Author Archives: Adam Franco

About Adam Franco

Senior Application Developer

Weekly Web Updates – March 23, 2015

We’re starting this feature again to let you know about the changes that we’ve made recently to our web systems. This will appear each Monday in the Library & Information Technology Services blog.

New Features

  • Drupal Instagram: You can now add lists of images from one or more Instagram users to your pages. This works well as a sidebar widget.
  • Drupal Slideshow: Allows you to put a rotating image slideshow on a page.
  • The Language Schools and Schools Abroad sites have had their headers redesigned. Additionally, there is now a fullwidth page theme for the Language Schools.
  • We now support embedding content from ExpOsure in Drupal using the video shortcode, as you would with YouTube or Vimeo. Here’s an example of it in practice.

New Documentation

We’re working on improving our documentation and have cleaned up the content types section of the Editing in Drupal page. The Drupal File Upload documentation has been revised to incorporate the changes in that system with Drupal 7, and we’ve added a page about Drupal Email Newsletters, which are created differently in Drupal now, though the process for sending them through List Manager is the same.

The new Instagram and Slideshow content types are also documented and there is a page with the pixel dimensions of each region on our site, which is helpful when creating new Instagram and Slideshow content.

Updates

Tweaks and Fixes

  • Images in the Drupal File Upload content are now wrapped in a link to the full-sized image. Note that the “Clicking on this image shows it full-size” checkbox when embedding an image is still not working.
  • The comment form on Drupal News items on the Middlebury site now includes a comment policy and the unnecessary Subject field has been removed to improve the display of comments.
  • Drupal Promotional Calendars on pages with empty sidebars now take up the full width of the content region, rather than being confined to 450px.
  • The Middlebury 404 page is no longer showing extraneous navigation elements and has the correct margins on the text that is shown.
  • Related videos are no longer shown for any YouTube embeds in Drupal.
  • The Google Analytics code on the Middlebury Drupal site has been updated to allow links to “securelb.imodules.com” (the online giving form) to track as though they were hosted on our domain.
  • Google Analytics on the MIIS forms site will now track clicks on form page buttons as discrete events, showing “Page 1 of 3″, for example, when a user clicks on the first page button on a multi-page form.
  • WordPress video embeds from MiddMedia now support files containing sequential en-dash characters, ‘-‘. WordPress had been translating this into em-dash characters ‘–‘, breaking urls.

New print style for Course Hub class rosters

Since 2011 instructors have been able to view class rosters in the Course Hub, a feature many have used to help learn students’ names or quickly look up contact, Commons, or advisor information.

Web view of the course roster.

Web view of the course roster.

One thing we had not anticipated at the time is that instructors might print the roster to have a reference with them in class. Unfortunately, the rosters weren’t laid out with printing in mind and often flowed across pages in a not-very-compact way. Today, we are pleased to announce that class rosters now have improved styling that will lay-out the roster in a more compact grid when printing.

Old class roster print view.

Old class roster print view.

New class roster print view

New class roster print view

As web technology in general is not optimized for print, it is possible you still might encounter quirks when printing. We recommend using Firefox, Chrome, or Safari and avoiding Internet Explorer when printing rosters as some IE versions have a quirk that can cause pages to break across photos.

New responsive, mobile-friendly theme for CAS logins

The CAS login screen is now mobile-friendly.

Logging onto Middlebury web sites just got easier to do on your phone, tablet, or other small screen. Today we updated the Central Authentication Service (CAS) theme to dynamically reformat itself so that login form is easy to use on any screen size. No longer will you have to side-scroll or zoom to enter your username and password to access authenticated services.

Latest Firefox makes GO less easy to use

The Mozilla Foundation’s latest version of Firefox, version 34, has started running searches when you type go/mail into the address bar without prefixing with http:// or using the fully-qualified name go.middlebury.edu. This follows similar moves by Chrome and Safari to prefer searches over host-name lookups when there isn’t a fully-qualified domain name in the URL bar.

The good news is, that confirming the dialog to go to GO instead of to search will set a preference allowing GO shortcuts to continue to work:

If you forget to click the confirmation, it is possible to manually add the preference to make GO links work permanently. See the LIS Wiki for more details.

WordPress upgraded to 3.9

I’ve applied the latest update to our WordPress platforms, sites.middlebury.edu and sites.miis.edu. This update provides a smoother media editing experience:

  • Improved visual editing – speed, accessibility, and mobile support
  • Edit images easily – quicker access to crop and rotation tools, scale images directly in the editor
  • Drag and drop your images right onto the editor
  • Image gallery previews right in the editor
  • Showcase music and clips with simple audio and video playlists
  • Live widget and header image previews in the Customizer
  • Stunning new theme browser

Here’s a short video covering the changes.

More information about this update can be found on WordPress.org including a full list of the changes to the platform.

Top 10 GO shortcuts in Fall 2013

We recently took a look at the server logs for the GO service over the past 29 days (September 22 – October 21) and thought it might be interesting to share the most-used shortcuts and their aliases.

  1. 3,317 hits per day — go/webmail, go/mail, go/email
  2. 1,220 hits per day — go/bannerweb, go/bw, go/ssb, go/timeentry
  3.    759 hits per day — go/keysurvey
  4.    649 hits per day — go/papercut
  5.    550 hits per day — go/lib, go/library, go/libraries, go/read
  6.    546 hits per day — go/middfiles, go/midd+files
  7.    527 hits per day — go/coursehub, go/hub, go/course+hub
  8.    444 hits per day — go/moodle
  9.    393 hits per day — go/menu, go/menus
  10.    371 hits per day — go/directory, go/dir

While some people access these shortcuts by clicking on links embedded in our various web sites, the vast majority are directly typed into users’ browsers.

Which shortcuts (one of these or others) do you find most useful in your normal day?

Group support added to WordPress

We are pleased to announce the addition of a much-awaited feature to our WordPress site network. As of today groups added to sites can automatically maintain their membership over time. Site administrators will no longer have to go back into WordPress and regularly bulk-add groups to grant access to new group members.

In the WordPress Dashboard
When you add users to a WordPress site by group the new default option is to keep the group in sync:

Adding a new group to a site, keeping the group in sync.

Adding a new group to a site.
Note the new “Keep in Sync” option.

All users currently in the group will be added to the site with the role you specified. Members of the group who already have a role with greater abilities will not have their permissions reduced. Members of the group who already have a role with less abilities will be raised to the role specified for the group.

The groups synced are shown in a list and can be removed if desired.

The groups synced are shown in a list and can be removed if desired.

Over time, as people are added to the group, their roles in the site will be updated whenever they log into WordPress. If a person is removed from a group they will have their role in the site removed when they log into WordPress if their role hasn’t been manually changed to a different level.

More details about group-synchronization are available in the LIS Wiki.

In the Course Hub
In tandem with this new feature in the WordPress dashboard, the Course Hub now automatically adds class-groups to WordPress sites when adding WordPress Resources. When you add a WordPress Resource to the Course Hub the screen now includes an option that lets you specify what role to give students in the WordPress site. (Instructors will always be administrators of the site.)

Choose which role to give students in the WordPress site.

Choose which role to give students in the WordPress site.

When you save the WordPress Resource in the Course Hub three class-groups (instructors, students, and audits) are added to WordPress site and kept in sync. Instructors no longer need to do the extra step of going to WordPress and adding the class-groups to the site. As well, new students enrolled during the “Add/Drop Period” will automatically have access to the WordPress site when they log in after their enrollment has processed.

The instructors, students, and audits groups are automatically added to WordPress by the Course Hub.

The instructors, students, and audits groups are automatically added to WordPress by the Course Hub.

If you delete the WordPress Resource from the Course Hub the users and class-groups it added will be removed from the WordPress site, however the site itself will not be deleted automatically.

Looking back at comment-spam in WordPress

In February 2012 we started noticing a large influx of new comment-spam coming into our sites.middlebury.edu WordPress system that the built-in anti-spam plugins weren’t able to handle. To combat this annoying plague we created a new plugin that instantly killed any comments trying to submit an “author URL” along with the “author name” and “comment text” now that the “author URL” field is hidden.

In the year and a half since this plugin has been in place across our blog network it has blocked an average of 40,000 spam comments every month.

+------+-------+--------------+
| year | month | spam blocked |
+------+-------+--------------+
| 2012 |     3 |       14,814 |
| 2012 |     4 |       19,956 |
| 2012 |     5 |       18,225 |
| 2012 |     6 |       15,937 |
| 2012 |     7 |       29,232 |
| 2012 |     8 |       24,073 |
| 2012 |     9 |       25,973 |
| 2012 |    10 |       42,514 |
| 2012 |    11 |       49,265 |
| 2012 |    12 |      106,128 |
| 2013 |     1 |      103,850 |
| 2013 |     2 |       72,944 |
| 2013 |     3 |       38,336 |
| 2013 |     4 |       35,125 |
| 2013 |     5 |       32,975 |
| 2013 |     6 |       35,011 |
| 2013 |     7 |       28,218 |
+------+-------+--------------+

While some spam is bound to get past any automated filtering, we hope that these efforts have alleviated most of the hassle of dealing with spam comments in WordPress.