Updating LJP and Cosmic Awareness

The rational and effort behind LearnJazzPiano.com massive updates

It took six months of work, including a couple months off, for the new LearnJazzPiano.com system to be ready for prime time. It wasn't until Scot moved to Hong Kong did he muster the motivation necessary to get into the project. The following is a brief rundown of what took place to change the old system to the new.

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Have you ever had the feeling that a project will never get finished?

How about the feeling that a project will never get started?  And the overall feeling that because the project never gets started that it will never be finished?

The last major update to LearnJazzPiano.com was in 2004.  Almost exactly ten years ago, and for five years I've had this nibbling sensation at the back of my mind that LJP was going to die because I was stalling.

Well, in April of 2014, while I was in Hong Kong and it was a rainy spider filled day, I decided it was time.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a post for itself, but in a nutshell I had a gig playing music with my band for close to a year in the Captain's Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Central district of Hong Kong island.

Scot Ranney in Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong

The process of updating LJP

There were a few main hurdles confronting me if I wanted to update LJP the way I wanted to. It had to be equally powerful for blogging and as a forum system, and it also allow for custom plugins like the teachers database, jazz piano links, and others. It had to be responsive for cell phones and all slicked out with microdata and social media like facebook for search engine optimization (SEO).

Part of making it modern meant that I had to learn about MySQL database programming, something totally new for me.  I do my programming in the Miva scripting language, and since it supports MySQL and there is quite a bit of example code and other information out there, I decided to go for it by making a test script where I could figure MySQL out.

Then I thought about it and made a new blogging and forum system.  Then I scrapped that (several days of work) because I came up with a better way, plus I had more chops when it came to MySQL.

The "old" site:

old learnjazzpiano.com

I converted about 20 old databases to MySQL tables and rewrote all the programming code that dealt with that data.  For example, let's say we are going to display a forum post. I need to get the info for that post. The name, the post itself, the author and so on.  So I make something that gets all of that info for me from some kind of ID number associated with that forum post.  All that info comes from the databases... when you change a database style almost everything is different.

In addition to all that work (three months basically) I decided to update the framework of the site to the Bootstrap framework. That means the boxes and architecture of the website are coded using Boostrap styling rules (a mixture of html, css, and javascript.) 

The Result

What does this mean?  The site is now HTML5 and it looks good on all screen sizes, from cell phones to desktops.

This new system is better for SEO (search engine optiimization) purposes as well. If I paste a link to facebook, all the right info and a picture comes up like it should.  Pages are ready for search engines.

I also wanted a ratings system for posts, files, and articles which meant learning some more new stuff, like AJAX and JSON. This is what lets web pages do things in the background while they show you a little spinner.  It's a way of updating small areas of the web page without having to reload the whole thing.

Blogs. I really wanted blogs, and it had to be easy like Wordpress. Drag pictures in, easy formatting, etc... This is like putting an engine in a car.  You don't make the engine, you buy one.  I did some research and found a solution that gives me a wordpress like solution when it comes to editing blogs. I also use it for uploading files and adding images and formatting to forum posts. I paid for this technology, but it's well worth it because I can use it for some of my other computer stuff too.

The admin side of the site is logical and easy to use and it makes managing posts, comments and blogs simple and fast.  All the other admin stuff has been updated as well, so everything is quite smooth. There are still a few bumps, but that's part of Phase 2 bug fixing, heh.

I thought about using WordPress and some kind of commercial forum software so I could just get to work blogging and posting, but to spare you the gory details, nothing worked out the way I wanted.

Motivation: Why do all this now?

  1. I couldn't get into LJP while I was in Hong Kong.  I locked myself out because I blocked virtually all Chinese IP addresses because of terrible spamming... including the one I was using while in Hong Kong!  I definitely needed a better system to handle spamming that doesn't block people who want to participate.
  2. M Jazz Piano Notebook Volume 2 is ready for publishing, but I didn't want to put it out there and send out 60,000 emails to LJP accounts without updating my site. I mean, it's the age of cell phone web browsing, my site had to be ready for the people who will visit it with cell phones.
  3. The site is losing search engine traction out there. Used to be number 1 in all search engine rankings, now it's not even always on the front page.  This site update will drastically improve SEO performance.
  4. I'm occasionally asked to review a CD or something with the promise of linking to LJP and bringing traffic in... I needed to update the site so people would visit it more than once.

In Conclusion

Phase 1 of the site is up. Phase 2 will be implemented in bits and pieces as necessary. Bug fixes, new features, other stuff, now that the framework and basic engine is running it's easier to add accessories.

For the moment, though, I'm going to enjoy the fact that a big weight has been taken off my personal "must to do" list.  Now I can focus on a few other things that need to get done as well as enjoying the world of blogging without having to manually create an html page every time I want to talk about something interesting.

I'm stoked, I hope everyone enjoys the new LearnJazzPiano.com!

Cosmic Awareness: it's better to cut yourself than to cut something off yourself.

If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.

by Scot Ranney on 09/17/2014, 19:00
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