Late last night I began work on what will be the fourth Pligg template to be created. The third template, created specifically for Beta 7, is well coded but doesn’t have that certain “Web 2.0″ flare that captivates visitors. This fourth template will be one of two offered with the Beta 7 release. The other template will have 2 variations: a 2 column version and a 3 column version. The fourth template will be based on the Mollio.org type D template, which should please just about everyone out there begging for a layout more similar to Digg’s two column layout. Not only will it be two column, but it will have a navbar up top to make page navigation easier and it will reduce the amount of links put in the sidebar. I only played with this new template for about half an hour last night, but it seems that designing Pligg templates gets easier with time. It also helps to start with a well written template that seems to perfectly suit Pligg.
There’s still no word on when Beta 7 will release. I have hinted that it will be out by the end of the month, but we keep adding more and more features. This is actually a good thing that we are pushing back the next release because we are trying to get Pligg in a very stable and feature-filled release. The Pligg Developer Group will get an advanced copy of the files before the official release to help troubleshoot, translate and bugfix. We are still in need of some volunteers for several areas of design, so if you have the skills to pay the bills please contact us.
I can’t recall when or how I first stumbled across 3bubbles.com, but it must have been over three weeks ago when the software was just about to start beta releases. I was lucky enough to sign up for an account early on, putting myself on the top of the beta list and giving me a chance to test drive some very cool software on my blog. They have been slowly adding members to their exclusive beta and are doing their best to keep scaling their servers to fit the fast expansion. So before I go into too many details about 3bubbles, lets take a look at what it is.
As you can see 3bubbles is no more than your average chatroom, much like an IRC room. The difference is that IRC is for the web trendy, 3bubbles is designed to fit the casual browser. The simplicity of the software makes it easy enough for anyone with an internet connection to participate in conversations on your own web page. The current release requires that you popup a new window to chat, but I believe they are planning on allowing users to insert the chatroom into pages in the near future.
When open a 3bubbles chatroom page you are presented with your web page title (topic of conversation), the current roster for the room on the right side, the dialogue on the left, and the nickname/login area on the bottom. This is exactly how every other chatroom software has always been designed so no confusion here. The nickname area will let you login with any nick that you want, as long as it hasn’t been registered yet at 3bubbles.com. It would be a good idea to register your nick now with 3bubbles by the way. Once you have logged in with either your registered nick or a temporary one you are then announced in the channel as joining the chat. From there on 3bubbles acts just like every other chatroom you have ever been on.
How does 3bubbles differ from every other chatroom? For one thing, the 3bubbles chats all share a single user database handled by 3bubbles.com. This functions sort of like a chat-gravatar, a chatting account that can be used on any site using the 3bubbles chatrooms. This means that once you’re registered and logged into a 3bubbles account, you will automagically keep logged in to that same account when you switch chatrooms between different sites. At the moment this may not seem so exciting, but I imagine in the future they will start evolving user profiles by adding more fields to make things more interesting. Another great feature is that 3bubbles creates a seperate chatroom for every page it’s featured on. This means that the article you are reading now has a seperate chatroom from any other article on the Pligg blog. This is both a good and a bad thing. Good if you’re a high-traffic site with lots of opinionated people. Bad if you are a small amateur blogger who has only a handful of hits every day. Sites that don’t get much traffic are going to really dislike this software in it’s current state. A third thing that makes 3bubbles great is that they offer a simple way to add a small bit of social networking to your site/blog. By giving users the ability to talk to each other in real time you are adding a new element to your site that can really make the feel involved, and that keeps them coming back.
My posts have been slowing down this month because I’m in the middle of finals (yes, I’m a college student). I am doing a lot of thinking about the next version of Pligg, but not much actual work. I picked up a few Ebooks that I plan to read through over break about Content Management Systems and Web Usability, and I hope to go pick up a solid book about web accessibility from the book store some day soon. If anyone has any great recommendations for web design books please let me know so I can check it out. I am also a great fan of web design podcasts, so let me know if you have any recommendations for any of those either.
Before I forget, check out this interesting site: PopURLs.com. Think of it as the social networking aggregator for nerds. It just opened up and I have a feeling that it’s going to be really popular.
My next personal Pligg project is to design a new administration panel for Pligg. The new admin panel will have a completely seperate template from the rest of the site, which means that I’ll either have to design some CSS from scratch or find an open source template that fits all of the requirements. Today there was a Digg post (and also a Pligg forum post) pointing to Mollio.org. The site offers a really well designed template, but I have yet to read the full license to see what requirements they have for distribution. Right now I’m leaning toward using Mollio, just because I suck at designing CSS. If anyone has any other suggestions please let me know in the next week.
I bet you are all wondering what else will be new about Pligg Beta 7, well I can’t tell you just yet. Right now we have set some really tough goals to hit so we aren’t sure if we will have to postpone some of the features or the release date. We have set a target date of March 19th for the release, but it’s a really fuzzy whether we’ll get everything done by then or not. At first we were going to release a lot of minor updates at an earlier date, but I thought it would be best to roll them all out at once with a much more stable release than what we have had in the past. AshDigg believes that all of the bugs discovered from the Beta 6 release should now be resolved, at least to his knowledge. The new template that will come with Beta 7 will be more compatable across browsers and platforms than the previous, but it is still not perfected. I have noticed some errors on the Mac OS version of Firefox with the search bar, but that’s the only problem so far. The Beta 7 template will come in two options, the 2 column or 3 column layout. I’m a big fan of 2 column layouts now that I’ve seen how much the Beta 6 template squished the middle column when limited to 800px width. This weekend I will post some details about the upcoming Beta 7 release and what new features will be included. Until then, wish me luck on my finals.
The other day I noticed some hits coming from a slashdot.org article and I went to inspect what the buzz whas all about. What I found was an interesting post that brings up a good question:
Andzik writes “Even with all of the buzz around Rich Internet Applications these days, using toolsets like Ajax and Flex, most sites that utilize these technologies seem to be incremental improvements, not revolutionary interface changes. Where does the Slashdot community feel the best opportunities are to substantially create different/better user experiences using RIA tools? What will be the killer app? Are we just not seeing them because the best improvements are being made to web based applications and not in the public space?”
On a related note, Vertigo asks: “Not so long ago everybody believed that it was a good thing to have the freedom to modify your software to suit your needs or to mangle your data in any way. But now that users are flocking to non-modifiable, one-size-fits-all web 2.0 apps like Gmail or Flickr, are we moving away from our open source ideals? Those services do provide many important benefits, but in the process of their enthusiastic adoption did we not loose sight of the most important issues?”
Do you think that the development of well written and web 2.0 software has changed to something that only corporate conglomerates have created? Or are there open source scripts out there that offer creative uses of web 2.0 technology?
Some of you just leaned forward in your computer chairs, either intrigued by this idea or disgusted by it. I know what the latter of you are thinking, “Stars?… those aren’t very Digg-like”. Well, who says we have to do everything like Digg? In fact Pligg isn’t supposed to be a copy of Digg, we’re an improvement. Digg’s system of voting is based on a “vote or no vote�? method. This works for Digg, but any other site that uses this method not only makes their voting system less accurate to user opinion, but they also confuse casual browsers.
I think the reason that most users are turned off by the idea of using a star rating system is because it’s been done over and over again on the web. Digg’s “vote or no vote�? method is something new to the web, making it fresh and hip. But using this method really handicaps your site on two levels. The first level is the usability of voting for new users. Digg’s one vote method is so fresh and singular to Digg.com (excluding clone projects) that it really doesn’t catch on right away for new users who have never visited the site before. People aren’t used to this voting method because it hasn’t been introduced to us before. There’s a good reason that this hasn’t been introduced before, because it isn’t very accurate.
Imagine you’re reading an article in the newspaper that lists ratings for the last 10 movies. The critic can only express his opinion of the movie using a quick and effective voting method to get the point across. Think of how handicapped his ability to express how good or bad a movie is if he has a voting system with two options, “see it”? or “don’t see it”?. How is the reader supposed to interpret this data from such a method? You don’t see this method used in the real world for rating movies; instead you see either a number rating from 0-5, 0-10, 0-100, or some other variation. Critics have also come up with rating movies with either a thumbs up or thumbs down, similar to the see it or don’t see it method. However, movie critics always pair their thumb reviews with a second opinion and a full paragraph review. This in a way gives us a rating system equal to a 0-2 rating system. I for one hate the thumb rating method and I feel like it wasn’t created to give accurate representations. I believe the thumbs method was created to get the reader intrigued enough about an article that they feel like they need to read the full paragraph of text to get an accurate representation of the rating.
My personal opinion is that switching Pligg from a “one vote or no vote”? system to a five star rating system will make voting more accurate and more comfortable for new users. We will of course still offer the option to use the older one vote method in future releases of Pligg, but for now it is my intention to make star rating default.
Digg has yet to officially release this feature, but they posted a link to a video demonstrating it on digg.com. My initial reaction to the video was, “hey I came up with that idea” for a small bit of AJAX used to shrink unwanted comments to a bar. Digg also showed off much needed threaded comments, yet another feature on the Pligg to-do list. Two of the features showed off by Digg, Pligg already has in the latest Beta 7 build. This includes the ability to vote + and – for comments and the ability to edit comments. The editing comments idea still needs to be mastered in Pligg, and the same goes for editing articles. The final feature highlights friends posts with the color green. Not the most necessary addition, but I’m sure some folks will appreciate it.
When you install Pligg, a “God” account is created in your database automatically. The username for this account is “God” (minus the quotes of course) and the password by default is “password”. After completing the first install of Pligg you should log into this account and change the password and email for the account. The God account is given the highest level of priviledges on your site, so you should make sure that the password is strong enough and contains a mix of letters and numbers. You should avoid using common words for the God password. You might even want to read this page about how to choose a good password for some tips.
I realize that when you pick a very difficult password it can be tough to remember down the road. This is why Pligg has password recovery built in. When a user requests a password by entering their username into the password request form, it will send an email to that user’s email address with a password change request code. The problem is, no where along the way will the user be able to see what email address it’s sending the password change request to. This is for security purposes and it will remain this way because it would be unwise to expose user emails this way. But if you are trying to retrieve the God password and you don’t remember changing the default email address you’re in trouble. By default God’s email is email@example.com, so you’ll have trouble recovering your password because that email is nonexistant. So how do you change the password if you can’t do it by password change request? If you have PHPmyadmin you can edit the password manually using this guide. The guide is designed for WordPress, but it is pretty much identicle to what you would do for Pligg and it will point you in the right direction.
TWIT Episode 43: Old Yeller mentioned Pligg a couple times during the show. Leo brings it up and keeps calling it Pigg, perhaps it’s time I write him an email to correct him. You can tell that Dvorak and the rest of the crew are completely ignoring the subject. Dvorak like usual is just trying to get the others to listen to him, he’s such a hog for attention. Kevin joins in a few minutes after they first brought it up and they retouch the subject and talk a tiny bit about Digg.de. Good news is that Kevin mentions that he’s not so afraid of open source projects, just sites that infringe their trademark.
Download the episode here:
Fast forward to 31:00 and listen for a couple of minutes.
When they stop talking about it fast forward to 38:00 and listen to Kevin talk about it for a short bit.