After much blood, sweat and tears, the new New Matilda site is finally up and running. Chris Graham breathes a sigh of relief.In the beginning, Andrew Passarello created the front end and the back end. Now the website was formless and empty, darkness was over the interwebs and the spirit of angry commenters was hovering over the database.
And then Andrew said, ‘Let there be a live site’. And there was a live site.
Chris Graham saw that the live site was good… and he collapsed in a heap on the floor, weeping like a child.
Welcome to the new generation New Matilda, the latest iteration of one of the nation’s longest serving independent news media sites.
Overnight, we hit the switch on our shiny new site after the ‘mice on the wheel’ at the old site stopped working last week. Where’s Eric Abetz when you need him?
We’d been planning another few weeks of development before launch, but last week’s crash forced us to bring everything forward.
On that front, we hope you like the new look.
There’s still quite a bit left to do – we’re only about three quarters of the way through the implementation of ‘Phase 1’. Still to come over the next few days and weeks is an RSS feed, a live blogging feature, and a permanent blog (called ‘The Insider’… it’s modeled on the outstanding work of Andrew Bolt, naturally). And there’s a few other surprises planned as well.
We’ve tried to build you a basic, simple site which stays true to the original feel and ideals of New Matilda, but which better displays the news (and new direction) of NM.
Phase 2 of the site (construction of which commences in a few weeks) includes adding more bells and whistles. More on that later.
The genius behind the new New Matilda is Sydney University arts and IT student Andrew Passarello, a former editor of the mighty Honi Soit. Andrew has worked tirelessly to get the new site up, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude (and a bit of money… and you can help out on that front, by subscribing to New Matilda today). Every cent you invest with us goes into robust independent media, and yes, we’ve finally brought back monthly payments.
For as little as $6 a month, you can actually make a huge difference for independent media. Our prices have fluctuated a little, although our concession ($70 a year) and our most popular subscription ($180 a year) have stayed at the same old price.
You’ll note there’s a few caveats in the subscription model… so best we explain that now.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, New Matilda will be going behind a partial pay wall. Readers will always be able to access all of our news, but before Christmas 2015, unless you’re a paid up subscriber you may have to wait a few hours to read major news stories.
There’s a simple reason for this – money. New Matilda has always survived on the sniff of an oily rag, and always will. And while our subscription base has more than doubled over the past year, the site still operates at a financial loss, and doesn’t pay real wages (or any wages in quite a few cases) to most of its contributors, and some of its staff (me included – I do not draw a wage from New Matilda).
The stories that will fall behind a pay wall will tend to be the major investigations and news stories, but The Insider blog will also only be available to paid up readers (it’ll be online later this week, and remain free for a few weeks).
We’re also revamping our comments policy on the new site and we may put the capacity to comment behind a pay wall as well (full explanation below). There’s a few other bits and bobs explained at the bottom of this story, for the New Matilda faithful.
And speaking of which, a tribute and a thanks is owed to the folks who’ve helped make it happen, and those who’ve come before us.
To my colleagues and staff… thank you for keeping the faith. Rolling out a new website in a business that must continue to operate day-to-day – while I also work elsewhere to make a living – is no mean feat. To Andrew, Ange, Max and Thom in particular, your patience and support has been greatly appreciated. And to our dear contributors and cartoonists – who punch on mostly without proper (or any) recompense – as always, you have my enduring gratitude and my deep admiration.
To former editor Marni Cordell, and developer Mario Rogic (and others) – you built a New Matilda platform which was robust and effective, and you kept a small independent news site alive while others collapsed around you. That’s worth acknowledging, and celebrating. I hope our readers, new and old, feel that the new site builds on this considerable legacy.
And finally, at some point, I intend to get back to the business of actually practicing journalism… on that front, watch this space.
FAQs for the New Matilda faithful
One of the features of New matilda has always been our cartoons from Fiona Katauskas, Lindsay Foyle and more recently Costa A.
They’re coming to the new site shortly – the old site stored the cartoons at a low resolution. We want to display them ‘bigger than God’s underpants’, and so we’re going to have to manually upload every individual cartoon into the new archive. We’re working backwards, so in the next few days you’ll start to see the cartoons reappear. There’s thousands of them to upload, so please bear with us.
In changing over to the new platform, about 8,600 of the archived stories do not yet have an author assigned to them (they’re listed as being written by ‘New Matilda’). We’ll be updating the site as we go, so an interim apology to past authors – your work is appreciated will be re-recognised. We’ll be working hard over the next few months to manually update every single story and provide an important historical archive that is one of the best in the country.
If you didn’t have a current paid subscription to New Matilda as of yesterday, then your free (or expired) New Matilda account is now no more. At this stage, only paid-up subscribers will have an account.
If you weren’t a paid-up subscriber, you can create a new account here. You can also grab your old username if it’s important to you, but bear in mind, our commenting policy is under review, so down the track you may not be able to comment under fake identities.
Our long-time Paypal supporters
As mentioned above, the old site was built in Drupal, and the new site is built in WordPress, so a lot of information has not transferred over well. In particular, we’re having some issues with our dearly beloved historical subscribers who continue to pay monthly via Paypal (a feature that has been put back on the new site). This is of course deeply ironic, because the people who over time have done more than most others to keep the site alive are the ones now ‘accountless’. We expect to have this resolved by the end of the week, and have started manually adding accounts (there’s a few hundred of them). It’s going to take us a couple of weeks to smooth out the bugs, but in the interim, if you’re a current subscriber and you haven’t been emailed about resetting your password by the end of the week, then email us here and we’ll sort it out as a matter of priority.
The email newsletter will still come out three times a week, but it’s also getting a major overhaul. We’ll resume normal publishing tomorrow (Tuesday). You can still subscribe for free to the newsletter if you look at the top right of this page (scroll up) you’ll see a field where you can enter your email address.
New Matilda has always been well known for its very liberal commenting policy. This is a good thing – debate is healthy.
However, New Matilda also became known as the place to go to if you wanted to promote Holocaust denial, or verbally abuse everyone and anyone whenever it took your fancy.
We’ve worked hard in the past 18 months to clean that up (and banned quite a few people permanently from the site in the process). However, comments – in particular abusive and defamatory ones – have remained a major risk for New Matilda.
As is well known by our readers, New Matilda settled a lawsuit earlier this year based on comments by some of our readers. This lawsuit costs us tens and tens of thousands of dollars, which we’re still paying off. So we’re a little ‘comment shy’, given how close we came to losing the business altogether.
From today, anyone can comment on New Matilda stories, but you need to have a Facebook account. We’ve chosen Facebook because, to varying degrees, it forces people to be accountable for what they write by ensuring that their real identity is attached to the comments.
We’re reviewing how Facebook comments works over the next few months. We’re also considering making commenting a feature ONLY available to paid subscribers.
We’ll keep readers posted as this develops, and of course we’re interested in your feedback. Email us… or post your thoughts in the comments section!
All of the past comments on New Matilda stories have been archived, and will not appear on the new site. This is partly because of cross-platform issues, but mostly because we wanted a clean break from the ‘comments of the past’. We simply don’t have the resources to legal and vet the existing comments – there’s well over 100,000 of them.