Thursday, April 21, 2016

Major Profile Update!

Density map of my finds.
So... any of you trying to get onto AQ this evening might have seen it was down for maintenance for about a half hour. As per usual, there were a number of minor tweaks here and there, but the main thrust of this particular update and where you'll see the most changes was the profile page. It's the 13th most-visited page on AQ, you know, and hasn't really undergone any major renovations since Atlas Quest launched in 2004!

The primary reason for the renovation was to make it smartphone friendly. If you check out that page on your smartphone, it's a heck of an improvement! Much neater and requires no zooming in and out to navigate.

I remembered more than once people wanting to know how to update the profile of a sub-account. The answer previously had been: Log into the account! There was no way to edit the profile of a sub-account from your primary account, and creating such a feature was never a high priority for me because it was so easy just to log into the sub-account directly. I didn't add the feature when I first created profiles because sub-accounts didn't even exist, and adding such a feature retroactively would have taken quite a bit of time and effort, and I judged it to be not worth the effort for the few people who, on rare occasions, might use the feature.

But this time, I was already neck-deep in pretty much rewriting all of the code running this subsystem from scratch, and adding the feature at the same time was relatively quick and easy. So presto! You can now edit sub-accounts directly from the primary account! (As an extra perk for admins--we also have the power to edit anyone's profile without having to log into their accounts. It doesn't happen often, but it has happened when people have posted inappropriate material in it.)

Anyhow, for those of you who use sub-accounts a lot, you're gonna love that change! =)

And for premium members... there's an entirely new section on your profile for density maps of your plants and finds. This feature was actually a lot of fun for me to build because I found it rather challenging and pushing my abilities. =) It also took me more time to build that new feature than the complete rewrite of the rest of the profile subsystem!

A density map of my plants over the years! Just 11 more states to go!
People have been adding maps to the free-flowing thoughts section of their profile for years of a picture of the United States with the states filled in for places they've boxed. I figured a "native" map linked directly to the AQ database would be quite a bit simpler to use and maintain. AQ could even go one better than just filling in states where you've boxed, but even use different shades of a color to show how many letterboxes you've planted/found in a given state. The darker the color, the more boxes you've found and planted.

I will point out a couple of caveats to be aware of, however. First, AQ only knows the located of listed finds--and even then only if it's not a mystery box. If your only finds in a state are of the unlisted variety, it's going to show as empty. Likewise, the density maps are only the densities based on your finds of listed boxes.

Second, it's not unusual for boxes planted at an event to later move out of state for replanting. Ideally, people would just retire the original listing and relist it fresh, but that doesn't always happen so you may end up with states that you've "letterboxed" in but have never actually been to. It is possible to fix this discrepancy by adding a custom location to the boxes of where you originally found the boxes. AQ counts states based on your custom locations first, then falls back to the location "officially" listed on the box.

On a related note, it's also possible to get mystery boxes you've found counted towards the correct state by adding a custom location for where you found the box.

And, not really a feature per se, but I also added a Google/Amazon ad at the bottom of the profile for non-premium members. I know nobody likes ads, but I did add them to the bottom of the page where I hope they won't be too obtrusive. It's not like you wouldn't notice it on your own and it doesn't really need any explanation--I just wanted to acknowledge it was there. Whether you can't afford a premium membership or just don't want one, I figure anyone using AQ regularly probably wants to support the website in some manner, and that's another way of doing so.

Which pretty much sums up the major changes to the profile page. There are a few minor things as well (you can rotate your signature stamp image if your smartphone uploads it in an incorrect orientation!), some minor formatting changes (which you might not see until your browser re-caches the CSS file), and such.

I'll post more about the density maps later, though, because there's a lot more to write about those outside of the profile page. But I'll save that for another day....

Completely off topic... there's also a new event icon to represent events at "places of learning" (schools, libraries, museums, etc.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks Ryan, I love my maps.

Lcab said...

My premium membership just gets better & better! This map will be very useful to show my travels.

Toni-Lynn Miles said...

I like the new icon!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ryan for all you do for AQ and well, us too. :)