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I built comic hosting software. Is it worth finishing?
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mareofnight



Joined: 05 Jun 2014
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:59 am    Post subject: I built comic hosting software. Is it worth finishing? Reply with quote

I made a little content management system for webcomics called Sequence last year. It's function is similar to WordPress+ComicPress, but it's much simpler, and designed for stories and comics rather than blogs. The pages it generates look like this. (EDIT: this used to be a link to a page in a prose story, changed link to an actual comic.) The admin tutorial shows what the site-building and update-publishing areas look like.

I think the main advantages of Sequence relative to WordPress+plugin are that the site-making area is specifically designed for comics (which makes it easier to use, since the comics-related options are obvious and described in terms we're used to), and it's simple enough that a coder who wanted to base a highly customized comic site on it wouldn't be overwhelmed.

But, it's probably not quite useful in its' current state (needs more themes, better blog system, maybe other things), and I'm not sure whether it's worth putting in the work to complete it. Being able to use WordPress plugins and themes is such a big advantage that I'm not sure whether anyone would want something other than WordPress for their site. I wanted to check the basic premise of a simple, comics/fiction-only CMS before doing more work.

Is this project something you would use if you were starting a new comic site? What changes or features would you need for it to be useful?

(For anyone interested in seeing the code, it's on github. It's written in PHP. I've considered porting it to Python instead. Design doc is here.)


Last edited by mareofnight on Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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smbhax.com
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Joined: 10 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2014 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It looks like you've got a decent start there, but if I was looking for a CMS, I think I would want to see a sample site that was a webcomic, rather than prose, and one that showed just what sort of customization could be done by the non-coding user to make it look like a unique & nice-looking webcomic site.

It's a little hard to evaluate the front end from the prose sample site, but one thing a lot of people seem to look for is some kind of "archive" page where their readers could go to find a particular page or story section quickly. ... Oh wait, maybe you do have that...? I'm finding myself a little confused by the placeholder text on the various menu pages or sub-pages.
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fluffy
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Joined: 22 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I definitely want to see more decent comic CMSes out there; WordPress and its various templates are simply not very good, and it'd be great to see something that's easy for people to install and use.

Technologically-speaking, I would be much more keen on seeing a good comics-focused static site generator. Webcomics really don't need much dynamism (beyond what can be trivially provided with an hourly cron job or a "preview/build site" function), and any dynamic site functions are a wonderful entry point for scaling and security problems. In particular, this software seems to use the "override file not found via .htaccess" antipattern, which doesn't scale very well and also limits you to Apache.

I also see that you use absolute hyperlinks, which are problematic for a number of reasons (for example, it makes it more difficult to do site staging, and also makes gracefully transitioning from http to https problematic). It's generally better to build things to use relative hyperlinks wherever possible.

And, like smbhax.com says, it would be great to see how it manages media assets.

As far as features that aren't there yet: I'd also be interested in whether you've put in any thought as to multiple storylines or sections or the like. And what about different post types (news/status updates, about pages, etc.), RSS feeds, scheduled posts, publication metadata (such as publication date), flexible permalink schemes, and so on. Also, remember that you should be able to handle inserting new content in between existing pieces of content without changing the permalinks. Which is to say that content ID and content order are two separate concepts that you need to consider.
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smbhax.com
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2014 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing that it seems I was always seeing asked about Comicpress/Wordpress was can it run multiple comics simultaneously. I kinda forget why people wanted to do that but it did come up a lot, for whatever reason. I don't know anyone personally who is asking for that right now, as far as I know, mind you!
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fluffy
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Joined: 22 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2014 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's nice to have separate archives for different storylines and so on. You could look at my comic site for an example. (Also Tailsteak's.)

Most cartoonists are only doing one comic AT A TIME but it's nice to have one single place to get all their comics instead of having to tell people to subscribe to a billion RSS feeds, especially if you want to do occasional one-off or short-form stories that don't fit within a greater continuity (but also have longer ongoing series).
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffy wrote:
Which is to say that content ID and content order are two separate concepts that you need to consider.


I just point my system at a directory full of images labeled as to chapter and page in chapter, and it shows them in order, stopping if the next one isn't due to be posted yet.

I can see how other comickers wouldn't find that as convenient as I do, though.
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fluffy
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 06, 2014 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's actually more about convenience for readers - what if someone wants to link to a page? What happens if something else gets inserted that changes the permalinks?

This is also why tumblr is a terrible web comic platform - entries do have permalinks but many templates make them REALLY hard to get to.
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wendyw
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2014 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffy wrote:
It's nice to have separate archives for different storylines and so on. You could look at my comic site for an example. (Also Tailsteak's.)

Most cartoonists are only doing one comic AT A TIME but it's nice to have one single place to get all their comics instead of having to tell people to subscribe to a billion RSS feeds, especially if you want to do occasional one-off or short-form stories that don't fit within a greater continuity (but also have longer ongoing series).


I have two archives on both Commander Cottontail and Gilbert and Grim, one for the main comic and one for stuff I don't want to put in the main archive like alternative versions of strips, early art and so on.

fluffy wrote:
It's actually more about convenience for readers - what if someone wants to link to a page? What happens if something else gets inserted that changes the permalinks?


I remember one comic that I did a couple of guest comics for had a complete site overhaul which meant all new permalinks. I think I found and updated any links I'd posted to those pages, but who knows? It's not fun.
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fluffy
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2014 2:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wendyw wrote:
fluffy wrote:
It's nice to have separate archives for different storylines and so on. You could look at my comic site for an example. (Also Tailsteak's.)

Most cartoonists are only doing one comic AT A TIME but it's nice to have one single place to get all their comics instead of having to tell people to subscribe to a billion RSS feeds, especially if you want to do occasional one-off or short-form stories that don't fit within a greater continuity (but also have longer ongoing series).


I have two archives on both Commander Cottontail and Gilbert and Grim, one for the main comic and one for stuff I don't want to put in the main archive like alternative versions of strips, early art and so on.

Yep, another great use for it. That's kinda-sorta what started me out on the multiple-archive thing in the first place as well.

Hm, I'm not seeing how to access the alternate archives on your strip though. Also, is nekoKitsune actually available for others to use? I know Jessica was discussing it on Twitter a while ago (mostly in regards to something Bengo-related) but I don't recall if she said whether it was available anymore.

Quote:
I remember one comic that I did a couple of guest comics for had a complete site overhaul which meant all new permalinks. I think I found and updated any links I'd posted to those pages, but who knows? It's not fun.

Yep, exactly. And there's also inbound links from others (hopefully!) that you have to track down and fix or at least mod_rewrite around. Best to just make your permalinks, you know, permanent.

I'll be in a whole world of hurt if I ever move to a different comic CMS because early on I decided to standardize on a similar permalink scheme as what Keenspot used, which has both pluses and minuses. Fortunately, it's very rare that I have to rejigger publication dates (it's happened a couple times though!), and publication dates also make things work really well for things like finding birthday and new year comics. Smile
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wendyw
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2014 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffy wrote:
Hm, I'm not seeing how to access the alternate archives on your strip though.


On Commander Cottontail they're under Extras and on Gilbert and Grim it's Version 1.

Quote:
Also, is nekoKitsune actually available for others to use? I know Jessica was discussing it on Twitter a while ago (mostly in regards to something Bengo-related) but I don't recall if she said whether it was available anymore.


Not currently, no.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2014 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lavenderbard wrote:
I just point my system at a directory full of images labeled as to chapter and page in chapter, and it shows them in order, stopping if the next one isn't due to be posted yet.

I can see how other comickers wouldn't find that as convenient as I do, though.


That's pretty much how the one I made for myself works, too (except that the chapters are directories, with the page files in them). Very early on I realized I needed chapter title pages, and inserting them pushed all my old page permalinks off by one. ; ) For the past five years or so though it's all been in order, so no more problems there.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2014 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffy wrote:
It's actually more about convenience for readers - what if someone wants to link to a page?


They link to that page. Each page has its own url.

fluffy wrote:
What happens if something else gets inserted that changes the permalinks?


If I renamed the images files then a different image would appear on the linked-to page.

But the likelihood of me ever doing this is extraordinarily small.

It's not that I can't see why anyone would do it, it's just because I'm the crazy person who finishes the entire story, sends it out to betareaders, revises it, and THEN starts putting it up on the web.

I don't view my webcomic as a work-in-progress, I view it as a finished product. You can even buy it as an ebook if you don't want to wait for it to post page by page. If at this point I decided to rework Black Flag, I would probably post an entirely new version, with it's own new urls, and everyone's old permalinks would continue to link to the version they were made for.

I actually already have multiple versions of both it and Scent of Spring online, because I post the roughs for my betareaders. You need an account with the right permissions to get at them, of course, but they're there.


And smbhax, as it happens, my code includes a setting for "with chapter title pages" or "without chapter title pages", so I can add them in or take them out at will. Smile

This doesn't change the permalinks, because I use a "Page 0" for title pages. So if I have told the code it has them, it starts counting each chapter at 0, and if I told it I don't, it counts starting at 1.

I did that because I was using chapter title pages for Black Flag, but I didn't have any for Scent of Spring.
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fluffy
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2014 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lavenderbard wrote:
fluffy wrote:
It's actually more about convenience for readers - what if someone wants to link to a page?


They link to that page. Each page has its own url.

fluffy wrote:
What happens if something else gets inserted that changes the permalinks?


If I renamed the images files then a different image would appear on the linked-to page.

But the likelihood of me ever doing this is extraordinarily small.

Sure, that's fine for you, but it's still a use case that any general-use comic CMS needs to keep in mind, because it might not be fine for other creators. I was simply mentioning this as something for mareofnight to consider.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lavenderbard wrote:
And smbhax, as it happens, my code includes a setting for "with chapter title pages" or "without chapter title pages", so I can add them in or take them out at will. :)


Smart! ^_^
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mareofnight



Joined: 05 Jun 2014
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much for all the feedback! I'm sorry I haven't been more present on this thread. (I sort of made this post at 2 AM and then forgot I'd made it... I hadn't been expecting so much of a response!) I'll go through the feedback and get a better demo site with an actual comic online this weekend.
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