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Wednesday, February 22 2017 6:50pm
BUKAS PALAD ONLINE V3.0
Posted on January, 2012

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What better way to celebrate our 25th anniversary than with a brand-spankin' new website?

Hello, this is your friendly neighborhood webmaster speaking. Glad you took the time to read this "introduction" to the newest (and hopefully the last) iteration of our website. It's rare I get the chance to discuss very geeky tech stuff in context of our ministry so indulge me.

So, what's with new site?

Front-end

The site's got a new look. But the real question here is "why this particular look?"

As evidenced by our recent albums, AVPs, keynotes, etc. the look/feel of our "products" have been slowly looking more and more "uniform." The actual term you're looking for would be "unified." And a distinct, unified look is precisely what we want our products to have moving forward.

Simply put, just like with Apple products, it's our goal to come out with material that is immediately identifiable to our Ministry/brand.

Back-end

Apart from the cosmetics, this site has been re-deployed from the ground up with a full-blown CMS (Content Management System) at its core; the same system used by sites like NASA or The White House... you know - the small fish ;)

Isn't that overkill?

To me, technology is pretty much like money; it doesn't hurt to have more of it. You never know how much scalability you'll need down the road so might as well prepare in advance as much as you can. That's exactly what we did with the site right now - we future-proofed it (granted, that still is a relative statement.)

While the site's main function is [mostly] for information, I believe that this new system can solve a lot of long-standing and more importantly, recurring logistical issues we've been experiencing through the years. While these issues may not be "critical" - they are still kind of stuff that "once fixed, will never bother us again." Issues that have to deal with questions like:

  1. I need to get a hold of member x; who has the most updated contact information of members?
  2. Some people don't know the song yet, who has a copy of the pieces?
  3. We'll be performing songs x and y, but the usual "minus one person" is unavailable - who has a copy of the required accompanyment
  4. We need an images of so and so for use in a presentation or a media-kit.

The answers to these questions usually vary depending on the current "administration" or membership status. What the new system can do is eliminate the [inherently unreliable] human element in these sorts of tasks and simply relegate them to the cloud. You need the sheet music of song y? Check the site. You need the most recent contact information of member x? the site should have the most updated information (assuming the member takes the time to update their information). You need to refer to that form template we used in an old workshop years ago? No problem; there should be a copy of that uploaded in the site too.

Ok, Ok, I get it. So tell me more.

The best way to do this is to discuss the relevant sections one by one. But before we get to that, I'll mention some site-wide features that are exclusive to the new site.

  • Site-wide Search
    What's a CMS without a search engine to sort through all the indexed data? Now you can find content easier :)

  • Mailing List
    We used to have an old mailing list, but the old system was very hard to manage/maintain, so we eventually scrapped it. But thanks to the power of the new CMS, things like this are much easier to manage.

  • Rating System
    We figured it would be fun to open up this kind of interaction to the public, as it can also help us evaluate which of our "projects" (be it songs/albums/etc.) are doing well (and which aren't) - information like this is always useful for determining the "market trends."

  • Media Downloads
    This is sort of a hidden feature, as it was primarily designed for the groups internal consumption (to access various media related to songs/albums). But if you browse around the site, you'll come across some pages here and there with download links. A perfect example would be the event page of the Christify Album Launch where you'll see the same files we made available to the public before the launch (to encourage audience participation).
    This feature isn't exclusive to the calendar section. Some albums also have "bonus artwork" available for download.

  • Global Commenting
    Commenting has now been enabled on a lot of relevant sections of the site. To minimize spam, you will be required to be logged in. But the cool thing about the commenting system is that you'll be able to log-in with your existing accounts on any of the more popular social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Now that we've got those out of the way, let's talk about the section-specific stuff; though I'll only be mentioning sections that have noteworthy changes.

Homepage

The homepage will contain everything from the old site that you've gotten used to: Announcements, Featured Products, etc. There's still there. But we're not letting ourselves fall behind with the social networking scene.

While the Online Community is still going strong, we've also made the homepage consolidate updates from every social network the group [actively] participates in. These networks may come and go, and the homepage content will adjust accordingly. Whatever the case may be, you'll be able to count on the site to keep you in the loop.

Member Profiles

Apart from the cosmetics, most of the "new features" here are mostly for Bukas Palad members' benefit. One is that members can now update their own profile information/upload their own pictures just like they could with any social networking site.

What regular viewers don't see is that when you're a member who's logged in, your profile page shows much more information than what the public sees. We have comprehensive records of each members contact information. Basically, it truly fulfills its purpose of being the "member information database" for both fans and members alike.

Songs

The song listing has changed the way it "categorizes" songs. The need to revamp this process was long overdue - as we now had multi-lingual songs... so categorizing them as solely English or solely Filipino wouldn't be accurate. For example, most of the songs in the album To Love & Serve are English/Latin or Tagalog/Latin and we even have a song that has all three (Deo Militare/First Companions)

To solve this, I used a "taxonomy/tagging" system instead. While the main categorization is still English or Filipino, a song may now be tagged with more than one language. The reason why we still retained English/Filipino as main categories is because regardless if a song is sung in Latin or any other language... it's most likely to still have parts of it sung in either Filipino or English.

As a result, a song like First Companions will now appear in both English and Filipino categories (as it should). A song like the multi-dialect version of Hindi Kita Malilimutan will appear in the Filipino category (as it also should).

We can extend this functionality to include songs' "applicability" to parts of the liturgy - but it's not a priority as of the moment (we'd have to go through each and every song and iron out all the details with Fr. Manoling).

The actual song lyrics pages are basically ports from the old system, with the addition of the rating system, of course.

Albums / Songbooks

The listing for albums/songbooks is now set to include even 3rd party albums that the group has been part of. While those albums will not have tracklists/lyrics/ratings for the songs, it's still a nice addition for those who really want to know the group inside-out.

For added value, All album/songbook artwork has been re-scanned, cleaned, and post-processed (in a lot of them, even the fonts were re-constructed). We even went as far as requesting individual members to lend copies of tapes/cds/songbooks they had so we could work with raw scans (the images for the most recent albums were generated directly from the files being sent to the printers)

This assures the viewers that the best/cleanest versions of BP Album Art you will ever find on the internet will be right here - where they belong; all [official album/songbook] readily available for download/use.

Photo Gallery

The Official Photo Gallery is now revived! Built from scratch (I used some visual elements from my personal site though) using Flickr's API. You can now view sets, photos and slideshows - all the fun stuff Flickr offers - right here in the site.

And don't worry, the implementation of this gallery is in accordance with Flickr's Terms of Service (linkbacks, maximum requests, caching, photos per page, etc).

The Media Archive is essentially part of the Photo Gallery; but here we plan to host every newspaper/magazine article that features the group.

Video Gallery

Just like with the gallery, thanks to video hosting sites such as YouTube, we could now afford to create a video section without worrying about the bandwidth.

We've tried our best to search for all official BP related videos on the net and put them in one place for easy access. So again, this site would be the best place to look for all of our official music videos. Also, once again for added value, we included non-bp which featured bukas palad as guest artists.

BP members get a special treat as even our "internal party productions" are now accessible through the site.

Calendar

While the calendar functions just like any other typical calendar, the major difference it has from most calendars is the support for inputting geolocation. Now it's even easier to, quite literally, follow and watch the group perform in various locations.

As for the back-end, I've also applied the taxonomy/tagging system for location addresses... that way, whenever we have to "reuse" venue details, (very useful for venues like Gesu, etc.) we could easily retrieve them like tags (that's why you'll notice the addresses for most of the events are much more comprehensive than they used to be.

Podcasts

This is exclusive to the new site. You've already had a taste of the podcasts (otherwise known as "prayer/reflection guides") when we were distributing them virally over the net. This is now where they will officially reside.

Backwards Incompatibility

I've decided to do an Apple and drop full support for IE. The site will still run on it, and show everything it has to show - only its not going to look exactly as I intended it to look (e.g. fonts, etc.). Probably some "off" things here and there, but nothing really "broken" beyond usage.

So I guess the safe answer would be that this site is backwards compatible as far as the content goes.

This site will look pretty much the same if you view it on Firefox/Chrome/Safari regardless if you're on a PC or Mac. In fact, it will even render properly in Mobile Safari - so even iPad and iPhone users will be able to experience the site in its full glory - yes, even the videos work without having to use Flash ;) (audio clips will be disabled though, since those still use flash)

Seeing the site render properly on the iPhone/iPad, was the deciding factor. If mobile browsers from underpowered devices can render this site without any issue, there's no reason why IE, which is already on it's ninth iteration, couldn't do the same. As a matter of principle, I'd prefer a person switch to a better browser and do themselves a favor than to riddle this site's markup with non-standard code-hacks specific to a single flavor of browser.

And let's not even argue about browser versions ok? It may have been a concern in the early days of the internet, but can we assume now that everyone is using the most recent version of their respective browsers. I see no reason why a person would demand support for an older browser when all browsers are free.


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