A tortuous task updating some interface text

Gary Thursday February 5, 2015

I spent a lot of the day yesterday changing some text in Tiki's interface. We decided to update the term "avatar", replacing it with "profile picture". In the earlier days of online discussions, in forums and so on , people had avatars - small images that represented the user - at the top of their posts along with their user name, which again wasn't necessarily the real name of the person. There images usually weren't an actual photo of the person; more often they were some super hero or other character, or even an abstract image. But the image soon became associated with the identity of the writer.

Now in the "social networking" age of the Internet, people often use their real identity - as "required" at Facebook, for example - and an actual photo of themselves as the identity image. In this context, "profile picture" is a more accurate term for the image than "avatar". I imagine it didn't occur to most of us working on the project that the old term should be changed, but a new user brought it to my attention and so I asked on the developers' mailing list and got agreement to change it.

Normally it's a little time-consuming to do the search-and-replace but yesterday was a nightmare. For some reason, the editor, PhpStorm, wasn't doing the search and replace correctly. Instead of a clean replacement, it'd often past the new text into the center of the text to be replaced, or make some other strange combination of old and new. Fortunately, it did the botching fairly consistently, so I could copy the bad text string and replace it in another cycle of correction. This had to be done several times to correct all the bad text.

I got a warning at some points from PhpStorm saying it was running out of memory and I should input a higher amount in a modal popup, but apparently at that point it didn't have the resources left to accept the higher memory setting because after inputting it and restarting the program, a little later it would stall with exactly the same message. Oh well.

Finally it was finished and I hoped that my SVN checkout hadn't become out of date during all that editing time; I could commit the changes with no problem, at last. I've found more strings that definitely need editing, to correct spelling or other errors, but am a little hesitant to start what could be another long and frustrating session.

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