Antarctica.uab.edu or why cobbler’s kids go barefoot
One of my more recent projects was the Antarctica.uab.edu Web site. Basically, it hosts online journals of a close-knit group of scientists at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), who are currently pursuing biological research in Antarctica. Twice a week (or more often, if time permits), they connect to the Internet and update their journals, read comments, and answer questions. You can ask them anything from penguin vs. leopard seal questions to some really hardcore microbiology and even behavioral psychology stuff — they will be happy to give you their polar perspective. Pretty cool, eh?
But where it gets really exciting is the technical side. This is the first time we’ve implemented a blog engine using Estrada Extensions. I have to say, it came out pretty nice. Here are the highlights:
- Moderation — after a comment is added to the post (or article, following the naming convention of a journal), an email notification is issued to the moderator of the journal, who can then click on the link in the email and approve or reject the comment. If the comment is approved, it immediately appears in the article comments section.
- Comment posting delay — a visitor may only comment once every 5 minutes on the same article.
- Sorting — for some reason, a very important capability of sorting is a rarity in the blogging world. On this site, you can sort comments and articles by date, poster’s name, title, etc.
- Comment “folding“ — only 30 comments at a time will appear in the comments section. The rest is be accessible via pagination links (Next page, previous page, first page, second page, etc.)
- There is also hide/show fields functionality (for example, hide comment body for all comments to create an abbreviated view of the comments), as well as “show all comments“ rather than 30 at a time, but it is not enabled at the moment — still tweaking the UI.
- Journal avatars — each journal has a graphic associated with it (a la LiveJournal)
- Per-article gallery and link sidebar — each article may have a picture gallery and/or a link sidebar, so that all of the magnificent pictures of the barren ice and all the links to relevant Web resources are grouped together nicely.
- Last but not least is the RSS support — either aggregated main feed of all journals or per-journal feed.
One of the things to mention is that this site was put together fairly quickly — about 10 days of the actual implementation. With planning, architecture, and requirements development included, it was a 2-month project from start to finish.
Now here’s a logical question — if you think you have such a cool blog engine, how come you are still using .Text? Well, I am planning to convert, honest. I just don’t have the time.