Thursday, November 4, 2010

Activity Feed Widget

We now have a new widget for communities, the activity feed. This widget allows you to embed a scrolling list of the latest activities happening on the community. You can check it out on the community widget page, it is widget #2.

Some Main Menu Additions

We have added some handy links to the main menu. The "community", "project", "stories" and "map" items now have a "my ..." entry in their dropdown menu. This provides a quick way to look at your own communities, projects, stories or map.

The "map" dropdown menu is also aware of its context, so, for instance, if you are on a community home page, then there will be an item called "map for this community" so you can quickly go to the community map.

A New Home Page

We have put together a new home page, which is designed to showcase content from across the system. When you are logged in, it is the page you go to when clicking any of the PlaceStories logos (ie, it is the page at the root url). When you are not logged in, the landing page with the collection of dolls is the root url, but you can go to the new home page still by clicking the "home" link at the bottom.

This new page will evolve over the next short period of time, so any input is welcome.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Lot of Has Been Going On!

Wow, it's been a couple of months since the last post, and a lot of new code has been written! You may have noticed the site has undergone a whole new redesign, new colours, new layout, and new features. We hope you find the changes visually pleasing.

Also of note in recent times has been the addition of "project featuring" - simply browse the projects for a community, and you will see a "Feature Project" or "Unfeature Project" option in the context menu. This is for community admins only. Featured projects can be viewed in the project carousel on the community home page. And remember, you can also set the default view mode of this carousel in community settings (it doesn't always have to be "latest" initially).

Another cool widget has just been written. It's the community and project "like badges". A simple badge (not too dissimilar to its facebook counterpart) you can embed on your own website that says you really like this community or project, and the user can quickly click the link and go there and check it out more for themselves. If you go to the widgets page for your community or project, you will find it as the first widget on the page. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Email Control In User Settings

A handy new feature that we feel a lot of users will like is the ability to control emails sent to you that are triggered by various actions in the system. For example, when a story is added to a project, an email is sent to all members of the project.

What we have added is a user settings section called "Notifications". Here you can elect to compress your emails into a daily digest, or even turn off emails completely.

Into the future we will allow more fine-tuning of what emails you get (ie, for every action in the system that sends an email will be switchable by the user). At the moment, it is all or nothing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A New Main Menu Feature

You may notice now that when you hover over the "create" item in the main menu you get a dropdown menu with selections for story and project. Previously there was no menu and clicking the menu item took you to a story create wizard. Creating a new project was a feature that was more difficult to get to.

In the future we may allow users to create their own communities as well, and that option would then appear in this menu.

Project Page Enhancements

OK, we now have some more improvements on the project page.

In the story list, you can see at a glance the type of story each entry is. This currently is a short piece of text in square brackets (eg [YouTube]) beneath the creators' name. We are currently working on a better way to differentiate stories visually, but this is it for now. Next to this text is a link called "preview!". This is a cool new feature - you can view a story inplace without having to go to the story page. It slides down a viewing area beneath the story description and plays the story for you straight away. If you are near the bottom of the browser window it will scroll upwards just enough to view the entire story window. You can hide the previewer by clicking the cross in the right hand corner of the previewer, or by clicking the "preview!" link again.

Another change is we have moved away from the old style visibility badges for stories (basically the word "public", "community" or "private" with a coloured background) to a thin coloured strip that sits beneath the story image. You can still click on this strip to change the story visibility. This may not be our final solution to representing this information elegantly, but it will do for now.

The member list has some new features too. Each member has an action menu you can activate when hovering over a member. A down arrow button appears in the rhs corner - click this to get a menu of actions that relate to that user. This menu contains our first attempt to create stronger connection links to other users. At the bottom of the menu you will see a section called "Connect With This Member" - this section contains links to all the different social media this user has. Everything from a simple message, to skype, to facebook etc etc. We aim to have this kind of connection to a user everywhere it makes sense. PlaceStories wants its users to make full use of their other social media in interesting and elegant ways and features like this should go a long way to helping us achieve this.

Another feature you will find useful is a "Members" page in project settings. This looks a lot like the members tab in the Project Create wizard. It allows you to add and remove members from your project quickly and easily, as well as change their status (admin vs member).


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Date/Time Tooltips

A small feature we have been spreading through the website is wherever a date is mentioned, the full time (in the timezone of the viewing user) is displayed as a tooltip when you hover over the date. This can be handy if you need to know the *exact* time of day an action occurred.

We may not have applied this to all dates yet, but we are getting there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A New Widget - Project Carousel!

As you may be aware by now, the community home page has a project carousel. We feel this is a visually appealing way to showcase projects in a small area.

Well, we have now wrapped the carousel up into a widget, so you can have a project widget on your own website! It is a fixed size (625x385), but you can set the content filter and whether it has a footer or not. Try it out, we think you'll like it!

Better Browser Awareness

Our ps3beta site has only ever supported the most modern browsers: IE8+, Firefox3+, Chrome4+, Safari4+ etc.

Whilst we made mention of this on the home page, if you landed on another page in the ps3beta site with an old browser, no mention was made of the need for a better browser, and the page was probably rendered incorrectly, and most definitely wouldn't have behaved properly either.

Now we do "browser sniffing" in a much more robust way. If you go to *any* page on the ps3beta site using an old browser, there is an unmissable message at the top of the page saying we only support modern browsers, and that the page below is probably broken.

Also, as our widgets are html-based, we do browser sniffing in them as well. If you embed a widget in your external website, and a user comes to your webpage in an old browser, then the widget won't display content, but rather a message saying why it can't.

In the future, we may support IE7, but we definitely won't be supporting IE6.

Customise Your Community Home Page

You can now start customising your community home page. At the moment this includes the default view for your project carousel and story grid, and whether your community needs features such as calendars and discussions. Any feature you turn off won't be mentioned on the home page. Also, you can turn a feature back on at any time.

Community admins get access to these features via the "community settings" page. Simply select the "Home Page" option and go from there.

And, of course, more customisations will be added to community home pages over time.

Facelist for Community Pages

Well, it's been in the pipeline for a while, and finally it's done. The community page now has two new features, a project carousel and a story grid. These replace the fairly mundane 'lists' that were the old display method.

The project carousel displays 6 projects according to the selected filter. You can view "latest", "featured", "most popular", or a "random" selection. Basic information about each project is displayed, with handy links to all the major pages related to the project (map, widgets, contact, stories, members).

We have also added a story grid viewer for stories. You can view stories either in a thumbnail grid, which allows you to view stories inplace, or as a list. And like the project carousel, you can change the filter applied to the selection of stories, "latest", "most popular" and "random". Viewing stories inplace on the grid is a handy and quick way to get a taste for the stories of a community.

If you want to see these new features in action, visit any community home page, or check out the content at the Disseminate community,

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Feature - Community Welcome Email

You can now write an email message that is sent to any user who joins your community. This could be very useful for introducing general concepts about how they cna best contribute to your community, and should be a great tool for getting new users up and going quickly.

You can define a welcome email on the community settings page (admins only).

New Feature - Community Discussions

This is another cool feature. Communities now have "discussions". Discussions are like simple forums based around a topic. Any member of a community can start a discussion, and other members can join in. It has full threaded reply capabilities, and you will get email notifications when someone replies to one of your comments. You can also apply visibility levels to a discussion - you can either make it public, or just for your community to see. A community can have as many discussions as it wishes.

The active discussions are listed on the community home page, in the main column underneath stories.

New Feature - Project Documents

This is a cool new feature. You can now add documents to a project! They will be displayed on the project page, and users can either view the documents in their browser, or download them for local viewing and/or editing.

You manage the documents via a Project Settings page, and anyone who's a member of the project can add a document.

Your document can be either a link to a URL (eg you may have some PDFs on another website you wish to link to), or you can upload a document from your local computer. You can attach any type of document or file, but we imagine it will mostly be PDFs, Word, Excel or Powerpoint. PDFs and Powerpoint files can be viewed via google's doc viewer inplace in your browser - other file types such as Microsoft Word will have to be downloaded to be viewed.

We feel this will add a lot of value to projects. For instance, you might attach official reports about your project, so users can get more information about it, more than what they might glean from your stories.

Missing features/coming soon:

- add the same capabilities to communities
- provide the ability to 'update' an already uploaded file - currently you would have to delete then create a new document

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Front Page and Logo

Some of you may have noticed that the main page at has changed. It looks a lot more vibrant and engaging. Well done Tom!

We have also changed the font of the main PlaceStories logo to a more cursive font. How do you like it?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Widgets for Projects and Communities

One of the main design goals of our new system is to allow the simple embedding of PlaceStories data on external websites. An example of this type of data sharing is the all-too-familiar YouTube embed - you simply set some configuration options, then copy and paste an HTML string into your blog or website, et voila, a YouTube video appears. In a similar way you have been able to embed a PlaceStories story (whether that story was a postcard, a PlaceStory created with our software, a Vimeo video etc).

Now we are happy to announce that you can embed more sophisticated widgets into your website. If you go to a community or project page, you will see a link called "widgets" hanging around underneath the project/community title. Clicking this link takes you to a widget page for that project or community. On this page all the available widgets are listed, with some sample screenshots and a brief description to help you choose the right widget. Once you have found the widget you want, click the "Configure this widget" link, and a list of configuration options will appear. Set these options to customise the widget to your liking, then copy and paste the provided embed string.

At the moment there are only two types of widgets, a story/member badge, and a map. The story/member badge is a great way to showcase stories and folks. It even allows you to view individual stories and member cards inplace. The embeddable map is exactly like the map page at PlaceStories, only it defaults to the stories or members of the project or community. You can browse content and start tours in the same way you can at the map page on the PlaceStories site.

There are more widgets in the pipeline, the next one being an activity feed for a project or community.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bug Fix: Seeing Stories Whose General Visibility is "Private"

In PlaceStories you can set a story's general visibility to "private", which means it is only visible to a given user via projects or communities that it is published to. Thus, the visibility of the story inside the project or community will then ultimately decide if a given user can see the story or not.

There was a bug in the system whereby a story whose general visibility was "private", but was published into a project, wasn't visible to any members of the project (apart from the creator). This is wrong and has been fixed.

Also, we are considering changing the term "private" (as applied to a story's general visibility) to something more logical like "controlled".

Bug Fix: Issue With Embedding Stories Fixed

There was an issue with embedding stories in external websites. When viewing the external web page in Firefox or Safari or Chrome, the story may not have been the correct width and height. This has now been fixed!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Postcard Updated

We have just updated the postcard template so that the story description on the back has more room! One day soon we will allow scrolling of longer descriptions which at the moment simply get clipped.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Social Media Now Includes Blogs

Users and communities can now nominate a blog to be associated with. Nothing really interesting happens with this yet, it is just another "follow this user/community on" link. However, in the near future we will probably support auto-publishing to wordpress blogs.

Yippee - Facebook came to the party!

Something that is making the developers here at Feral Arts happy is that Facebook have finally made it easier for developers to access and update a user's profile/wall automagically. And their authentication process now follows the standard that most websites (such as Twitter, YouTube etc) follow.

What does this mean? In the very first instance, if a PlaceStories user has authenticated against a Facebook account, we will be able to publish to their wall when they do something significant like create a story. This is a great leap forward.

It also appears that we get access to Facebook events, so we might come up with some interesting hooks from a PlaceStories event to a Facebook event.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Default Map Location

We have changed the default map location when creating a story or going to the default mode of the main map page to be, roughly, "the world". It used to be Australia.

A New Header!

We have now changed the look of the header banner. We like it! Do you?

We have also changed the background colour of the pages. Its much easier on the eye now.

A Handy Tip About Postcard Images

It has been great seeing people publish their postcards. Some awesome images and interesting tales to go with them. And what we at ferals really like about postcards as a story type is how quick it is to publish!

The one thing the postcard creation wizard lacks is the ability to preview your postcard before publishing. This would be especially useful if your image wasn't a standard landscape ratio. The postcard template has been designed for landscape images, and so portrait or non-standard images may not look as the user intended!

To reinforce this point, we have made mention of this fact in the first page of the postcard creation wizard.

Story Locations Now Mandatory

It used to be optional to geolocate a story. We have now made it mandatory. We have also changed the location page of the story creation wizard to be more intuitive. On the location page, all you have to do is type the address of the story in the location field, hit ENTER, then the map will be placed at this location for you. You can refine this location by dragging the marker to the correct location.

A subtle point which you may be interested in knowing is that the text location doesn't have to match the geolocation on the map. As an example, you might want the location to read "The hall at the back of the local school, Charleville". This location won't geocode to an address. So the quickest way to assign a location to this story would be to enter an address in the location field that will geocode (such as "142 School St, Charleville"). Then, once the map marker is in the right place, go back and change the location field to "The hall at the back of the local school, Charleville", and continue to the next step in the wizard.

A Change To Our Creation Wizards

The creation wizards (story, project, project-event), used to have "prev/next/done" buttons at the bottom of each page. We feel this lead to a couple of problems, namely:

1. A lot of the time those buttons were off the bottom of the browser page and so you had to scroll to see the click them. For users not used to the wizards it would have been a bit confusing figuring out how to submit the form.

2. Users seeing these buttons on the first screen weren't even considering inputing data in following screens/steps. This data, whilst optional, was still fairly important. For example, it was optional to geolocate a story. However, if a story doesn't have a geolocation, then it won't appear on the map.

For these reasons, we have made the following change. The "prev/next/done" buttons have been removed altogether, and a final "step" up the top has been added, and it's called "Done". We hope this will make users at least consider inputing data at all steps in the wizard. Also, you don't have to scroll the page at all to submit your new story/project/project-event. We feel this will work better as a user interface.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slideshare Anyone?

We have been looking at adding a new story type :- Slideshare. Slideshare is a web portal for sharing slide shows, such as conference presentations. (For more information, go to their website:

You can upload a variety of different file formats, namely:

Presentations: pdf, ppt, pps, pptx, ppsx, pot, potx (Powerpoint); odp (OpenOffice); key, zip (Apple Keynote).
Documents: pdf, doc, docx, rtf, xls (MSOffice); odt, ods(OpenOffice); Apple iWork Pages.

and files can be up to 100Mb in size. It converts your uploaded file into a Flash format, and presents the slide show to the user through a standard Flash interface.

We could link to a slideshare account in much the same way we connect to YouTube or Flickr. It could be a neat way for folks to put more "informational" stories online, using the project structure to organise content.

Do any of you PlaceStories users out there think this would be a worthwhile story type?

Project Calendars

We have now added support for project calendars. This allows you to create events and display them to people who browse your project page.

When you go to a project page, you will see an "Events" panel on the rhs. In this panel is a 1 month calendar, by default the current month, and a list of events for that month underneath. If you click the left and right arrows at the top near the month and year text you can move backwards and forwards one month at a time. This is done inplace via AJAX so you don't have to leave the page to quickly see events near the current date.

There is a link at the bottom of this panel called "more info" - this will take you to a page where you can browse project events in a larger format. Full event descriptions are available here.

So who can add an event? Project admins and community admins for the community in which the project was originally published. How do you add an event? If you have permission you will be able to click a day on the calendar directly to create an event for that day. Otherwise, click the "add event" link at the bottom of the calendar on the project page.

What can you specify for an event? Lots of things:
1. Date
2. Title
3. Description
4. Event type (workshop, conference, etc)
5. More info website
6. Facebook event page
7. Location - both general (text) location and a specific map location
8. A member of the project to act as a contact for the event

What can't you do?
1. Specify an event that runs over more than 1 day
2. Specify a time of day for the event (though you can mention this in the event description)

What is coming up?
1. Support for events at the community level.
2. Notification support. For example, you could say "email all project members at 7 days and then 1 day from the event reminding them of it".

Any feedback or suggestions for feature enhancement most welcome!

Map Clustering

As of last friday we now have clustering support on our map page. When story or folk markers are too close together we represent them with a special marker that has a plus sign at the top right corner.

If you click on a clustered marker, the story or folk dialog will appear as usual, but you will notice in the bottom right hand corner of the bubble prev/next buttons, and some text telling you which story/folk you are looking at (eg "1 of 6"). These buttons enable you to view all the stories or folks of the cluster without having to close the bubble. Very handy!

Go to our map page now to see what we mean:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Creating Flickr Postcards with the 'grab an image from a url' option

On the postcard creation page, when you use the "grab an image from a url option", the url required is not a url to a flickr photo page, but rather a url directly to an actual image, which can be from anywhere on the web. PS3 does not assume the image has to come from flickr).

What you need to do from the Flickr photo page is click "all sizes", then right-click the "Download the Original Size" link at the top, and select "copy link" and paste into the URL field on the postcard creation page. Soon the system will be a little smarter about recognizing flickr photo pages and work it out 'automagically'

A neater way to use your flickr images in postcard creation is to associate your flickr account (if you have one) with your user account so that when you are creating a postcard it will allow you to browse and select a photo from your flickr account directly - it's faster and more bulletproof - and it also allows other users to view and link to your flickr account generally.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Testing Times for PlaceStories

PS3 Beta went live for testing this week. Thanks to the folk from Digital Landcare, Pollinate and Center for Health Equity communities who were first to dip a toe last week. 3.0 is a completely new version of the PlaceStories system built from the ground up by Feral Arts to provide all the web publishing and viewing for content created and published through PlaceStories. The Beta Test is scheduled to run until the end of May 2010 when all content from the existing communities will switch over.
For the 1,500-odd existing PlaceStories members your profiles and story content is all accessible in the new system as part of the beta test. New features will come on line regularly during the Beta test and we will announce those through this Blog.  
3.0 has some great new features - too many to detail here. Some of the biggies that PlaceStories veterans will really appreciate are:
  • full screen map viewing and search of stories and members in google maps and earth
  • more story types (postcards, youtube, vimeo) published direct from the website
  • better social network integration (facebook, youtube, vimeo, flickr, twitter, soundcloud, skype) 
  • simple publishing tools and model to more easily share stories and projects
  • in place text editing
 If your are new to PlaceStories and keen to have a play - great! Just register here and give it a go. There will be some new help materials published shortly.