Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A new look for The Mercury site

Q: What happened to the Mercury website? I had some problems accessing it, and then when I went back to it, it had all changed.

A: We launched a new one. There was a glitch for about a day — more on that in a minute — but it’s working great now.

We’ve been working on a major upgrade to, and we flipped the switch a week ago today. The new site features a bunch of improvements, including better photo galleries and much better integration with the full-content electronic edition of the newspaper. It also vastly improves security in transactions to allow customers to buy classified ads and subscriptions by way of the site.

There are major upgrades to the technology behind, allowing us to bring forth more improvements and content more quickly. There are several that will roll out in coming months.

We also made a significant change to our discussion forums, requiring people who post comments to use their real names rather than hiding behind fictional screen names. Interestingly, since that change the forums have continued to draw plenty of website traffic, but there are fewer comments. The idea behind the change is to elevate the discussion; the whole anonymity thing allowed people to take shots without standing behind their opinions, and so it often devolved to third-grade playground taunts.

Anyway, if you swore off the forums awhile back out of disgust, it might be a good time to take a look and get back into the discussion. You’ll need to register on the site and then be approved to post — we’ll verify your name, just like we do with letters to the editor — but you don’t have to pay anything to join in.

Also, at the moment, access to full content of The Mercury through our electronic edition is available to everybody. If you want to take a spin through the e-edition to see how it works, feel free. No strings attached.

Within the week, that will change and the e-edition will again be available only to subscribers, as has been our policy for years. We have hundreds of subscribers who subscribe only to the e-edition, and hundreds more who subscribe to the printed paper and receive access to the e-edition at no additional charge. We will communicate to all those folks about how to log in to the new site, access their accounts, and access the e-edition. If you are a print subscriber and would like to establish access to the e-edition, let us know and we can help you make the arrangements. The number: 776-8808, or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Now, about the glitch. Last Monday, our old website was attacked and brought down by hackers. We are not entirely sure where it came from — the servers from which the attack came appeared to be offshore — and we are not entirely sure what their purpose was. The computer dudes referred to it as an SQL injection attack; no personal information of our users was compromised. But it was a obviously unsettling.

Anyway, we created a temporary work-around on Monday, but then decided to go ahead and launch the new website on Tuesday. We had intended to launch the new site this week, but — given the circumstances — we stepped that up. That meant we skipped some communication and promotion that we wanted to do, but the good, safe function of our site was more important.

And the big picture is this: You’ve got a nice, good new site. Check it out.

You can submit a question to this column by e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or by regular mail to Questions, P.O. Box 787, Manhattan, KS 66505.


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