HASTAC Features

I’m very proud of some work I’ve been doing on the Drupal site that I manage at work.  Here’s a blog post I wrote about some of the newest features:

Today I am excited to officially launch several new features on the HASTAC web site, including Collections, Similar Content, Knowledge Base, and more. I think these additions will do a lot to help people connect with and utilize the rich and deep content of the site.

Collections (beta!)

Digital Badges collectionThe culmination of two months of very hard work, HASTAC Collections is a beta feature of our site that brings together content from across the site in a hand-curated list of posts which can be viewed in a large tiled display (at right), or in a multifunction list view (below left). Collections are not limited to highlighting hastac.org content, links to other sites are highlighted with yellow buttons. When viewing as a list, users can sort and filter the collection by type of content, topics and tags, and keywords in the title or body.

Digital badges collection listI invite you to check out our two inaugural collections, Digital Badges and MOOC HQ, and look for more soon. The staff are using and testing this feature now, and we hope to be able to expand it to more HASTAC members later this year. (It will require additional programming and may even result in a new module that we can contribute back to the Drupal community. As a result it will take considerable time.)

Visitors can browse our Collections by visiting the Topics landng page.

Similar Content

Similar Content

When looking at any content on the site you will now see a list of posts that may be about similar topics. It is generated by an algorithm based on the title, tags, and topics of the post. (See example at right.) If your post doesn’t seem to be generating revelant content, try adding more tags. These are the best way to tell the site what you are talking about and to properly connect related ideas.

Knowledge Base

The Help pages of our site have been in place since 2011, but don’t get much attention. We have now moved them into a proper knowledge page, and added a Frequently Asked Questions section. You can also use the Contact Support link there to create a ticket when you need personal assistance. This is being combined with our existing site feedback tool (see tab in lower right of your browser) which allows users to suggest and vote on improvements for the site.

Knowledge Base

Other goodies

tag cloud

I have also uncovered or enabled a few other goodies on the site that members might enjoy.

  • Get Random is a button you can find on the Recent Content page (linked to from the Recent Content column on the front page) that will let you trip back through 9 years of HASTAC community content, 20 randomly-selected posts at a time.
  • Two great ways to see what’s happening on HASTAC right now are the Tracker (a list of content sorted by latest comments and newest publication) and the Heartbeat (a stream of activity including new posts, comments, relationships, and users).
  • The site-wide Tag Cloud is exactly what it sounds like!

I hope you enjoy all these new features. If you have more ideas for improving the site (and I know you do) please fill out our Usability Survey (it only takes 5 minutes) and post your suggestions in our Feedback forum. Thanks for your engagement, it’s what makes HASTAC great.

It’s alive: the new hastac.org!

In the fall of 2010 I wrote about the intensive planning process I led at HASTAC, resulting in a request for proposals that was lauded as visionary by some, and crazy by others. I managed the development process working closely with expert Drupal developers for over 6 months, and in the summer of 2011 we launched the new site!

hastac screenshot 2011

 

For posterity, you can browse the post-launch site at https://web.archive.org/web/20110808142221/http://hastac.org/

The new HASTAC.org is taking shape

alphaThis week I have been in geek heaven. Along with the rest of the Duke-based HASTAC staff, I have been testing the alpha version of our new site, and we’re thrilled with how it’s coming along. We expect the new site to launch by early July.

We have been working to improve and then replace this web site almost since I started working at HASTAC two years ago. Late last year, we put out the call for developers to help up build a new site, and we hired a wonderful group called Message Agency who were ready to engage this formidable task.

The new site will be built on Drupal, just as this current one is, but it utilizes the community architecture of Drupal Commons, which I like to describe as a bit like an open source Ning on steroids.  I hope to be writing a lot more about the new site in the next few months, but right now I’ll tell you about two of the biggest improvements:

The site will be organized around groups which can be created by any HASTAC member as wella s official groups for HASTAC programs such as the Digital Media and Learning Competition and HASTAC Scholars. Groups allow people to self-organize to share information and collaborate on a variety of different types on content, including wiki pages.

The new HASTAC.org will also have site-wide categories so that you can search our vast archive of content by your own interests and research areas. I’m still concerned about how we will get our approximately 5,000 nodes (units of content in Drupal) into the proper categories, but we will be working with our developer to figure this out as part of the migration process.

Cross posted at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/ruby-sinreich/hastac-40-taking-shape

Doctorow on the politics of technology choices

One of the nice things about my job is that I get to write blog posts like this. Cross-posted below.

I just read a great piece by author/activist Cory Doctorow on what he calls “Techno-Optimism” in Locus Magazine. He addresses a question that is often confronted by those of us who aspire to somehow use technology as a tool for social change: does the tool matter, or just the results? For example, if it’s easier to reach your target audience of young people who care about software freedom via Facebook, does the end justify the means? Or should we hold ourselves to a more idealistic standard and use an open source tool that lacks the critical mass of users?

In other words:

As a techno-optimist, I was heartened to see the role that networked technologies played in aiding activists in Iran, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and other middle-eastern autocracies to coordinate with one another. But as a techno-pessimist, I was horrified to see activists making use of unsecured unfit systems like Facebook, which make it trivial for authorities to snoop on and unpick the structure of activist organizations.

Doctorow concludes:

The trick for technology activists is to help activists who use technology to appreciate the hidden risks and help them find or make better tools. That is, to be pessimists and optimists: without expert collaboration, activists might put themselves at risk with poor technology choices; with collaboration, activists can use technology to outmaneuver autocrats, totalitarians, and thugs.

As I like to say: the path IS the destination. How you get there is every bit as important as where you go. I already use a lot of open source software such as Drupal (this site’s platform), Firefox and Thunderbird (which I couldn’t work without), and Ubuntu (on my personal computers at home). I’m going to redouble my efforts to support software and systems that themselves support my own (and HASTAC’s) values of freedom, democracy, and security.

Read the full article at http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2011/05/cory-doctorow-techno-optimism/

Delivering more than an RFP

site map v1

I feel a little like I just gave birth to another baby, but thank goodness it took less than 9 months to gestate and was a lot less painful to deliver!

Less than one year after starting my job at HASTAC and then immediately overseeing the re-launch of hastac.org, I realized that our site would have to be re-built entirely from scratch. I spent this summer working with my colleagues to create a clearer vision and a plan for a complete overhaul of the site. Here’s the request for proposals: http://www.hastac.org/drupal-rfp-2010. I’m really proud of this document as it shows a solid foundation, a forward-thinking vision, and a practical strategy for how to make best use of our great ideas, the Drupal platform, and a brilliant and engaged community of members.

HASTAC Director Cathy Davidson is a deep and complex thinker. Here’s some of what she had to say about the RFP on her blog today:

If you are not a programmer but are interested in how you build up a successful virtual organization, a network of networks, the rfp is a lot more interesting than you might think. It’s not just about half a million page views a year (although we’re proud enough of that!), it is about how a distributed, collaborative team converges into a virtual site and ends up with a whole greater than the sum of many, many, MANY disparate parts. VC’s out there, listen up! There are lessons here.

Ruby’s method was fascinating. I’ve been involved with building three previous websites and no one has organized our group meetings towards the rfp conceptually before. I was skeptical at first, although I loved the conversations we generated from talking about what we envisioned for HASTAC and how we saw the website as the one portal through which you could extend outward through the network, and reach inward too, bringing what ever you and your institution had to offer back to the site where it would likely receive more attention than it could on its own.

It turned out (I’m not sure we would have found this out any other way) that we all possessed different kinds of gifts when asked to conceptualize a virtual network. Fiona Barnett, Director of the HASTAC Scholars, turns out to be a genius at formulating precise kinds of audiences and how they might or might not be best represented or welcomed to the site (yes, we’ve always known Fiona’s a genius but this was yet another manifestation). I tend to be a “both/and” kinda gal, so found myself over and over saying, well, it’s one kind of Venn diagram if you think about it this way, but it’s this other kind when you think . . . This can make developers crazy but Ruby somehow managed to capture the key point that we need FLEXIBILITY AND SIMPLICITY more than anything else.

So that’s the process on the way to Ruby’s eloquent, elegant, and detailed rfp.

– http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/what-exactly-network-networks

Now that I’ve crossed that finish line, I’m going on vacation with my family for two weeks. When I get back I’ll be gearing up for the next race: actually managing the creation of our new web site.

UPDATE: Download the RFP as a PDF (5 MB).

Incompetence defined?

I’m removing any identifying information (at least for now) to protect the guilty, but I just need to vent about what a frustrating experience I am having with one of the many people that is working on one of the many Drupal sites that I am currently responsible for. I have been asking for RSS feeds to be enabled for months. I recently got a message saying that this was done and to view an example post on the test site. Below is the actual reply that I had to write in response.

____, this does not work at all. For example, on the link you sent, the RSS icon links the ENTIRE SITE’S BLOG feed instead of the feed for THAT POST, and if you go to that blogger’s archive, there are two feed icons (one next to each blog entry) linking to the feed for the ENTIRE SITE’S FORUMS, when that page should have ONE icon at the bottom with a link to THAT BLOGGER’s feed.

All I want it to do is the default Drupal behavior!

Sometimes I’m amazed that I even have words to explain that I want X to function as X. How am I even explaining this to someone who gets paid to make web sites?