Letters from Somnolescent December 1, 2023

Happy Five Years: The 2024 Infrastructure Upgrade Plans

by mariteaux

Normally at this time, I’d be bringing you the next installment of First Draft, but I just had no desire to work on it this past month despite having a wallop of an album to do it on–chalk that up to working 35 hours a week at retail, I suppose. Instead, given that it’s December and that means the Somnolescent retrospectives and prospectives start rolling off the line soon (five years of the group being officially reborn on the 20th!), I figured I’d ramble a bit about the group instead, and more specifically, updating things around here.

We fell off the site stuff a little over lockdowns, and when things opened back up, obviously, we were more concerned with going outside and getting on with life than updating our silly animal people pages. This has left some of them out-of-date, sometimes woefully so. I think we’re all feeling the desire for it again–dcb_v5 just launched in October, fwd_v2 has just launched–so let me tell you about my own plans to update Somnolescent’s web presence. There’s a lot.

archives: New mascot, much better layout

archives is still rocking the two day GoldenEye-themed prototype layout it was using back when I launched it in 2020. This was fine for what was on it back then, but now that it’s become a living museum for Somnolescent’s websites and web experiments, it’s become a little difficult to find specific layouts unless you’re up on which ones came in which order. I think a redesign with a lot more context, thumbnails, and a focus on Somnolescent history as a whole (including a gigantic timeline from 2012 when the Somnolescent name was coined by my older sister for my YouTube channel to now) would be apt.

As I went over in my trip to Wales diary, Caby had come up with a batch of adopts back in the spring, one of which was pretty blatantly designed for me (Caby admitted) and one I naturally fell in love with. It was a grey cat with long black hair in a real comfy sweater, and I decided to take her in and name her Miranda. She gave me sorta librarian vibes, and I decided she’d be a good candidate to make a much better layout for archives all that much more decorative. I’ve since come up with the lore that she’s Somnolescent’s full time digital archeologist and historian, unearthing things we’d never thought we’d see ever again–for better or worse.

Sketchy Miranda
I keep thinking I’ll do more with this one or at least redo the text–perhaps I still will. For now, have this WIP version from my files!

I did prototype a redesign that wasn’t half-bad back during the trip, but I’d yet to figure out how to draw proper eyes, or how to draw long hair, or how to draw Miranda, and now I’ve got something different in mind anyway. She’s got two guinea pigs with her as well that still need proper breeds and markings as well, something I really wanna leave for caby because, I mean, c’mon. What else is she good at? (Aside from everything, but I digress…)

Letters: Back 2 skeuomorphism

Letters, meanwhile, is still using the web diary layout I stole from Diane Patterson’s absolutely ancient blog The Paperwork. back in 2019. These days, the theme is pretty accurate to what her site was like and it’s fine to read, but it’s a little spartan and long in the tooth, isn’t it? somnol_v2, which was the main site it was meant to go with, was replaced in Spring 2020, so why should the group blog not get a new coat of paint as well? Not to mention, there’s a lot of “I’m just learning WordPress” things about it, like the user list being used for the list of Somnolians, half of which aren’t even in the group anymore. It’s just not artsy and decorative enough for our tastes anymore.

Just a favorite old banner to fill space–fits with the time of year too! Definitely need to bring this one back…

I’ve slowly been going through and redoing the post sorting anyway to make it easier to find stuff (and easier for us to categorize stuff), but Letters deserves a new look and in 2024, I aim to provide it that. Everyone in the group really wants to see the banners from somnol_v3 come back (and I think that’d be great now that I can actually contribute to it :omegalul:), but there’s some other ideas floating around, namely seasonal recolors and lots of textures. I don’t know how I’d pull off, like, a steno pad on a mahogany desk sorta look, or maybe something velvety, but that’d be downright rich and indulgent after years of hardtack Letters, I’m sure you’ll agree.

gopher: Basically everything?

Ah, the poor old Gopherhole. I still love the idea, but damn if it barely gets touched. It’s so old, recaps still have a menu. It’s so old, borb and mon are still on the list of Somnolians. It’s so old, my last essay (should that even have a menu?) is from October 2021.

It doesn’t need a radical overhaul, but a lot of spring cleaning and maybe a new way of sorting things would be nice. The current way of organizing it, where it’s just a list of arbitrary project menus, feels so, well, arbitrary to me now. It’s something I’d really like to sit down, figure out, and get going again in 2024.

It’d be gravy if I could also finally integrate CCSO into our server–CCSO is a very ancient people lookup protocol really meant for finding the contact information of your professors and administrators back in the days when Gopher was mostly used by colleges, and Gopher naturally is well-integrated with it. As far as I’m aware, there’s a grand total of two, maybe three, CCSO servers still in existence, and for years now, I’ve had a banger idea to put every Somnolian and every single character into a CCSO lookup for fun and easter egg hunting purposes. dcb wrote a Python script for serving CCSO, but I never set it up and I can’t remember why; I imagine it’s as simple as launching it like I already do Pituophis, but we’ll see when I get back to it.

Tesserae: Another new mascot, back to content updates

This one’s I guess more a personal site update than a Somnolescent site update, but I have had Tesserae on the mind more often lately. Really, mascot fever has kinda hit the group as a whole. I think slerrets are cute, but I find them hard to really get excited about? That’s my autism more than anything–I like anthros, and you might just see one coming to Tesserae in the next year or two.

Cyber-Alexi sketch

Caby and I were discussing mascots the one night back in October, and she wound up designing sort of a fluffy biological android snow leopard in the spirit of, like, that squirrel from Krita and other such cutesy open-source mascots. I love him a lot; I’ve taken to calling him Cyber-Alexi, based on my own snow leopard sona, of course. I think mascot stuff and more visual interest would really help Tesserae pop, and also stand out in a world of very overly boxy, super slick, kinda personalityless web design help sites.

I definitely miss Tesserae. I stopped updating it right around the time I started work on the CSS section, so while Tesserae 2.0 has been nearly universally well received (I’ve seen links to it out in the wild, and people really seem to find what I’ve got up there useful), it’s unfinished and, really, another casualty of the sad, insular mess we became over lockdowns. I stopped working on it partially because it didn’t seem to excite anyone, but I mean, it was never going to be exciting–but it has wound up being incredibly useful.

I think having Cyber-Alexi around will help make it a lot more fun to look at, and more content in general means I’ll be able to return it to the forefront of the network instead of just not mentioning it anymore. Seems like a waste, given how much effort has gone into it.

About mariteaux

Somnolescent's webmaster with way too much to write about and a stack of CDs he'll never finish.

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