New “bits” for iblogs: Fall 2007

August may have been especially cool, but my skills with code are getting hotter.

Most changes recently have been to enhance the php/xml/ajax/css and html code running the iblog site. I’m becoming quite familiar with the code that drives the iblogs and have been optimizing as much as I can recently.

The Write Post page has been cleaned up, uploads, random ideas, and previews are now options that remain hidden till clicked. The microcontent templates have been revised to look and feel like normal posts when editing. Movie/Album/Book reviews have received the bulk of my attention. Sadly, I accidently hosed the Video Game review template. I’ll create it again soon. Critical Thinking prompts have been moved to the edit post sidebar. I’m learning how to parse xml with java so more xml enabled sites can be searched – when I have the time to work it out. For now I’m happy to troll Hubmed and Amazon’s vast database safely. I’d like to add a citation/bibliography-type lookup script for texts(something like footnotes/endnotes/bibliography for bloggers . . . but very “automagic.”)

A couple new feature to check out, a My Friends page and a My Comments page. Dashboard->My Friends: add any user from iBlogs.stjschool and their recent posts aggregate right there. A better way to keep track of your favorite bloggers. Ask in the forums for how to add the aggregator to a page or post. The My Friends sidebar widget is modeled after the RSS widget. Only posts in a Friends category will be aggregated, though.

Use the My Comments page to automatically track your recent comments and trackbacks you’ve sent to anyone else’s blog. I haven’t given this script a thorough test drive yet, but in my early testing it tracks comments and trackbacks for 30 days after submission. It tags all new comments in a new table in the database for muck quicker retrieval. However, . . .

I’ve also put in place more rigorous spam detectors to stop comment and trackback spam. If you notice legitimate comments and trackbacks gone missing, let me know as I have new SiteAdmin pages to account for lost trackbacks and rejected spam comments. Anyone trying to fight off spam can appreciate the seemiling ridiculous balance between rejecting spam and turfing valid comments by mistake. The better the spam blaster, the more legitimate comments die, too. Oh, well. Patience.

I’ve upgraded the WPG2 (STJ gallery integration) to a “beta” version. The gallery is in a lighter scheme to look nicer in more blog themes. Large images still “blow-out” a page with narrow inflexible columns, though. Not too many themes work perfectly. There are clever ways to “shim” the css of most themes to fix these blow-outs. Post your needs and fixes in the forums when you find them. The Insert Image editor buttons are still somewhat flaky, I find. Every STJ image can have a “Lightbox” effect automatically, however.

I’ve written more privacy options for those who want their blogs less aaccessible. There is also a “three comment maximum comment per post” plugin that should make it easier to get even a forgotten post a comment. Once a post receives it’s third comment the discussion is automatically closed. Useful for those who have ever seen one of there posts with 10-12 comments while other posts go unnoticed.

Each blog has it’s own search, and now the search includes posts and pages (a fix for one of my peeves . .. I have a ton of pages).

As well, the Search on the main iBlog page is a now site-wide search of all posts and all pages from every “public” blog. VERY cool search tool.

I’ve added code for a mechanism in my Admin pages to better manage who sees certain plugins, themes, code editors. Some users are ready to become more adept “premium” users as they develop skills to code their own pages and functions. I’d like to encourage this level of code development as much as I can. But I’m sure you can appreciate how risky it is to allow just anyone to start “massaging” code we all have to share. There are many skills that can be learned that are in very high demand, though.

If you know of a blog community feature we should have, let me know. Post ideas with links to examples in the forums.

D. Sader.

PS I forgot, look for something called Widgetbox under Presentation–>Widgets. Try it. Endless “bling” for your blog sidebar. Lots of tacky tools, though. Give it a try before I change my mind and get rid of it.

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