Today we released a new plugin for WordPress that allows you to subscribe to the RSS feeds of private blogs using any RSS reader.
When you are logged in and viewing a private blog, the RSS feed links will now contain a special key unique to you and the blog that gives your reader access to the feed. There is nothing special you need to do, just subscribe as usual and feeds from private blogs will now work without redirecting your reader to the login page.
In order to address recent bot activity, input validation has been tightened on the form elements in GO available to non-authenticated users. This includes a captcha validation challenge on the “flag as inappropriate” area for non-authenticated users. In order to avoid having to fill this in you can always authenticate with your Middlebury account via the “log in” link at the top of go.
Also some usability enhancements have been made on the administration back-end to make GO administration smoother.
During the past few years new versions of WordPress have made this system much easier to use — and our community has made use of these new abilities to make a wide range of sites structured in many ways.
Most of the content in WordPress sites are Posts, chronologically ordered entries that make up a ‘blog’ or news site. Pages on the other hand, are non-time-dependent content that can be arranged in a hierarchy. Traditionally, Pages in WordPress sites were used mostly for describing the blog, contact information, or other content that rarely changes and isn’t ‘newsworthy’. (more on Posts vs. Pages)
Recently, a number of sites have been making increasingly large use of Pages, such as to hold curricular resources that are then referenced from Posts describing assignments that use them. For sites that make significant use of Pages, site-owners can now enable the RSS Includes Pages plugin so that new pages are added to your site’s main feed. For course sites in WordPress, enabling this plugin will allow page additions to be fed into the Course Hub as updates.
We still recommend making use of Posts in WordPress sites to share new material with readers rather than heavily using Pages as Pages are still second-class citizens in many ways (such as support for tagging and categorization). With the new RSS Includes Pages plugin, Page-heavy sites can now feed new content to the Course Hub and others subscribed to their feeds.
We wanted to let our website editors know that we plan on updating all six of our Drupal websites on March 13. This update is to the modules for that system that we work with Amherst to develop: Monster Menus, the Media module which manages files on the sites, and the RSS Page module which provides a content type for displaying feeds. This update may result in the site being unavailable for a few minutes while a database update script runs and will be done during our scheduled downtime that Sunday.
Yesterday, we updated WordPress to v3.1. Most noticeable change in this update is the introduction of a new “admin” bar that appears after you log in. This admin bar includes quick links to all sites in which you are a registered user. Site authors will also see links to add new posts and editors will have quick links to comments. The other notable new feature is a “link browser” that allows you to search and quickly link to other posts/pages on your site.
Most importantly, this release includes over 800 bug fixes by over 180 developers from around the world. It has been downloaded over 1 million times in the last week.
Let us know if you have any questions about this update or experience any problems.
The search interface for all five of our websites Middlebury, MIIS, the Museum of Art, Davis UWC Scholars, and Davis Projects for Peace, has been upgraded to use the Google Custom Search Engine. The GCSE creates a custom search index on Google’s servers for each of our sites which gives us far more control over which pages to include and exclude from the search. Previously, our search was going against Google’s full web index, which we would tell it to narrow to just our site. By creating the index ahead of time, we can get better and more extensive search results, solving issues we were having getting good results on our News Release Archive search.
The GCSE also lets us define “refinements” for sub-sites we want to search. You can see these on the right side of the new Middlebury search page. Click on the sub-site in the list to narrow your search. Though all the examples are separate sites in our case, we could refine on any URL path. For example, we could add a “Dining” refinement or one for an academic department.
The Catalog and Directory search results have moved from a cramped right column to a new blue bar just below the search box. Simply click on the name of the catalog or directory you want to search and you’ll see results from that application. The last search page only showed the name of the course or person, but now that these are show in the center of the page we have room to include the full directory entry or course description.
This also gives us quick statistics on the most popular searches. This new search was introduced for Middlebury in January, so we can see that over the last couple weeks, these were the most popular searches:
376: “search midd”
34: “banner web”
10: “feb graduation”
10: “justin stearns”
10: “kathryn davis”
There are still a few refinements to be made to this service, so please give us your feedback and let us know what we can do to improve our site’s search experience.
Now that the LIS website content managers have been established, the LIS web team has provided them with a tool to help identify and deal with errors in the content of web pages. The SiteCheck tool from Siteimprove will generate a report every 5 days for designated pages that it has crawled and let you know what errors it has found.
Currently a member of the web team is compiling these reports and sending a monthly report to content managers who are in turn dealing with the errors. Spelling suggestions are reviewed on the SiteCheck page before they appear on the report. A single report is sufficient for all of LIS since the number of issues is not so many that CMs cannot find the ones that pertain to their area.
The effort has been a great success with the 28 pages with broken links reduced now to only 6 in the last report. Spelling errors were also reduced from over 20 to only 2. We are very excited to have this process in place going forward.