Balloon Juice Site Rebuild: Progress Report

The site rebuild project continues apace. The new Balloon Juice site is in place and pretty much fully functional on the Development site. And by that I mean that the design is done and the coding is pretty much complete. I’d say we are down to details there, like the auto publishing of new posts to John’s twitter, and working on bug fixes.

Even as we complete that, we are now in the phase of combining the new design/programming with 18 years of balloon juice posts, a zillion images, the 5 million comments, and the entire contents of the WordPress database, merging it with the newly developed site. That takes time. To avoid surprises when we go live, we are doing this merging and the database conversion on the actual infrastructure where the new site will reside when it’s live.

We are also indexing the entire site, including the comments, so our search function will be able to search comments as well as front page posts. That takes time, and it takes a ton of space to index 5 million comments, so infrastructure had to be adjusted, as well. As part of this process, we are converting the WordPress database structure to something more appropriate for Balloon Juice, which will make it more stable. All of which also takes time.

We love stable, right? It’s worth the time to get it right.

At this stage of the game – in this second phase where we’re converting the database and merging all the data – it’s not possible to accurately predict how long all of that will take, because you never know exactly what you are going to run into. I wish I could tell you that testing will start within a certain timeframe, but that prediction would be worthless. Could testing start in a week? It’s within the realm of possibility. Could testing start in 3 weeks? Quite possibly.

Functionality: is it helpful to be specific? Already in place on the new site:

Balloon Juice banner with balloon man and rotating tags in the banner

All the usual things like About Us, Contact Us, etc.

Links for all the usual things like RSS feed, Balloon Juice Facebook, Cole’s twitter feed, etc

Navigation on desktop and mobile sites – top of page, bottom of page, previous post, next post, go directly to comment box

Little blue bird for sharing Balloon Juice posts

Recent Comments

Balloon Juice Meetups

Nominate a Rotating Tag

Submit photos to On the Road

Site feedback form to submit general feedback or report a problem

Featuring area with 5 links that will change periodically

View Posts by Topic

View Posts by Author

View Posts by Month and Year

Comment system that lets you see formatting as you create your comment

Permanent nyms/email/URL

Spam filter that lets you say fuck and talk about card games and establishments where gambling is allowed

Pie filter

Update: If you have any questions, ask away!

75 replies
  1. 1
    debbie says:

    WG, I honestly don’t think anyone but you could have achieved this. Thanks!

  2. 2
    Gin & Tonic says:

    I hate it already.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    As part of this process, we are converting the WordPress database structure to something more appropriate for Balloon Juice, which will make it more stable.


    WaterGirl is a goddess.

  4. 4
    Amir Khalid says:

    Looking good. (Touch wood I don’t jinx anything.)

  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
    Baud says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor:

    We should really have a serious discussion about replacing Cole with WaterGirl. #BJPrimary

    Permanent nyms

    How is that different than what we have now?

  8. 8
    MattF says:

    A Modest Proposal– run the new spam fillter over a representative sample of current BJ comments and publish the results. We’d all like to know if some words are so spammy/evil that you just can’t let them through.

  9. 9
    jeffreyw says:

    I have a moderate interest in the hardware that is involved, number and kinds of drives, the sorts of racks, how much physical space, etc. Also the backup capabilities, how long would it take to replicate the site on alternate hardware in case of an earthquake or a fire that destroys the building that houses it all. Are the assets distributed among several locations? Describe the eggs and the basket(s).

  10. 10
    WaterGirl says:

    @Baud: You’re right, we already get to keep our nyms. I meant the we won’t have to type in our nym and email if we comment 30 minutes after the last time we commented.

    That information is saved so we won’t have to enter it all the time – only if you clear your cookies, or you are commenting from a new device for the first time, etc.

  11. 11
    Another Scott says:

    BBC Click just had a story about how cookies follow us everywhere, how advertisers know all about us based on what we “like” and what our friends “like”, etc.

    Privacy Badger and similar tools were talked about.

    We mostly know all this stuff, but it seems clear that the problem is going to get worse over time (unless governments step in).

    You haven’t mentioned how Balloon-Juice Global Industries and Balloon-Juice Free Friend and Affection Services are tracking our every move through our clicking on comments and pie-ing our enemies. Why is that?!??1


    Seriously, the people building the site and hosting the data could conceivably have a (small) gold mine for those interested in political and charity donations. And they may be wonderful about protecting such information. But what happens if Zuck or Jack or Kim Dotcom or Cambridge Analytica decides they want to buy them out? Is all of that stuff Cole’s (and the poster’s) property for all time?

    How many cookies is the new B-J going to set? Others have griped about Javascript here over the years – is that required?

    Wonkette is trying to make a go of having an ad-free site – it’s very tough to bring in enough money to pay people that way. I personally don’t trust ad servers and ad networks — it’s clear that their interests and mine do not overlap at all, and it’s creepy that they “know” so much about “me”. I don’t know the solution, but has there been discussion about making a more formal voluntary subscription widget here? It’s important to let new people and irregular visitors have free access, but a badge icon for subscribing posters can help encourage others to contribute.

    To be clear – I’m not terribly worried about this stuff, at least not at the moment. Just curious.

    Thanks a bunch.


  12. 12
    Ohio Mom says:

    There is no way to thank you enough for all the time and effort you are giving us.

    I fully expect to fall into a faint the first time I don’t have to enter my name.

  13. 13
    Don says:

    Back in the day we understood that the last 5%takes the second 95% of the time.

  14. 14
    Miss Bianca says:

    Got nothing to say pre-coffee except that this sounds like a heroic effort, and so what does that make you and your team? “Big damn heroes, sir”. Yay!

  15. 15
    Elizabelle says:

    WaterGirl, thank you.

    I will love if linked articles open in a separate window, and we don’t have to backtrack to rejoin Balloon Juice.

    Would also love it if you could hover and learn what the linked article is before clicking on it. People are too prone to putting up mystery links from sites with paywalls, and you’ve given up a click to something you weren’t that interested in …

    First world problems. Thank you for all that you and your team have done. The searching feature sounds great.

  16. 16
    WaterGirl says:


    I will love if linked articles open in a separate window, and we don’t have to backtrack to rejoin Balloon Juice.

    On my mac, I hold down the Command key when clicking a link, which causes it to open in a new tab. On my iPad, if I press down on the link, rather than just click on it, I can choose to open in a new tab.

    The Control key serves a similar function on the PC that would allow you to do the same thing. Have you tried that?

  17. 17
    WaterGirl says:


    Would also love it if you could hover and learn what the linked article is before clicking on it.

    I believe that is browser specific. In Chrome, on my mac, the URL shows automatically when I hover. In Safari on my mac, I had to go to “View” and click on Show Status Bar.

  18. 18
    jeffreyw says:

    @WaterGirl: On a PC we can do that with a right click and choosing open in new tab from the drop down menu. I would much prefer to left click and see the new tab open by default. On my machines, that lets the tab load while keeping the focus on the referring site. You can then visit the new tab after it finishes loading, or at your leisure.
    I used to love TabMix Plus on the old Firefox because you could set tab behavior to your own preference. I’m usually using Chrome these days and am always half pissed because their default behavior in to open link in the same window and I rarely remember.
    I recall that some sites offered you a switch that changed the default on their site but haven’t seen that feature anywhere for years.

  19. 19

    Thanks, WG. Will the hundreds of entries on my pie list get ported, or do I have to fling pie to the four corners of the universe again to rebuild it?

    Asking for a friend.

  20. 20
    debbie says:


    I’ve been on this Mac laptop for 7 years and never knew about that shortcut. Doh!

  21. 21
    WaterGirl says:

    @jeffreyw: I hear you. It’s simply impossible to please everyone on the “open link in the same place or in a new tab” question. So we went with what I consider to be the standard.

    In Safari, I simply Cmd-click and i remain exactly where I was when I clicked until I click on the new tab that was added “next door”.

  22. 22
    WaterGirl says:

    @debbie: You can also Ctrl-click and then you get all sorts of options: open in a new tab, open in a new window, download the linked file, add as a bookmark, add to the reading list, etc. But I always just Command-click.

  23. 23
    WaterGirl says:

    @BruceFromOhio: You will start fresh with a clean slate for the pie filter. But it’s super easy to pie people and un-pie them!

  24. 24

    @WaterGirl: The more recent WP editing page allows you to choose whether a link opens in a new window/tab. I always choose that option when I’m posting at Nuclear Diner. It should be available at the new B-J site too.

  25. 25

    @WaterGirl: Just want to thank you. Doing UX work and working with dev teams for a major e-commerce company at my day job, and having dealt with WordPress, and a creaky old mammoth vBulletin forum, I know what Herculean effort this is.

    And how many tranquilizer darts must have been needed for Cole during the project.

  26. 26
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    I think one of my biggest frustrations is not being able to quickly locate someone’s else’s response to a comment I made. if I post earlier in the day and we end up with a 300+ Tbogg unit thread I won’t have the time to sift through. Sometimes I would respond but is so much later that it’s a worthless point anyway so much time has passed.

    Maybe I’m just a tech-deficient old lady but if someone else has figured out how to navigate the “No Nested Comments” rule on this site I’d appreciate the advice.

  27. 27

    BTW, I didn’t sign up for beta-testing because I was in the pre-surgery rush. But I’ve got time on my hands for another week and half, if you’d like me to take a look.

  28. 28
    Yarrow says:

    Thank you for the comprehensive update. It’s great to have some insight into what’s happening and where we are in the process. Looking forward to seeing the new site.

    Thank you so much for all your hard work on the project, WaterGirl. It sounds very time consuming and complicated. Appreciate all you and John and the team are doing.

  29. 29
    Another Scott says:

    @Ella in New Mexico: I generally have the browser search window populated with my ‘nym here. When I come back, I just refresh the page and do a quick search. I catch most reply comments (if any exist) that way. It doesn’t work for replies from pied people, but that’s to be expected. And it doesn’t work if someone doesn’t use the reply link or doesn’t specifically use my ‘nym in their comment.

    One of the (few) great things about Disqus is that you’ll see notification of any comment on any Disqus-using site when you visit any other Disqus site. It would be nice if there was a similar notification scheme here, but it might be tough to implement (I assume time-stamps would need to be attached to our last login/view of a page, etc.). Search seems to cover most cases here pretty easily.

    HTH a little.


  30. 30
    WaterGirl says:

    @Sister Golden Bear: Thank you.

    No tranquilizer darts needed! John has been nothing but calm since May when we started working with the developers. He has been a most excellent partner. Seriously.

  31. 31
    patrick ii says:

    @Ella in New Mexico:
    I think you can just do a “find” (browser dependent or control f on windows) on your nym and replies to your comment will be available.
    I hope you find this one.

  32. 32
    WaterGirl says:

    @Ella in New Mexico: If I’m understanding you correctly, you want to find any replies to a comment you made in a thread, yes?

    If you use Command+F (on a Mac) or Ctrl+F (on a PC) that brings up a little “find” window. Type in “ella” or “mexico” and it will find all the occurrences of that in the thread.

    I did that just now with “watergirl” and it showed me 17 matches. It takes me to the first one, I press RETURN, it takes me to the second one, RETURN takes me to the next and the next.

    Apologies if that is a process you are already aware of and just don’t care to use.

  33. 33
    WaterGirl says:

    @Sister Golden Bear: Thank you. That’s a pretty short window and I don’t know that wider testing will be happening yet. I am sure I missed your news, have you just had surgery or are you about to have another one?

    I did use one of your entries to On the Road from May as my first real test entry of the new On the Road form, and it was beautiful!

  34. 34
    Steeplejack says:


    In Chrome (and Firefox) you can Ctrl-left-click on a link to open it in a new tab while remaining in the current tab. Just confirmed this on the Chromebook, and I know it to be true back home on the Windows box.

  35. 35
    WaterGirl says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Yeah, that’s definitely an option. It’s best, I think, if the behavior is generally consistent within a website, but yes, the author absolutely does have that option when creating a post.

  36. 36
    patrick ii says:

    Nominate rotating tag:
    Blue Juice Site Rebuild: Progress Report

  37. 37
    Steeplejack says:

    @Ella in New Mexico:

    I search for “Steeplejack” and can see all comments that I made and all responses. Once you land on one, you can usually use “click on nym being responded to” to get to the previous comment, and so on up the ladder, and you can use the Back function (backspace key or browser button) to come back down the ladder.

  38. 38
    WaterGirl says:

    @patrick ii: Use the form, dammit!

    just kidding, the form is obviously not available yet :-)

  39. 39
    Yarrow says:

    Forgot to ask, will there be a limit to the number of links we can include in comments? It used to be three and now I think it’s four but over the allowed number and your comment gets sent to moderation. Kind of a pain when posting some tweets with lots of links contained within.

  40. 40
    WaterGirl says:

    @Steeplejack: Steep, I saw a few comments on BJ about your mom last night, so sorry to hear about that!

  41. 41
    WaterGirl says:

    @Yarrow: We talked about that but I can’t recall where we landed. I think it might have been 5, but I will have to check.

  42. 42
    WaterGirl says:

    There were a number of specific questions asked and answered in last night’s thread. In case you are interested and missed it: Balloon Juice Site Rebuild: AMA (Ask Me Anything)

  43. 43
    WaterGirl says:

    @Yarrow: You are most welcome!

  44. 44
    Steeplejack says:


    Thanks. Taking it one day at a time.

  45. 45
    NotMax says:


    Yeah, TabMix Plus is sorely missed. Can replicate one of its best features – setting where the focus goes when closing a tab – in new Firefox with the Select After Closing Current FF add-on and another with the Undo Close Tab add-on.

    And, of course, the ‘when new tab is opened, switch to it immediately’ function is available to enable in FF’s own Options, on the ‘General’ page there.

  46. 46
    Yarrow says:

    @WaterGirl: Thanks. I ran up against that a few days ago. It was a tweet with I think four photos and a link to something. Including the link to the tweet itself that was six links in just one tweet I was trying to post. I edited it so the photo links weren’t actual links, which is kind of a pain, and the comment posted. Otherwise it would have been sent to moderation.

  47. 47
    Elizabelle says:

    @WaterGirl: Will give that a try. New tricks for this old dog. Thank you.

  48. 48
    Elizabelle says:


    Command + click works to open a link in a separate tab (on MacBook). Yea! Thank you.

  49. 49
    WaterGirl says:

    @Elizabelle: Great! Did you see the other reply about being able to hover over a link to see the URL. Guessing that if you google your browser along with “hover over URL” you will find out how to make your browser do that if it doesn’t do it by default.

  50. 50
    satby says:

    @Baud: @Dorothy A. Winsor: you have no idea how much of a Goddess / hero she is! Well, you probably do, I just wanted to emphasize it again.

  51. 51
    Noir says:

    Is the “new site” different from the development site? You use both terms, so it’s a little confusing for some of us. 😊Where will testers test?

  52. 52
    jeffreyw says:

    @Steeplejack: I usually am browsing from my easy chair in the front room, using the big tv as a monitor. I keep a wireless mouse on the chair arm but only have the keyboard in my lap when actually making a comment/blog post. If I need to hit the control key I have to reach over to where the keypad is ensconced. I’m lazy enough that I really like navigation tasks to be those that I can do with just the mouse. Bitsy Kitty also prefers this.

  53. 53
    jeffreyw says:

    @NotMax: I may have to give FF another look, I fled to Chrome when the new builds killed all my fave add-ons. I guess the add-on library is miles ahead of what is was back then. Now Chrome is getting all up in my grill over their own druthers.

  54. 54
    NotMax says:


    Firefox, yes? Right click is your friend.

  55. 55
    NotMax says:


    Yeah, I waited for an entire year on upgrading FF when it went to the new Quantum version, until the add-on repository caught up sufficiently that I could mimic old FF behavior well enough to suit my taste.

  56. 56
    jeffreyw says:

    @NotMax: Chrome, lately. My friend would remind me to right click prior to my actually left clicking, as one does.

  57. 57
    WaterGirl says:

    @Noir: At a volleyball match, but will happily clarify this when I get home in a few hours. And answer any other questions that are posted while I’m gone.

  58. 58
    patrick II says:


    I think I was just kidding too.
    But I just want to add my thanks for all of the work you are doing.

  59. 59
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    @Another Scott: @patrick ii: @WaterGirl: @Steeplejack:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You guys are awesome! Solved something that’s long been aa frustration for me and now I learned a new thing. Should have just asked you guys a long time ago.

    This is why it’s so much faster and easier to find out how to work the features on my phone or computer if I just hand it to one of my millennial’s with a confused look on my face and say “Oh my God JUST SHOW me how to…” instead of trying to look it up somewhere…

  60. 60
    Soprano2 says:

    No question, just a comment. I’m currently in a work nightmare caused by implementing a new version of an existing software without testing it first, so I won’t complain about any testing that’s needed! More testing is always better than less testing!

  61. 61
    Laura Too says:

    Thanks so much for all of your work! And thanks all for the tips. There will be a memorial for Schlemazel at the end of the month and I will be going back to gather some of his more colorful comments. (Not for general consumption-but there are a few who will really appreciate them) I haven’t been commenting much, only have brief moments to lurk as we are having house issues but this is such a needed gathering place for me to stay sane.

  62. 62
    WaterGirl says:


    Is the “new site” different from the development site? You use both terms, so it’s a little confusing for some of us. 😊Where will testers test?

    I did kind of use the terms interchangeably in the top post, and though they are slightly different, for all intents and purposes you can think of them as the same thing.

    The short answer to your question about where you guys will be testing is that you will be testing on the real computer infrastructure that the new site will run on. You will be testing on the website that is the combination of what was originally programmed on the development server (Dev) combined with all the information from the existing Balloon Juice database that will have been newly rebuilt.

  63. 63
    WaterGirl says:

    @Soprano2: I swear my credit union’s last “update” was never tested by a single live person who regularly uses online banking. It was maddening. I feel you.

  64. 64
    WaterGirl says:

    @Laura Too: I don’t think I will be out of line speaking for people when I say that we often think of him and miss him. To me, sometimes, it seems unreal that he is gone. I hope it’s a lovely memorial and something he would have appreciated.

    efgoldman and Scotian, also.

  65. 65
    TomatoQueen says:

    @WaterGirl: Big Damn Heroes indeed

  66. 66
    TomatoQueen says:

    @Laura Too: Hope to see more of you soon

  67. 67
    J R in WV says:


    I meant the we won’t have to type in our nym and email if we comment 30 minutes after the last time we commented.

    That information is saved so we won’t have to enter it all the time – only if you clear your cookies, or you are commenting from a new device for the first time, etc.

    Wait, wait !!! For additional security, I automatically clear all my cookies when I shut down my machine… Unless I’ve already eaten them!!!

    So my nym and email will still go away, then… I has a sad!

  68. 68
    J R in WV says:


    I will love if linked articles open in a separate window, and we don’t have to backtrack to rejoin Balloon Juice.

    If I hold down the control key, aka “Ctrl” key, when I click on a link, it always opens in a new tab. Always has. Both Windows and Linux. And hovering works too, for most links. Unless they’re running through one of those shortening kind of services to make a three line link into a 14 character link.

  69. 69
    WaterGirl says:

    @J R in WV: That is sad. Maybe you could clear all your cookies except that one?

  70. 70
    NotMax says:

    @J R in WV

    I automatically clear all my cookies

    Applause. Good practice to do that.

    My browser and add-ons are set to never accept cookies. It’s but a couple of clicks to allow them if absolutely necessary for a site and then turn them of again when finished there (gmail) or whitelist them (Amazon).

  71. 71
    J R in WV says:


    … I’m currently in a work nightmare caused by implementing a new version of an existing software without testing it first…

    Back when I was developing software with a big team, we had spent millions of dollars building custom software to run the agency’s core business tasks with. But the network guys who were in charge of installing upgrades to desktop and networking software didn’t use that tool-set, as running the network wasn’t a core business task, although it was mission critical.

    So they would install new networking versions, new desktop upgrades, often over a weekend, and on Monday the mission critical custom software tools would be either dead or wildly misbehaving. Wouldn’t ask us to test, wouldn’t tell us they were going to do it, just, do it and break shit.

    IIRC, the forth time the senior user community exploded on them, instead of the software development team, and things got better after that.

    SO GLAD to be retired!!!

  72. 72
    Laura Too says:

    @WaterGirl: @TomatoQueen: I feel so lucky to still have you all, it is my link to him now as it has always been. I know he lurks here (or I can pretend). I hear his voice so clearly through you. It will be so wonderful to be able to go back through old posts using the tools you all laid out. I appreciate the tech knowledge.

  73. 73
    WaterGirl says:

    @Laura Too: It’s not even 8am here, and you already made me cry. We are also lucky to have you.

  74. 74
    Laura Too says:

    @WaterGirl: Aww, thanks! I didn’t want to hijack your thread, the tech stuff is so important and I learned so much reading through the comments (all these years of frustration clicking a link, leaving site & having to find my way back) solved in an instant. Who knew! Also, I was trying to go back and find old comments and was struggling and I may have found some answers on how to in the comments. Mark left a treasure of family history here and my memory isn’t so good. Dumb me for not writing it down when I could. A month and a half ago we had a roof leak that created black mold and had to move out of our bedroom & seal that off. After a month of that we gave it a couple week break and discovered a pipe has been leaking as well so now we are tearing out the rest of the room’s walls & floor. It is quite toxic to me but it doesn’t bother my husband as much. Hopefully I’ll be able to hang out more soon, but know I treasure all of you.

  75. 75
    WaterGirl says:

    @Laura Too: The house stuff sounds like a nightmare.

    It makes me happy to know that the ability to search comments on the site is going to be helping you in such a concrete way. Once the site is up and we see how many zillions of threads come up in the matches to Mark’s nym, and what the date range is, we can give you some tips on how to navigate through if you know there is stuff you want to find, let’s say for example, in the fall of 2016.

    In the meantime, stay safe and take care of yourself with the house stuff.

Comments are closed.