Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Auto-tag your content with Calais for Drupal

This is rebooting my interest in automated classification. =)

Check out the Calais Drupal module, based on the Calais service from Thomson-Reuters.
The Calais modules for Drupal (found at are feature-rich, highly intuitive and designed to make it easy for Drupal users to automatically metatag their content, generating rich Semantic metadata that can be shared via a simple key and integrated into the larger content universe.

The screencast shows what an implementation would look like. I'm ready to use Drupal's RSS aggregator or FeedAPI module to pull in some content and see how Calais auto-tagging would work.

Of course, now I want to see what Calais does to library items imported into Drupal, see how Drupal would expose RDF and other stuff!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Disabling Etags from affecting your YSlow score

YSlow is a great tool to quickly determine what optimizations can make your site quicker. However, Yahoo determined to include checking for ETags; if the server in question has ETags enabled, YSlow scores will be negatively affected. This should really not always be true, as ETags aren't always "bad"; if your site runs from a single server, having ETags enabled helps.

Looking for an explanation for this, I came across a comment from David C-L inside the Yahoo Developer's Blog:
  • Type about:config in the Firefox address bar.
  • look for the setting named extensions.firebug.yslow.pointsEtags and set it to 0. If the setting doesn't exist, you can create it by right-clicking and choosing "Add".
Now Firebug will not ignore the ETags setting on servers to determine the YSlow score.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Why implement federated search tools you hate?

In my case, I of course don't *hate* federated search engines, I just think some could be MUCH better (that's why I wrote a PHP layer on top of III's Metafind years ago before actually rolling it out to users).

In "Why Reference and Instruction Librarians Hate Federated Searching", the author points out a bunch of shortcomings of these tools, but mid-article reveals the reason:

Given the above, why are federated search products still on the market, and why are libraries still contracting with vendors? What has changed my own mind in the last five years, transforming me from a reluctant community college reference librarian fighting it tooth and nail to a web librarian petitioning the university’s budget priorities committee for extra funds to pay for it? Two things: usability testing and developments in federated search products themselves.

It goes on to mention new features, new attitudes, and the real-world impact of simply exposing all this quality information we have tucked away in our many, many subscription databases: trying to simplify our present too many interfaces, paths, requirements, dead ends, and opportunities for confusion.

Oh! Also, Don't forget to check out

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Userfly: hosted screen recording for usability testing

UserFly touts itself as a tool to do usability studies by just adding a line of javascript to your pages. In reality, it is a screen recording tool that stores the actions your users did in real time.

The recording works, although since the pages seem to be captured from the Userfly servers and then overlayed with actions from the browser, you will find that if the user is already logged in, Userfly might not playback actions on those pages correctly.

The service seems like it's still in an experimental stage. IMO it still needs some polishing (the demo video is narrated by someone with a cold), and personally adding the javascript to one of my sites really slowed down page loading.

To be honest I would need more testing to judge if it works or not. I love the idea of just adding the javascript and getting instant recordings of site visitors. from Chris Estreich on Vimeo.

On a side note, a full usability test consists of more than just going by screen recordings of users, just make sure you read up on the subject before actually embarking on a testing spree "just" with this tool =)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Drupal 6.x Starter Theme Comparison

This courtesy of the aggregator:

This table shows the current crop of themes that identify themeselves as starter themes for Drupal.

A starter or "base" theme is one that typically has very little style and is designed primarly for the purpose of building your own unique Drupal theme. For more information about theming Drupal view the Drupal 6 Theme Guide.