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Let's Make This a Thing

(Published 4/13/2024.)

Hi again, and happy 4/13! We've got a somewhat sizable update for Homestuck's 15th anniversary - we're incredibly excited to newly share some 140 releases spanning all of Homestuck's history and beyond! Plus, almost six months of new features and touch-ups. All the details and much more, as ever, past the split! 🏘️

It's honestly tough to tell where to start - this update brings well over 100 musical releases to the wiki, a veritable anthology of commentary additions and touch-ups, many new and exciting features, and months upon months of infrastructural improvements. A mere selection of the albums, first:

Many more albums are new to this release, too. As ever, these are all listed in the changelog. We hope you'll love to explore and connect with what's new - it's an incredibly diverse selection spanning the full fifteen years of Homestuck's discography, and then some!

We've added a completely new feature applicable to almost any track: additional names! This is a little box that shows when you click a track's name on its own info page, presenting a summary of other names or variations that the track has been known or called by in any official capacity. These show up everywhere and cover work-in-progress titles, platform-specific variations, de-quirked names, in-game credits, pre-compilation names, and more! Thanks to Niklink, Rosetta Leijonde, Jebb, Lilith, and others all for sharing entries and offering feedback - you can explore everyone's additions in the changelog and across much of the wiki.

Commentary is broadly revamped in this update! Much thanks to Lilith, we've located tons of commentary source links (both live on the web and preserved on the Wayback Machine). We've added all of these directly to the commentary entries, so that you can easily locate the original source and presentation. We've redesigned the visual appearance of commentary entries to accommodate source links and make for better reading, and we've reviewed most of the official discography as well as the earlier LOFAMs and touched content up with modern formatting and links.

We've made tons of visual and feature updates to the wiki, some obvious and some much more subtle. It's impossible to summarize everything concisely, but more stand-outs besides the above include:

  • Hover or touch tooltips for artist names on track pages! These replace the row of always-visible icons, and show the artists' links on music platforms, social media, and personal websites. They usually include the artists' handles, and we hope they're easy, fun, and exciting to explore.
  • Totally redesigned cover and track artwork presentation! Tons of small changes bring a greater visual focus to the art itself; we want the artworks to not just fit in with the rest of the page, but feel like the visual centerpiece. We've also refined the look of artworks in gallery grids and elsewhere on the site, and completely reworked the appearance of artworks with content warnings.
  • New and better-nuanced processing for links to other websites (like social media or music platforms) — besides making the existing system here way more expandable, we now support many new platforms and are smarter with how external links are presented. Also, links in commentary (and other content text) now pop open in a new tab (and indicate as much), so you can easily get back to reading where you left off.
  • A whole host of visual touch-ups, mostly to do with shadows and depth, including: better shadows and effects in pages' heading bars; shadow and glow for pages' main artworks; color toning in the overlay when viewing an artwork in full; and improvements to responsiveness, making the wiki look nicer in any page dimensions, and generally bringing better stability and reducing rough edges.

With this update, we've really hoped that all our redesigns work together to reflect and reprise things the wiki has held important from the very beginning. HSMusic began in large part because the official Bandcamp removed almost all track artworks in 2019. Fans and illustrators alike were disheartened and discouraged.

Though most official artworks were preserved in fanmade archives, we wanted the art and the albums, all preserved and in their original form, to have a home. We wanted the music to be celebrated and explored, and for fans to visit what musicians and artists had done beyond Homestuck, too. We wanted commentary - from booklets and otherwise - to be front and center, because the community and stories behind Homestuck's discography are so much of what makes it special. We wanted visitors to see that Homestuck music is alive and beautiful, not a mostly-forgotten fragment of the past, and that the fandom is huge and diverse and incredible.

Those wishes all guided the creation and the early identity of the music wiki. And, hopefully, we've brought the same ideas, refined and ever-better realized, into everything new for you to explore and discover in this update!

Technical jargon again! Skip this section... if you must... and you dare!

Internal and infrastructural changes make up a great bulk of the code work over this update: in JavaScript files excluding the content generation area of the codebase, over 4000 lines were removed and 11000 lines were added. In total, 90 pull requests were described in detail and frequently brought new features, alongside internal improvements for nearly all systems.

Since Iridescent Noon we've implemented and applied a framework for "compositional" operations across almost all kinds of data on the wiki. This essentially boils down to writing data processing — like "which tracks has this artist contributed to?" or "what is the color of this track?" or "what's the appropriate list terminology for this flash act?" or "what are all the details of this album's track sections?" — in terms of smaller building blocks. Compositions follow a pipeline structure, and come with a variety of syntax conveniences, to ensure it's easy to write the same style of data processing code everywhere. Where content functions make writing new user-interface features a breeze, compositions do the same for data processing, with very similar benefits: individual components can be unit-tested, are easier to debug, can be reused and recontextualized, can be expanded and simplified, can be broken up and newly combined, and generally make solving bigger data problems much more approachable.

We've revisited and refactored the ways major internal systems interact. Most notably, we've brought all YAML processing specifications into a newly tidied format defined in the same files as high-level data processing; the "guts" of the loading process still operate in a separate module, but that module is no longer also responsible for defining what each kind of thing looks like in YAML. We've reworked the way we define how references between kinds of data work; these are also consolidated with the rest of a thing's definition, and thanks to the new approach, clear out an awkward spot of code duplication.

We've broken various ground in the HTML templating system which all content and UI on the website is written with. We've dramatically improved the interface for working with HTML attributes, which makes both incrementally built-up components and hierarchies with conditional attributes much cleaner and easier to write. We've written special tags that slot into existing hierarchies and, almost like magic, finally enable cleaner word wrapping. We've reworked language processing to enable these, so that content doesn't get flattened into an HTML string until the page is actually rendered, which is much-needed groundworks for a host of future capabilities besides.

We've implemented and carefully improved a tooltip system almost completely from scratch, posing and exploring a wide variety of challenges and questions that have made the client-side JavaScript far more self-confident. Similarly, various new modules, implemented alongside carefully prepared HTML hierarchies and CSS rules, begin to beat a path for more interesting and exciting client dynamics in the future.

As we gratefully expressed last time, everything about the wiki is in thanks not just to the entire Homestuck community and all the amazing works created within and around it, but also to everyone who has ever touched the wiki. Thank you to all who reported data errors, brought new additions, started and joined discussions of all wonderful sorts, suggested features and offered feedback, and said kind words about the wiki and all the incredible work everyone has done and continues to do here.

During the six or so months this update was in progress, we got to work more directly than ever before with such an awesome group of people, and meet and speak with many more. It's been an incredible experience, and we wouldn't come close to capturing it if we had thousands more words to spare. Likewise, the additions and changes escape simple summary; you're much encouraged to explore what's new, as ever, in the changelog.

Thanks endlessly to everyone for all the help and support, feedback and energy, care and time! We hope your 4/13 was awesome (working on this update sure was for us), and that you have a lovely time ahead! 🦚

~ Quasar Nebula

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