Content Management Systems (CMS)

As we all know, the comments section of many sites is simply an open sewer.
 

We don't have the time or desire to continue monitoring that crap moving forward. Besides, there are plenty of other ways for you to publicly discuss our work and the personal worth of our staff. We'll still be reading your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and we legitimately do enjoy getting IRL mail (no bombs) sent to our offices in Brooklyn.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/were-getting-rid-of-comments-on-vice

If you're selling valuable web development services, here's an analogy your prospects may understand.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-much-does-website-cost-jonathan-hinshaw

Here's a great guide to tagging your content to optimize presentation on FB, LinkedIn and Twitter: 
"As social media platforms continue to become a dominant traffic source for your content, it becomes even more important to put in the small amount of additional effort to ensure your story can connect with each audience. Through the proper use of metadata, you can easily achieve this goal with your existing content as well as make this a part of your editorial process moving forward."

Bonus: this is quite easy with Drupal and the Metatag module.

https://www.newmediadenver.com/blog/using-html-meta-tags-to-tailor-your-story

Google announced earlier this year that they will begin counting the availability of service over the https protocol on sites as a positive factor for page rank.
Several clients have expressed concern over moving their Drupal sites to https. Drupal has no issues with this, and generally work fine over either protocol; but there's some confusion over broader issues of search, link juice, etc. and how 301s and 302s should be handled. Here's a good summary of the common questions:
https://plus.google.com/+JohnMueller/posts/PY1xCWbeDVC

In the longer term, client-side frameworks like Ember will allow us to build web applications which compete with and even exceed native applications with regard to perceived performance, built-in interactions, and a better developer experience. But these frameworks will also enrich interactions between web applications and device hardware, potentially allowing them to react to pinch-and-zoom, issue native push notifications, and even interact with lower-level devices.

http://buytaert.net/can-drupal-outdo-native-applications

The basics - and even advanced aspects - of SEO are so ordinary for Drupal site builders that sometimes we forget what an advantage Drupal affords us. While site owners still need to think about content quality, metadata and search terms, creating a high-rankable site is a matter of course for Drupal developers.

Here's a brief look at MediaCurrent's SEO work for a client, which also serves as a simple how-to for site builders focusing on SEO in a Drupal environment.

http://www.mediacurrent.com/blog/drupal-seo-win

MarsEdit3Icon256

For several years, I've been using and recommending the excellent Mars Edit for folks who want to write blog posts offline for later uploading.

There are several reasons for people to want to do this - for one thing you can work on several articles at once, without having to flip between browser tabs. Also the better offline editors have good media management, allowing the user to upload images from the desktop easily, and in some cases even pull from iPhoto, or from previously published stories, without breaking the flow of writing. Even the best WYSIWYG editors that work in-browser can't quite match the ease of use and basic unobtrusiveness of a good offline editor.

One user has also points out that she feels safer having a local copy of her posts available as backup, or in case she wants to pull a bunch of posts together for a story collection or a book.

In any case, offline editors are popular, and Mars Edit is one of the best (Mac only, sorry).

So when I recently updated this site to Drupal 7, I figured everything would Just Work, as they say - silly me. There are some configuration issues on the Drupal side that have kept me busy today - nothing that was Mars Edit's fault. It all comes down to setting up BlogAPI correctly.

Just by way of background: Drupal requires the addition of the BlogAPI module in order to provide a web service that allows remote posting in the manner we're looking for here. BlogAPI will accept POST methods, authenticate the user, parse the provided xml, and create or update the node for you. It will also accept images and put them in the Drupal file hierarchy, so that they can be referenced by your post. However, these images need to be encoded as text, because of the xml-based conversation that it's having with the remote client.

Drupal uses the Movable Type API, which is quite well supported generally, and Mars Edit is smart enough to know that - so that when you set up your blog account in Mars Edit for the first time, it generally gets the settings correct.

There are a few gotchas though, and as I spent a good few hours on this, I thought I'd share:

Firstly, you need to get BlogAPI installed. Install it as you would any other Drupal module, but be sure to turn on the supporting API providers - MetaWeblog and Movable Type - in the Modules list. Apparently we need both, as some key functions seem to reside in MetaWeblog.

Next, be sure to grant permissions. This may seem obvious, but I spent a frustrating hour trying to post images as the superuser, and failing. Even if your account is UID=1, you'll still need to create a role, add yourself to it, and give it perms for BlogAPI. If you don't, you'll be able to post text just fine, but BlogAPI will refuse your images, because you won't have a valid file upload limit.

If you'd like to be able to push posts up in Draft (unpublished) status, you'll need "Administer Content" perms as well - grant that to your role, again even if you're user #1.

Finally, if you're getting complaints about the SQL schema, as I was, just uninstall BlogAPI (that means uninstalling the providers first - and I do mean uninstall at /admin/modules/uninstall, not just "turn off"). Turn BlogAPI back on again, and it will re-make the database tables it needs. You will then have to reactive the providers, and set everything up again at /admin/config/services/blogapi. I think this may have something to do with the update - perhaps the BlogAPI updater doesn't quite handle the jump from D6 to D7. Anyhow reinstalling solved it for me.

CGSHR Homepage

The new site for
The Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
had its "soft-launch" yesterday. The site is live and usable, but the owners still have a few things they'd like to tweak.
Little do they know, web sites are never really finished - so for all intents and purposes, this is the real thing.

Probably the most interesting part of the project from my point of view was the heavy customization of Apache Solr search results, and the whole search experience. This was mostly accomplished via templates in the site's theme. I'll share a few details in case anyone's interested.

To begin with, this is a Drupal site - specifically D7. The owners had an initial design and a sort of prototype site built by a previous developer in D7, which they handed off to me. That work was done cleanly and competently, but it was clear the client wanted to go so much further than the original builder was prepared to go. I'm not sure what transpired, though I did have a friendly chat with them, but in any case they were out of the picture by the time I got involved.

When I received the site, the first thing I did was to stage it on my Drupion server. Drupion are like family to me, and I've trusted them to help me grow my Drupal business, so it was an easy pick. When the client agreed to host with me for production, that made the decision that much more rational.

Drupion got Solr and Tika set up right away. Solr is a much more powerful search tool than the built-in Drupal search, capable of handling a very large number of indexable items. More info on that here. It runs as a separate server process, and needs about half a Gig of RAM. Tika is an add-on to Solr, which allows searching inside documents such as Word, PDF and other files that are not normally presentable on the web. The client has quite a number of academic research papers and other documents in these formats, so the ability to search inside them was essential.

Once Solr was running and had started indexing the site's content, we looked at what Facets to use for searches. Facets are basically filters - they allow you to limit searches to, say, one content type, or a particular taxonomy term.

Solr_Search

Above, you can see the some of the facets for the overall site search Here we've searched for "Gender" - a term guaranteed to return lots of results on this site.

On the left are check boxes that allow the user to narrow down the search to a particular Country, Region, etc. There's also a facet for Content type. On this site, content types mostly correspond to the type of document or media being shown - Citations, Research, Films, etc.
But you can restrict your search to one content type equally well by using the tabs along the top of the main content area - Films, Lectures, etc.
Clicking one of these will retain the same search terms, but narrow your results down to a single content type (if you want to search 2 content types, you'll have to use the checkboxes on the "All" tab).

In order to get these individual tabs implemented, I set up a separate search environment for each of the key content types. This allowed me to set facets and Bias for each (which we may want to leverage later).

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 07 15 PM

Next, I made pages for each content type. Each Page has its own title, and most of them (except "All") are limited to a particular Bundle (bundles are essentially content types, at the machine level. Check out D7's Entity system for more info). Because they all have paths that look like /search/--bundle--, they're showing up as tabs on the /search page. Neat :-)

Screen Shot 2014 03 27 at 2 09 53 PM

In my next post I'll show how Facet blocks are set up, and talk about theming the search results. Finally, I'll show some of the Views on the site, which offer more of a browsing experience, which I think complements the Search pages nicely.


Link

06E64D91-969C-4E19-9090-0597ACA46B44.jpg
Google Docs will soon be supporting uploads of up to 250MB, in all file types.
Google's Docs and Wave products are starting to look like a real collaboration solution, especially for loosely allied or ad-hoc teams which may not have any need for a real infrastructure of their own (I work with a shifting coalition of collaborators, in just such a scenario).
Does that mean that workflow or asset management within an organization is no longer necessary? I don't think so - I see Google as a better solution at the fringes, where organizations interact, and where the greatest communications difficulties typically are.

In other news, YouSendIt is looking a little green around the gills...

Google release