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Four or five new features we may just develop next

A map of photos from The Rapidian Flickr Group

A map of photos from The Rapidian Flickr Group /Flickr

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Features, features, features. It’s nearly all we can think about in The Rapidian’s IT HQ. While we may have unveiled our newest, most solid suite of updates a mere two weeks ago, we are quick to look at what’s coming next. After some deep introspection about where we are and what we lack, we’ve determined possible new developments and improvements to pursue in the very, very hazy future:
So let’s talk about ‘em.
In our last site update, we wanted to promote The Rapidian’s most precious resource – the reporters – by including biographical information on the page so readers could learn more about the byline behind a story. We plan on taking this to the next level with an improved user profile page and the option to follow the activity of Rapidian reporters you like the most. Plans for the revised profile include more geographical information, user maps (where all the reporter’s articles are mapped out so you can see the geographical relationships between the reporter's stories), better content listing (including comments!), and some basic user statistics like the total numbers of posted articles, comments and other stuff like that.
Additionally users (people who have signed up for an account) will be able to subscribe to the feeds of other users to further customize the way they access content on The Rapidian.  These subscriptions will allow you to define the way you interact with The Rapidian’s growing community of reporters.
We’ve been trying to think of ways to further engage all of the fabulous local photographers that regularly post to The Rapidian’s Flickr group (for those of you haven’t checked it out, I recommend you do so immediately because it is delightful). One way we plan on doing it is through a “photo scavenger hunt” where Rapidian photographers are assigned to take a certain kind of image and submit it to a map - a sort of photo mosaic of bite size content.
It’s always been a priority to have a robust mobile-ready version of our site for you fancy-pants smartphone users. We recognize the irony in continually overlooking a mobile version of the site given our aggressive use of QR code technology as part of our marketing strategy, but we firmly believe that delivering a solid traditional website is priority one. Now that we are feeling pretty good about the basic functionality of The Rapidian, all bets are off.
To be clear, it’s not that our current website doesn’t render well on most current mobile platforms – it’s just that it could be SO MUCH BETTER. This is particularly important, as the proliferation of smartphone technology is quickly becoming the tipping point in overcoming the digital divide. As several researchers predicted years ago, the path to digital inclusion for many has been through alternative means of Internet access, like smartphones and other web-enabled multimedia devices. Coming from the world of community media, this notion resonates deeply with us. That is essentially what this project is all about, right? Inclusion. The Rapidian exists to help Grand Rapids’ residents actively participate in the shaping of our local media landscape. A recent study showed that, cell phone penetration in the US has just reached 100% if you exclude people below the age of 5. Assuring The Rapidian works well for as many people as possible must become a foundational value of our development strategy. This principle factors in to the next two features heavily as well.
Similarly, the usability of The Rapidian’s basic tools of community outreach is of critical concern. Our community calendar is consistently gets some of the highest traffic on the site – which is both gratifying and a little embarrassing. Frankly, the calendar isn’t the easiest to use system out there. We recognize that there is a problem and finding a solution is one of our top development priorities. That’s why it’s on this list. For those of you who actively use the calendar now, we would LOVE your feedback about what works and doesnt for you.
Using Google’s powerful translation service, users of The Rapidian will have the option of viewing content on The Rapidian in multiple languages. While computer translation is not perfect, the main perk of using Google Translate is the ability to make revisions where needed. We will be counting on all you multi-linguists out there to help us out. You have the ability to submit a better translation if the current one is inaccurate or could be improved. Using Google Translate is also relatively easy, and we will likely just slip this one into whatever site upgrade we do next, so there will be more information about how to use it when it goes live. 
So that’s it – a possibilities roundup. As always, your feedback is critical to the development process of The Rapidian. The vast majority of the improvements we have made over the past 11 months have come as a direct result of user feedback. If you have any questions, concerns, and most importantly, suggestions for any of the potential new features I have listed above please don’t hesitate to let us know by submitting to our feedback form or commenting below.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

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I love the idea of Flickr contests!  I also really look forward to the calendar upgrades. 

In the realm of "maybepossiblysomeday", something I've recently been toying with is Google Locator, which allows you to broadcast your current location on Google Maps.  Perhaps an nifty mashup might be to have reporters broadcast locations when they're doing a story.  Locator isn't exactly fully fledged, though, so I don't know whether such a thing could be easily implemented even if it were useful bit of Big Brother tech goodness.

 i think the reporter profiles would be a good choice. all of these sound pretty decent. maybe a Rapidian video channel for podcasts would be a good thing?

Thanks for the feedback, both of you!

Summer, I've fooled around with Locator a little bit - It could have some application for the reporter packs (little packs that will include digital cameras, netbooks, and audio recorders that will be available for check out from the upcoming Neighborhood News Bureaus) but, you're right, there are some "big brother" issues to consider there.

Scott, I think a video channel is a great idea - and it's definitely something we've considered all along - however, I don't think we have quite reached the amount of video reporting where it would make sense yet. Though, I supppose, what is the optimal amount for something like this? I'm not quite sure. Additionally, we have been in talks with GRTV to figure out the best way to get Rapidian video content onto the channel.  Some exciting possibilities out there! 

Thanks so much for your ideas, guys! This is the type of feedback we really need to move forward, developing the best platform for The Rapidian's readers and contributers. 


It just occured to me as I was reading the Fulton St. Cemetary posts again that it would be nice to be able to see a list of related stories somewhere on the post page.  There are some handy "related posts" widgets that might be helpful for that sort of thing, or maybe something like a tag cloud?

Ooh, that's a good idea, Summer! The Similar Posts drupal module might do the trick! I'll bring it up at our next staff meeting.

While they are not weighted like a tag cloud, the article tags at the top of the sidebar function very much like one. I think that weighting them might make it a little messy - what do you think?

I don't know whether to embarrased about it or not, but I never noticed the tags at the top right!  You're right, though - a tag cloud isn't a good idea for a tight space like that.

That you didn't notice those guys up there is definitely worth noting on our end.

Calender would be a nice feature if you also had ical feeds in it. putting geotags into your RSS would nice. Mobile would rock. As you produce these solutions do you put them back out to the drupal community as modules or features?