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Zelaron Portal: Alpha version launched!
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Posted 2008-11-27, 04:02 PM
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.


Quick Search

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.

WW and I have attempted to make the form field pre-selected with javascript (so you won't even have to click it before you can type your search query in it), but currently, the chatbox interferes with javascript focusing. We'll probably find a workaround, hopefully not by having to remove the chatbox from the start page.



Weather

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:

http://www.weather.com/outlook/trave...rch_morecities

In the example above, UKXX1984 is the location code you're looking for.



RSS Feed

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):





Current Poll

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.



Featured Member

Who the hell came up with this idea?



Reviews

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?
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica and is widely regarded as the most important innovator in scientific and technical computing today." - Stephen Wolfram

Last edited by Chruser; 2008-11-27 at 04:06 PM.
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Posted 2008-11-27, 04:20 PM in reply to Chruser's post "Zelaron Portal: Alpha version launched!"
o0o This looks sexy... very sexy.
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Posted 2008-11-27, 07:22 PM in reply to -Spector-'s post starting "o0o This looks sexy... very sexy."
I agree! Definately love it! And Titusfied is the first Featured Member!!! Lucky bastard...
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Posted 2008-11-27, 07:26 PM in reply to Chruser's post "Zelaron Portal: Alpha version launched!"
Cool beans!

Nice to see the Portal go live. Good job, Chruser (and I imagine WW is involved in some way, so he gets a cookie too!).
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Posted 2008-11-27, 10:55 PM in reply to Chruser's post "Zelaron Portal: Alpha version launched!"
Chruser said: [Goto]
RSS Feed

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.[/URL]
If we were to vote, I'd choose CNN. I've never even heard of Slashdot; maybe I'm a newb?




Chruser said:
Featured Member

Who the hell came up with this idea?
Heh, I like it. Should we get more active members, it would give posters a nice incentive to act wisely and not be an asshat so that they could get on the front page.




Chruser said:

I think that's it for now. Questions?
I like it.. like Spector said: sexy. Good job, I think this was a great addition to the Zelaron community.
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Posted 2008-11-28, 09:37 AM in reply to Thanatos's post starting "If we were to vote, I'd choose CNN...."
Thanatos said: [Goto]
If we were to vote, I'd choose CNN. I've never even heard of Slashdot; maybe I'm a newb?






Heh, I like it. Should we get more active members, it would give posters a nice incentive to act wisely and not be an asshat so that they could get on the front page.






I like it.. like Spector said: sexy. Good job, I think this was a great addition to the Zelaron community.

Nice, very nice. I'm considering putting Zel as my homepage now.

As for the featured member, perhaps a poll every month or week?
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Posted 2008-11-28, 10:16 AM in reply to Wallow's post starting "Nice, very nice. I'm considering..."
Wallow said: [Goto]
Nice, very nice. I'm considering putting Zel as my homepage now.

As for the featured member, perhaps a poll every month or week?

Is there anything in particular that you'd like me to add to the portal? If it's something that may be useful for most members on Zelaron, I'll do so (if possible).

A monthly poll sounds great, as it would motivate members to try to ameliorate our problems (e.g. increasing inactivity, low numbers of informative and/or content rich posts, et etera).
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica and is widely regarded as the most important innovator in scientific and technical computing today." - Stephen Wolfram
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Posted 2008-11-28, 07:41 PM in reply to Chruser's post starting "Is there anything in particular that..."
Chruser said: [Goto]
Is there anything in particular that you'd like me to add to the portal? If it's something that may be useful for most members on Zelaron, I'll do so (if possible).

A monthly poll sounds great, as it would motivate members to try to ameliorate our problems (e.g. increasing inactivity, low numbers of informative and/or content rich posts, et etera).
something that would be great to the page is like new progrmas that are released aka major programs
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Posted 2008-11-28, 08:22 PM in reply to Chruser's post starting "Is there anything in particular that..."
Sounds good. Definitely the top priority to me would be allowing people to select their RSS too, and perhaps eventually sexifying it up a little more.
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Posted 2008-11-28, 09:49 PM in reply to Willkillforfood's post starting "Sounds good. Definitely the top..."
Willkillforfood said: [Goto]
...and perhaps eventually sexifying it up a little more.
do you mean prn?
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Posted 2008-11-29, 05:44 AM in reply to Willkillforfood's post starting "Sounds good. Definitely the top..."
Willkillforfood said: [Goto]
Sounds good. Definitely the top priority to me would be allowing people to select their RSS too, and perhaps eventually sexifying it up a little more.

Do you have any particular suggestions for its format? I'm considering to purchase the full, $47 version of CaRP, which is, as previously stated, very nice for just about all kinds of customization. I could probably build my own RSS parser as well, but that would be a very time consuming task.

I think the best way to do the custom RSS feed, for server stability and security reasons (considering that CaRP caches all of its feed requests on the server in a rather computationally intense process), is to let members choose one of several staff-approved feed sources from a pull-down menu. The RSS module on the Zelaron portal will then determine which of the selectable feeds to display for the individual user based on his or her choice.

The matter of adding new options would be trivial, so just about everyone who wants a feed source that isn't "Low_Blow's 30 most recent YouTube videos" will essentially be accommodated that way.
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica and is widely regarded as the most important innovator in scientific and technical computing today." - Stephen Wolfram
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Posted 2008-11-29, 06:27 AM in reply to Chruser's post starting "Do you have any particular suggestions..."
Wow, i'm loving this design of the portal now. Hopefully this can continue to be modified as well.














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Posted 2008-11-29, 06:33 AM in reply to Chruser's post starting "Do you have any particular suggestions..."
Wow. That was even more straight-forward than Memento in reverse.

You can now select your own RSS feed from the bottom of the Edit Options section of the User CP. Basically, just select whichever feed you want, and it will be displayed on the portal.

I have added three RSS feeds for testing purposes, BBC News, CNN Top Stories and Slashdot. To see feeds of your own choice on the list, post your suggestions in this thread.


I will purchase the full version of CaRP in a few moments, so we can create the exact RSS formatting we want.

Also, I talked to WKFF last month about allowing things like replacing the useless "Zelaron Portal" text below the header menu with things like a RSS stock ticker that will marquee the latest results from the right to left in a Wall Street ticker fashion, which will very much be possible now!
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica and is widely regarded as the most important innovator in scientific and technical computing today." - Stephen Wolfram

Last edited by Chruser; 2008-11-29 at 09:42 AM.
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Posted 2008-11-29, 06:51 AM in reply to D3V's post starting "Wow, i'm loving this design of the..."
D3V said: [Goto]
Wow, i'm loving this design of the portal now. Hopefully this can continue to be modified as well.

Start posting interesting news and reviews, and others will probably do the same!
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica and is widely regarded as the most important innovator in scientific and technical computing today." - Stephen Wolfram
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Posted 2008-11-29, 06:57 AM in reply to Chruser's post starting "Start posting interesting news and..."
Update: I have purchased CaRP Evolution for $59; a bit more expensive than anticipated, but nevertheless, this will be awesome!

We can now format RSS feeds any way we want, so start suggesting what you want to see on the potal.
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica and is widely regarded as the most important innovator in scientific and technical computing today." - Stephen Wolfram
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Posted 2008-11-29, 08:57 AM in reply to Chruser's post starting "Update: I have purchased CaRP Evolution..."
Quadruple post!

Not only can you select your own RSS feed via Edit Options, you can now choose the number of items that you want to be displayed (1-15; default is 4) and the description length of each item (0-750 characters; default is 160).
"Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica and is widely regarded as the most important innovator in scientific and technical computing today." - Stephen Wolfram

Last edited by Chruser; 2008-11-29 at 09:41 AM.
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Posted 2009-02-26, 11:36 AM in reply to Chruser's post starting "Quadruple post! Not only can you..."
Just something that I noticed that I didn't like about the portal, when you click the zelaron thing at the top, it just re-loads the portal. I would prefer if it would lake me to the forum part. Having to click on that small forum tag and the only means to get straight to the forums is very annoying.
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