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Thread: Update website, forum, content?

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Update website, forum, content?

    Hey everyone,

    I was just wondering if GhostTowns.com ever plans to update the website, forum, or content?

    The website is using the same design as it has since 1998 if I am not mistaken. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but a nice revamped style would be cool - the web has changed a lot in the past nine years. Also, I noticed that the coding is all in HTML pretty much, which is actually out-dated by quite a while. Right now most websites are in XHTML and take use of CSS.

    Secondly, I think that the forum could use a revamp. There are so many old topics that now irrelevant. For example, the "Do you want to live in a late 1800's town?" was started years ago and the person who started it (named "Tracy") has obviously completely forgotten about it and has no intentions of further developing the idea of the topic. I think all of these old posts (the ones posted by people on an older forum software and then later re-posted by the GhostTowns.com user) should be archived in a read-only forum since there's really no need to keep bringing most of them back to life. I also think the forum should have a matching design to the GhostTowns.com website, right now the only thing custom about this forum is the "Ghost Towns" logo at the top that is splashed on a white backdrop over a black background page. I think if the super-old topics I was talking about were in an archived/read-only forum to keep them organized, and a new forum design (matching the website) were implemented that it would probably boost activity here quite a bit.

    Lastly, I think the content of the website should be updated a bit. I think every ghost town should have directions, as well as the latitude/longitude posted (and if either or neither are available, just put "N/A".) A lot of the information on the ghost town pages is from yeeeears ago I've noticed, maybe some further researching could be done or the content could be re-written to make it more appealing and discriptive. I also think it would be a good idea to maybe look for volunteers or something and give each volunteer (or team of volunteers) a different US state and they would research all of the ghost towns within. That way the content would be more specific and up-to-date.

    Please remember I am NOT critisizing GhostTowns.com. I love this website, forum, and the content you guys offer. Your website was the inspiration for me to start my own. All I'm saying is that I think this place could use some re-vamping and if there's any way to boost traffic here, I think I've pointed out what could be done to help that.

    If there any way I can be of help, let me know. Otherwise, please consider my suggestions for GhostTowns.com.

    Andrgo
    I recommend:
    ForgottenMN.com
    - The Ghost Towns of Minnesota.

  2. #2
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    Default Update website, forum, content?

    I think the content of the website should be updated a bit. I think every ghost town should have directions, as well as the latitude/longitude posted

    My understanding is that some of the directions are intentionally vague to discourage the casual websurfer from going to the place and vandalizing or destroying it. I've found that with very minimal additional effort I could locate the ghost towns I wanted to visit. It's just a matter of not wanting to spell out for the whole world where some of the last few decaying relics to these old towns are. I know it can be a little vexing to do additional research before going out to some of these places, but it can also be interesting to find out what else is out there while you're looking it up. My advice would be to use Ghostowns.com as a good base and starting point and use Google to help fill in the blanks.

    A lot of the information on the ghost town pages is from yeeeears ago I've noticed, maybe some further researching could be done or the content could be re-written to make it more appealing and discriptive.

    I think the best way to do that is to go to the towns yourself, then add an update or post new pictures of your own findings. It's interesting to compare some of the older photos on the site to what the area looks like now, and as the saying goes "each time you visit a ghost town it looks a little different". I've actually sought out some of the towns on the site that had no photos, so I could find out and document what was still there.

  3. #3
    Ghosttowns.com's Avatar
    Ghosttowns.com is offline Rock Crawlin GPS Moving Map Totin Trailblazing Expert Ghost Towner
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    Thanks for the suggestions - we will tackle them one by one.

    RE: Facelift for the forums. We think thats a great idea - are you volunteering to do that? We would love someone to skin the forums to match the website. We dont have the time to do that but if you would like to we would welcome it.

    RE: Archive old forum posts. The older contents of this forum came from an original matts scripts wwwboard which is why they all show up under the same user. We had a programmer import them. As far as going through them all and archiving making read only etc... good idea but not something we have time to do. If anyone wants to volunteer for that we would welcome that.

    RE: Directions to Ghost Towns. We decided in the beginning not to give explicit directions on purpose - in fact we have posted why on our "learn to ghost town" page

    A WORD ON DIRECTIONS
    Visiting our historic past can be one of the most rewarding experiences we can have. However, some people don't take it very seriously. You will find that most ghost town sites have been mostly or completely vandalized or shot to pieces. For the sake of preserving our history we have not given the exact directions to any of the ghost towns on this web site. We feel that if you are serious about visiting ghost towns you can take the information we give you together with a small amount of work and locate the towns. Individuals who take the time to do this will hopefully enjoy an awesome visit to our past and not take or destroy it. It might be good to point out here that there are federal and state laws governing "ghost towning". Federal law states an individual can be imprisoned and fined for so much as digging a small hole or removing anything at an archaeological site. Unfortunately this rules out all metal detecting. The only thing you can legally take at a ghost town is pictures! With that said, here is all the information you need to locate ghost towns, as well as other use full information. Happy ghost town hunting!

    RE: Redesigning the web pages. There are something like 70,000 pages here. All plain old html. The obvious thing would be to database the whole thing and have just one town page that populates from a database. We probably will not ever do this because 1. the amount of time and work and 2. most importantly, the static html pages are searchable - ie google or whatever, thereby keeping the content of ghosttowns.com (the important stuff) on the search engines. Any redesign of the static pages would take eons to complete even with a team just because there are so many! We doubt anyone will ever volunteer for that and we certainly dont have the time to do that unfortunately.

    RE: "I also think it would be a good idea to maybe look for volunteers or something and give each volunteer (or team of volunteers) a different US state and they would research all of the ghost towns within. That way the content would be more specific and up-to-date.
    "


    This is how most of ghosttowns.com was built to begin with. The information has been compiled from books, visits, historical societies... you name it. The idea here is to have a record of information on each town. For example, a book written about town xyz in 1950 is summarized on a town page. Then a person visits in 1998 and provides and update. then a person visits in 2005 and provides another update - this is the plan and what we spend most of our time doing is processing updates, corrections, additions and pictures. At least a few hundred a month. We would not want to get rid of "old" information as it is valuable. We welcome all "new" information, corrections and pictures and we post everything shortly after we get it submitted from everyone who visits the towns and have updates from relatives etc... ghosttowns.com is not a static website - its ever changing and growing and getting corrected as time goes on.

    We currently get something in the neighborhood of a quarter million users per week and 30+million hits a month - you wouldnt believe the server it takes to host it

    Anyway Andrgo - how about skinning the forum - is that something you can volunteer to do?

  4. #4
    old judge's Avatar
    old judge is offline Rock Crawlin GPS Moving Map Totin Trailblazing Expert Ghost Towner
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    Smile

    Anyone who has used this site extensively as one of several bases for planning Ghost Town jaunts, who has followed the give and take between and among site users, and who has made an effort to contribute from time to time, and to understand and commisserate with the folks who make this site work, will understand the last post completely. Thanks, guys, for a great site, one that has provided me and my family more help than any other source, and which is appreciated, I'm sure, by all who give it a fair shot. I see no compelling reason to change much. OJ

  5. #5
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    It's like reading a familiar book, I know it, I like it.
    I remember first running across this site - after my first GT trip. The one where I found not one GT! Then I came across this site and found that I was not alone in this obsession!
    One of my fears is that someday this site will no longer be around and all this information will be lost!
    I appreciate all the work you guys do to keep up with this!
    Thanks!

  6. #6
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    LauraA is offline Rock Crawlin GPS Moving Map Totin Trailblazing Expert Ghost Towner
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    I thoroughly enjoy this forum as it is.
    As far as posting directions to some of the places we visit, I don't think that would be a good idea, it might attract folks who would be there to take more than pictures. Directions can be found, if a person really wants to take the time and effort to search them out. This helps to eliminate the casual thrill seekers with the "hey dude, let's get some beer and go look for ghosts" attitude.
    Keeping these places intact is hard enough without encouraging destructive visitors.

    I too appreciate this forum and the work it takes to keep it up and running.

  7. #7
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    I guess I don't disagree with the direction thing for ghost towns, you know the idea of protecting them. The only thing is, it also makes it harder for honest people like most of us here to find them. Right now I'm in the process of finishing a list of ghost towns in North and South Dakota and Montana that I would like to see. The majority of them I have been able to research and find directions to thanks to mapping and historical type websites that have references of those towns. One town I have not been able to find though is Glendale, SD; I've tried topographic maps, aerial mapping software, and just plain old text saying where it's at but I've had no luck. I certainly understand why the directions to most towns are unpublished, but it's almost like favoring the bad guys (to me at least.) I think the ratio of people who honestly want to visit ghost towns for the historical aspect, rather than vandalise them probably signifigantly differs. Criminals/arsonists/vandalizers all have access to the same software/websites/documents/search engines that I have used to find about 25+ ghost towns I plan on going to from June 1 to June 15 when I'm on my vacation to Montana. There are also several books, even special maps that give clear directions to ghost towns - vandals could easily get their information that way if they did not have computer access. Don't get me wrong, I respect the idea of not sharing directions; but the main idea I'm presenting is that if some bad guy wants to find out where a ghost town is at - he can find out just as easily as any of us. I have no respect for criminals or vandals, but sometimes they're not as stupid as everyone thinks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ghosttowns.com
    Facelift for the forums. We think thats a great idea - are you volunteering to do that? We would love someone to skin the forums to match the website. We dont have the time to do that but if you would like to we would welcome it.
    I'd gladly give it a shot, but to be completely honest I have never skinned a vBulletin forum before. "Back in the day" I made quite a few custom skins for IPB 1.3 and 1.3 Final, it was really the only forum software I ever "truely" learned to skin. I've been using MyBB myself lately, but I haven't yet completely and successfully skinned anything on it (mostly due to lack of time/college/work/etc.) I also don't know CSS completely, I know basic CSS which greatly helps in making a website easier to update using one .css file; but as far as fully designing something in CSS and using the X/Y coordinate stuff - I'm lost at that (probably because I'm not a good mathematics person.) Each forum software differs quite a bit in the way the files and design elements clash together, but like I said I have no experience with vBulletin and I'm not sure how it works as far as skinning goes.

    As far as updating the site, if you ever wanted to re-design it into something more up-to-date and using CSS, I don't think it would be as hard as it might appear. You could probably have someone code a custom PHP bot/spider to index the information from every single page and store the info retrieved in a MySQL database or individual .txt files for each ghost town. I know a guy that did something very similar with a PHP script he wrote and it worked for him. I don't know PHP programming myself, and I'm sure you'd be looking at a few hundred bucks (at the most) to have someone code such a thing; but it would be waaay easier to update/manage/place ads around the site all of which could probably be done using a single .php file. You would also use less bandwidth and the site would be a lot faster (PHP works wonders.) Rumor has it in the next few years any "oldskool" coded website that's not in XHTML or CSS will have problems being used and viewed by most web browsers. Just a suggestion for you to ponder over, thought I'd share.

    - Andrgo
    Last edited by andrgo; 05-25-2007 at 09:49 AM.
    I recommend:
    ForgottenMN.com
    - The Ghost Towns of Minnesota.

  8. #8
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    bad bob is offline Rock Crawlin GPS Moving Map Totin Trailblazing Expert Ghost Towner
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    Though my opinion was certainly not requested, I will submit it anyway for whatever it's worth.

    I'm actually on the fence here, but as an "older" member, change usually does not come easy. I have no idea what techs, formats, bots, html's, etc. are involved, only insomuch as reading the suggestions, and the replies from the webmaster.

    If changes are feasible, not costly, speed things up, and generally improve the site, I would not be against that, should all sides be agreeable. On the other hand, this forum has only changed once since I first logged on in 1998. And that was only the requirement to register, which was somewhat in response to the multiple flaming, fowl language, etc. (Unfortunately I happened to be involved in about 75% of the flame posts). So my point is that I have no problem leaving it as it is.

    As for vandals, perhaps they do have access to the same info. But I believe these criminals are mostly opportunists, and strike for fun in passing, rather than taking the trouble to seek out a place to destroy. Not that there aren't some of these vermin as well.

    bb.

  9. #9
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    Honest people like us will dig until we find the area. People who just want to cause trouble will look for the easiest target.

    The Miner's Union Hall in Granite is a good example. I have a photo from the 50's that shows the building fairly complete, with artifacts inside, including a pool table. This was a three story building with beautiful ironwork around the front. In 1999 when I visited only the iron work and a bit of the brick sides was still standing. We asked in town how loong the building had been down. We were tole only a few years. Some Yahoo drove up and torched the place.


    [IMG]file:///Users/karenvegors/Desktop/granite2.jpg[/IMG]
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  10. #10
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    Ghosttowns.com is offline Rock Crawlin GPS Moving Map Totin Trailblazing Expert Ghost Towner
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    Just an FYI on directions - if a "bad guy" finds directions on the internet himself or uses GNIS etc and vandalizes an archaeological site there is no liability for anyone but him.

    If we roll out the red carpet and give GPS directions and everything so he can go right there, according to the law, we have now incurred the liability of the vandalism that occurs. Stupid yes! will it change someday -probably yes.

    As a side note, in Arizona there used to be a few books, one in particular that listed the exact directions to the tenth of a mile to most sites in Az. That book and all others that list highly specific directions to Az ghosttowns are no longer in print. When you call the publishers they wont even talk to you about them. However, some revised books have been printed either without directions or only including the most obvious of ghost towns like Jerome -

    All that to say, although some things get out in print, they dont last long - at some point a publisher becomes liable under the current law and then pulls the book and either revises it or no longer publishes it. This is most prevalent in the Southwest.

    Yes it stupid, yes we could just list GPS coordinate, yes anyone with 10 minutes and google can get the directions - no we dont want the liability.

    We use GNIS and find almost any coordinates to any site.

    http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/

    You will find though at almost every holiday and weekend, GNIS is down - thats our government at work, literally, on the off-times- its down as we write this.

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