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Subscribe to feeds on private blogs

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

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.

Oops, I emailed my private feed link to everyone!

If you accidentally share your personal feed link with others, you can go to your profile page and revoke your key for the blog in question.

Profile Screen Shot, showing the ability to revoke keys.

Note that you will need to resubscribe to the feeds yourself if you revoke a key.

FAQs

  • If someone finds out my key, can they use it to access my other sites?
    No, keys are per-user and per-site.
  • I removed a user from my private site, will they still see updates?
    No, the feed keys just authenticate the user, they still are checked against the subscriber list before showing them content.
  • Will my feed key let me edit without logging in?
    No, the key only grants access to feeds, nothing more.

Tighter security on GO, administration enhancements

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

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.

WordPress feeds can now include pages

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

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.

DrupalCon 2011: Day 1

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

This week Ian and Adam are in Chicago for the bi-annual DrupalCon developer conference. Drupal is the software that we use to manage the Middlebury and MIIS websites, as well as a couple others.

Read on for notes on the sessions we attended.

Keynote Presentation: Dries Buytaert (video)

Dries is the original developer of Drupal and gives the “state of Drupal” kickoff speech each year. This presentation is already available as streaming video (see the link above). The rest of the session videos will be up after the conference and when they’re ready we’ll make a blog post linking you to a few that are interesting for site editors – especially a session on the webform module.

The big news in the keynote this year is that development on Drupal 8 is going to begin at this conference and the developers who work on the core Drupal software are going to try to move to a more regular release schedule for new versions. We are currently running Drupal 6 and will be working on moving to Drupal 7 this year. Other news is that Drupal 8 is going to add more support for mobile and HTML5. There is a very good overview of HTML5 online if you’re unsure what this term means.

Media module for Drupal 7

Not to be confused with the Media module we run, which is part of Monster Menus, the code we work with Amherst to develop for Drupal, the Media module for Drupal 7 does many of the same things, but is a lot more slick about it. In Drupal 6, the standard way to add files to a site is to make them their own nodes (this is essentially what we do with File Upload nodes) or attach them to existing nodes as fields. The first way makes it easy to reuse files, but hard to use them inside content and the second way makes it easy to use files inside other content, but hard to reuse them.

The Drupal 7 media module is an attempt to resolve these conflicts. It’s still very early on in its development and use, but has features like the ability to manage YouTube videos like other files, drag-and-drop uploads and drag-and-drop reordering for photo galleries. Their goal is for Media to become the standard file-management system for Drupal 8. As work on this continues, we’ll see how we can use this modules features on our site, either by adding them to our Media module or making this module work with Monster Menus.

    Drupal Security for Coders

    This session was a good overview of the content in Cracking Drupal, given by the author. It focused on preventing XSS and CSRF attacks.

    Rockin’ HTML5 with Drupal

    I’m wary of any presentation that includes a slide with the title “Web 3.0″, but fortunately here it was used as a bit of a joke. There was a high-level discussion of the new features available to you when you convert your site markup to use HTML5, and this conversion is one of our goals this year at Middlebury. She also discussed the HTML5 Tools module, which is used to re-write a lot of HTML that Drupal produces so that it is HTML5 markup instead.

    This is useful for all the forms Drupal creates, not just the webforms you add to your site, but the page settings form, and the node editing form, and the copy/move form, etc. HTML5 adds a lot of new form markup so that you can have a non-JavaScript date picker, type suggestions in the field, and my favorite example is that you can mark a field as “email” and mobile device keyboards will include an @ symbol, or mark the field as “number” and the mobile keyboard will automatically which to a number pad when you move into the field.

    Aphorisms of API design

    A good session on designing APIs in Drupal systems. Talked a lot about how to make modules pluggable and when to do so. The topics discussed will be useful as we refactor our modules for Drupal 7.

    Views for Hackers

    The talk was an overview of the Views module and how its concepts like “relationships”, “arguments”, and “filters” translate to code and database queries. Most of the information was already familiar to us, but it made some of these concepts easier to understand.

    Discussions with Amherst Developers

    Our colleagues from Amherst are also here and we got to chat with Victor, Anita, and James. They’ve already helped us patch two issues that were bugging me and helped explain what the new Monster Menus CCK module is. I’m burying this at the bottom of this blog post because this is a really neat feature and I’m not sure when it will be available, but we’ll try to add it very soon.

    MM CCK adds a new “node picker” and “page picker” field type to nodes. If you’ve ever created a News posting or Story on our website and needed to add an image to it, you know that you do this by starting to type the name of the image in a field which searches the entire site for all images and you pick yours from that list. With the new “node picker”, you’ll get a popup window just like you do when you put an image inline in content and you’ll be able to browse just your site’s File Uploads folder.

    We’ve had a good exchange so far and look forward to continuing our discussion as the conference goes on.

    Drupal Update Scheduled for March 13

    Categories: Midd Blogosphere

    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.

    The affected websites are:

    • http://www.middlebury.edu
    • http://www.miis.edu
    • http://museum.middlebury.edu
    • http://www.davisprojectsforpeace.org
    • http://www.davisuwcscholars.org
    • http://courses.middlebury.edu

    The Monster Menus module is what allows you to assign editing permissions to pages on our website and delegate control of portions of the site to others. We are currently running revision 3131 of this module which was completed by Amherst in August 2009, just before we first launched the new MIIS site in Drupal. Because of our fast-paced Web Redo project, we didn’t update Monster Menus while developing the new Middlebury site and moving the remaining content from MCMS to Drupal. During that time, Amherst redeveloped almost all of the module making many improvements. This update will bring us up to revision 5100, which we retrieved earlier this week.

    Most of the changes to Monster Menus are behind-the-scenes things like creating a new database table to store which pages are the “parents” of other pages in the site IA. This will improve the performance of our site, but aren’t the type of things that you’re going to notice in your day-to-day work.

    There are two differences that you will notice after we make this update.

    Instead of collapse-and-expand menus to manage permission on a page, the interface is now presented in a single table where you can see all of the people who have permissions on the page and their level of permissions. Setting permissions still works the same way and none of the permissions you have assigned to your pages will change. Because this table is wider than the current interface, the page sidebar (if it exists) will be hidden when you edit the page’s settings.

    The Insert File Upload dialog box has also changed. Instead of a list of links on the left, you now see a folder tree with all the pages on the site getting their own folder and thumbnails of the images or files appearing on the right with a nicer layout. The most important change is that you can now “bookmark” your File Uploads page so that you don’t have to browse through this list every time you add a new file. Your bookmarks will appear in the drop-down menu at the top of the pop-up window.

    These probably, and hopefully, appear to be very minor changes to the editing interface. We’ll make sure that the documentation for editing the site, which you can always find at http://go.middlebury.edu/drupal, is updated with these changes when they’re applied to the live site.

    If you have any questions or concerns about this, please leave a comment or contact me directly at imcbride@middlebury.edu.

    WordPress Update

    Categories: Midd Blogosphere

    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.

    Website Improvements #9: Google Custom Search

    Categories: Midd Blogosphere

    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”
    • 25: “hazing”
    • 11: “axt”
    • 11: “hld”
    • 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.