Site Notices: Problems, Features, and Explanations

As of February 2014 we switched to a new host and an entire new online system for ZCommunications.  It is based on WordPress and built by Chris Spannos. Sustainers can leave comments on this page to suggest new features, ask questions, register opinions, or report additional problems. Others can write to


Why a New System – and Some History

Z began operating online roughly 20 years ago – the web wasn’t even existent when we first started with what we called LBBS or Left Bulletin Board System. We went from a kind of America Online connect by phone system, LBBS, to various web versions – at first totally manual, then database driven using software called Cold Fusion, then to a new system using software called Ruby on Rails, and now to a WordPress system.

The most recent switch was difficult. Chris Spannos, who was Z staff for many years, took up the task of building the new system. It was to take six months, but, like almost all programming efforts, took a bit over twice that long. Why didn’t we just stay with the familiar system, utilizing Ruby on Rails infrastructure?

We couldn’t afford it. The old site was coming apart from age – many of you no doubt noticed – in various respects. It would only get worse if we did not rebuild it. But rebuilding it would cost a lot more than creating the new WordPress version. Also, ongoing costs for a Ruby site would be much more than for the WordPress site. So, we made the switch.


New Features We Hope to Add in Roughly the Order Listed Below…

We are currently installing Polls and Forums. To come we have…

Printable Version and PDF

Both coming…

Mobile Z

We will be adding a version optimized for tablets, phones, etc.

Left Wiki

We would like to facilitate creation of an encyclopedia of the left, with the same features as wikipedia. Adding this infrastructure will not be overly difficult, once the site settles. So the issue with this innovation will be, to what degree will people contribute content, refinements, etc. We will see. Initially we will allow only Sustainers to edit content – though of course everyone will be able to see it, and use it. In time, perhaps we can – or will have to – open up to free members also being able to edit.

Z Chat

This feature would only be for Sustainers – we can’t afford to make it available more widely. It would facilitate Sustainers being able to chat with one another, text message, at first, while using the system. Again, we don’t know whether this will prove useful, and thus be used, or not.


Problems and Refinements We Are Now Dealing With

On Author pages (click author name in an article to see one) there will be links to see more in each section of content, and similarly in the right hand column of other content by the author that appears on article pages

Some top menus – for example, on the blogs page and commentaries page – fail. They are for filtering from all blogs or commentaries, or whatever else, to only those by some particular author. We are working on this…

There are articles with code floating around in them or flawed line endings. This is poor uploading practice in the distant past – becoming visible in the new system – and we are steadily correcting the problems.

ZMag Archive is not working fully, yet – fix coming soon…the current issue is fine, all contents are available to searches, etc. Some formatting is being corrected, as well.

The Search works well already, and is quite fast – but the display of results needs to improve, and the ability to search more precisely needs refinement, as well. This is related to the menu filtering issue noted above…

RSS needs some tweaking to be optimal

Old Comments need to be imported – this may take considerable time – it may even prove impossible – but we are working on it.

In the display of interviews, not all are showing. This has to do with old tagging practices and will be fixed, in due course.

Need improved display for lyrics, poems, and quotes


  1. avatar
    Joe H February 25, 2014 8:37 pm 

    Thanks for all this work, I know how much of a time sink programming can be!
    The left wiki sounds very exciting: a go to place for facts, references and broader background than can be achieved in news coverage would be really helpful for activists. Sounds a bit like my suggestion for something for IOPs to do:

    I didn’t call it a wiki as that suggests it would be open to all-comers, which I didn’t think wise in view of what we know about government and corporate sock-puppets on the internet, amongst other things. I hope my comments there are interesting. Maybe some prominent writers can be encouraged to kick things off.

  2. avatar
    Adam Burton February 20, 2014 10:17 pm 

    the site looks good, well done. My ZSocial yearly payment was cancelled so I thought I should see what I can do over here. However, the ‘All Store Sustainers’ page ( seems a bit confused. At the top of the page it says “After joining you will be able to comment on content throughout the site and to post blogs, and you will receive highly commentaries [sic], once you sign up.” but setting up your own blog is not listed as a feature in any option. The $12 a year benefits are: “This Sustainer level gets you our nightly email commentary, commenting on content throughout the site, taking polls, and regular site updates.” and the $250 a year benefits only add: “access to ZMagazine Online,” to that list. I assume something is amiss.

    Also, I am not a Sustainer but it says at the top of this page that only Sustainers are able to post comments here…

    The ‘left’ wiki sounds excellent.
    I will let you know if I notice anything else on my way round.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 26, 2014 2:08 pm 

      There may be some mistake, I am not sure and will look…but – Sustainers can blog. And you can see all your blog posts, as can all users.

      • avatar
        Adam Burton March 4, 2014 3:53 pm 

        Okay, great.
        So does that apply to all Sustainers? i.e., can Sustainers paying $12 a year blog, for instance?

  3. avatar
    Robert Schmidt February 10, 2014 8:56 pm 

    Logged in today and saw the new+ tab finally. Sweet!

    Thanks guys for all your hard work.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 11, 2014 2:33 pm 

      This is actually troubling…because so strange. It should simply be there, whenever a Sustainer logs in. We will try to keep an eye on it.

  4. avatar
    Vic Lally February 10, 2014 9:00 am 

    Well done Guys….It’s looking very impressive!

  5. avatar
    Robert Schmidt February 4, 2014 6:41 pm 

    upon logging in I’m not seeing the new+ feature at the top left of the site, in order to post blogs.

    • avatar
      Michael Albert February 5, 2014 2:57 pm 

      Hmmm… I see it just to the left of zcommunications – first item in the very top menu area – the little black band…

  6. avatar
    Site Administrator February 4, 2014 1:05 pm 

    Yes, needed, and coming soon…

  7. Robert Chunco February 3, 2014 10:05 pm 

    What about a printable version?

Leave a comment

Skip to toolbar