Saturday, January 15, 2011

Industrial-strength updates

As promised, I've been working like a madman on Built St. Louis.

I've added a ton of little updates all over the place - spinning major buildings off onto their own pages, combing through a two-year backlog of visits and adding newer photos, getting rid of those annoying thumbnail images so that you don't have to click a million times to see all the photos. There's way too many updates to list on the front page; you'll find them all over the place.

With the online world having converged to a blog-focused mindset, and a vast crop of bloggers having taken up the mantle of sharing current events from St. Louis, I've come to see Built St. Louis as less of a current news site and more of a book - a slow, long-term project, rather than a constantly-updating fountain of quickly-forgotten news. I try to write from a more long-term perspective now, so that if I don't get back to update a page for a couple of years, it won't sound ridiculously dated in the meantime.

Example: in updating the Eads Bridge page, I realized that some of the text about "current" conditions had not been changed in almost ten years! Equally startling was the realization that the time period of my own observations, from when I first encountered that structure up to the present, now encompassed a whole historical period of the bridge's life - its existence without an upper deck - that has long since passed. (Yes, I'm really obsessed with bridges right now. Can you tell?)

I also look over some of my earlier writings and conclude that, on occasion, I could stand to tone down some of my vehement enthusiasm. This site began as nothing more than my own observations - but time, technology, reading and experience have granted me access to plenty of information about the city's history, so there's relatively little excuse for writing everything in the first person. I'm trying put a clearer and more structured separation between facts, observations, and opinions. I still have strong opinions, and I still intend to use the site as a platform to voice them, but I want it to be useful as a reference source as well.

I'm slowly moving everything toward integrated navigation, where a tour of a geographic area will also scoop up buildings from other tours that are in that area. So when you tour, say, The Hill (not up yet, but like many others, it's coming) you'll also come across pages from the Historic Churches tour, and the Ittner/Milligan schools tour, etc. etc. etc. So far, you can best see this on The Eastern Edge tour, which combines the old "Forgotten Houses" tour with several of the Industrial City pages and a few new ones.

This creates some navigational chaos at times, but it avoids duplicate pages, it ties everything together nicely, and most importantly, it makes future updates a lot easier.

But you don't care about any of that, right? You care about pretty pictures of amazing buildings.

Well, I recently got an email from a site visitor who provides exactly that, in spades, on the forums. Go check 'em out and be reminded why St. Louis is so fantastic.

Part 1
Part 2