April Link Round-Up

Enjoy this month’s installment of the best stuff we have seen around the web (and the Maryville University website)!

Adobe Edge Web Fonts
Submitted by: Eric
Web fonts offering similar to Google Web fonts.

Vagrant
Submitted by: Eric
Create and configure lightweight, reproducible, and portable development environments.

AppFog
Submitted by: Eric
Easy to setup, private servers for development purposes. Allows you to easily create a server running Java, PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails and more.

HTTP: The Protocol Every Web Developer Must Know – Part 1
Submitted by: Eric

The Tiny Concert Series at Maryville University
Submitted by: Michael
Here is the first installment in this ‘just for fun’ concert series.

Hunting for Dinosaur Food
Submitted by: Michael
The resources at the Missouri Botanical Garden are a tremendous help to Maryville University students. Especially botany students studying in the dead of winter in St. Louis.

Time Capsule Class
Submitted by: Michael
Students are nearly set to walk across the graduation platform and one University Seminar class reunites four years after starting at Maryville University to open a time capsule they sealed up as first-year students.

March Link List

Here are a few of the best things our team has found this month:

Style Tiles
Submitted by: Kate
A communication helper for web designers

Not Just Pretty: Building Emotion Into Your Websites
Submitted by: Kate
Thoughts on implementing emotion in web design

Subtle Patterns
Submitted by: Kate
A great resource for designers look for subtle patterns too use in their design

Complete List of Web Accessibility Tools
Submitted by: Eric

Tiny Tiny RSS
Submitted by: Eric
Self-hosted RSS aggregator to replace Google Reader since it’s shutting down.

Stately
Submitted by: Eric
Symbol font that makes it easy to create a map of the US with HTML and CSS

Wealth Distribution Infographic
Submitted by: Michael
An incredible example of infographics at their best

Mr. Wolfdog
Submitted by: Michael
A brilliant new marketing campaign is born

February Link Roundup

Every month, we as a group, encounter tons of cool stuff on the web. This link roundup is just the tip of the iceberg for some of the cool stuff we’ve seen in February.

Creativity/Design

MakeXYZ
Submitted by: Kate
This is a 3d printer search engine. Get your 3d model printed by a person or print shop near you. Don’t have a model? You can make something easily on tinkercad.com or just buy a 3d printer pen and make creations in mid-air: http://www.the3doodler.com/

Golden Ratio Typography Calculator
Submitted by: Kate
Discover the perfect typography for your website.

The difference between good theft and bad theft when it comes to creativity
Submitted by: Adam

3 Paths Towards a More creative life
Submitted by: Adam

Increasing Effectiveness starts in the morning
Submitted by: Adam

Photoshop CS6 Creative Cloud Update December 2012 – What’s New?
Submitted by: Katrina
Check out some of the cool new features of Photoshop CS6.

How to Become a Prolific Writer
Submitted by: Michael
An interesting, if atypical path to making lots and lots of words.

Development

Code.org
Submitted by: Eric
A site dedicated to growing computer programming education.

jQuery Learning Center
Submitted by: Eric
Tutorials for getting started with jQuery (usage and development).

Web Essentials Visual Studio extension
Submitted by: Eric
A tool to help web developers get more modern functionality/support in Visual Studio (i.e. Sass, Less, Coffeescript, etc).

16 Ridiculously Impress CSS3 & HTML5 Experiments
Submitted by: Eric
Some cool experiments with the latest web technologies.

Misc Web Stuff

40+ WordPress keyboard shortcuts you should know
Submitted by: Eric
Keyboard shortcuts while working in the text editor. This includes the basics of bold, italics, underline, along with others I had no idea about: h1-h6 tags, alignment, unordered and ordered lists, etc.

Firefox OS
Submitted by: Eric
A cool take on the mobile OS from Mozilla. Applications for the OS are made with HTML and Javascript.

Outbox
Submitted by: Eric
A really cool service that picks up your snail mail from your house and digital scans it and makes it available online for you. They will also deliver things that you need delivered.

Can I Stream It
Submitted by: Eric
A service to find tv shows and movies online.

Model Mothers
Submitted by: Michael
A stunning photography gallery of portraits capturing female models with their mothers, this is remarkable photography and presentation.

Science

Microryza
Submitted by: Kate
A kickstarter type site for funding scientific research.

It’s So Beautiful! It’s So Cool! (January Edition)

Our team spends a lot of time building and making and fixing, and in the process (and also because it is just a part of who we all are), we find a lot of beautiful or useful things.

Each month we want to share a handful of the best things we have found. Things that might inspire or help you in your work.

Let us know what you think, and let us know what you want to see more of: what we should keep our eyes open for, our ears to the digital ground for.

Easy on the Eyes
a few of the most stunning pieces of media we’ve seen recently…

Two Fires Short Documentary
A gentle, almost meditative look into the lives of two artists.  I love how the camera quietly ‘notices’ so many details and brings a deep and layered richness to the story of these two people. (KB)

Snow Fall
A glimpse into the future of multimedia storytelling (and the most accessible, understandable animation detailing how avalanches happen you will ever see). (MD)

Growing is Forever
Giant redwoods play the starring role in this [three minute] film. The creators description tugs at me: ‘This is my best attempt to capture the reverence I feel when in the presence of these giants.’  I think that definitely comes through in the video. (KB)

Stuff You Wish You Knew Existed
some useful sites or gear that might not be on your radar yet…

Data: Lots and Lots of Data
Increased public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. (EJ)

Ostrich Pillow
The ostrich pillow is the ultimate napping tool (‘neither a pillow, nor cushion, bed or garment’).  I love seeing products where the designers have taken risks.  I would totally use this on an airplane – if I was feeling bold that is! (KB)

Free Romantic Fonts just in time for Valentine’s Day
Free fonts you can use on  Valentine’s Day crafts or websites that need a romantic feel.  There are a lot of nice fonts in this list that could be used for any type of project so don’t be scared away by the romantic-ness of it all. (KB)

Fun
generally doesn’t need a tagline description…

Foldify iPad App
Cool iPad app that let’s you create 3d figures and print them.  Looks like a great way to spend a rainy afternoon and a nice way to use technology to make physical objects. (KB)

Pirate Talkin’
From APIHub, I created a fun plugin for WordPress that translates English into words spoken by a Pirate. (EJ)

On the Spinach
This illusrator’s take on the classic Popeye figure continues the culture-wide fascination of retrofitting superheros of yesteryear for today. (MD)

Geek Corner
where, it turns out, some of the coolest kids do, in fact, hang out…

People Movin
A beautiful visualization of migration flows across the world. (KB)

API Hub
A place to publish, discover and consume APIs. (EJ)

That Breadcrumb is Hot!
Coding a Graceful Breadcrumb Navigation Menu In CSS3 (We used this on the Commencement site: http://www.maryville.edu/commencement). (EJ)

Saints Rewards: Part 4 – The Finish

This is part four of a series about the process of what we do as the Interactive Media Group. In case you missed the others, you can find them here:

Saints Rewards finally launched on January 24th of this year. You can check it out by going to http://www.maryville.edu/saintsrewards. The landing page has changed quite a bit from the initial design I had come up with. They wanted it to look more like a printed flyer.

What’s Next?

When scanning, it appears to run rather slow, so we are adopting a new technique; the person scanning ID badges will scan into an excel spreadsheet and will copy those student numbers into a large textbox in the administration area of the app after the event is over.

I hope this has helped to give a closer look into some of what we do. Watch for another series to follow.

Saints Rewards: Part 3 – Progress

This is part three of a series about the process of what we do as the Interactive Media Group. In case you missed the others, you can find them here:

Database Schema Additions

Well, after getting into this, I’ve added a couple more tables to the database: Admin and Timeframes. Admin table is strictly meant for giving access only to those people that need it. Timeframes table is meant to setup different time periods for the Saints Rewards program to take place. It contains a start date and end date for when this “timeframe” of the Saints Rewards program runs. This will be useful for reporting as well as allowing us to reset the leader board as we see fit.

How’s It Look?

I took the time to develop a new master page using Twitter Bootstrap. Here are a couple of  screenshots to show off the work so far.

What’s Left?

I have a meeting on Monday to discuss the direction it’s moving with the people that requested the project. I still need to setup some sort of email notification when someone hits a new level (or rank) in the system; I’m not too sure how it’s going to be used, or if it’s going to be used. I also need to come up with some useful reports for them to pull data from. After that, it should be case closed!

Last, But Not Least

Saints Rewards: Part 2 – Database Schema

This is part two of a series about the process of what we do as the Interactive Media Group. In case you missed Part 1, you can find it here: Saints Rewards: Part 1 – Introduction.

This is probably my favorite part in the entire process of creating a new application: setting up the database schema! Whoo-hoo, right! I know, I can’t wait either! For those looking for the regular sarcasm, I’m being serious. Database design is fun and challenging, and I enjoy it. Maybe I should see a support group…


Anyway, here is a quick glance of what I have mocked up for the database tables so far (ignore the chicken scratch!). I envision 4 main tables to store the data for this project.

The Event table will be pretty standard. The numPoints field may seem a little strange, but I want to make this extendable where the administrators can change point values for a certain event. I’ll also setup a default value that can be configured by the administrator. One thing I’m changing from the previous version is adding a category (from Event Category table) to the Event. I thought it might be beneficial to see what kind of events students are attending most often. This way we can run reports to find out if students are attending athletic events more than CAB events for example.

Developer Note: In most of my tables, I add a boolean field (true/false) called active to determine if an item has been removed by the user or not. I’ve been stung more than once where someone has deleted something and immediately wanted it back. So, now all I have to do is go back into the database and mark that item as active again. Bingo bango!

The Event_Participant_Joiner table is a common practice in programming to tie two different objects together. In this case, we are tying an Event and Participant (or student) together. This will keep track of the eventID, studentID and number of points (numPoints) in one place. Typically, I would not include numPoints because it’s already stored in the Event table and we could look it up based on the eventID field, but they wanted the ability to customize a participant’s number of points based on circumstances (if they are dressed up or extra spirited, for example).

The Level table is out in lala land currently. I see this as being calculated on the fly and just being for reference. As a student’s ID card is scanned, it will be grabbing all of the records from the Event_Participant_Joiner table based on their studentID. It will then calculate the sum of all the numPoints fields returned. If they level up, they will be notified via email. You may have noticed we have a field named emailText. This field will be used to generate the actual email sent to the student when they level up. I have included the imageUrl field which I’m hoping to be able to use by having Katrina create badges for the different levels.

The student data cloud in the middle of the image is an existing set of data that we have accessible to pull certain things (name, email, etc). All of the orange lines point to foreign keys in another table.

I hope this has been helpful. If you have questions, fire up the ol’ comment box down below!

Move It Along!

Saints Rewards: Part 1 – Introduction

So, I’m looking at our blog and it is sorely out of date! I was just wondering today what I could write about to spice up the site a little bit.

The Brainchild

My goal is to give you kind folks an idea into our world and development cycle. I’m hoping for this to be a series of posts highlighting the process we go through when creating our “interactive magicness”.

The Project

Today, I met with some folks about implementing a rewards program for students that attend different events on campus. Luckily, I had already worked on something similar to this a couple of years ago for the Campus Activities Board (CAB). The previous application allowed someone with a laptop to scan student ID cards at campus events and the students would receive rewards after attending ‘x’ number of events.

So what’s changing? What’s the Twist?

The new application will be a points system to reward students for attending events on campus. It will need to have a leader board for the students to view and see where they are in the standings. As they attend more events they will increase their level (level up). I’m not sure at this point if they receive prizes as they level up. I believe there are prizes at the end of the contest for the top students.

Integration?

As our department is responsible for the digital signs on campus, I think it would be a fun idea to create a couple of digital signs showing the leader boards and another showing upcoming events to earn points.

Platform?

The existing application is written in ASP.NET/C#. We’ll be sticking with ASP.NET/C# for this new application and putting it on our intranet server.

Who’s Involved?

Kate will be involved with creating the digital signs using Adobe Flash. Katrina will be involved with creating any graphics needed for the project. I’ll be creating the database schema and doing the programming work involved for the back-end of this beast. Last but not least, Michael will be there for moral support!

Deadline?

The much anticipated launch date is January 2013.

So who’s with us? Anyone out there interested in a peek at our world?

Giddyup, what’s next?

WordPress Multisite Roles Plugin

WordPress logoPart of my job as Web Application Developer at Maryville is to evaluate the tools we use for our website and decide if they are functioning the way they should. We’ve had our fair share of problems with our current content management system (CMS) that we implemented in 2008 and have decided to make the move to WordPress Multisite. For those unfamiliar with WordPress Multisite, it allows you to take a normal WordPress site and create multiple WordPress sites (a network) within one installation of WordPress.

Part of my role in this migration will be setting up the proper permissions for users across the network. If you are at all familiar with WordPress (or pretty much any CMS) it has the idea of roles for a user. Am I an administrator, editor, contributor and what actions can I do in the CMS? With WordPress Multisite, this is slightly more complicated; a user can be an editor in the Academics site, but only be a contributor in the Admissions site (or not have any permissions at all). There is a set of standard roles built in to WordPress, but you have the option to create some unique roles. Now, I want to keep this as simple for myself as possible; I don’t want to recreate that same role on 20 different WordPress sites across our network (Academics, Admissions, Student Life, etc).

Enter the Multisite Roles plugin! Initially, I was going to build a brand new plugin for creating roles network-wide, and I decided to leverage an existing plugin: Members. WordPress has this idea of hooks built into it; as a developer, you can leave a spot for other developers to “hook” into your code and do something. After a short email discussion with the developer of the Members plugin, he has agreed to put a couple hooks into his next release. This will allow my plugin to synchronize roles between all of the sites on our WordPress network when one of the roles is updated.

As soon as the next version of the Members plugin is released, you can expect to see the Multisite Roles plugin land on the wordpress.org plugin repository.