New features - Web Links and Galleries!

Posted by roi-admin |

Hi everyone! I have added two new features to our site that I think would be useful. Although at present there is less than ideal participation by residents in the existing functionalities of the site (if you are reading this, you are not one of them :o)), I am doing this with a bit of foresight into the distant (near?) future when an increasing number of community residents would make online participation, the norm. Below is an overview of the new features.

Web Links:
The Resources section / page that was hanging around our site is being replaced with a more flexible, modular and much better Web Links section. The Resources page (that was accessed through the old RESOURCES menu item on the main menu) was a long, single page article that I had created in a hurry to collect links and contacts useful to the community. Due to the complexity of adding entries, only I was able to add a new resource to this page. In contrast, the Web Links content type enables permitted users to add their own entries that will then be displayed on the Web Links section (accessed from the revamped RESOURCES menu item on the main menu). It is also more flexible in that either websites or individuals with their contact info. can be added to the page. Look at some of the entries in that section, many of which have moved over from the old page, and you'll see what I am talking about. My intention is to have a single, centralized source or a community-wide Address Book where we can store links and contacts useful to us as a community.

Have a lawn mower? no, not that one….:o)… I mean the guy (or the gal) behind the machine! he takes such loving care of your lawn so you want to recommend him to the community? Feel free - Web Links is the place to post such things! On the other hand, adding webpage links of such commonplace and easily known entities (think Comcast, AT&T etc.) isn't generally recommended, for obvious reasons. But I am sure you guys knew that… :o) I've made an exception to this not-so-rigid rule by including Light Rail / SacRT. While people living in the community obviously know about Light Rail / SacRT (it's within visible distance!) it would be nice, I thought, to have a source of information for SacRT especially for new residents who may not be familiar with the schedules, routes and workings of the Light Rail / SacRT system.

When entries get to be a few hundred, how do we focus / narrow down to the entries of interest? Ah! thought you'd ask! There is a "tagging" feature whereby, during the creation of the Web Link entry, the entry is tagged with descriptive keywords. The keywords show up on the Web Links display page in the form of a "tag cloud". Clicking on a given tag shows only the entries tagged with those keywords. The larger the text size of the tag, the more entries it has! Tagging content is one well known way of classifying large amounts of data. It has its drawbacks but it is useful. The advantage is that since the entries are tagged with words describing the entity and since all tags are displayed for you to pick from, it becomes easier to look at the whole tag cloud, pick a word that closely resembles the description of a piece of content you are looking for and find it! Of course, there is also the sit's search feature (which searches the entire site). If you search the site by a keyword that happens to exist anywhere in the Web Link you can find it that way. You can use either method or use both - have fun! But the tag cloud is specific to Web Links.

Since a Web Link may contain personal contact info. esp. of individuals, I have elected to keep Web Links private so authentication / login is required to view the links / entries. This is a departure from the old Resources page which was open to anonymous visitors.

Galleries:
I always had this "hmmm…" question: "What if we wanted to share pictures of events or what if someone wanted to share a photo or two of their cute pet? hmmm…." Well now it can be done - thanks to the Galleries feature! Photos can be uploaded to the site (optionally they will be further grouped into individual galleries - so navigation becomes easier). While viewing the photos, clicking on the thumbnail of an image will start a cool overlaid slideshow! - check it out! It's nice way to view larger images without leaving the thumbnails page in the gallery. Only a single image can be uploaded at a time. This is by design and intended to discourage large number of high resolution images being simultaneously uploaded by unfamiliar users. But it's really easy and fast so uploading even a half a dozen photos or more isn't really inconvenient.

Galleries are private so authentication / login is required to view the galleries. We can discuss if galleries should be made public or be kept private. Let me know what you guys think.

Also in the news…
Since the COMMUNITY menu item in the main menu was getting heavier and longer with all the submenus corresponding to pretty much all the features / content types at the site and now these two new features were about to be tacked on it, it was time to reorganize the COMMUNITY menu. My original intention was to lump together all the features / items that required a login, under the COMMUNITY menu. Well that didn't last long did it?! So I have moved things around a bit while doing the best to keep things still meaningful and easy to access. I have also done the reorganization with any feature additions in the foreseeable future in mind. Generally I have tried to move all of the interactive features to the INTERACT menu and the rest to the RESOURCES menu. Interactive in this context meaning also in the figurative sense as in the case of Galleries where there is not the typical interaction as in the Discussion Forums but nonetheless we are visually interacting with the community - talk about stretching the meaning eh, eh!! Besides I had to group the submenus into as few menu items as possible and give the group a meaningful name.

Enjoy!