Saturday, July 25, 2009

San Diego Comic-Con 2009

What a crazy busy week back after a week off! Had just a few days back before we had to head down to San Diego for Comic-con. Thursday afternoon we checked out MGM's Stargate booth on the exhibition floor. Snapped a photo of me near the Stargate, and checked that the form we setup for people to get exclusive Comic-con downloads was working. It was (is). Wandered around the exhibition floor with another member of the Stargate team, before we had to go to the hotel and get ready for the Stargate universe launch party.

The launch party was pretty spectacular. Especially for those of us who aren't normally associated with the promotional aspects of working on Stargate. Jonathan and I decided not to be shy, and introduced ourselves to much of the cast and Robert Cooper and Brad Wright. A good conversation was had with Rob about how best we can keep the site interesting for the fans. Elyse looked spectacular in a lovely pink dress (easy to pick out of the crowd). Brian J. Smith was very nice, although didn't get a long chat with him. Spoke for a while with David Blue, and I've decided that he's probably going to be my favorite. Both his character on the show, and the actor himself are someone I can relate too. David is very charming in person, and very good looking! I even got a wave goodbye when I was leaving the party late that night! (yes fangirl squeee!)

We had a good talk with Robert Carlyle (always loved his acting, so was quite shy about introducing myself.. had my boss introduce us!) and Alaina Huffman (she's even more beautiful in person) about them possibly helping us out with occasional blog posts or Q&A's for the site. Robert Carlyle has an amazing accent, I truly had to concentrate, and was thankful I'd decided not to drink.

The members of my team that could go to the party loved it. It was just so wonderful we were invited, and we feel like we also KNOW these people. We look at them every day, watch video's of them talking, and now they know who we are too!

Jonathan and I walked past Robert Cooper on the street before the party, and both of us almost waved him down... until we remembered he wouldn't know who we were. We told him that when we were at the party, and he said we should have said something, apparently he never gets recognized!

A funny story we were told at the party, happened when Elyse and Jamil went down to walk the exhibition floor on the Thursday. They wandered over to the Stargate booth, and were taking in all the sights, when one of the people hired to man the booth came over. The booth person wanted to know if they would enter a contest to win a guest role on the show! Too funny. It can only happen now, before the show has aired. Next year there won't be able to wander the floor without causing an incident!

I took tons of photo's, and I'm sorry to those who follow me on twitter, but I practically spammed tweets with pictures from all over Comic-con. Here are some of my favorite moments.

--Can you see my dreamy stunned look?

Anyhow, now all that excitement is over, it's back to some serious work starting phase two of the site next week.


ps. Love this video talking about Children of the Gods. I always hated the way they introduced the Samantha Carter character, turns out I'm not alone!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lots of fixes after the vacation

Currently my parents are in town for their annual visit from Australia, so we're off to Santa Barbara area today to get some rest time in.

Thanks everyone for the feedback, the bad spelling fix happened right before they presented the Photosynth at a big Microsoft conference. Was very relieved to have that fixed before they put it up on the big screen.

Thanks to Anonymous to catching the duplicate Search and Rescue content group. Not quite sure how that one managed to get itself published live, but it's deleted now. When I create a content group, it acts as the "page" for a group of images, or a video. The one was blank, so it just showed other stuff from that series, which right now is videos. I've been working to try and get the order of what comes out there changed, based on what you're already looking at. The media player used to only show stuff from that content in the strip, but right before launch I added some code to throw in stuff from the series so it didn't look so blank. Lots of things to improve!

JenR, I will definitely look into the captions. The full episodes are all from Hulu, so I am not sure if there is anything we can do with those, although they might have versions we can use, I'll find out. The clips are mostly produced by us, old clips we may not even have captions for, but again, I'll ask the video people and hopefully find something we can do there.

Watcher652, thanks for your tons of feedback. I'm not sure exactly what's happening with your navigation problems. Can you tell me what OS/Browser you're using? It could be a javascript/css problem. When you select "Atlantis" from the navigation menu, you should end up here: this page loads the media player with Atlantis video and images. Next to the media player should be an ad to buy SS5 on DVD. Under the media player is a section with two tabs, summary and episodes. Everything in those sections should only be content from Atlantis.
The site no longer remembers which is your show preference. This is something I'd like to add back in during phase 2, but it was starting to get too complicated, so we took it out at launch.

On the images page, once you've selected "Atlantis" you can then see on the right of that, the list of seasons (1-5). If you then select a season, you will see under that the list of episodes, and can do directly to the episode you'd like to see images from. The images are ordered by when they were modified. This is something I'd also like to change, and is in phase 2, to order them by season, episode number.

We have such a large amount of content to enter, and only two people entering it, so keep watching the site, as the other drop down menu's will begin to get populated over the coming weeks. We also didn't get to upload the images from seasons 1-3 for Atlantis yet, those will come sooner rather than later, as I know the selects are complete, and I think seasons 2 and 3 are already ready for upload. With Comic-con next week, the only other person uploading images is super busy with that, and I'm away! :)

Related Tags are.. in need of some love. At the moment if we don't have data for the tag, it's randomly assigned a number. This was because before the site launched, we didn't have any data, so all the tags appeared to be the same size. I'm going to revisit how they are ordered, and what font size is assigned once we have more traffic data.

Some episodes we just don't have images for. There aren't any in the library, and none we can find elsewhere. For these we are trying to get some hi-def video's, so we can make some captures, but it's not going to happen very soon.

Thanks for catching that key episode error on McKay, I've fixed it. The order of Key Episodes is just the order I tagged them in. I would like our main content person to choose the order based on relevance instead, but first I'll have to program a way for her to do that.

We don't have a help function, or a site map, although the site map is coming, as we area creating one for search engines as well. I'm actually quite surprised you're having trouble with navigation though. On the whole the feedback has been the opposite, that people much prefer the navigation on the new site, and others have taken pains to compliment the navigation.

Thanks very much for all the feedback, keep it coming. We're trying very hard to improve, and fix the things we know aren't right, or aren't as good as they could be.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The monster lives!

After a very exciting and intense couple of months, the beast has finally been unleashed. Unfortunately today was _supposed_ to be a soft launch, but apparently marketing has never heard of that sort of thing before.

We have DNS cache problems here in the office, that always means it takes DAYS for our DNS to update. This is a major problem, when the CEO etc. are trying to look at the masterpiece. I had to do a kludge and do away with the CDN to actually go live when it was supposed to.

Sadly the site has received a LOT more traffic than we really could have hoped for. This means I've had servers crashing left, right and center. I have brought 4 new servers online during the afternoon, and am trying to keep on top of the crashes. I think when I eventually go home, I'll just switch on the CDN, and let the execs work out why we can't see our own site from the building.

Sorry I've been quiet here for a while, as you can imagine we've been putting in quite an effort to get things straight. What I hope is that you will all offer your feedback. Let me know about things that might be miss-tagged, typo'd, offer descriptions for just about anything you see lacking. With a team of 3 we've had a rough time getting it all ship shape, but I think it's pretty good anyway!

In advance, I would like to apologize to all our international fans. In order to avoid Hulu, don't play anything that says: Full Episode in front of it. We ARE going to start work on international version of the site soon, which means hopefully we can offer some of the content, but through other means.

I welcome your feedback.

Oh and:
Anxiously awaiting your blog entry on the unveiling of the new MGM SG site (which is very cool, although I haven't figured out how to copy pics off the site (darned Flash). ;)

You can download the pics! Click on them to expand into full screen, then at the bottom is a link: get full-size image. Agree to sign your life away (jk) and it should open the massive version in a new window.
Let me know if it doesn't work.. it's supposed to!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For lack of anyone better

I have been appointed team leader for the MGM Stargate Site! I was very afraid they were going to give the work to someone who didn't know the franchise (again) and had voiced my fears to our departing project manager. Turns out he agreed, and convinced my boss to give the work to me instead of someone with more time (and less passion).

This means that in addition to managing all MGM's domains, web servers (when I wear my sys admin hat), provide support for vendors who host movie microsites on my (MGM's) web servers, Database admin for Oracle and MySQL, doing all PHP code for all our sites... I get to approve content to go up on the site, and generally manage the direction of the site (of course always having to deal with requests/mandates from TPTB).

I'm very excited.. I think not only is it a good step forward for me (I was getting tired of being the one and only tech person who did everything, but couldn't advance because I was too "valuable") but I'm going to try and implement a lot more user generated content on the site.

Looks like the launch will happen July 9th, as they wanted it before comic con, but my parents are visiting and we're going out of town for the week of the 13th through 17th, so my boss moved the launch date from the 14th to the 9th.

We're going to try very hard to implement the first user generated feature we call "suggest a tag". Will explain more about that another day, we have to hash out the details, and see if we can get it properly coded and tested in the coming weeks.

Oh I almost forget, from yesterday's comments:
At present we can access the site by show (i.e. I have the link in my bookmarks. This works great for me, because Atlantis is the only Stargate show I'm interested in). Do you know if it'll be possible to browse by show in the new site as well? If not, any chance it'll be possible in the future?

Yes indeed. Pretty much everything in the site (characters, video, images) can be sorted by series, and we have a "filter grid" on content heavy pages where you can go by season, and episode, also narrow by type (behind the scenes, episodic etc).

Right now I'm trying to get that exact URL to still work, so it will redirect users to the new location.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Site launch delayed..

I had a feeling it was going to happen mid last week when the panic seemed to stop. We were told late Friday that our launch would be delayed until the San Diego Comic Con.

I can't say I'm not bummed, as we're been going full blast on the new site since March, and I was really hoping to get it out there for people to see and use.

The project manager is now finished, as is the other programmer we had for the development cycle. This brings us back to a team of 3, and I hope they let us iron out the wrinkles and add a couple extra features instead of moving us onto different projects right away.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Been a while but...

As soon as Monday the 15th June we may be launching the new version of MGM's Stargate site! It's been a very busy couple months, but we've been working very long hours and had our internal launch last week. We got some great feedback, but of course the most important feedback is going to come from the fans.

I only ask one thing.. I had to personally tag and upload thousands and thousands of images. I know I made some mistakes.. be gentle! We want to implement a "suggest a tag" and "flag a tag" features soon, perhaps by August, but until then feel free to let me know here which ones I messed up on. I was going cross eyed one night.. and tagged a whole bunch of images with Teal'C instead of Teyla (yes I know they don't look alike.. but their names are right next to each other in the list). I am pretty sure I caught them all, but you know how that stuff goes!

I loved this photo, looks like he's not sure if he should be happy or not!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How many people on a set?

It is a constant surprise for me when I see a shot of a scene from a different angle, and there are TONS of people standing around. Often scenes which can seem quite intimate, personal, aren't really. Actors must have to work hard to not be distracted by the dozens of people it takes to shoot a scene.

Today I'll be recording voice overs for some promo video's for the Stargate site. I'm sort of excited and nervous at the same time. I have a very distinct accent, which has become a sort of mishmash between Australian and American. The worst part is I can now hear my own accent if I concentrate on what I'm saying, then it puts me off and I stumble around some words. Apparently after my read through's I am told I need to sound "more excited". The saddest part of that is that I was TRYING to sound excited! HAHA.. Oh well, I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh.. an image to show all the other people on the set, and I'm sorry I promise I'm still looking for that other image I promised!