One, to bind them all…

by on August 31, 2009

the constant gardenerConstant Gardener, from Flickr.

Being the most flexible and open of all web spaces, wiki can quickly become a messy hotchpotch of various pages written in variety of tones, driven by different needs and intended for miscellaneous audiences. And that’s not almost ok.  It is ok as long as it belongs to Namespace Notebook (or test or perhaps crap).

Growth of the wiki space, its usability and maintenance is often compared to gardening where wiki gardener or wiki gnome plays an important role in wiki’s overall health.

So what’s the deal with UBC wiki, who is it for and how is it going to be used?

New, MediaWiki-based, CWL-enabled (CWL is UBC’s single-sign-on implementation) UBC wiki has been up and running for almost a month, available to everyone with a valid CWL account (yes, we proudly display the CWL login link, meaning that this is NOT a pilot project). We are hoping that, as it is case with other successful large organization’s wikis (stretching this to a very larger organization called Earth, we could argue that its best information source is Wikipedia), this wiki will grow and become useful lexicon of UBC and a few things beyond that.

So far, we have recognized four major means of using UBC wiki (all four to be represented by corresponding Namespaces):

  • UBC dictionary (lexicon, glossary)
    This is the original, simple wiki idea – flat Wikipedia-like approach, for anything UBC related; it lives in the default MediaWiki NameSpace (no subpages allowed, here is why).
    For example, Genome page should inventory UBC resources about Genome – topics like people, groups and departments that research genome; papers, posters and thesis published about genome etc. In the ideal scenario, UBC faculty, students and staff would update topics of their professional (and wider) interests and so make resources more presentable and easier to find. Another example: By slightly modifying great google maps extension, that is already running on our server, we could build multi-layered maps of UBC where  community could contribute to a spatial representation of UBC; every conference visitor would appreciate a decent coffee at UBC Google Map layer.
    (here is a new Blenz coffeee, we need others; Google also has to update their maps as this is quite a new big neighborhood now.)

    View Wesbrook Place in a larger map

  • Course repository
    With UBC wiki course space, our main goal is to enable space for public and open-content licensed wikis.
    In previous years we have used both blogs and wikis to develop, host and deliver courses. Lately, we experimented with hosting course-content in wikis and republishing in other web spaces, such as blogs or LMS, using in-house-developed MediaWiki extensions to support embedding part of the page, the whole page and in the future, collections of pages (the whole course content).
    Before we decide to go with the Courses Namespace, we hoped that it will be possible to maintain the flat structure of the wiki while somehow keep things simple for instructor to build linear and hierarchical course content. It turned out to be quite a challenge – we opted for creating standalone Courses Namespace instead, space that allows subpages and that will have its own search and set of extensions to export, print or republish course material.
  • Documentation
    Documentation space is very similar in architecture to the course space. It will support subpages and allow users to build linear and hierarchical documentation, support and training materials.
  • Yet-to-be-named space (Notebook, Test or whatever?…)
    To keep things from going completely wide and in lack of proper gardener or policeman, we decided to create a Namepace where people could do pretty much anything without worrying that their page will be deleted because it doesn’t comply with wiki etiquette. Planning a party, developing a thesis, testing extensions or just showing what wiki can do – please use Notebook.

So where from here?

While it seems that we do have some valid ideas, technology seems pretty straight-forward, and it can only get better and easier to work with. On the other hand, we have yet to come with right strategies to get people interested in this, show potential and get the buy-in.
Only then we could really say that we have actually  accomplished something.

LEAP website launched

by on August 27, 2009

We finally launched the LEAP website last Friday. I just want to mention that we used the Hybrid theme (http://themehybrid.com/) as a framework for building this website and it is a very powerful.  Have a look at it and let me know how we can improve it better.

Recently we got a small request to add a header image to the thesis theme. Curretly there is no option to add this to the thesis theme we are using right now. And since we don’t allow our user to make changes to theme files for security, stability and other good reasons.

However, there is a workaround, thesis allows you to place html into the footer of every page.
In case you need to add scripts to your footer (like Google Analytics tracking code).

You can use the textarea to create a header using css. The textarea can be found in the thesis options page.
thesis theme footer textarea

Here is the HTML/CSS that I am using in my case.

<style>
#container{
 padding-top:120px;
 background: url(http://blogs.ubc.ca/enej/files/2009/08/home.png) no-repeat 0 28px;
}
</style>

Seems like whenever you come back from a vacation there is something new being discussed that rocks your world. This time for it’s the PubSubHubbub protocol developed by Google Engineers.

A simple, open, server-to-server web-hook-based pubsub (publish/subscribe) protocol as an extension to Atom (and RSS).

Parties (servers) speaking the PubSubHubbub protocol can get near-instant notifications (via webhook callbacks) when a topic (feed URL) they’re interested in is updated.

The thing I like about this is in a “Feed WordPress” scenario. Instead of polling the same system a Hub Server could be polled taking some of the strain of the publishing WPMU server and also allowing faster content updates… I think Feed WordPress would need some changes but seems doable.

There is already a WordPress Plugin that supports the protocol…

PubSubHubbub Demo – Real-Time CrunchUp

Clam
upper valve)

W = 300
D = 0
T = 0.1
S = 2

Section Widget

by on July 10, 2009

It is not often that I feel completely pleased about the work that team I work with or myself have finished. There is always a bit of “well, this could be done better”, or “we should have…”.

But after our final testing and publishing of Section Widget to WordPress Plugin Directory, my heart is full.

Yes, some of “well, this could be done better”, and “we should have…” still exist, but I am absolutely pleased and I see enormous potential on how this widget can continue to grow and change the way we think of the WordPress as the Content Management System (hint: next version will enable custom fields management). Special credit goes to our fantastic co-op student Godfrey Chan, for making things happen in hours rather than weeks, while maintaining out-of-this-world quality of code.

Please learn about it, download it and enjoy it!

What is a browser?

by on July 10, 2009

via Jaanus Kase

Timber PHP debugging in WordPress

by on June 24, 2009

Stumbled upon Blurbia and interesting WordPress development company that is doing some pretty solid work.

Timber
http://www.blurbia.com/plugins/timber/

Timber is intended primarily as a developer’s tool, to be enabled in a sandbox environment while debugging plugins or themes in-progress. However, it also has potential in a production setting, as a way to hide errors from the end-user while still logging them for administrator review. The configuration settings allow for precise control of what type of errors and what error information is logged, so it can be deployed in varying scenarios without runaway logs filling the database.

Synected
http://www.blurbia.com/plugins/synected/

Synected enables shortened URL creation on your own blog. Rather than relying on services such as tinyurl.com or bit.ly, Synected lets you easily create and use short links based off your own domain. This releases you from dependence on a third party — a server error on tinyurl no longer prevents visitors from reaching your site. In addition, it strengthens your brand, keeping your domain name in view of your audience even on Twitter and other micro-communication platforms.

These guys develop some pretty tight themes also:
http://demo.blurbia.com/melora/ Fully customizable. With sites like this, plus the other framework themes we are getting very close to not having to design themes anymore… which is great because you will be able to role out a site in a day vs weeks.

WordPress Memory Usage

by on June 18, 2009

WP Engineer has great post on WordPress and memory usage. Many users load up every plugin under the sun and do not understand that all though these plugins seem to be lightweight they can easily consume all of your PHP memory if your PHP max_memory settings are too low (which they often are with webhosts).mem_usage

The two plugins mentioned in the WP-Memory-Usage by Alex Rabe and the even more detailed WP-System-Health by Heiko Rabe. Both work checking out to see if your blogs are getting close to maxing out on the php memory limits.

Blog more

by on May 26, 2009

My blog looks empty… Ok I should really start blogging more.  :p