From The Rapidian Staff
Each week, a Rapidian staffer will publish a piece related to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site.
Other articles by the same author
Fun Fact: Dries Buytaert was the lead developer of Drupal.
From The Rapidian Staff: Bake a cupcake and light a candle, because it’s New Feature Tuesday here at The Rapidian. NFT is a semi-regular holiday I have just made up to mark the release of new features that make The Rapidian look and work better.
Ron Woldyk, The Rapidian’s long-suffering, primary web developer and recent recipient of the semi-fictional Dries Buytaert Award for Drupal Prowess, has just today finished a whole slew of updates that affect both the front and back ends of the site. For the purpose of this article we will focus on the public side of things, and list them one by one.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff, so let’s get right into it with the top five new features (P.S.: #5 has an action item. Get excited! (not the action item)):
1) Better Image handling
A regular complaint about The Rapidian’s article content template is how dang small those article photos were. It works for some of the images people post – like organizational logos and such – but when you want to get into the gritty details of a story’s photograph, that old size just wasn’t going to cut it. As part of the article page redesign, we’ve made the option of enlarging one of the images to act as the story’s flagship image. Just look above, and you’ll see what I mean. If you'd rather keep all of your images in the sidebar, that's still an option. It's up to you.
Additionally, you can click to expand any of an article’s sidebar photographs into a popup slideshow (Shout out to Citizen Journalism Coordinator Denise Cheng for suggesting this graceful solution).
We’ve also classed up the image descriptions options a little, making it easier to hyperlink the photo credits.
2) More to Share
A little more than half of the incoming links to The Rapidian come from social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. To make it a little easier to share, track and to promote the internal communication tools of The Rapidian, we made a little stats box on the top left of the article page:
From here you can easily share the news of the Rapidian with your friends, enemies, coworkers, and family as well as affect the article’s standing within our “complicated algorithm” for "top voted" and "top commented" by voting it up and commenting.
A quick note on the Facebook share button – it’s a built-in limitation of Facebook's API not to display an article’s share count until Facebook users have shared the page at least three times. We’re not sure why – but it’s what they’ve given us to work with. This is why you will sometimes see a “<3” in this box to indicate stories with fewer than three shares on Facebook. Help them out. Spread the Rapidian love.
3) An all-new sidebar
It’s not just for tiny, tiny images anymore. We’ve revised the article sidebar to include all sorts of metadata, geographical information and little maps (more on that stuff in the near future), more images, and a box for additional information (more on that sooner).
This will help keep the article’s metadata – the content section, tags, geographical information and all that jazz – from getting lost at the bottom of the page where it was previously. This information helps us organize The Rapidian’s content and helps you easily find more articles with similar features:
And, like I said before, you can click to expand any of the small pictures on The Rapidian’s new sidebar. Try it out by clicking on the "Love Nature" photo up there to the right.
4) Additional Info Box
On some articles, it can be fun to add a little tangential information. For this purpose, we have included an optional “additional info box” in the new sidebar. If, for example, you wanted to add the set list of a concert you are reviewing, or list the schedule of the street festival you are previewing – this box will totally be up your alley.
Check out how the Grand Rapids Art Museum has already put this new feature to good use, previewing the next installment in the speaker series they are writing about in the body content of the article:
5. About the Author
It is important to remember that The Rapidian’s authorship is constituted by real local people – our neighbors and nonprofit organizations. We want to help you get to know our contributors through their own words at the bottom of each article. Hopefully this will help provide a little context for the Reporter’s reason for covering a certain topic as well as help start connecting a face with a name. For an example, check out mine below.
For current reporters, you can edit your “about” and “reports on” information as well as upload a user icon by editing your profile page. For Nonprofit Neighbors, it pulls this information from the “mission” field. The easiest way to get to your profile page is simply by logging in. Every time you login, it defaults straight to your profile. If you are logged in, simply edit this page.
So action item, Rapidians: tell us more about you!
Help us out
We hope these new features help you interact more fully with the content on The Rapidian. As always, I would like to remind you that The Rapidian is still in BETA mode, which means that the whole site remains a work in progress. Many changes listed above have come as a direct result of feedback from The Rapidian’s reporters and readers. If you notice something that is a little off or if you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know by filling out the feedback survey, emailing us or leaving a comment below. We've cleaned those up a little, too.
Let us know what you want. We’re paying attention.
I am the New Media Planner at the Grand Rapids Community Media Center (GRCMC) and at The Rapidian. I spend my free time working on various community / cultural projects like The Division Avenue Arts Collective (DAAC) and G-RAD.org. I am a television and internet enthusiast.
Reports on: house shows, restaurant openings, Rapidian tech issues