Awesome job Eclipse!  So it took time to finally get an upgraded layout but the Deathstar wasn't built in a day either :)


Yeah, actually this layout isn't final either. Even today I was tweaking with some changes I want to make, so hopefully that comes down the pipe soon. Don't expect it SUPER soon, because I'm really rusty on this front, but there are some great new tools out there, and I'm hoping with a little effort I can make this all work the way I want. :-D

Great to see you back, btw, how do you like the new notifications feature?



Huh? Notifications feature?

*refreshes, and scrolls to the top of the screen, notices the new Notifications feature... clicks on it and jumps back to this post*

Hey, that is really nifty, the notifications feature. I'm guessing this is universally site-wide including the galleries?  Lots of times after submitting a new piece (and once its posted) - and yeah thats been several months ago btw; I would be checking every once in a while to see who all posted a comment...

I understand what ya mean... Years ago I used to do a bit of html design, very basic but functional, but yeah, I too would be quite rusty at it if i had to jump back into it... especially considering now just how much new standards, scripts, and engines are out there now beyond the basic old fashioned do-it yourself in notepad stuff...  You've done an awesome job already with the site facelift & features enhancements. I'm pretty sure you'll manage to kick it up a few notches further to exactly the way you want things. :)

Btw,. just working on a couple new projects myself (yeah, its been that long since I last did anything 3d rendering since Tessla was uploaded), I've also signed up for a 3d modeling training course, so I further hope to actually be making my own content at some point rather than just be limited to using what premade content i already bought or can buy.


That's awesome man! So glad you're getting a chance to do some school for that.

With notifications, you'll notice there's a "follow" on images, forum posts, blogs and news. If you do that, you'll get notifications for it (regardless of whether you posted it or have commented on it). Likewise, if you're uninterested in following something you've previously followed, you can just click the unfollow link and you'll stop getting notifications on it. If you post or comment on any of the content types mentioned above, you'll be automatically following it.



That is a very cool notifications system :) 

Checking out the updated blogs too while i'm at it, and will probably post tonight's new wip group of chars i'm putting together... Love the new image scroller system! 

Yeah the training is online video course series actually, as there isn't any known realworld classes to attend for the modeling program Hexagon. Its quite a robust yet affordable modeling program. People are using it to make and sell 3d model content, and thats what I plan to do. I do have some other starter projects in the works, having played with Hexagon, but yeah I need some tutoring to use it so I can actually finish those the proper way. I did post a bit of a wip for a stylish landspeeder design a while back but that too, started running into roadblocks.

So in a way I guess we're both venturing into new design and creative terriroty. :)


I know this is a very late comment, but I love the updated look of SWAG as of last year. One thing I would love to see as far as functionality is concerned - is it possible to view the gallery images in sequence by clicking on an image's left or right side when viewing it full size, rather than having to return to the main thumbnail gallery page & then click on a different image?