Landing : Athabascau University

What's new

Last updated July 21, 2015 - 1:24pm by Jon Comments (8)

New on the Landing

July 21st

Group webinars!

We have today added a menu item to groups that allow members to partipate in a real-time webinar. Features include video, audio and text chat, shared whiteboards, PDF/PowerPoint presentations and screen sharing.

Bonus feature: experimentally, we have also enabled webinars as an option when adding a calendar event. When adding an event, look for a checkbox to enable a webinar for the event. Make sure that you set a start and an end time for this. These webinars are quite independent of group webinars and persist as long as the event is scheduled. Individuals may create such events outside groups as well as within them. This feature may eat up too many resources so we cannot promise it will persist indefinitely, but should at least be available until the end of 2015.

Warning - this is a beta release: some features may change or be removed in future. Some features may be unreliable or hard to configure. Please report any bugs or issue you find via the support button on the Landing or by mailing landing@athabascau.ca

Some important limitations to be aware of:

The webinar relies on Adobe Flash: this must be enabled in your browser for the webinar to work. 

Each group has one webinar, that may be accessed at any time. The only access to the webinar server is via a Landing group. Mostly, you will need to be a member of that group to see the button.

Only the group owner/administrator may moderate the webinar - the administrator may promote others in the webinar to presenters but, unless that has happened, standard group members will not be able to upload presentations or create whiteboards.

Group owners can switch off the webinar through the 'Edit group' page. They may also choose whether or not to allow non-members to see and join in the webinar.

Webinars must be accessed via a Landing group. There is no possibility to invite guests that do not have a Landing login. There is no opportunity to have multiple webinars per group, nor for an individual to create a webinar.

We do not yet know how many active users the server will support. Our best estimate is between 5-150 concurrent users. Part of this beta test will involve observing and testing capacity.

There is no server-side option to record a webinar. This may be enabled at a future date.

May 4th

Usability fix: it should now be much easier to distinguish between read and unread messages (You|Your Messages)

Return of a lost feature: when you comment on a post, you will be automatically subscribed to it, meaning that you will be notified of follow-up comments and further replies to that post. If you don't want to receive such notifications, simply click the 'unsubscribe' link for the post. You can see and manage all the posts you subscribe to in You|Your personal notification settings (see 'Comment Settings' at the foot of the page). This setting also lets you turn the feature off altogether if you don't want it, for email and/or site notifications. The auto-subscribe feature was inadvertently lost a couple of years ago during a major upgrade and its absence was only recently noticed.

April 7th

Bug fix: files in groups with many files should now be visible when browsing. Previously, where there were hundreds of files, the page would time out when loading. Now there is a 'view more files' button for when there are more than 40 files to display.

Bug fix: there was a clash between the new polls plugin and older polls widgets used in a handful of groups. Group owners please note: the offending widget has now been removed as it was breaking your group profile page. However, we have made a new 'latest group polls' widget available that does the same thing and more. Should you want to show polls on your group profile page, please add the widget back!

March 27th

We've fixed a couple of bugs and added a couple of cool new features today.

Enhancement: polls

The polls tool now allows you to include rich text descriptions and information, and allows you to set an expiry date for a poll.

Bug fix: default access permissions for groups now work

Group owners who set content default access permissions for their groups (ie. the default when a member creates a new post in a group - it is always possible for an individual to override this for any post) would have, in the past, found that it had no effect, because we overrode this to make it always default to only the group. Now you actualy do have the choice!

Important note for group owners: unless you have previously set this default, access permissions will now default to logged-in users. If this is not what you want, please change it! The options should be self-explanatory apart from  'user default access' - this will normally default to group-only, except where users have explicitly overridden this for their own access permission settings. Do be careful to check that the content default access is what you intend it to be whenever you make changes to your group settings: there is an occasional glitch on the form that, under some rare circumstances, can allow it to switch back to 'Private' when you re-edit a group.

Bug fix: bookmark folder widgets are back.

We removed this option when a bug was discovered that could cause a white screen for group owners who had added this widget. It should now work as intended, to show bookmark folders and, optionally, their contents. When showing contents beware that, if there are many bookmarks in a folder, this can become very large!

Social Sharing

At the foot of each page you will now find an option to share the page with a few other social sites, as well as via email. Note that there is only any point in doing this for public pages, or where you are sure that your readers will have a Landing account. We have made this a two-step process for any sites that track you without your permission. Most 'share' buttons that you see on web pages are actually sending back information about your browsing habits to the sites that you share with whether you want it or not, regardless of whether you actually click those buttons to share. For sites of this nature, we have made it so that you must deliberately switch on the button and then click it when you wish to share.

Load more

On pages providing lists - e.g. lists of blogs, activities, group members, messages, etc - you will now see a 'load more' button as well as the standard paging buttons where there are more items than will fit on a standard page. This may be useful to those that would like to see (for example) a complete list of group members, or a lot of blogs, or a lot of messages. The existing page navigation buttons will continue to work as before.

 

January 30th

We've added some new features, modified the look of the site a little, and fixed a few bugs today. The most visible changes are:

Cleaner look and feel

Posts now have broader margins and show slightly more white-space between lines. We tried to follow readability guidelines for this so, hopefully, you should find it more pleasurable to read longer pages (albeit with a bit more scrolling needed than before). 

You might notice slightly rounded corners on the main menu: we think this softens the formerly rather harsh look just enough without being obtrusive, but we welcome your feedback!

New support tool

We have replaced the simple 'Feedback' button on every page with a 'Support' button. As well as making it easier for you to ask for help, tell us about bugs, or make suggestions, this allows us to add context-sensitive support for each page. It also lets us build an FAQ for the site, and makes it possible for us to properly track support issues: in the past, we received messages but could not even directly reply to them, let alone more complex things like allocating jobs to people in the team. The plugin that provides this also allows group owners to easily create FAQs in their groups. It will take a while for us to add the help, but this will grow considerably over the coming months.

Staff-only group owners can invite non-staff members

AU staff members who create 'staff-only' groups can now successfully invite non-staff (such as external evaluators, research guests, etc) to join staff-only groups.

Many photo album improvements

The photo album tool has been significantly upgraded, with improvements across the board. A lot of the improvements are under the hood so most things will work much as they did before, just more smoothly and easily. Perhaps the biggest visible change is that we have dropped the Flash-based photo uploader, so photos may now be uploaded from pretty much anything, and on most systems you can now simply drag photos to the page to upload them. It is now also possible to upload a photo without having to decide which album to put it in beforehand.

'Add widgets' reminders for group owners

Although, as of this month, we now auto-populate new groups with at least one widget, quite a few existing groups have been created with no widgets, which can make it very difficult for members to figure out how to get around, or to see what has been happening in the group. While the Landing is a very flexible toolset and we do not wish to prevent people using as they wish, we suspect that the reason for the lack of widgets is normally due to inexperience with its rather complex configuration tools rather than a result of intentional design.  We have added a (not too obtrusive) reminder to group owners who have not added any widgets to fix that.

Better spam checking

We have prevented anonymous (not-logged-in) commenters from adding more than one URL in their comments on public posts, thereby eliminating 99% of spam comments before having to confirm with a spam-checking service (which we also employ, as well as several other safeguards). This should make the Landing an even safer and more trustworthy site.

Bug fixes

As well as numerous fixes to bugs in the photos tool, the bug that prevented notifications being sent when someone asked to join a closed group with multiple group admins (several course groups suffered from this problem) has been fixed. Slight improvements have been made to a few notification message subjects and a couple of our administration tools have been updated.

As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions! This site is not ours - it's yours. You are very welcome to help us to make it fit your needs better.

 

 

December 3rd

We have been treading water a bit for a while thanks to limited funding, but work has continued slowly on the site and this new release brings a few new features that we hope that you find useful:

Group notices: group owners can add notices that are persistently displayed throughout their groups, as well as different notices for blogs, bookmarks, files, bookmarks and wikis.  This can be useful if you wish to provide help, announcements or instructions about the use of specific tools. To add notices, choose 'Edit group' from the 'Actions' button, select the 'Other options' tab, then scroll down until you reach the Group Notices section. Click any of the notice sections to expand it for editing. As with other tools on the Landing, you can add formatted text, pictures and so on. Simply leave any fields blank that you do not wish to use. You can also select between a variety of display options, including border style, background colour, and position on the page.

Enhanced group activity pages: group owners will now see per-user and general group statistics as extra tabs when they click the 'activity' link in their groups. They can optionally allow others to see them too (can be enabled as one of the options when you choose 'Edit group'). This is useful for tracking what has happened in a group, who has contributed, who has not, and so on. We anticipate that this might be particularly useful to those running courses on the Landing.

Group 'join' message: Group owners can configure a message to be sent when someone joins a group. Unless they have set their preferences otherwise, it will normally appear in both the internal messaging system and as an email. This can be useful if you wish to make people welcome, explain what the group is about, and any rules, norms or expectations you may have.

Staff-only groups: members of AU staff can limit group membership to only staff members (as an 'Edit group' option). Others visiting the group will see anything that is not restricted to group members, but will be unable to join the group or to see things posted with that group's permissions. Note that this only affects new members: if there are existing non-staff members then they will remain so. If, however, they leave the group or you remove them from it, they will be unable to re-join it. This feature has been requested by staff who are using the Landing for internal committees and centres etc but who do not wish to have to manage accepting/rejecting non-staff members.

All recommended content page: available from the main 'Explore the Landing' menu, this shows all recommended content that you have been allowed to see.

There have also been a number of bug fixes and an upgrade to the core framework (Elgg) on which the site is based. Hopefully you will see fewer error messages and things should behave more as you might expect. Do tell us if you run into any problems, either through the Feedback button on the side of every page or as an email to landing@athabascau.ca.

We have a little extra funding for ongoing development now, as well as some voluntary help from a few students, so  that means you will be seeing more improvements over the coming months. Among the many things under active development are interface improvements, better help/feedback, real-time chat, a special course mode, a social badge system, and better photo albums. Apart from that, our main thrust will be to move to the next major version of the Elgg framework, which will mean we can make some far more significant improvements both in functionality and usability. Watch this space!

March 21st

We've added a couple of bug fixes so that the theme should now work for users of older Macs running Safari, and to make blog locking work in groups as it should. We have also upgraded the core version of Elgg, the system driving the site, which should slightly improve stability, security and performance. We have a new feature waiting in the wings that will allow notices to be displayed in groups that we think, if you an owner of a group, you might like. This is still being tested but we hope to release it soon.

Tell us if you find any problems!

March 4th

New theme!

We hope that you like the new theme. We've tried to keep it very similar to the old one so that it will feel familiar and, in almost every case, it should behave much like the old one, unless you are using a mobile device or make your browser window unusually narrow. This is a responsive theme, that should adapt to your device screen. Basically, this just means that things that spread across multiple columns on the desktop will get stacked in a single column on your mobile device.

Using the Landing on a mobile device

  • If you are looking for sidebar menus, they will be below the main content on each page.
  • If you are using a cellphone or very small tablet, the main menu will be collapsed into a single button.

Apart from that, we're tried to avoid compromises on tablets and cellphones: most things should work just as they do on the desktop version. There are, however, a few things mobile users cannot do, all of which relate to the fact that drag-and-drop is not available. The main things you may notice are that widgets will stay where they are, and folders in bookmarks and file tools will not be draggable. It is also unlikely that your device will support the drawing tool.

Also in this release

Lockable group blogs

Group owners and admins may now choose to prevent other group members from adding blog posts to the group. The option is available in your group settings (choose the 'Edit group' button from your main group profile page). When blog posting is locked, only group administrators may post blogs and other users will see a brief information message telling them that is the case.

Embeddable Landing pages

Mainly of interest to course developers and site developers wishing to use the Landing pages embedded on other sites, if you add:

?view=embed

to the end of almost any Landing URL it should now show only the main content of the page, not the surrounding menus, toolbards, logos, etc. You can use this in an iframe to show just the content (including lists of posts) rather than the whole site. Of course, if there is already something on the end of the page, as in (for example) a search result, just replace the question mark with a semi-colon - e.g.

https://landing.athabascau.ca/search?q=test;view=embed

If you do not know how to use this in an iframe, this feature is not for you!

As always, we very much welcome any feedback, bug reports, applause or general comments on the site!

Do use the Feedback tool (left of the screen) to pass on any suggestions or bug reports, unless that is the cause of the report! We do know that it has problems on very small screens and will be replacing it with a more powerful feedback tool in the near future.

February 25th

Identicons
We have added a colourful new feature to the Landing - identicons. These show a unique avatar for every person and group that does not yet have one explicitly set. As always, we encourage you to choose your own avatar (or even draw one using our simple drawing tool) but this should make it easier to identify individuals who have chosen not to set their own avatar or who have not yet got around to it.

Note that this is an experimental feature that may affect the site's speed - we are monitoring this to check that it does not adversely impact performance and may remove it if it has too much effect. Tell us if you like it or hate it! We think it helps to make the site a little more social and personal, as well as slightly nicer to look at.

Better group activity tool

In case you missed the last blog post, we also recently added some great improvements to the 'Group activity' tool in groups. Previously, this simply showed a list of recent activities. Now, just as in the site activity tool, you are able to filter the results by kind of post: for instance, you can look at recent files, blog posts, or wiki pages.

We have also added a second tab so that you can see what group members have been posting outside the group (assuming they have given permissions for you to do so, of course). This may be of particular interest in course groups where students may be posting things to their personal profiles that are relevant to the group activities, but we hope it will also help to provide more opportunities to discover new learning opportunities and shared interests among group members. It is only available to those logged in to the site.

You can see the new group activity tool in action by clicking the 'Group activity' link in the side bar next to this post.

January 13th

A few new tweaks and improvements, and a lot of bug fixes, including:

  • optional fixed-height widgets (with scroll bars if the content is bigger than the widget)
  • extra site pages (like the front page but for particular purposes, like showing feeds from other AU sites)
  • improved context-sensitive page footers - these will start simple but develop over the coming week or two as we add more content to them, replacing the existing context-sensitive help
  • suggested groups - note that this will only make suggestions once you are already a member of a few groups
  • group admins (as well as owners) informed when someone requests to join a closed group
  • quick discussion widget for groups
  • new 'featured blogs' page
  • new bookmark folders widget
  • related items will now be shown after comments (apart  from group forum discussions, for reasons we are investigating)
  • back and forward buttons for navigating between blog posts
  • New logo to fit the new corporate style
  • Experimental 'add to dashboard' option for most pages. This should let you embed a page on a personal dashboard tab for quick access. We (and its developer) are aware of some bugs and quirks with this feature so be prepared for imperfections and don't rely on it staying on the site in the next release - it is an experimental feature! We think it is none-the-less useful enough in most cases to be worth including as an option for those wanting easier organization of their working environment. If this proves to be the case, we will work hard on making it more robust and reliable.

There are numerous other small changes here and there and a lot of bug fixes, including for the error that some people received over the vacation that wiped out the front page of the site and the activity stream for non-logged-in users, which was due to photo album permission problems. As well as an update to the core Elgg engine which contains dozens of minor fixes and security improvements, we are including updates for group tools, blog tools, widget tools, bookmark tools, related items, and profile tools, all of which should be a little bit smoother, faster and more functional.

December 1st

Today we have added a new tag menu to groups. This appears at the bottom of the site-bar in groups and, by default, shows the 10 most commonly used tags in a group, as well as a link to the group tag cloud, showing all the tags used in the group. 

If you are the owner or administrator of the group, you can change this behaviour by editing your group (from the group's main profile page, choose 'Edit' from the action button). You can:

  1. turn it off so that it doesn’t show at all
  2. change the number of tags shown
  3. explicitly enter the tags that you want to show

The latter two options are available via the 'Other options' tab when editing your group. The option to enter your own tags is particularly valuable if you have particular things that you would like to draw attention to or you wish to organize the content of the group more easily. For example, if you are using the group to support a course, you could enter tags that cover the themes or topics of the course or even, if you are careful with how you tag things, a menu showing the course schedule: if you tag posts with (say) ‘week 1’, ‘week 2’ etc, you can create a menu that resembles that shown in more top-down content management systems like Moodle. 

Of course, for this to work, you must remember to tag your posts!

We hope that you find this useful. It should make it easier to find things and navigate around the content of groups but, as always, tell us if you spot any bugs or have any suggestions as to how to improve it.

November 8th

Minor fix for some odd subject lines in blog and photo album notifications, and a change to the wording for the notifications button in groups to make its meaning clearer.

October 31

We have moved the Landing to a new server, at the same time separating its database from the program files that keep it running. On the whole, you should find it noticeably faster!

October 18

We upgraded and extended the Landing today. There are lots of changes under the hood, the biggest of which you will notice are:

  • that the Wire can now be used in groups and you can set permissions for Wire posts to as private or as public as you wish. This means that you can add a widget to your groups to allow members to send and view Wire posts just for that group, or target your Wire posts at just a few people. We've also added the ability to post directly to the Wire from the widget on the front page. If you miss the option to shorten a URL (not included in the widget) you can still follow the usual link to add a Wire post, where it is still available.
  • that you will see recommendations of similar things when viewing posts. This is mostly based on similarities between tags used, so don't forget to tag your posts so that other people can find them. We hope that this will make it easier for serendipitous discoveries and for learning to spread around the site more easily.

Also...

There have been some improvements in the tools for group owners, and a couple of new widgets, including one to show Wire posts. Don't forget to enable group widgets to gain the benefit of this!

Some bits of wording have changed here and there to make things easier to understand.

Wiki widgets now include wiki sub-pages - use the 'selected' option if you want to narrow down the list of pages that are presented.

There are some small improvements to the photo albums.

Some improvements to the wording of notification messages here and there.

The random content widget now only displays group content when used in groups, instead of from across the site (though it still shows site-wide content when used outside groups in profiles and dashboards)

Comments from external users on public posts now require an email address from the commenter and notifications will also tell you about their IP address, to help you decide where to allow them and to make it possible to respond directly to people who have commented. Includes greatly improved protection from spammers, though some that are not in the external spam database may still sneak through. As always, anonymous comments are not shown until you approve them and it takes a single click to delete ones you don't like.

The underlying Elgg framework has been upgraded from 1.8.13 to 1.8.16, which should have improved stability and performance a little.

There may be occasional teething problems that we have not identified in the weeks that this has been tested. We know of a couple of small issues. Please tell us of any problems, thought the feedback form on every page, or by emailing landing@athabascau.ca

We hope that you like the changes!

August 30

Well, it took longer than expected to perform the necessary tests thanks to a lot of small changes is several places, but we have at last updated the Landing with a few tweaks and bug fixes today. With a bit of luck, most of the functionality we attempted to add before should now be working as intended and wikis should be back to normal, though we have temporarily had to lose the fix to group owner transfer due to incompatibilities with other plugins.

We have changed a bit of wording here and there, notably in personal settings, to make it easier to understand what various options do.

There is one new bit of functionality, the ability to save discussion posts to different groups. This does have one small oddity, that it appears to make it possible to post a discussion to your personal profile even though that is actually impossible - discussions can only appear inside groups. If you want to move a discussion to a different group you can now do so but please avoid the option to save it to your own profile - it will just come back with an error. This is an irritation but you should lose no data as a result.

July 24th

After discovering a bug in our new release we have temporarily reduced the functionality of wikis while we test our fix for the problem. For now, you will not be able to reorganize the sub-pages of a wiki and the option to export to PDF has gone. We hope to have a fix for this in the next few days and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, or that the problem with wikis (that made it impossible for others using a group wiki to make changes) may have caused.

 

July 22nd 2013

We've added a much-requested new feature today - the ability to 'save-as' to different groups or your personal profile. In the past, if you created a post in a group or in your personal space (your profile) it was stuck there. Now you can decide where to post it while you are writing it and, if you change your mind, just edit it to move it somewhere else. Note that, of course, you can only save to groups of which you are a member!

There are a few other tweaks, bug fixes and updates here and there, including improvements to:

  • the Files tool with a more intuitive interface for uploading files
  • group notifications - more informative messages
  • wikis - the ability to move sub-pages from one wiki to another (an option when editing a page) and some minor usability tweaks
  • groups - general bug fixes, including a return of the ability to transfer ownership to someone else

We hope that we have also fixed an issue with blog post notifications in some groups, but would value your feedback on whether that has been successful or not as it is a hard problem to duplicate!

We have a few other fixes and tweaks in the pipeline but we hope these will make your experience of the Landing easier, smoother and more intuitive.

Update, July 2013

Since losing our full-time programmer we are currently mostly treading water for now. However, we have been working on a new update with upgrades and bug fixes that we hope to release soon. We are also hoping to release a bit of improved functionality with the ability to move posts between personal profiles and groups, which should hopefully help to deal with the common problem that people sometimes post things in the 'wrong' place.

April 1st

We have enabled a new and extremely powerful feature today, the pinboard. Pinboards are tools for creating and laying out content from around the site in very flexible ways, using an extended version of the familiar widget interface found in groups, your own profile, and your dashboard.

Pinboards are not particularly intuitive or easy -to-use tools and we know there are a few bugs here and there, but they are worth the effort.  If you are keen and interested and don't mind the struggle, you can see and create pinboards by visiting https://landing.athabascau.ca/pinboards

We've created an introduction using a pinboard to show off a little of what they can do at  https://landing.athabascau.ca/pinboards/view/274934/all-about-pinboards

March 27th

New feature: 'recommended' pages and widgets.

It has long been possible to recommend things (clicking on the ever present 'thumbs up' icon on top of most every page) on the Landing but not so easy to find what other people have recommended, nor to track what you yourself have recommended. Now you can. There are widgets available for your dashboard and profile, as well as group profiles, that you can use to display recommended content.  Look for widgets concerned with recommendation - these are flexible widgets with options to display your own content, group content and other things that have been recommended by you or others.

There is also a tabbed page that shows things you have recommended in a default tab and posts that you have made that other people have recommended in a second tab. You can reach this from your profile page or the context menu for any user, by selecting 'recommended content'.

We've tweaked the interface here and there to reduce the clutter (you will see a 'more' option where many actions are available) and make group context clearer. Several under-the-hood fixes to make the site faster and more reliable. 

Coming soon - pinboards. This will be an extremely powerful tool that lets you create and lay out pages very flexibly to display almost anything on the site as well as content from other sites. Watch this space!

March 18th

New fixes and additions on the Landing today. The main things you may notice are:

  • Simplified group joining: in the past, if you followed a link to a group that you did not belong to, it may not have been obvious how to join the group in order to see it and participate in discussions. If you are looking at something that is visible to you in a group that you do not belong to, there will now be a button available (and, in the case of a discussion, a link) to let you join it and participate fully.
  • The option for group owners and administrators to feature any content from within a group - there is both a menu item for this (visible once content has been featured) and a widget that you may add if you have enabled widgets for your group. This will be handy for those whose groups contain a lot of stuff, some of which they would like to emphasize a bit more. 
  • Slight changes to language strings here and there. In particular, slowly but surely, we are getting rid of the word 'my' across the site, replacing it with 'your', reflecting discussions by the Friends of the Landing group. There are still a few anomalies but we will be getting rid of those soon.
  • A new 'status' option when viewing group profile pages, telling you whether you are a member or not (and giving the option to join or leave depending on your status) and providing a link to your notification settings for the group, so that you can more easily start and stop emails and web notifications arriving in your inbox.
  • The ability for a group owner to set default access permissions for posts in that group. Previously, the default was set to that of the group. Now you can set it to a range of options. You can access this setting by editing your group and selecting the permission you want from the 'content default access' dropdown menu. Note that the default is now set to use the user's own settings. You can change that to the group itself, public, logged-in-users or even private (no one can see it). Remember that this is just setting the default permissions: individuals can, as ever, choose whatever permissions they like for anything that they post.
  • Numerous bug fixes - no more options to edit images when looking at other people's files, no strange scrolling behaviour when using an iPhone, and a host of less visible improvements to stability and security.

February 6th

You have probably already spotted that we have added a new menu structure to the Landing. We hope that it makes the Landing more usable and easier to navigate but do tell us if you spot any problems or run into difficulties.

The menu is structured along lines of typical ways people use the site:

  • 'Explore the Landing' is not dissimilar to the old 'Tools' menu, inasmuch as it gives you access to what people have been doing. It has a couple of things that were not easy to find before, like a tag cloud for the site and easy access to the latest activity stream ('Latest posts'). Note that there is a 'featured' section which will change fairly regularly. If you have suggestions about things to be featured, be sure to tell us. 
  • 'You' is where you can manage your own experience of the Landing. It gives access to your dashboard (your private work space where you can configure things just the way you want to see them), your profile (what others see of you), messages sent to you, your settings, your notifications, and the things you have posted. 
  • 'Your Network' is where you can track people you are following and see who is following you, and manage your circles (subsets of people you are following like 'friends', 'classmates', 'tutors' etc)
  • 'Groups' gives easy access to groups and group functions, including the means to manage your group notifications (emails/web alerts sent when people post things in your groups).
  • 'Create & share' gives easy one-click access to tools to create posts.

We hope that you like the new menu. We think it makes the Landing much easier to use an much easier to make sense of. If you come across any problems, have any ideas for new or modified features or just want to say something about it, do tell us! Either use the Feedback button at the left of every page when you are logged in, or send us an email at landing@athabascau.ca

 

 

January 24th

Today we have made the event calendar a bit more usable and added some great new functionality -  the ability to import and export events so you can add Landing events to your own calendar applications, and vice versa.


First the usability enhancement: the calendar now shows up by default in a traditional monthly view, with events that you can click on to see further details, rather than the older slightly cramped format used before. It should be clearer and more intuitive for most people but do tell us if you have any problems with it. 
 

Import and export of ICAL events

What this is about:most calendar applications, such as Google Calendar, Zimbra, Apple iCAL, Sunbird and Outlook, allow you to import and/or export events using the ICAL standard. The result of exporting  calendar event is a small file, usually carrying a .ics file extension, that can be used to import them to a different calendar application. If you use a desktop calendar, typically importing is as simple as double-clicking the file. Web applications usually provide import menus for this purpose that allow you to upload the file with similar results. It's a way of copying events between different calendar applications. The Landing now allows both import and export of events.
 
How to do it for a whole calendar: When looking at the calendar on the Landing, you can choose Import or Export from the Actions button to move events to and from your own calendar application (Google calendar, Zimbra, Moodle, Apple iCAL, using .ics files. Simply select the calendar you want, fill in any other details and permissions as you see fit, and run the import or export. It may take a few seconds, especially when importing.
 
 
How to export individual calendar events:when you are looking at a single event (by clicking on that event so that it displays in a popup view), then an ICAL button is available to export just that one event. Click it, and that event will immediately be exported as an ICAL .ics file that you can import into your own calendar application.

Caution

If you are familiar with importing and exporting ICAL events then you probably already know that it doesn't always work very well. We have tested this with a variety of different calendars, including exports from Moodle, imports and exports from Zimbra, Apple iCAL and Mozilla Sunbird, with mostly very successful results. However, the ICAL standard is very loose, and different calendars implement different parts of it in different ways, so importing and exporting may not work perfectly every time.  One thing you should be aware of is that the Landing's calendar does not yet support repeating events. If you try to import repeating events that you have exported from another calendar, it will tell you that it has succeeded but it will only have added the first event in the sequence, which may be years in the past! Conversely, our calendar does support time zones but quite a few calendars, including some that are commercially supported, do not: beware potential shifts in time zones if you export Landing calendars.

As ever, please advise us of bugs, omissions and suggestions using the Feedback button at the side of every page or by email to landing@athabascau.ca. We'd be particularly interested to hear from anyone using Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange - we do not use this ourselves so have not been able to test it yet but we are aware that, in the past, Microsoft have departed in some significant ways from standards! It should work but we'd like confirmation of that.
 

Note for the techies...

As before, there is still a generic ICAL subscription button available in the right-hand panel of the page that allows you to subscribe to events using your own calendar (not the same as import and export - when you subscribe, the calendar stays on the Landing but you see it in your own calendar when connected to the Internet). However,  that only shows public events - it is not possible as yet to log in to subscribe to the calendar so you cannot see anything with access restrictions this way. If you don't know what any of that means, the simplest solution is to not use that option!

January 14th

We have not released any big new features for a while, though have been working hard and continuously on the site since the last major update, releasing a stream of small fixes (including one today).

Work on adding new features continues. We've hit a few obstacles in our latest development of real-time chat and our new Pinterest-like 'set' tool, as well as some bugs in the neat calendar import/export tool and multiple-access-permission plugin we've been creating, but they are on their way. The calendar import/export is almost ready and is just undergoing a few usability tweaks before we release it. It will let you export the Landing calendar (or parts of it) to your own calendar on other systems, and to import events from other calendars onto the Landing. The rest of what we are working on will take a while longer. We have a working chat system but it has a number of problems that we cannot easily resolve so we are looking at new alternatives, so that is furthest behind. Our Pinterest-like Sets tool is coming on apace: it's a complex plugin that will make it easy to assemble content from across the site and beyond into presentations that can be worked on alone or with others. The multiple access-permission plugin is nearly done but undergoing more rigorous and lengthy than usual testing because it impacts almost everything on the site: if we get it wrong, it could really make a mess of things! It will allow you to grant access to multiple collections of users for any given resource. For example, you could provide access to two or three groups, or to the people you are following and one of your groups, and so on.

Meanwhile, the site has been getting more secure, faster and slicker behind the scenes, with five bug-fix and security updates since the last big release, including one major version update. With luck, the only way you are likely to have noticed this happening is if something that didn't work before is now working again. There have been some notable fixes to the new profile tabs for personal and group profiles, improvements in media embedding and most RSS feeds are working better than they did before. We have also improved reporting for administration and monitoring purposes. Meanwhile, the site should be running faster, smoother and slicker all the time. If it isn't (and we are aware of and investigating occasional times when it still drags along very slowly) do tell us about it. We've experienced such problems ourselves but have not yet found a consistent pattern and are not sure whether it is our server, something that happens on browsers, something to do with the network, or the effects of other servers on this one, so the more information we receive the more likely we are to find a solution.

November 27

In plenty of time for the festive season, we have two major new features on the Landing today!

Tabbed profiles and tabbed group profiles

This has been a long time in development and the wait has been worth it. Some of you may have already had a chance to play with the tabbed dashboard that we introduced in the summer, which lets you organize your personal dashboard into different tabs, containing widgets or embedding other web pages. The tabbed profile and group profile take this to a new level, offering you (in your own profile or in groups that you own) to create multiple tabs to present different aspects of yourself or your group to the rest of the world or a subset of it. You can choose exactly who gets to see these, using the normal access controls. For instance:

  • For your profile, you could have what would appear to be a different profile for your friends, for the public, for your teachers, or for anyone else on the site. By dragging the tabs to change their order, you can choose which one people see by default. The flexibility of the widgets means you could create:
  • tabs for your CV/Resume,
  • tabs as galleries to show your pictures,
  • tabs to show sites that interest you,
  • tabs that embed your Facebook or Google+ pages,
  • tabs to show your eportfolio page (e.g. on AU's eportfolio site, or elsewhere)
  • and a whole lot more.

For groups, you could create a group profile tab that shows things of interest to group members, and a different tab to show things of interest to other people. Or, if the group is small enough, you could show different tabs for different group members. Or you could use a tab to present things the group has created to the world. The choice is yours - this is a creative toolset that gives a lot more flexibility than before to control the look and feel of your groups.

Along with the new tab functionality come a few new widgets that let you present the things normally shown in the profile panel wherever you want to place them

We're very excited by the possibilities of these new tools - if you create some neat or interesting use of profile or group profile tabs, do tell others on the Landing about them. These are powerful creative tools and we expect there will be many ways to use them that we have not yet thought of.

To use them, simply go to your profile or the main profile page of a group you own and look for the '+' symbol. All tabs are editable, draggable and configurable, letting you choose whether different things are displayed, how many columns of widgets they have, who can see them and their label. Rather than widgets, you can choose to embed another web page in an 'iframe' (a page within a page) - just enter the URL of the page you'd like to display.

Subgroups

A much requested feature for some time, subgroups allow group owners and administrators to create groups within groups. This might be handy if, for example, you are in a hierarchical system like a faculty with centres, or a department with subdepartments, or a course with tutor groups, and so on, or if you just want to organize an existing group to support different activities. Again, there are many possibilities. Subgroups behave almost exactly like groups, apart from the fact that the only people who can become members of them are those that belong to the parent group and they are not separately listed as groups in your list of groups.

We've also added a widget to display a list of subgroups in one or more of your group tabs.

Other fixes and tweaks

As well as these two big new features, there's a host of bugfixes and small tweaks here and there that we hope will make your experience of the Landing more pleasurable and smoother. We've also restored the 'member activity' widget to groups that was lost when we upgraded over summer, which lets a group owner display not just activities within the group, but also/instead activities of group members outside the group - as always, of course, only those that the person looking at the page is allowed to see: access control permissions are always respected, no matter where content is displayed on the site. This widget is particularly useful as a means to aggregate what group members have been blogging about or posting across the whole site. 

We have also made some admin additions and tweaks, including the ability to disable email notifications for users with incorrectly entered or non-working email addresses. These cause many headaches for the AU mail administrators because of bounced emails flooding the site. Please do ensure that your email address is correct (the setting is in 'My Account') or there's a good chance that you will get a grumpy message from the system next time you log in telling you that your email notifications have been disabled. As far as we know, this only affects about 20-30 people at the moment.

 

November 22

Added a new 'full screen' button to the wysiwyg editor used for almost everything where text can be entered on the site (blogs, comments, discussions, wikis, etc). Click the button to make the editor fill the browser window, click it again when you are done editing and ready to add tags, save it, etc.

 

November 7th

We've added lots of little bits of new stuff today, in preparation for two wonderful big new features coming next week or the week after (depending on the results of testing).

The main new feature for this upgrade of the Landing is in-browser drawing. If you are using a supported browser (most modern browsers are supported) then you will be able to use your mouse to draw pictures to save in your files area or to create your own avatar for your profile. It's not a sophisticated tool and it doesn't work with tablets and older browsers, but we like it. If you come up with a novel way of using it, don't forget to tell people about it, perhaps by posting something to the Wire to tell everyone what you have created.

The next biggest thing that you will notice is that we have renamed 'collections' to 'circles', following the nomenclature used by Google and recommended by the Friends of the Landing. We got there first, but Google came up with a more understandable name. Circles are sets of people that you are following that you can used to limit access to your posts (you'll see them in the access control lists) as well as to use in widgets or the activity stream to make it easier to pay attention to particular sets of people. Instead of 'People you are following' you  will now see 'Circles' in the tools menu. This menu item will now show both people you are following and the circles (if any) that you have grouped them into.

There are a few other additions that you probably won't notice, some because they are admin-only tools, some because they are meant to be invisible, and some because you will only see them if things go wrong. In particular, if the system is struggling with your email address, you will get a notification that it is having problems and be prompted to enter the correct address. This will, we hope, prevent frustration to both our mail manager and to people who are expecting to receive notifications via email but none are arriving. We have also enabled 'lazy' loading of images so that images (which slow down page load times) will only be loaded when you should actually be able to see them on the page - they will load on demand when you scroll down the page. This should slightly improve the performance of the site in general, and will make a big difference on image-heavy pages like photo albums.

After that, there's a host of bug fixes and usability tweaks that we hope will make the site more joyful to use. Amongst other things, If you want to edit the appearance of your group, instead of a separate link you will now find it in the more logical area reached when you click the 'Edit group' button. It made no sense to edit appearance in one place and things like the group icon in another.

We were getting a proliferation of action buttons in some tools so now, if there is more than one button available for you to use, you will see a single button that, when you pass your mouse over it, will drop down into a menu to show all the buttons that are available for that tool. Tools affected include files, groups and wikis, but you may find them anywhere on the site.

We've got rid of quite a few bugs/usability errors too: if you are following more than 50 people, you will once again be able to easily send them a message. When you are looking at messages, you will no longer see a 'send reply' button if it is impossible to do so. RSS feeds will once again be available for files and bookmarks.

Coming soon...

The next release, in a  week or two, will be a big one: we are going to introduce you to subgroups (groups that are part of other groups) and tabbed personal and group profiles. If you don't use them, nothing much will seem different. However, these are immensely powerful tools that will greatly increase your control over the Landing, and greatly increase the range of possibilities for using the system. We're really excited about them! Watch this space.

 

October 28th

Great new feature:

  • When you embed an audio or video file in any post or comment, if the browser supports the media type then it will appear embedded within the text. 

Bug fixes and minor features:

  • featured groups now show up when looking at the list of your own groups (reached via 'Groups' menu)
  • discussion widgets in groups now show excerpts rather than complete messages
  • reply button removed from messages to which it is impossible to reply (e.g. alerts of new messages in groups, etc)
  • auteacherstv links should now embed correctly (previously only a subset of these would do so thanks to changes on the site itself)

 

September 28th

Simplified profile-filling

We have received feedback that the amount of information you may (optionally) fill in for your profile can feel overwhelming. So, we have split the numerous fields into four categories to make it easier for you to make sense of it all when completing your profile. Remember, all of the fields are optional and you can choose precisely who sees which information, just like nearly everything else on the Landing.

Now, when you edit your profile (by clicking the 'Edit Profile' button on your own profile), you will see that you have four clickable tabs that let you enter:

  1. general info: such as your description, location and interests;
  2. contact info: such as your address, phone, email, Facebook and Skype details;
  3. occupation:  to describe what you do for a career, job or pastime;
  4. AU courses, roles, etc:  to enter you course, program and AU role details.

You will see that these tabs appear as 'accordion' boxes in your profile that people can click to reveal. We are just testing this feature to see whether people like it: if you'd prefer to see all that information at once, as it was previously, tell us. We can easily change it back. 

As always, all feedback is appreciated - this is your site and you can make a difference to how it works.

September 24th

We have several new tools and features for you today, as well as a few bug fixes. Thanks to Matt Beckett, our excellent programmer, for making this happen. Here are the highlights:

Import RSS feeds to blogs, bookmarks or wikis.

This new feature allows you to import content from an external blog, Facebook RSS feed, Twitter RSS and so on, and posts will appear as though authored by yourself as either blogs, bookmarks or wiki pages. You can also use this to import content into group blogs, bookmarks or wikis. 

This was designed mainly for those who maintain external blogs or other RSS-able content, and who want them to appear in the Landing as well - including the ability to edit them, have other Landing users comment on them, and aggregate things they write in one place. It can import any RSS content, including  from magazines, external group posts, newspapers etc, but, though it is by default labelled with the URL of the original source so it is clear where it came from, this content will appear under your name as if it were authored by you, so do make sure that you have the rights to use any content that you import this way: you will have to explicitly agree to that when you import a feed.

If you wish, the tool can automatically import feeds on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

To use the tool, simply click the 'Import RSS Feed' button that will be available whenever you are looking at your blogs, bookmarks or wikis. You will need to enter the RSS feed URL and decide on access control, default tags, etc, and whether you want it to automatically import the feed from now on or whether this is a once-only thing. When doing a single import, you can choose which items to include. You can also edit or re-run previous imports and undo an import if you make a mistake.

To find your Facebook RSS feed: http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=212445198787494

To find your Twitter RSS feed: http://seo-alien.com/tips-and-tricks/find-twitter-rss-feed/

Note that this only imports the text of the RSS feed, not any associated files or images, which will remain on the original site that they came from. This is by design. Note too that it depends entirely on the original feed to supply content: if the original feed just provides an excerpt, for instance, that's what you will get here.

Random content widget 

The new random content widget, that displays different content (blogs, wikis, photos etc) each time you login in or refresh your browser.  We have put one of these on the front page of the site but you can also add one to your dashboard or profile if you like. We hope this will be especially useful for occasional users, those who read posts from groups or individuals they are following mostly be email and for those who have recently joined the Landing. It should be great for serendipitous discoveries of things people have posted.

Private file messages

You can now easily add one of the files you have uploaded to a message you are sending to another landing user and it will be copied to them so that only they can see it. While it is already possible to create a collection with just one person in it and share files with them by setting access to that collection, this is a much simpler way of sharing files with others, and may be very useful for students sharing files with their tutors or other specified Landing users. Note that the file is copied, like an email attachment: changes made by the recipient will not affect your original file.

Avatar access control

We have had users express concern that their profile avatar icon (usually a photo of themselves) has been accessible to the public and may turn up on search engines. Of course, you have always been able to choose which image of yourself you share on your profile (including none at all) but that's not a very nice option if you want to engage with others on the Landing. The profile edit avatar page now has a new option to make this photo accessible only to logged in users, members of a group you have joined or any other privacy setting you choose.

Small fixes

In addition to these new features, we have also fixed a few small bugs and quirks such as extra commas in profile fields, problems using old bookmarklets to add bookmarks and other small tweaks. As always, don't forget to provide feedback to us if you find anything not working, in need of improvement, or you have ideas to make the Landing more wonderful!

 

September 17th

Fixed some language strings for group options so it doesn't suggest odd things like 'Enable group activity' any more (we hope your groups are already active!)

The video player should support a few more video formats

Old bookmarklets that you created before the upgrade should now work properly

More visible featured groups - we have so many now that the default of 10 was a limitation

Fixed an invalid link in the event calendar widget title

There are various other small fixes here and there that should make your experience smoother and more enjoyable. More coming soon, including the ability to import blogs and other RSS feeds from your other sites and control over who sees your profile icon!

August 30th

You can now choose your own defaults for access settings for new posts. Before, it always defaulted to 'logged-in users', which is a sensible default for most people but was irritating to those who habitually posted in public or to a single limited set of people. You can select your own default by choosing 'My Account' from the main site toolbar and then choosing  the access rights that suit your needs from the drop-down list provided. Note that this only affects your individual posts and, as ever, you are completely free to change access rights to something different from the default for any given post. It doesn't your affect posts in groups, where the default access rights are always those of the group itself.

August 22nd 2012

We have made a vast number of changes, most of which we think you will love. Matt, our programmer, has done a fantastic job of writing new plugins, rewriting old ones and working to make the site as much as possible like the previous version so that it is not too much of a shock to you. However, you will notice some changes, most of which will delight you, some of which may feel unfamiliar for a little while. Here are a few things you might notice:

Improved usability, including:

  • the side-bar menus are now on the right hand side of the page
  • you will see 'breadcrumbs' showing you where you are in relation to other things
  • forms: things should be in more obvious places and their function should be clearer when you are entering content.
  • more logical layouts for almost everything
  • easier access to related items such as recent comments, other posts by individuals etc
  • fewer mouse-clicks needed for most things
  • many

Comments

  • "Better notifications, that tell you what has been written and who wrote it. No more irritating 'There is a new blog post' messages: the subject will tell you a bit about it so that you can, for instance, set up email filters to deal with different messages from different groups or individuals."

    Hallelujah!

    Wayne Brehaut August 22, 2012 - 9:49pm

  • Did I used to get a notification when people I am following published a new blog post? I feel like I used to get one, and now I don't think I do. I can still find them, via the activity feed, but is it on purpose or a bug?

    sarah beth September 25, 2012 - 9:33pm

  • I'm still getting such notifications so it might be a bug - have you checked your notification settings in 'My Account'? They *shouldn't* have changed so, if they have, please tell us about it! And please tell us if it looks like you should be getting notifications but they are not arriving.

    Jon Dron September 27, 2012 - 10:58am

  • Nope, my notification settings haven't changed; everything is set to come through the site. I am getting notifications for everything people I am following post, except new blog posts. Weird. 

    sarah beth September 27, 2012 - 12:33pm

  • I'm also not getting email notifications when people I'm following post a blog. For example, Jan posted a blog today with 806 tag - didn't come into my email as it used to - I checked my notifications set-up and it's set up for email when Jan posts.

    Thanks,

    Julie

    Julie Shattuck September 28, 2012 - 2:34pm

  • Hmm, just gave this a test on production here.  I got notifications both through the site and via email.

    Matt Beckett September 28, 2012 - 10:40pm

  • Can anyone tell me how to get the instructor's notebook on the landing. I still can't figure it out or are mine missing something?

    Oluremi

    Oluremi Oyejola September 10, 2013 - 8:06pm

  • Hi Oluremi

    That's a difficult question to ask here as there are many courses that are using the Landing, many tens of thousands of posts of many different kinds, and hundreds of different groups! A good starting point would be to run a search for 'notebook' - chances are that it would either be a wiki or a blog so just look through those until you find it. If you know your instructor's name, you could look at his or her profile and view Landing activity to see what posts he or she has made. If don't know where the profile is, under 'Your network', look for 'all Landing members', from which you can run a search for individuals. The best thing, though, is probably to ask your instructor directly.

    Jon

    Jon Dron September 11, 2013 - 9:54am

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