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Lunaescence’s DEV Blog

Revamp Ahead: Improvements, Changes, and Lunaescence in 2019

DIA Sunday June 2, 2019

Long time no see, Lunatics. I hope you’ve been doing well and reading often (: 

In this post I’ll be covering a lot of topics related to Lunaescence. This includes an explanation, updates on which members of the site staff can be reached for issues/help, more details on the Revamp, and a call to action for Volunteers. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

With that said, let us move on to the main event…

 


 

Behind the Scenes


 

Just as the Revamp is Lunaescence’s long awaited fresh start, this is the fresh start to the development blog. Initially run last year, I had to abruptly halt it due to real life and family obligations. I won’t delve too deeply into personal matters—because I wrote this blog post to inform, not bum anybody out—but I will say that navigating last year was a challenge, and that I’m still assembling things back together, piece by piece.

While I cannot fully speak for others, it seems the other Moderators also faced things that required their attention. Perhaps, part of it is natural. As time goes on, they may find they have added obligations that require their attention. There’s jobs and weddings and relocating. There’s family obligations and the occasional bout of illness.

Real life happens, and sometimes, you just can’t plan for it.

But, we owe it to Lunaescence to do our best—and from April onwards, we’ve been working, planning and doing just that. We’ve all pledged to take a more active role in Lunaescence going forward.

As far as myself, I apologize for seemingly dropping the ball. It was never my intention, and I apologize immensely to the community for the inconvenience. Just know I will make it up to everyone, and Lunaescence’s amazing members will finally get to see real progress around site. Real life certainly did get out of hand, and I wish I had better been able to juggle it and Lunaescence. Hope isn’t lost, however. There isn’t much I can do about the past, but I can assure you that, to atone for it, I and the rest of the Moderator Team will be making sure Lunaescence has one awesome future ahead of it.

 

Current Affairs


 

You might be curious to know what’s currently going on in the realm of Lunaescence.

In general, we’re focusing on planning, improvements, development of the Revamp, and the continued running of the current site. Admittingly, we’re short staffed at the moment. Because of this, there may be a bit of a delay with things such as story approvals and the Queue. But—even though my focus is elsewhere, I will occasionally jump in as needed to prevent excessive wait times.

For Moderators, you have myself, Kerrigan Sheehan, Shade, and Goodfellow.

While we certainly do have other members of the Moderation Team, many are busy with real life obligations, and thus, should not be contacted for site related reasons. Any questions you may have should be directed to one of us four. We’re all happy to help, should you encounter an issue and need a Moderator for assistance.

If ever you need to reach a Moderator, you can do so by emailing the main Moderator email moderators@lunaescence.com (which is monitored by more than one Moderator, helping to make sure you get a faster response).

Alternatively, official contact emails are:

While we’re a more short staffed than usual, you can count on us to be here for inquiries or assistance.

(An upside to this is that if you’ve always wanted to be a Moderator here at Lunaescence, we will likely be having applications for new Moderators in the near future—so keep your eyes peeled to announcements if that’s something you’re interested in.)

 

The Revamp


 

Currently in development is a Revamp to the current website. The landing page (with a countdown counter and progress bar) is viewable at beta.lunaescence.com. What are some of the features planned for this update to Lunaescence? You can view a selection of them below.

 

Planned Features

Please note that not all features may be available immediately upon launch. Some may be finalized post-launch.

 

  • Chapter Scheduling: Schedule chapters to automatically post at a selected time.
  • Groups: Create or join groups with self-contained ‘group walls.’ Ideal for creating writing groups dedicated to certain genres, story types or fandoms.
  • Profile Customization: The ability to make customized changes to your profile.
  • Tagging: Story tags are now a thing. #yay
  • Rewiews = Comments: Reviews are now Comments. Reviews/Comments are configured to allow endless comments between commenter/reviewer and the Author. In other words, if an Author replies to a Reviewer, a Reviewer can reply to the Author’s response. This differs from the current system on Lunaescence, in which reviewers cannot reply to an Author's response.
  • Improvements to Blogs: Seamless integration of blog posts onto user profiles. Blogs of users are no longer separate, and are displayed via a tab on the actual profiles.
  • Unified Login: No more separate logins for the archive and forum. Because all aspects of the site are seamlessly one (including the forum), there’s no need for separate logins.
  • Better Collaborative Writing: Improvements to Round Robins or stories with more than one writer, allowing for better collaboration between users. 
  • Improvements to Favorites: More options for managing favorites, including removing, organizing, public displayed and private options for ‘favorited’ or ‘watched’ stories.
  • Upload Support: Support for file uploads (docx., .odt, .rtf, etc.) alongside a standard text submission box.
  • Skins: Just like the current Lunaescence, an option is being implemented to allow the changing of the site’s default skin/appearance. Five are currently being designed, all of which are a nod to Lunaescence’s current skin-set.
  • Images: Support for icons/images in stories.
  • More Writing Resources: More resources created for both new and seasoned writers. Hone your craft, or if you’re new, learn the basics of grammar, formatting, and narrative. 
  • Achievements: Earn special achievements for participating in forum events, or reaching site, review, or story milestones.
  • Queue: Improvements to the way the Queue is presented and managed. In turn, this should make for faster approval times for stories.
  • Other General Improvements: improvements to Challenges/Prompts, the Beta Reader system, the Featured Challenge, full mobile compatibility, and a brand new, modernized interface.

 

This is not necessarily a full list of planned features, but rather, a summary of major ones. Expect more to be revealed as time goes on.

 

Q&A

 

With this section, I’ll be taking a moment to answer potential questions. Have a question that isn’t covered here? Feel free to drop it in the comments.

 

  • What is the Revamp?
    A complete update to Lunaescence’s functionality, interface and code.
     
  • First off… why a revamp?
    Lunaescence is long overdue a complete overhaul. Not only that, we feel users have well earned an updated site for having supported and stood with Lunaescence so long.
     
  • Why a revamp as opposed to merely updating the current site?
    There are a few reasons for why a Revamp/redesign was chosen.

    The main three reasons can be summed up as Infrastructure, Time, and Sustainability. For context, Lunaescence is based on an old version of a script, that at the time, lacked proper framework and means for modification. This means updating Lunaescence is very much a file by file process. Essentially, a complete overhaul of the current Lunaescence would largely require everything to be changed and built up from scratch. Not only does this file by file process of making Lunaescence ‘custom’ mean the process will be time consuming, it also means future updates will be just as time-extensive.

    So why start new? Well… the first reason is Infrastructure. A complete revamp allows us to utilize preexisting frameworks and infrastructure for development. Essentially, we’re kept from having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ in some aspects of the site’s development. Lunaescence, in turn, benefits from being based upon a reliable codebase that makes future updates easier—important for a site like Lunaescence, with little to no sources of funding. Building things up this way also allows better versions of current functions to be built in. This includes an improved and overhauled Queue. An improved Queue interface will speed up the Moderation process, allowing for stories to be validated quicker. While yes, this can be built into the current site, often building on preexisting scripts requires a bit of ‘undoing’ before things can be correctly assembled in a way that’s most beneficial for the interface or performance of the site. 

    Next up, is Time. As we’re not fully ‘reinventing’ wheels, time can be saved. Every single feature doesn’t need to be built up from scratch (most? yes, but not everything), minimizing development time. And I’m sure everyone wants Lunaescence to have a modernized look and interface as quickly as possible. Sustainability is also a factor. The Revamp is being built upon a well documented, regularly updated codebase. Updating it won’t require manually editing thousands of files, making it more sustainable and easier to manage for future staff.
     
  • What can users expect for the Revamp?
    Expect an updated, modernized interface with full combability for mobile users. Users can also expect the current features of Lunaescence (favorites, challenges/prompts, etc.), only new and improved. Alongside improved versions of old features such as Blogs, users can also expect features new to Lunaescence.
     
  • What happens to the stories, profiles, and content of the current archive?
    I got a couple inquires from people who mistakenly assumed this Revamp meant the deletion of all the content that currently exists on the site. I want to make it clear that’s 100% not the case. All content on the current site will be transferred to the Revamp upon launch. This includes stories, reviews, and user profiles. There is no need to be concerned about a loss of content, though members are more than welcome to backup their own content if it provides peace of mind.
     
  • How does the process of transferring the stories/profiles/content work?
    Directly before the public launch date (not referring to any Closed/Open Beta periods, which by this point, will have already happened), the main Lunaescence.com website will be taken offline alongside the Beta (there are many reasons for this, one of them being to prevent new content from being uploaded to either during the process). While offline, all current content will be transferred. The Revamp will then be moved from beta.lunaescence.com to the main lunaescence.com domain, essentially replacing the old site.
     
  • ‘Early Access’ is mentioned on the Beta page. What is that?
    Early Access refers to the Closed Beta period in which a selection of users will be allowed to use the Revamp/Beta website before its public release. As a special thank you for their patience and support, Early Access is being provided to Fundraiser contributors.
     
  • If I’m eligible for Early Access, how will I know when I can sign up?
    Assuming you used a valid email to contribute to the Fundraiser, you’ll be contacted at the email address you used for your contribution when the time comes. Alternatively, it will likely be mentioned on our Social Media Accounts and via Monthly Announcements.
     
  • Will there be an Open Beta for non-Fundraiser contributors to join the beta?
    Possibly. 
     
  • When can we expect to see publicly posted images of the Revamp?
    Initally, I wanted to immediately release images. One particularly concern I did have in doing so what that people may get attached to designs or interfaces that may later need to be honed or changed, or expect the Revamp to look a certain way because initial images portrayed it as such and be far less happy if updated images portray it as different.

    I want users to see the Revamp when most of the elements have been finalized, so in the event of major redesigns or functionality changes, no one is disappointed (presuming they had their heart set on a particular interface choice or design.) Its still early on and a lot of major changes are still being made. Once we reach 60%-80% percent, you can expect more pictures and publicly posted material. By this point in the development, most of the major layout/interfaces/skins will likely be finalized or near-finalized.

    You can view percentage progress on the main page of the beta. Until then, first looks at the site will likely be limited to those with Early Access to the Beta (which are contributors to the Fundraiser). While it is likely I may release some images beforehand, expect the bulk of images and content around the mentioned percentages. For the very curious, if you guys would like to see some of the screenshots taken of the Revamp early on in its development (that is, practically the first month), let me know.
     

 Fundraiser


We’ll be closing out the Fundraiser by the end of 2019.

Though we’re hopeful we’ll receive more contributions—or ideally, reach the goal—between now and that period, regardless of if that does or does not happen, the fundraiser will be coming to a close before the year ends. You may be wondering, ‘But if the goal of the fundraiser was to ensure Lunaescence can always remain online, what does this mean for Lunaescence’s future?’ I want to make it clear we have no plans to take Lunaescence offline.

‘Closing out the fundraiser’ isn’t a clever euphemism for a shutdown or anything similar to it. If anything, this announcement is more about refocusing our efforts in a way that should prove more productive. The sole purpose of the Fundraiser was to solidify Lunaescence’s online status: to minimize the risk of a future shutdown by providing the site with a place to stay and grow for a long time to come.

Lunaescence, in the past, has faced such hypothetical shutdowns.

Though it may not seem like it, managing a website can be an extensive endeavor. Management of Lunaescence is a constant, time consuming process. And as the old adage goes, time is money. Those who help manage the site have to be willing to regularly dedicate time to it, often at the expense of their personal or professional lives. That well may often mean taking time off of work to fix issues, or sacrificing personal time for the good of the community. In other words, hosting Lunaescence isn’t a simple as it might seem. Nevertheless, we understand the importance Lunaescence has, not just to the Moderators, who have dedicated hundreds of hours of time to managing it, but to the users, who truly have made Lunaescence something special—who wrote the best of stories, left the kindest of reviews, and made Lunaescence, throughout its history, a one of a kind community to be apart of.

In other words, this decision allows us to better evaluate ways we can accomplish the goal of the fundraiser, and that is keeping Lunaescence online. In the event the goal is not reached between now and then, there’s also the consideration of how to best allocate the funds raised.

Whether the funds should be put towards Lunaescence’s future development and infrastructure improvements, if alternative ways of funding the remainder should be considered, or other options, its important to note the goal remains keeping Lunaescence online. In short: we’re committed to keeping Lunaescence open and will certainly try or best. To all those who have, and continue to believe in Lunaescence: we promise to do our very best to ensure the longevity of the community.

Lunaescence means a lot to all of us.

To some, it may have been their first introduction to writing. To others, maybe even the first place that felt like home. Over the years, friendships have been fostered. Writers have grown. I for one can say that Lunaescence was a very instrumental part in my development as a writer. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say, without hesitation, that they might not be where they are today if it wasn’t for Lunaescence.

In the meantime, you’re free to contribute to the site’s fundraiser until the end of the year. After that point, no further contributions will be accepted.

In regards to shipping, the target is to have all rewards that have not already been sent, mailed to remaining recipients by February 2020. That timeline covers everyone, both domestic and international contributors. If you’ve got a question regarding this, please direct it to my email dia at lunaescence.com.

I’d like to keep all correspondence in one place and through only the official lunaescence email, after having personal emails hacked (yes, Dia never seems to catch a break.)

I think I speak for all the Moderators when I say we’re touched to see there are so many people who believe in Lunaescence, and feel its presence has left a positive impact on them as writers, as people.

Regardless of whether or not the fundraiser meets the goal, I’m tremendously grateful to all those who supported Lunaescence. Whether that was with a contribution, liking/sharing/reblogging posts, or simply with well-wishes or positive messages: we’re incredibly thankful to have you. Lunaescence holds a special place, not just in the online writing space, but in the heart’s of its writers and authors, its Moderators, both past and present, and the visitors who stop by everday. We owe it to you all, as Lunaescence’s loyal users and supporters, to ensure Lunaescence finally gets the love and updates it deserves. Though I may not ever fully get the chance to thank each and every person who did their part and tried to help us reach our goal, just know, right now, from the very bottom of my heart, I thank you.

 

Going Forward 


 

We believe there is always room for improvement. With Lunaescence’s fresh start on the horizon, we’re working on ways to improve the way we do things here at Lunaescence. These include…

  • Better Organization 
    With tools and unification being implemented to allow for better Moderator communication, expect more productivity and improved site management going forward.
     
  • Improved Documentation
    Expect improved writing guides and new documentation regarding ratings, warnings, story types and genres, to make it easier to properly classify your story.
     
  • A Dedication to Uptime
    A criticism Lunaescence—and perhaps, other archives without financial backing face—is complaints of downtime. Certainly, everyone wants their favorite website to be online when they check it. We understand that people want to count on Lunaescence to be there: unexplained downtime can be frustrating, after all. We want users to be able to depend on Lunaescence, and for that reason, we’re committing ourselves to limiting future downtime. As mentioned in April, measures have already been taken to prevent and ensure downtime is more quickly addressed. In the event of unavoidable downtime, you can look to our main Twitter account for updates.

    Note: ‘Unavoidable downtime’ includes situations such as scheduled downtime for maintenance purposes. Scheduled Maintenance periods will, of course, be announced either via Twitter or the site.
     
  • An Update to Site Materials
    Expect updates to site pages such as the FAQ, Submission page, and more. Ahead of the Revamp, expect to see refreshed site writing and materials, with better descriptions and explanations to ensure you get the help you need faster.

 

Volunteer 4 Luna


 

Ahead of the Revamp, we’re looking for Volunteers to give a hand around site. As a Volunteer, you’ll help shape the future of the site through the creation of original materials. You’ll provide suggestions and feedback, and be given an insider’s look at things to come. We’re looking for people of all backgrounds and skills sets. Whether you excel in writing page content, creating snazzy graphics, are a hobbyist coder, or just have an exceeding amount of free time on your hands—we’re sure we’ll find something you’re good at.

In short, Volunteers will have a close role in helping to usher in Lunaescence’s future, though without the full responsibilities of a Moderator.

There aren’t any rigid restrictions to apply, though preferably we’d love users have been a member of the site for at least 3 months, and thus, are likely familiar with our policies and standards. However, this isn’t a hard requirement. Tell us how or why you want to help and things you’re good at.

If there’s tasks suited to you, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Send an email to moderators at lunaescence.com with the following:

  • Your Lunaescence Username:
  • Lunaescence Profile Link:
  • Why do you want to volunteer for Lunaescence?:
  • What are some of your skill(s) or strong suits?:
  • Do you have samples of past work related to your mentioned skill(s)?
  • Title your email “Volunteer 4 Lunaescence.”

 


 

That’s it for now. Until next time!