After having floated around in the ether with no real purpose for almost seven years, it's finally time for a public alpha test of the brand-new Zelaron portal!
The "alpha state" of the portal implies that most of its rudimentary features are operational, yet may be prone to failure in a smorgasbord of interesting and unpredictable ways. No-one will be held liable for anything, including, but not limited to slow loading times, crashing web browsers and whales arbitrarily falling from the sky!
So, by now you may wonder, what is the purpose of this... "portal"?
The purpose of the web page that you now see when you visit http://www.zelaron.com
is to serve as a useful, content-rich, slick and informative portal that will give you a quick and comprehensible overview of the Zelaron community, while it also makes it easy to reach other, trans-Zelaron regions of the Internet (such as Google and Wikipedia). In fact, a Google search form is available directly in the top right part of the portal, which lets you search the Internet right away, should you desire to temporarily migrate from Zelaron.
The main thing that I think makes the portal awesome is that it's directly linked to the current Zelaron forum software. In other words, the news and reviews that you see are actually threads posted by our members; the RPGMaker charsets and tilesets are images added to social groups; its download sections contain attachments selected and approved by staff members, and so on.
Also note that the portal is highly modular, and will thus allow us to make adjustments to it very easily. If you happen to know HTML or PHP and want to write a module for the portal, I'll be happy to add it (assuming that the members want your modification).
Presently, I will add comprehensive and detailed information regarding the portal to the Zelaron FAQ, but for now, I will describe the different features and pages of the portal more simply. If, for whatever reason you haven't looked at the portal yet, here is a resized image of its physiognomy:
As you may notice, the header and footer are identical to those seen on the rest of the forum, while the parts of the portal that is between them has been divided into three columns.
The most important feature of the left column is the site navigation menu, but it also shows a user control panel, a RSS feed (currently set to retrieve news from Slashdot) and a list of users currently logged onto Zelaron.
The central column displays page-specific content, such as news, reviews and image galleries. For instance, the central column of start page ("Home/News") displays threads that have been greenlit (selected and approved) by Zelaron staff members for housing interesting (and mostly gaming or technology-related) content.
To the right is a quick search feature (which allows you to search Google, Wikipedia or Zelaron), a list of the six most recent threads, a local weather report module and a community-wide poll (which I forgot to include in the image above).
Most modules and pages are pretty self-explanatory, but I will explain how a few of them work anyway.
As previously stated, the Quick Search feature allows you to search Google, Wikipedia or Zelaron. Google is the default option of the three in the drop-down menu, because I suspect most of you use Google as your start page. Now, you can use the Zelaron portal as your start page instead and still be able to search Google very easily! If you have any other suggestions for web sites that should be searchable from Zelaron, let us know.
Displays weather data (temperature, relative temperature, atmospheric condition, humidity and wind velocity), for any city or area of your choice from weather.com.
To set it up, go to the Edit Your Details
page in the User CP, scroll down to the bottom of the page and add your zip code in the "Zip Code or Weather.com location code" form field. Said location codes should be used instead if you live outside the U.S..
To find your location code, go to http://www.weather.com
, search for your city or area of choice, and you will find yourself on a page that displays today's weather. The page address in your address bar will look something like the following:
In the example above, UKXX1984
is the location code you're looking for.
Currently displays the latest news from Slashdot, but can be set to display updates from any RSS source (such as CNN, Yahoo, BBC, Youtube, deviantART, et cetera).
As of now, I have not been able to make it possible for users to select RSS feeds of their own choice, so until I find a way to accomplish this (which is currently my main priority), we should vote for what the RSS Feed module should display. Note that it is possible to add multiple RSS modules (or modules of other types for that matter) to the portal, so in case we want two or even three separate RSS feeds on the portal, there's nothing that physically prevents us from doing so.
The RSS Feed module currently uses the free version of CaRP
. If we purchase a Single User License for $47 and procure the full version of CaRP, we will be able to do more things with it, such as to add descriptions (rather than just titles) from the RSS sources, allowing pictures to be shown as in the example below (click for a larger version):
Not much can be said about this, except that staff members will move a chosen thread with an interesting poll to a special forum, where it will remain for two weeks. Its poll will be displayed on the portal, and will likely receive a much larger amount of votes than it would otherwise. After its two weeks in the limelight, it will be supplanted by another poll/thread and moved back to its original position.
Who the hell came up with this idea?
If you have wondered why the forum entitled Reviews
was created for no apparent reason, I'm pretty sure you know by now what machinations made it come to pass. Anyone can post reviews for Video Games, Movies and Books, but to ensure that the reviews are of reasonably good quality, they require staff approval before they will be displayed on the portal.
Guidelines for reviews will be established in a sticky thread, but one worth mentioning now is that the old review templates will have to DIAF, governing that only the first 500 characters of a review are shown on review index pages. In other words, wasting half of those characters to explain things such as genre, publisher, platform and ESRB rating, as shown below in Raziel's otherwise excellent review, is a bad idea:
Also, since no-one has used the Rate Thread feature on Zelaron since 2003 (Had you ever seen
before? Didn't think so), it may be a good idea to name it "Rate Product" instead. After all, the member rating of the reviewer's thread is what determines the score shown (as stars) on the portal. Thus, it is up to the members rather than the singular reviewer to determine the score, to decrease bias.
Image Galleries for RPGMaker
I think the portal gallery is actually the first vBulletin hack I've coded. Basically, it retrieves images added to specific social groups and displays them as thumbnails with related information in the relevant galleries on the portal. Clicking on a thumbnail will show a full version of the picture.
There is no reason to limit this to RPGMaker. For instance, we could create additional social groups and link them to portal galleries with car photos or video game screenshots. We would just have to let a few responsible (and interested) members be in charge of the different social groups, and thus let them decide what exactly those portal galleries should show.
I think that's it for now. Questions?