Almost there….

To the wonderful members who have persisted with this site while we have been building Version 2 it is time to confirm that the new site is almost complete. Thank you for your patience.

We have had a few of our esteemed gurus – namely Diana, Crafty Gardener, Jean, Nell Jean and Esther – beta testing the site and it is slowly coming together. The new and improved Picks feature is undergoing its final development stage and once this is up and running we will invite a few more of you to continue with the testing.

Diana already has a list of who will make up this next list but if you want to ensure then feel free to comment to this thread.

Looking forward to new beginnings….

So close…yet so far!

Version 2 has hit a major pothole in its journey. While we have been planning to get this updated version out before the end of last month (February 2012) it hasn’t happened – obviously!

The programmer that I had employed has gone AWOL with the site still sitting in limbo with many of the modules very incongruous. Alas, he hasn’t been returning my emails and hasn’t been available for online chats of the situation.

This has left me in an awkward position as my programming expertise is fairly basic – see Version 1. We have been building it on the Codeigniter framework for which I have a limited understanding and need to pour hours of time in getting fluent with it.

Therefore, I am now assessing what the next step is.

The options as I see it are;

1. Find and create a team of developers to finish the site and bring this update to fruition (more time and money required)
2. Abandon the site and let it become the MySpace of the gardening world
3. Sell the site, as is, to someone who would like to continue the project

I’m sharing these thought processes with you so that you don’t feel that I’m ignoring your requests but I’m not sure which option to go with at the moment.

PS. If I decide on #2 or #3 I’m happy to credit back donations that we have received.

… and closer!

Ok, so it’s February and V2 is somewhere in transit between the Mediterranean and the Southern Ocean. But don’t despair. Everything is still going well – just slow.

I’m hoping that we will have the first footprints marking the shores in the next few weeks – still within February but alas not at the start of it.

V2 Is Getting Closer

Firstly, my apologies for being so silent over the past month. With Christmas, New Year’s and a family summer vacation, getting any extended time on the web has been a challenge. However, work has still been progressing with the V2 upgrade and is now nearing completion.

So, what has been completed and what is nearing completion? Here is the update;

Completed Items

In order to make Blotanical faster, lightweight and more intuitive we’ve had to go back to basics and remodel the entire site. While members will appreciate the ease with which Blotanical moves most won’t understand the amount of work that needed to happen in order to achieve this. It’s much like setting up a new garden: the foundational work takes the most amount of effort and huge swathes of time that is rarely appreciated because it is unseen. But without this base the garden could never flaunt its brilliance.

I’m stating this because once Blotanical hits beta version towards the end of this month it will look quite a bit leaner than it has in the past. However, the features that Blotanical has been known for will be radically improved and we will continue to roll out features as time passes.

1. Plots

Plots, the personal space of each Blotanical member, have been condensed considerably. However, it is still a place where you can share your gardening journey and a little of who you are to other Blotanists. Many of the upcoming features will be added to this area to enlarge what you can share and how you interact with other Blotanists.

One of the great improvements of Plots will be the ease in which is to interact with Help & Support. The past feature offered in the current version has been completely cumbersome and hard to manage. With V2, you will be able to see which Help queries you have made and where they are in the process of being answered.

2. Picks

As previously shown, Picks (the area where current posts from other Blotanists are shown) has also taken a radical transformation. Bookmarking, tagging and filtering posts upon your own preferences will be the order of the day with less focus on what is trending and gaining points (still under review).

Picks will offer a much better user experience that hasn’t been determined by us but will be mostly controlled by you, the members.

*There is still some testing of this new feature that needs to happen to ensure it works from day one of the beta version.

3. Modules

Modulization (aka. new features) has been completed so that adding further options to Blotanical won’t become the rabbit-warren and piece-meal site that it is at the moment. This is one of those foundational items that you won’t get to see but you will appreciate the benefits of it as the site grows and blooms.

It also means that new features can be integrated quite quickly and easily.

4. Logins & Membership

This is another foundational piece that allows Blotanical to readily accept and integrate new members. It then allows better site functionality when members move around the site allowing them to access areas based on their attained level etc.

Nearing Completion

1. Blogs

The final piece of the puzzle for us to start rolling out V2 is the ability for members to add their blogs. In the past blogs have only ever been attributed to one member. In the case of multi-authored blogs (ie GardenRant.com) this has been unhelpful as it hasn’t allowed the other authors to share their contributions. This will be a major change in V2.

Still To Come

1. Faves

This will look a lot different in V2 when this feature finally arrives. Members will no longer be limited to how many faves they can have (either blogs or members). However, Faves will limit who you can visit and who you can’t and may look quite similar to Facebook’s “Friends” or Google’s “Circles”.

2. Hush-Hush Stuff

I can’t share too much more at the moment as many of the ideas need to be kept hush-hush until we’re ready to reveal them. I’m very excited about where V2 could take Blotanical and look forward to serving your online social needs and interaction with other gardeners. Blotanical will be well positioned to grow with the expectations of our members for many years and hopefully will be the front-runner of catering to gardeners throughout the world.

Thank You

I am very grateful for the wonderful well wishes from members who are keen to be involved and see this site continue to grow. To those who have donated, whether small or large, your contributions have been much appreciated and will continue to help this site grow.

We are still looking for those who can actively help with design, coding and other practical issues. If you can help, or know of someone who can, then please comment below this post or email me at stuart@blotanical.com.

Become a V2 Supporter

We really want to get some serious traction for Blotanical’s Version 2 upgrade due in February 2012.

So, if you want to get on board, and get some recognition for your help, then either;

  • Write a Tweet using the #BlotanicalV2 tag
  • Post a status update linking to this blog on Facebook or Google +, or
  • Add a post to your gardening blog with a link to this blog

Once you’ve added your support, email me at stuart@blotanical.com and let me know the URL you would like added to the V2 Supporters list. (only 1 per person) *It can be your Facebook or Google + link, your Twitter account or your blog address.

Get Involved

Feel like you have something to offer – get in touch.

We’re looking for CSS designers, PHP and MySQL programmers, UI gurus and those who would love to support this site financially. If you have something to offer which hasn’t been listed then please contact us anyway – we may still be able to involve you.

Picks – New & Improved

Picks has been one of the mainstay features of Blotanical since its inception in 2007. The reason for its success has been the ability to read, and vote, on recent posts updated from member Blotanists. It allowed new blogs to promote themselves, older blogs to share their wisdom and blogs in between to compete for faithful readers.

However, it became quite apparent that Picks needed to up the ante in order to keep bloggers aware of the growing number of blogs in a way that was easy to navigate. This is not an easy process with nearly 3,000 blogs available. It created a formidable task that meant many blogs that weren’t in the top lists or were no longer new missing out on potential readers.

Now it’s time to unveil where Picks is heading with Blotanical V2.
(Disclaimer: The actual typography and style of the site is not complete at this stage. Images are used for illustrative purposes only.)

The primary change of Picks is the ability to create your own menus. In the past menu lists of blogs has been set in stone with very little option to change them. This means that many of the lists became redundant and overwhelming for users.

Tagged Posts
Tagged Posts allows you to bookmark posts that you like. This means that you can refer to them at a later date and organise them in an easy to administer menu. Any posts that you read through Blotanical can be tagged into groups that you’ve already created or create a new tag list to hold it.

Filtered Blogs
Filtered blogs allows you to filter blogs based on certain keywords. For example, if you’re interested in “xeriscaping” then use this as a filtered keyword and only blogs that describe themselves – or have other describe them – as offering “xeriscaping” posts are offered. If you don’t find a particular blog within that keyword phrase helpful then you can remove them and you will no longer receive their posts.

Next week’s post will look at Picks in a little more detail. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to comment via Twitter or send me an email.

Get Involved
Feel like you have something to offer – get in touch.

Blotanical v2 – Birth of a New Logo

Version 2 of Blotanical is well under way!
Since early this year, steps have been taken to make Blotanical a far more intuitive place to visit.

The starting point was finding an easier, more relevant design that portrayed Blotanical in the light that it deserved. This is a community that keeps up with cutting-edge technologies but manages to keep their feet firmly planted in the soil. So, it seems obvious that the new design had to reflect this.

So, this is the point where we pull back the curtain and show the brand new logo for Blotanical.

Each week, until we roll out the beta version in January/February 2012, we will be sharing some of the features that are getting a serious makeover. So stay tuned and if you want to keep up some of the discussions then follow Blotanical on Twitter.

Get Involved
Feel like you have something to offer get in touch.