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September 27th, 2008:

Exploring UMW’s Online Presence, part 2: How it works

The starting point for all the data going into the datastore for the Exhibits is the feeds that the blogs produce. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that I’ve punted the problem of interoperability with new web tools. We edupunks are constantly discovering and incorporating new tools for expressing UMW’s intellectual products. To try to directly interoperate with each new thing that comes along would be impossible. But I can fairly safely count on being able to get a feed out of most any new thing that comes along. The disadvantage is the relative weak expressiveness of feeds. There’s a good amount of information that gets obscured in the feeds. I decided to just work around that as best I can.

The starting point is the information from just because that’s where the majority of a action is. UMWBlogs produces a feed of all the new posts. I’m looking at that feed just to find the newest posts. Then, using a tool for feed reading called Simple Pie, I’m finding the feeds for the blog of those posts. That lets me move through all the newest posts and discover all the other posts listed within that blog’s feed (though right now there are hiccups for some feeds).

Then I’m looking through the information in the feed to gather as much information as I can. I’m grabbing information about publication and modification time, links, authors, tags, images, and embedded media, among some other things. That all gets dumped into a big ol’ datastore using a tool called ARC.

The Exhibits that make the actual display of information are produced with some relatively straightforward work with Exhibit from MIT’s SIMILE project.

And ta-daa! That’s all there is.

Well, there’s a little more to it, technically speaking. Posts about that will be coming along at my other blog.

Exploring UMW’s Online Presence, part 1: What it looks like

I’ve built the displays using the ever-more outstanding Exhibit ( see also )web app from SIMILE at MIT.  Right now, I’m still using the default style, which looks a little like this example from the Bloggers Exhibit.

The red underline signals that when you click it, additional info will come up, like this:

This expands out the information available and where you could go.

But sa you browse through things, there is another aspect that work in tandem with the popups — facets. Facets provide versatile ways of filtering data to hone in on exactly what you are interested in at the moment. Depending on the kind of information you are looking at, I’ve offered up some facets to let you focus on a particular blog, or a particular blogger, or a particular post.  Here’s an example:

There’s a blogger cloud (a list of blogger names, highlighted by how oftern they appear in the page’s data), Post title and Blog title.  Click on one, and it filters the results on the page to just that one.  When you start filtering using the facets, you can also expand back out by using the checkboxes.  This setting will show data about both posts.  Notice that the other facets also trimmed down to only the ones relevant to the checked posts.

The possibilities for views on the info and for the facets are pretty broad–I’ll be working with lots of people on the information architecture as we go along.