Tuesday, 27 March 2012 01:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - After three-and-a-half years of dedicated service from the first Caribarena websites, the teams at Smartnet Solutions began developing the next generation of Caribarena websites.
Caribarena interviewed the developers at parent company Smartnet to get an inside look at Caribarena from their perspective.
After running Caribarena for almost three-and-a-half years, what have you learned from the experience?
We’ve made a lot of good choices and, of course, some mistakes. We found that right from the beginning, people responded very positively to the clean design and the ease of use that Caribarena v1.0 presented. When Caribarena entered the market, its competitors were way behind in terms of technology.
It was amazing to see how in only a few months, literally all of them had upgraded their websites, and we think that’s a good thing, that Caribarena doesn’t just dominate the online news market.
We’ve also been watching our users' backs. There are a lot of misconceptions about user tracking and analytics, but basically, we keep logs that show us where people like to go. This, in turn, helps us optimize the site so it’s easier to browse.
The success of the comments (sometimes called “blogs” by users) is proof of how streamlining the user experience can make a feature go bang.
On the new site, we’ve upgraded the look and feel of the website to be even better, without losing the clean simplicity that is trademark to Caribarena.com. What can you tell us about how the Caribarena websites work from behind the scenes?
Well, a lot of people don’t know this, but there are actually over 60 Caribarena websites. There’s a Caribarena news portal for each island in the Caribbean; there’s a Caribarena directory for each island in the Caribbean, and there are some miscellaneous websites such as Caribarena TV and Caribarena Corporate.
This makes them a hassle to manage individually. We’ve used Remote MySQL Viewing technology, as well as Linux Dynamic Links, in order to manage all of the sites at once. Publishers in Caribarena can send articles to any combination of websites, all of the websites, or just one individual website at a time.
When users register on one Caribarena website, they instantly have access to all of the other websites through our Central User System. And once they log in to one Caribarena website, they are instantly logged into all through session sharing.
It’s a complex system that makes maintenance and operation extremely easy and efficient. We’re also working on some new projects that can’t be revealed quite yet, but will be launched soon.How has managing the security of Caribarena changed since the launch in 2008?
At first, traffic levels were very low, and as such, attack attempts were minimal. However, as Caribarena began to gain popularity, more and more attackers began targeting our servers. Caribarena Antigua alone receives over 110,000 hits every month, coming from over 177 countries.
This means we are very exposed to a lot of malicious bots, users, and automated systems. We’ve been hit quite hard recently, and a few Denial of Services attacks managed to overflow our servers, but our security team always handled the situation, and our databases themselves have never been compromised.
We’ve had to make a lot of changes in order to make our systems more secure, and we work harder to ensure our users aren’t impacted. So why did you decide to upgrade the websites?
Simply put, it was getting old. In the world of technology, 24 hours is enough time for a revolution. In order to stay ahead of the pack, the upgrade became necessary. Also, there were a lot of underlying issues that don’t directly impact users that we wanted to solve, such as SEO, site performance, and security.
As a developer, the new system is also much more flexible and powerful, so our users can expect some amazing new features coming soon. And while we were making a change, why not create a new design? The websites’ new look is significantly more attractive, and the essence of Caribarena hasn’t been lost. In fact, it’s evolved. The website looks and feels like Caribarena 2.0 to its very core.What’s unique about the new version of Caribarena?
It’s really a system like no other in the world. First off, we’ve merged the content management systems of Joomla! and Drupal, and we’ve taken the best of both. Joomla’s content management systems are the best right now, but in terms of multi-website management and flexibility, Drupal is still number one.
So, we’ve created a unique blend of functionality and performance. But everyone knows there are two sides to the coin. In this case, the two sides are form and function. At every point, some compromise needs to be made. An extremely beautiful website with flash applications and CSS3 styling would be extremely slow and not very functional.
On the other hand, a website can be extremely powerful, with tons of features, but it won’t be user friendly or attractive. In Caribarena v2.0, we tried to balance form and function to perfection.
The new website looks great and doesn’t require a crazy Internet connection just to load. The redesign and renovations made to the underlying platform have helped us implement new features and the new design in very clever ways, giving us more range and flexibility to develop with.What can you tell me about your advertising system?
Our advertising management system is very unique. It interacts with a huge amount of variables. It takes into account your location, the time of day, the position of the current advertisement, and current content category in order to deliver relevant ads.
We use Google APIs and algorithms to serve ads in intelligent ways, and to make sure we don’t flood our users with repetitive ads. The ads themselves are also served via a content delivery network, which significantly improves performance and availability. Can you briefly summarize the features of Caribarena v2.0?
In very brief terms, we’ve upgraded our Flight Arrival and Departure Displays, and we’ve added content units like the "spotlight” that bring our users to interesting articles. We’ve added a Caribarena Answers page, where users can ask a question and receive answers from the community.
We’ve also added a Floating Toolbar to provide quick access to some major features. We’ve inserted a bold new player on the home page for Caribarena TV, and we’ve improved page load times significantly.