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Weekly Web Development Round-up May 30-June 3, 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Drupal

  • Did you know that you can “geo tag” any content on our site? It’s true! When you’re editing, you’ll see a field labeled “Location”. If you expand this, you can add an address to the content you’re creating. Most addresses can be automatically translated into a latitude and longitude by our system, allowing us to create maps highlighting that content. We’re going back and adding locations to stories to make our Middlebury Around the World page more interesting, but keep this in mind as you edit the site.
  • The Preview button has been temporary disabled while we fix an issue where all permissions would get wiped out when you previewed your changes to content. We know what was causing this to happen and will have a fix shortly after a few of the edge cases are dealt with.
  • Videos from MiddMedia in most of our supported web browsers now play using the native HTML5 video player. Browsers that support this feature include Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4, Chrome, Safari, Opera and the mobile browsers for iOS and Android devices. If you are using Firefox 3 (including 3.5 and 3.6), Internet Explorer 7, or Internet Explorer 8 you will still see the Flash player as these browsers do not support HTML5 video.
  • Additionally, MiddMedia videos on the site will now use the “full frame” poster image by default, which doesn’t include the “play” icon, but you can toggle between playing and pausing a video by clicking on it.
  • When creating a Story, there are now buttons to select the image instead of autocomplete text boxes. Clicking the button brings up the site tree so you can select your image (with a preview) from the page where you saved it instead of blindly hoping the “smiling_students01.jpg” is your image. This feature will be rolled out to more content types shortly.
  • XML sitemaps are now available for all of our Drupal-based sites. These files help search engines find content on our site. Middlebury’s sitemap is at http://www.middlebury.edu/sitemap.xml
  • Modules updated this week: Custom Permissions, Monster Menus, Media, RSS Page

Library Systems

  • As announced previously on the LIS blog, the Library Quick Search widget on the Library home page now includes a search form for Summon, a tool that searches across Midd’s many different collections at once.  New tabs, and other changes based on feedback and user study were also rolled out.

MiddMedia

  • All videos uploaded to MiddMedia are now encoded in both H.264 and WebM formats so that they can be played natively in browsers that support H.264 (IE 9, Safari, iOS) and WebM (Firefox 4, Chrome, Opera, Android).
  • When uploading a video, you can now select the quality that will be used when the video is transcoded (original, 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p).

WordPress

Weekly Web Development Round-up April 11-15, 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Drupal

  • Webform emails have been fixed to correctly send as HTML. Each field will be shown on a single line (except multiline fields) with the field title bolded. If you want to get really fancy with your webform emails, you can create your own email templates.
  • We’re now using the Open Source Media Framework’s Strobe Player to play videos on the site. This improves the playback performance with better support for buffering streaming videos, so the content will load faster for you.
  • The “waveform” or “equalizer” feature on some of the top-level pages, like Student Life and Academics had so many stories that the title of the page wasn’t displaying. This is a good problem to have, and it’s now fixed in all browsers except Internet Explorer.
  • The Online Donor Roll is now configured to automatically switch from using the Banner reporting database to the Banner production database in the event that the reporting database is not available.
  • Lots of fixes to the New Edit Console, including a way to go back to the old Edit Console if you decide you don’t like it.

WordPress

  • Upgraded WordPress to version 3.1.1 and upgraded the XML Google Maps plugin.
  • Added the Stout Google Calendar plugin allow easier embedding of Google Calendars.
  • Added the Plugin Stats and Theme Usage Info to allow admins to monitor plugin usage and remove unused ones.
  • Posts with multiple authors (like this one) will now show information about all of the authors at the bottom of the post when you’re in a single post view. If you don’t appear in the list of authors on a post where you’re an author, you may need to configure your profile in WordPress.
  • The FeedBurner FeedPress plugin will no longer redirect all of your tag feeds to the blogs main feed address. You can now use this plugin and tag feeds at the same time.

Other

Links

Interesting news and posts from around the web about web development this week.

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.

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.

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.

State of the Site

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Overview

What follows is a report on the state of notable web applications and sites in use at Middlebury including the College website, the Middlebury instance of WordPress (i.e. sites.middlebury.edu) and a variety of key web applications that provide services widely used by faculty, students and staff.

Box Office

  • Addition of separate billing and shipping addresses when ordering tickets or gift items from the box office, especially useful for parents purchasing items for students.
  • Improved the user interface to make purchasing as a returning customer and identifying seat locations in the seating chart simpler.

CAS – Single Sign On

The Central Authentication System (CAS) was introduced last year and allows you to move between many of our web applications after you’ve signed in once. GO and the main college website were already using CAS this time last year but since then it’s been added to many other applications, including:

  • Course Catalog
  • MediaWiki
  • MiddMedia
  • WordPress

Course Catalog

Over the past two years we developed the Course Catalog application at catalog.middlebury.edu to serve as a clearing house for accessing course information on the web due to the limitations on searching for this information via BannerWeb. The Course Catalog application allows users to search for courses based on a wide variety of criteria (including keyword searching) and properly displays and links-together cross-listed courses. The Course Catalog application also feeds course information to the department pages and faculty profiles in the main Drupal site.

New for this year, the Course Catalog has been extended to add a Schedule Planning tool that allows students to bookmark courses they are interested in, then group them together into weekly schedules to ensure that they do not have timing conflicts and that lab and discussion sections are chosen. These schedules can be printed or emailed to one’s advisor.

  • Added the Schedule Planning tool.
  • Users can now bookmark courses that they find interesting.
  • Updated the theme to match the new website. Added a custom theme for the MIIS catalog.
  • The printed Catalog is now created via an export from the Course Catalog application rather than being copy-pasted from the site by hand.
  • PDF snapshots of the Catalog are now automatically generated as course descriptions and requirements get edited over the year.
  • Lots of small improvements to the display of course data in search results and while browsing.
  • Can now search for courses by campus — needed for Language Schools that have more than one site.
  • Greatly improved the speed of the application.
  • Improved the feed of courses to faculty profiles to ensure that cross-listed courses are ordered properly.
  • New admin forms that allow the Registrar to suppress incomplete information about upcoming terms during data-entry.

Drupal

GO

The GO shortcut/permalink application has become quite central to the web infrastructure of the college since its launch several years ago. It eased the launch of the new site by allowing links in content to be easily updated en-mass. In the past year GO has become central to our search strategy as GO shortcuts are now provided as suggestions and automatic-redirects when you enter search terms on the main site.

  • Totally new editing interface.
  • Verbose, color coded, messages to indicate successful or unsuccessful completion of actions.
  • Additional input validation to preserve shortcut integrity and prevent abuse.
  • Ability for community to flag GO links as inappropriate.
  • New “Info” pages for every shortcut allow everyone to see detailed information about the shortcut such as who maintains it, what its aliases are, and where it goes.
  • All GO shortcuts are now shown publicly in the GOtionary (with the exception of a few internal shortcuts) to improve the transparency of the system.
  • Enhanced admin interface for flag admins and the new super admin role.
  • Can now switch between the Middlebury and  MIIS GOtionaries.

MiddMedia

  • New “Midd” theme integrates more closely with the current Middlebury theme.
  • Add to MiddTube button allows users to check off the videos they would like to batch add to MiddTube as video posts.
  • We’ve upgraded to Flash Media Server 4, with a lot of new features that we’ll be rolling out and supporting in the coming months.

New Sites

We’ve been able to expand the Drupal and WordPress platforms to add a CMS experience for sites that were previously static HTML files and create new sites to show off and assist student research and projects.

SubjectsPlus

In December, we upgraded from version 0.7 to 0.9.  Changes include:

  • Enhanced security.
  • In addtion to Research by Subject, two new guide types are available: Research by Course and Research by Topic.
  • Widget-based, drag-and-drop control panel for content creators.
  • Multiple subject specialists (guide owners) now possible.
  • Description field override.  This allows for a resource description to be customized for one or more guides, while still allowing the resource record to be shared among all the guides.  This cuts down on duplication of records and/or breaking others shared work.
  • Cloning feature

What do we use this for, you ask?

  • Databases A-Z list
  • Research guides (access via sidebar at go/lib and go/subjectguides among other places.)
  • globally adding EZproxy prefix for off-campus access.

WordPress

WordPress usage has been growing over the last few years at Middlebury and beyond.  In late August, we updated WordPress to v3, a major new release to this platform that introduced features such as custom menus and top navigation that extended its usefulness beyond blogging.

Plugins and New Functionality

Themes and User Experience

We created a number of blog themes for WordPress based on design prototypes developed by White Whale (designers of the main college site).  These blog themes were updated to take advantage of new functionality and to generally provide a flexible, easy to use templating framework that could generate extensible thematic variations and would work on multiple platforms, including mobile and touch enabled.  New features developed in the last 6 months include:

  • Introduction of a standardized header on all blogs that provides quick links to create a new blog, search blogs and a given site’s dashboard
  • New standardized widget areas including 3 sidebars and 4 footer areas
  • Introduction of support for custom menus and top navigation bar for mapping a site’s information architecture (IA)
  • Refinements to navigation UI to highlight current location in IA and provide more navigation links in context to improve usability on sites with many pages (such as sites for courses, projects or documentation)

Usage Analysis

Perspective, an aggregation and usage analysis tool was developed to keep track of how WordPress was being used, what plugins and themes were most popular, which blogs were most active in a given time period and so on.  We also built into Perspective tools for communicating with users so that we could more easily identify all users of a given set of features to allow us to inform them of updates or issues.  These same tools when combined with activity filters have allowed us to identified inactive sites, contact their owners and archive or delete these sites as appropriate, providing the foundation for a contention retention policy.

WordPress Workshops

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I’ve coordinated with the Education and Training Team to offer some workshops on WordPress next week, here are details:

  • 2 – 3:30 pm, Monday, January 17, Library 105
  • 1 – 2:30 pm, Weds, January 19, Library 105

These workshops will give an overview of latest version of Translucence, the theme framework that powers many Midd blog themes and will showcase a variety of sites that have recently been created to highlight the many different ways that WordPress can be used.

For other upcoming workshops, see: How to Learn More » On-campus Workshops.