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General site updates

posted Apr 20, 2009, 11:37 PM by Eddie Woo
Holidays are an illusion for teachers. I think I work just as much during my term breaks as when I'm giving lessons during the day! But if my work helps people, it's worth it. 8-) So, onto a summary of the online stuff I've been up to in recent times: 
  • I finally cleaned up the index of student pages on the front page of the Sandbox. It went through a few pretty messy versions (check the revision history), and I think I'm finally pleased with the state it's in at the moment. I just hope no one else drops!
  • A handful of updates on the wider school intranet. Check out this news post on Central for an overview of the changes.
  • It was a long time coming, but at last I've filled out the descriptions of the files posted under each of the grades and subjects under Learning Content. For an example, go visit the year 10 section to see the expanded explanations of what each uploaded file is about.
  • The last general update is big enough for me to break out of this bullet list to explain!
Even a cursory glance over the site reveals that I've introduced an RSS feed to the news here on Woo Random Files. I won't provide a full explanation of what an RSS feed is in this news post - I think the explanation I've written up on the new subscription page is sufficient, and you can always wiki it if you're more curious. I will talk through some of the technical details, as well as why I've chosen to implement the feed the way I have.

I'm moderately frustrated that Google Sites (upon which this site is built) doesn't offer in-built RSS feed generation - it really seems like an essential feature to me - but the setup is free, so I'm not going to complain about it. I started looking at other options for getting a feed on the site. I briefly considered Yahoo Pipes, but realised fairly quickly that it was more powerful and complicated than I needed. I was pretty close to going with Feedity, but opted against it when I weighed up the drawbacks (the free subscription includes ads, and you can only specify feed item titles - no descriptions).

In the end, I chose to use ListGarden to generate my feeds semi-manually. I deem the minor additional workload to maintain the feed worth it to dodge the negative aspects of Feedity's setup (mentioned above). I'm currently generating the feed locally and then uploading the resultant XML file onto Woo Random Files where it's picked up happily by anyone's feed reader.

Alright, that's where I'm ending today's post. Enjoy the last few days of your holiday!