Roundup of the year 2010 and a roadmap

by Laisvunas on Thu, December 30, 2010  

In the last news article written about a year ago I expressed the hope that the year 2010 will be the year when it will be possible to move from solving technical problems to publishing content. I was wrong. Although the year was quite productive for Classics Unlocked, I'm still preoccupied with solving various technical problems and will in the foreseeable future.

So, what has been done and what technical problems remain?

During the year I did complete overhaul of the commenting with the aim of making reading of Classics Unlocked ebooks social. Now visiting any page of the ebook, e.g. this one, you will find "Comment pane" button in the menu bar. Clicking it right pane will be opened where you can log in, submit comments and get info about comment authors and commented pages.

On each page of the ebook it is possible submit both general comments, i.e. comments concerning ebook as a whole, and comments related to that particular page (except title page on which it is possible submit only general comments). On analysis pages such as this one it is possible to comment on sections of the page: on Basic Analysis, Morphology, Syntax, Dictionary, Commentary and Prosody. Recently submitted comments can be seen in the right pane by clicking "Latest comments" menu item. Info about commented pages and sections and info about comment authors is accessible by clicking, respectively, "List of commented sections" and "List of commenters" menu items. Submitting comments and displaying info about comment authors and commented pages is being done by AJAX, i.e. without reloading of the current page. That's quite rich functionality which should be wholy adequate for the needs of both ebook compilers and readers.

The new commenting system can be seen by visiting the website. There are other changes which can be seen only from the backend. This year Classics Unlocked website experienced much of spamming activity (comment spamming and member profile spamming). To stop it several spam prevention and spam filtering measureas were implemented. Also several website's Control Panel enhancements were implemented which aim to enhance the workflow of editors and contributors working on ebook publishing projects.

All that involved writing new and new add-ons for ExpressionEngine, a CMS which powers Classics Unlocked. If judged from the number of add-ons used Classics Unlocked is now arguably the most complex ExpressionEngine website.

Still, much remains to be done. As the work proceeds the concept of ebooks in Classics Unlocked format and of the website becomes more and more distilled and now I can formulate a roadmap consisting of the technical problems which should be solved in the near future (without venturing to say when transitioning to conten creation will happen). So, the roadmap:

1. Introducing possibility to add pictures. It should be possible to add portraits of the authors of classical texts and it should be possible to add illustrations at proper pages in the ebooks.

2. Any hardcoding of autoincrement values should be removed from templates and scripts. Database tables often have colums whose values serve as keys and are incremented automatically when new data is being inserted. Hardcoding of autoincrements in templates and scripts is architectural mistake which if lefts as it is would prevent fetching data of one or several project on one website and restoring those project on another website. This architectural flaw should be corrected.

3. Writing of ePUB generator module for ExpressionEngine. Ebooks in Classics Unlocked format will be compiled online and will be available for reading either online or offline in ePUB format. Generating of ePUB publication should be done using current online content and that means that generation should be done also online ExpressionEngine's add-on.

4. Adding certain functionality to ePUBReader. ePUBReader is perhaps the best reader of ePUB publications. It is Firefox extension enabling the reader to use whole power of this amazing browser. I believe that electronic books should be read in full-fledged browsers, not using special software which integrates some crippled browser engine, as Adobe's Digital Editions. In essence, ePUBReader gets reading of ebooks right, but it lacks some features essential for ebooks in Classics Unlocked format. More specifically, in ePUBReader right-clicking on publication's inner URLs leads to opening publication's pages without ePUBReader's interface. That's OK for recreational reading, but for any serious reading of electronic publication full support of right-clicking on inner links is a must.

5. Website redesign. New, more professional site theme, new front page, site's logo, Twitter stream integration etc.

6. Forum redesign. New forum theme.

That's quite much work to be done. I hope that the year 2011 will be productive.

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