The RSS & JavaScript Cookbook

Meredith Farkas & Paul Pival gave a fun presentation on RSS (something I use tons of) & JS (something I don’t use much of).

Using JS and RSS Paul & Meredith showed us how to create a dynamic subject page for your library site. The problem with traditional subject pages is that they aren’t updated often, they’re not easy to update (HTML required), and since no field is static a static page isn’t the right solution. Why not use some of the tools mentioned to create a dynamic page that pulls news, journal updates, and new books from RSS feeds? You can even mix together RSS feeds into one consolidated feed using RSS Mix (doesn’t show the source), KickRSS (registration required), or FeedBlendr (shows the source & no registration).

Another suggestion from Meredith – if you don’t have access to edit your library’s website easily, why not create a blog and put the updates there – then use JS to pull in the RSS feed to your subject guide – that means the webmaster only has to update the page once (to add the JS code) and then you can make updates whenever you want. This works great for people with locked down servers and websites.

One last tool lets you add an RSS feed reader widget on your site. Grazr imports an OPML and lets you put the reader right on your website. Meredith used my IL2006 OPML as an example!

Up until now I have been using PHP to parse RSS feeds for our intranet – I’m going in to work on Monday to switch to JS. Meredith & Paul have provided a nice long list of tools here on their wiki.

Technorati Tags: ,

Design for Firefox First

There is an interesting post on the About Web Design site.

Since Internet Explorer is one of the most popular Web browsers out there right now, many designers are designing their Web pages for it. Of course, there is also the desire to design your Web pages for the standards compliant browsers like Firefox, Safari, and Opera, but chances are you are going about your design methodology backwards to how it can be most efficiently done. In a nutshell – leave IE until last.

I’ll admit I have sort of lost my design roots – I am much more about database development now – but we’re going to be redesigning our library site sometime soon and I’m glad I read this article.

Weaving the Web

I went to the library to return The Visible Librarian and I was going to check out The Invisible Web – but after picking it up off of the shelf I saw Weaving the Web and just had to change my mind.

Weaving the Web is written by Tim Bernes-Lee the sub-title reads “The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor”.

I was a little worried about reading a book written by an engineer – I thought it would be more technical than I wanted – but this book is great! I can’t seem to put it down. It’s a little hard to read when he talks about programs and machines that were before my time – but other than that – I highly recommend this book – and I’m only 1/2 way through.

The part I like the best so far? That a librarian is responsible for the web making it’s way out of Berners-Lee’s workplace (CERN) – Louise Addis of Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC).

She saw [the web] as a godsend for their rather sophisticated but mainframe-bound library system, and a way to make SLAC’s substantial internal catalogue of online documents available to physicists worldwide. Louise persuaded a colleague who developed open tools for her to write the appropriate program, and under Louise’s encouragement SLAC started the first Web server outside of CERN.

(Quote from Pg 45-46.)

How cool is that?? If you’re interested in the history of the web get out there and find a copy of this book.

The Visible Librarian

I went to the library with my husband the other day and was just browsing around (not easy – but that’s another discussion) and found The Visible Librarian. I’m almost finished reading and it was well worth borrowing! Judith Siess agrees with what I’ve been saying all along (although it looks like she said it first).

The primary selling point of a website is its content. We librarians are the experts at content acquisition, classification, and access. It is highly unlikely that the information technology (IT) department (the computer people) will consider content and classification their highest priorities. Librarians must be involved to keep the focus on these two concepts, which are ultimately more responsible for the success of a website than programming and graphics … Librarians can and should be involved as planners, marketers, leaders (visioneers), risk takers, and partners with customers and vendors.

That quote is from page 73-74.

That is so true! The fact that librarians aren’t included in all programming projects is why we have so many problems with the products provided by our vendors and contractors.

Pixel Ruler

Sometimes I find myself taking a screenshot and cropping the image just to find out how much space I have to work with – this is just silly! Download Squad has just pointed me to a new resource – Pixel Ruler.

Know the exact size and position of any element with this screen ruler. Pixel Ruler features horizontal and vertical orientation, dynamic mouse measurement tracking in pixels, cool design.

It’s not perfect – but it is something I’m going to keep installed – you never know when it will come in handy.

For Firefox users there is also the MeasureIt extension – just FYI.

Google Webmaster Central

I don’t know why this sounds familiar – but I just read about Google Webmaster Central (possibly for the second time) on Download Squad.

From here you can use any of the following tools:

  • Site status wizard
    Find out whether your site is currently being indexed by Google.
  • Google’s blog for webmasters
    The latest news and info on how Google crawls and indexes websites.
  • Webmaster tools (including Sitemaps)
    Statistics, diagnostics and management of Google’s crawling and indexing of your website, including Sitemap submission and reporting.
  • Google’s discussion group for webmasters
    Talk with your fellow webmasters and share your feedback with us.
  • Submit your content to Google
    Learn about submitting content for Google properties such as Google Base and Google Book Search.
  • Webmaster help center
    See answers to frequently asked questions about crawling, indexing, ranking and other webmaster issues.

Seems pretty handy.

Google Code Project Hosting

Google now has a competing site for SourceForge – at least that’s what it sounds like to me. The new site is called Google Code – Project Hosting.

The new service from Google is a hosting environment called Project Hosting, that allows developers to upload and store any open-source project code they have in their arsenal. It also allows those interested, to search and download open source codes in Python, C++, Java, Audio, XML, CSharp, Graphics, and many other formats.

Learned about from Download Squad.

Another Article

I mentioned that I was writing another article last week. Well I finished it and sent it in – I don’t know yet if it will be published, but I thought I’d share some of the ideas with you all.

I decided to take 2 routes. Route 1 was deciding to get someone in house to handle your library programming projects (versus a contractor) and Route 2 was how to actually handle the project once it has been offered to you. I am working on a HUGE application (as I mentioned before) at work and what better time to explain the process to others?

I went over some of the benefits of having someone in house – like the fact that they’re always there. I constantly have people stopping by my desk to ask me questions, ask for upgrades, explain what they meant, etc. This helps me with my programming and I think it helps the staff (the users) feel better about the project as a whole. With a contractor you usually only see them once in a while. We had one that only came in one a month to talk to us – and even then not everyone had time to talk with him. Most recently we had a contractor who we have never met. All communications were over the phone and only 2 or 3 people participated in those conversations even though 20 or so of the staff would have to use the application.

Why did we have contractors? Well the first one was before I learned PHP and the second one was there because our IT team (me included) could not figure out how to achieve the result we were looking for. So, even if you have a programmer in house, you may still have to hire and outside consultant, but it will be less frequently (I hope).

I talked about planning the project – meetings, flow charts, more meetings. Which is interesting because I’m reading The Accidental Library Manager right now and Rachel suggests that you have as few meetings as possible and keep the on point and on schedule. I agree with her 100% – but it just never seems to happen that way when you’re talking about changing the way people have worked for 5 or more years. Plus, you as a programmer have no idea how people have been working for the last 5 years, so you have to spend time sitting with them and listening to them until you understand what goal they need to reach – the staff of your library is now your user – I repeat that a lot.

Well I hope you all get to read the entire article, I included some stuff here that I didn’t get to fit in – so you got a sneak peak and the bonus features.