At long last, the MotoMatters.com website is back in the air. It took about three weeks longer than I expected, for which you have my humble apologies. However, it should now be simpler to use, and easier to find what you are looking for.
A conceptual change
One of the reasons for updating the site is the continuing conceptual change around MotoMatters.com. When I first started the site, I tried to cover everything, every possible piece of news that emerged.
Over the longer term, I found that untenable, and even more importantly, unsatisfying. One of the greatest joys of MotoGP for me is that there is always something new to learn, some deeper lesson to be digested and understood.
At the heart of this is the paradox of MotoGP. It is always changing, more and more rapidly, yet engineers are still facing the same basic challenges. To get a motorcycle around a track as fast as possible, you have to understand the interaction between tires and tarmacadam, between vehicle dynamics and fluid dynamics.
So the core and increasing focus of MotoMatters.com will be to try to understand world championship motorcycle racing, especially MotoGP, and to explain that to readers in the clearest and best way possible.
This means that the site will focus a little less on the day-to-day news - other websites do that much faster and better than I ever could - and more on the longer term. Other websites will bring you the Who, What, and Where, MotoMatters.com exists to try to explain the How, and the Why.
Race and practice reports will continue to appear, but my personal focus will be on taking time to analyze and explain what is going on.
What has changed?
See below for a slightly longer explanation, but basically the software the website runs on has been updated. That has allowed me to improve the experience for all users of the site, and especially for subscribers.
The most important change is that I have reorganized the menu structure, making the in-depth parts of the site more easily available. In the menu, you will now find the following links
- Subscriber Content - all of the articles containing exclusive material for MotoMatters.com subscribers
- Round Ups - a link to all of the round ups and subscriber notes posted on each race weekend and at each test
- Features - all of the long-form articles, interviews, opinion pieces, etc on the website
- Photos - all of the photo galleries on the website, with smaller versions of the photos for non-subscribers, and high-resolution versions for subscribers, allowing subscribers to zoom in to photos to see incredible detail
- More - racing schedules, teams, riders, results, championship standings
- Subscribe! - take out a subscription to MotoMatters.com, and help the site keep growing and improving
- Patreon - a link to the MotoMatters.com Patreon, which offers very similar benefits to subscribing to the website.
Another change is to the underlying concept of the website. Once upon a time, MotoMatters.com ran advertising, but that paid badly, and has gotten worse. That is largely because I never sold ads directly, but only went through ad exchanges like Google.
Ad exchanges paid poorly before, but their return has only got worse over the past couple of years. The only people getting rich off Google Ads are Google, and the same goes for most ad networks. As ad rates have dropped, so sites have resorted to including more ads - video ads, pop ups, pop overs, overlays, more and more ad blocks - to the extent that they are making many sites virtually unusable without resorting to an ad blocker.
So I abandoned ads already some time ago, but the code was still running on the website. That has now been removed.
One of the benefits of doing this is that it greatly improves both privacy and speed of loading. Without having to wait for Google's extensive back-end bidding process to complete, the page can load immediately. More importantly, not including Google ads means that Google is no longer following you around the web - or at least, around this website.
I have also abandoned Google Analytics for the same reason. Without ads, there is no incentive for me to know the number of visitors to the website. Visitors don't pay the bills, subscribers do. The only metric that is meaningful to the continued existence of MotoMatters.com is income, and the income of the website is entirely dependent on support from readers, in the form of subscriptions and Patreon support, as well as donations via Paypal or Kofi.
So improving the experience of subscribers is now central to the website. Making it easier for everyone to find the exclusive subscriber material is what matters. Anything slowing the website down is bad for everyone.
Which brings me to the bad news
The price of subscriptions has remained unchanged since I first introduced them over a decade ago. (It's so long ago that I can't even remember when it was). Inflation is a real thing, and prices have increased by over 30% since 2013.
The website upgrade is therefore the right time to introduce a subscription price update. From now on, a subscription to MotoMatters.com will cost $49.99. Looking at it from the bright side, that is a 25% rise, below the level of inflation.
What is still to be done?
Apart from a general tidying up of the website and further enhancements, the biggest change is going to be an update of the available subscriptions.
Currently, all subscriptions expire at the end and have to be renewed manually. As someone who hates things which autorenew, that has always been my preferred choice, and is consequently the default on the site.
In the next couple of weeks, alongside the existing subscription, we will be introducing two new subscriptions which will renew automatically unless canceled:
- Annual subscription, autorenewing - this will be the same price as the standard subscription, and will renew automatically on the end date.
- Monthly subscription, autorenewing - this will cost $4.99 a month, and will automatically renew on the end date.
More subscriber benefits are still to come, including a discord channel. That will be done over the next few months.
The other thing still open is Dark Mode. Some users prefer reading white text on a dark background. At the moment, the only layout is dark text on a white background. I hope to sort this out soon.
A few thoughts on the upgrade:
Why was the upgrade needed?
I have been using the content management system Drupal on this website almost from the beginning. But the version the website had been running on reached its end of life, and support and maintenance was falling away. The last update had been in 2016, and so the modules built for the old CMS were starting to cause problems.
Content management systems built 10 years ago were designed primarily for desktop devices. The internet has mostly moved to mobile devices, and to accommodate that, I needed to update the site.
To improve the overall experience of the site, I decided to move to the latest stable version of Drupal.
Why did the upgrade take so long?
Two reasons. Firstly, because the architecture and internal design of Drupal changed radically between version 7 and version 9. Think of it like the move from 500cc two strokes to 990cc four strokes: everything needed to change. (If you want to know more about the background, see this article explaining a lot of it.)
The bigger problem, however, is that I decided to do this all myself. In part, because hubris led me to believe that I could, in part because I find it very difficult to delegate, but mostly, because I am stupidly stubborn and wanted to.
I embarked upon it not really understanding what I was getting myself into. Which was probably a good thing. But determined not to be beaten by a stupid bit of software, I set about wrangling Drupal 9 into submission. Or something that looks like submission, at least.
I won't go into the details at the moment - at a later date, I hope to turn the notes and documentation I wrote into a detailed blog, for anyone else wanting to go through the same process.
Are you happy with the result?
I think it works, and that will have to do for the moment.
The longer version of this is that I have the bare bones of the site up and running, and I have tested what I can, but I am sure there is a lot I have missed. Most of it is just refining what already exists, tidying up the aesthetics and, in some places, the organization of the site. Parts of that involve me learning more about how the new system works, but other parts will require you, dear readers, to tell me what I have missed, and what is going wrong.
I expect to still have a significant amount of tinkering to do, but that can be done over the course of the coming few months.
In the meantime, please report any oddities or things you think need changing. Send your emails to email@example.com with a description of your issue, or a suggestion for improvement.
If you are having issues logging in, can I ask you to try clearing cookies for motomatters.com by following the instructions here: https://www.lifewire.com/clear-cookies-for-one-site-4587347 The cookies from the old site might be interfering.
The unexpected upside
The process of getting here has been long and grueling, and I have spent a lot of long days and nights behind my laptop trying to get things to work the way I want. By rights, I should be exhausted (and to be honest, I am a little sleep deprived), but strangely, I feel quite energized.
The reason is simple. 2022 was a long, hard slog of a season (2023 looks to be even harder). By the end of it, I was frankly burned out, and had lost a lot of the intense passion I had for motorcycle racing.
But this past month has allowed me to get completely away from racing, and focus on a new set of problems. The process of quashing bugs and figuring out how to solve problems has been inspiring and fun. It has allowed my motorcycle racing brain to take a bit of a rest.
Now that I have reached the end of the upgrading process (or at least, cleared the largest hurdles and left myself with just cleanup to do), I am looking forward to getting to a track again and taking a long, hard look at motorcycles. I do not enjoy the traveling aspect of MotoGP much (except when I can get there on a motorcycle), but my eagerness to get to the track now once again outstrips my irritation at travel.
In other words, I can't wait to get stuck in again. I fly to Sepang on Tuesday, and am fascinated by the thought of what I might find there.
Thank you for your patience, and I hope you will join me on my journey.