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For Want of an API . . .

We wanted to be able to know whether people signing up for Ram Pages were faculty or not but didn’t want to add fields for them to fill out. VCU has an online phonebook with faculty emails in it but there didn’t appear to be a way to hook into an API. But you can provision the site with search items via the URL like so https://phonebook.vcu.edu/?Qname=woodwardtw%40vcu.edu. Since I knew that PHP can grab a website (file_get_contents) and parse out the text in various ways (preg_match) it seemed like we could automate this. When the phonebook site fails to find a matching email it returns some text that says ‘No matches.’ That’s what I decided to look for. If you look at the comments below, each line of the code is broken down and pretty much (over) explains what it does. Update Here’s a better version using curl and displaying the data in the user profile so you can see if you’re crazy or not. It also checks for the metadata field and updates or creates it as needed.

19

Weekly Work Log

As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to try to document what went down this week. Unlike the past, I’m actually doing this for an internal purpose so I think we’ll keep after it better. The challenge will be walking the line between giving enough context to make it useful to the 4 people who might be interested and making it too much of a hassle for me for 4 people. We’ll see how that plays out but history doesn’t look good.   This Week Workshops The HTML workshop occurred on 10/17 and was focused on IEDT members prior to offering it to a broader audience. We had 5 in-person attendees and 2 virtual attendees. ALT Lab site Faculty comment submissions are rolling in – we currently have 14 which you can see here. We’ll be exposing those quotes on the front page once we chop them up and remove some of the specificity of names. Workshops The catalog of workshops has expanded by a couple of offerings Introduction to HTML and CSS Building Automated Workflows with Google Apps Script Some visual improvements have been made to the front page Footprints on the James Site We met with [VCU FACULTY NAME] and are about 60% done with this site. There is some solid options to expand it as OER […]

05

Top Hat Content Rescue Bookmarklet

We have more and more people building things in Top Hat. Top Hat has some useful features (and a very aggressive sales team) but it’s not a place that makes it easy to get your content out. I am working with some of our biology faculty who have gotten an Open Stax textbook in there but want to put their now edited version someplace that is not Top Hat. The following bookmarklet will select the Top Hat content into a format that lets you cut/paste it into an HTML editor. You can see some of the issues with typical awkward paths for trying to get content out in the video. It’ll also show you how to add a bookmarklet if you’re looking for that.

Will Wonka asking you to tell him again what WordPress can't do.

Workshop to Event Workflow in WordPress

I have been doing little other than semi-real web development for three weeks across a number of projects. It’s a level of sustained practice/work that I’ve probably never done before. Who knew that kind of focus could actually result in fairly dramatic improvement? One of the projects is the reconstruction of our ALT Lab department page and I have had the chance to really do some stuff that I’ve been considering for several years. There’s a lot going on in the site but I’ll focus on one little concept/workflow for the moment. We have two goals in this case. We want a browsable catalog of workshops we offer that can be shared with people so they can request them.1 We need a calendar of events. Those events will include workshops that are presented at a particular date. We use Events Calendar Pro for this and are very happy with it. Workshops – The Post Type Step one was to create a custom post type called ‘workshop’ and then assign some custom fields to it with ACF. That keeps the content fairly consistent in look/feel and gives us enough standardization to do other tricks. We ended up with a custom post interface that looks like the gif2 below. You can see the ability to add learning objectives, examples, audience etc. in […]

21

100 Copies Loop

We’re doing year two of the Social Work Portfolio in Google Docs. I am opting to do the creation/duplication of the main files on the computer end rather than the Google Drive/Scripts side of things because of all the hassle from last year. You can read more about the full failure here. This AppleScript will give me 100 iteratively-named (x_1, x_2, etc.) copies of the source folder and all its sub-directories and their content. It is just adding a variable from the AppleScript to the loop that calls the terminal command ditto. I’m sure a shell script could do this or I could do it fully in Automator. There are many paths but I knew enough about both of these to get what I needed one in ~5 minutes. Next up will be automating the sharing via Google Script. It won’t be much different than last year but I’m going to add a piece that will write that the folder and the contents were successfully shared to the spreadsheet that holds the student emails. That way when/if the script fails it can auto-resume without having to go back and start over.

21

Email Templates in GMail

Another quick and easy option if you end up sending similar patterns of responses via email. We also use a more aggressive option that uses form submissions etc. but this one doesn’t require anything more than GMail account.

21

Auto-Built (and Linking) Table of Contents in Google Docs

I did a workshop on productivity and now know that I took a bunch of knowledge for granted that could be helping people. So my new goal is to do a better job documenting stuff just in case it’s of use to people. To be clear, I don’t really care what people do with the time they reclaim from trivial and/or unpleasant tasks. I just hope to alleviate some degree of suffering. Maybe they’ll use their extra time to go for a walk or pet a puppy or something. You might also note the sub 60 seconds video tutorial time.1 1 I just want to tell you something as quickly as possible. Video tutorials seem to tend towards lengthy meditation sessions although now that I can control the playback speed very exactly they may become tolerable.