Archive for May, 2009

Goals for May & June

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

May was the extension month, and my goal was to implement all the necessary extensions for WikiStudent. Here is a list of the ones I’ve tested on the live server so far:

  1. Sitemap (to create an XML sitemap for search engines)
  2. Category Tag Cloud (to display subject names on the home page in tag cloud format)
  3. Polls (to show PollDaddy polls on the module pages)
  4. SimpleFeed (for the student jobs pages)
  5. NewsFeed (to display the most recently edited module pages on the home page)
  6. Tree & Menu (for the persistent left-hand navigation)
  7. Breadcrumbs (to show “where am I?” at the top of every page)
  8. Google Maps (to display a satellite map of Unisa on the home page)
  9. Include (to display pictures of textbooks, which are wrapped in iframes)

There are still a couple more I’d like to use. I believe that when the site is finished it will use about a dozen more extensions. At least the most important ones have been finalised!

June will be the testing month, where I ask users to test the site and make necessary changes. I also want to get the editing help / documentation completed. Lots and lots of work!

The perfect menu tree

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

I came across a brilliant collapsable menu tree, for the left-hand persistent navigation. It’s called TreeAndMenu and here is a screenshot of what it looks like on another wiki:


When you click on the ‘+’ next to a folder, it expands to show you the pages included. On WikiStudent, I’m going to have categories as folders, and pages within those categories beneath them.

I’ve installed this extension already, but still need to take care of the styling, and make the items expandable / collapsable. A quick preview of what it looks like at the moment:


So, in the above example, “PLS” will have a folder icon, and expanding it will reveal the page “PLS102Y”, which you click on to get to the page. Nice, don’t you think?

Calendar dilemma

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Gee, I’m really battling to find a suitable MediaWiki calendar extension for the exams section of the module pages.

There are so many calendar extensions, which all work in different ways, and the ones I’ve tried out either display a huge calendar in its own page (and require a special calendar namespace) or have dates that, when clicked, take you to an article, which is not at all what I want.

Here’s what I want: I need a mini calendar widget-like thing, displaying only one month, with the date of an exam highlighted. It must also be easily editable so that a student can fill in the date of the exam for a module, save the page, and be done.

Will keep looking and experimenting…

Bloggers = Editors?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The home page is actually almost complete! Just one more extension to go. Or maybe two… Here’s an idea I’ve just come up with:

After working on the news feed and student jobs feed, and after wondering how to fill up the empty space at the bottom of the home page, I was thinking it might be nice to have a feed of links to recent blog posts by WikiStudent editors.

If you think about it, Unisa students who blog are writers, and more likely to become editors for WikiStudent. In return for their contributions to the site, it might be a nice gesture to link to their blogs from the home page? Maybe something like the latest post from 5 different WS bloggers…

This means that in the sign-up form I’ll have to include a question: “Do you have a blog?” and if you answer yes, I’ll have to ask if you want it to appear in the home page feed. The home page gets an enormous amount of hits. There will be a hit counter - it comes by default with MediaWiki, though Wikipedia hide theirs - so you will have an idea of how many click-throughs you might get.

News feed

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Last night I implemented the MediaWiki News extension. In short, this displays a mini-feed of the most recent wiki edits on the home page. (I’ve limited it to only pages categorised under “Unisa Modules”, only the 15 most recent modules, and only non-minor edits).

This is what it looks like:

news feed

I think it is important for the following reasons:

  1. It shows which modules have been recently updated and are worth visiting.
  2. The date stamp shows first-time visitors that the site is ‘alive’ and current.
  3. It provides a means for jumping straight to a module page, and is therefore the quickest way to get where you want to be.