Continuing my foray into enquiry-based, self-regulated, mastery learning, I’ve been hacking away at some more SPLOT code. After my last efforts I felt like I now had enough knowledge to try customise the SPLOTBox theme to see how well it might fit my requirements for collecting short written evaluations of online resources. As a reminder, the use case I am aiming at is to use a SPLOT as a way of crowdsourcing critiques of online data literacy resources. The task is pretty simple: Find a relevant web resource (or maybe pick one from a predetermined list), evaluate it, and write a short review, along with the usual classification stuff (categories / tags).
Step 1 was to bring SPLOTBox into line with the recent changes Alan had made to TRU Writer and TRU Collector by adding in the various changes to the handling of the special behind-the-scenes authoring user. After testing I submitted a pull request and Alan verified I hadn’t made a total mess. Once the changes were merged into the master repo I did a quick refresh of my fork. Now I was ready to begin…
I like the Garfunkel theme used for SPLOTBox as it has a nice masonry layout for the site Home but a full screen layout when you follow through into a post. I also like the deep footer space where the post metadata can be displayed, keeping the focus on the written content in the main area. However, there are a few things in the other SPLOTs that I really like too. For example TRU Writer has media buttons enabled on the rich text editor, and displays a nice little CC logo along with the license.
SPLOTBox also has some additional media handling code added in, including JS for validating uploaded media to restrict it to video, and of course various form fields and layouts that are tailored for collecting and displaying audio and video from a range of sources. It was quite a bit further away from what I think I want than either TRU Writer or TRU Collector as a result, but this is not necessarily a bad thing at all…
In reality working with this theme to turn it into what I want has involved far more radical surgery than either of my previous hacking attempts. In doing so, I’ve gone quite far into the code and would even venture to say I might now understand a thing or two. I’ve learned a lot about how child themes work, as well as how SPLOTs are designed. It’s also been an interesting insight into how Alan works – looking across these 3 codebases I can see both the same fingerprints and some differences – perhaps reflecting how the idea has matured over the development of each one? The little person in me that gets rather upset about the way my bookcases are organised got a little itchy sometimes I’ll confess (no criticism is implied here – this is an insight into myself and my own pedantry, no more!).
So, what have I done?
- Stripped out a lot of the media handling, including stripping back JS that validates uploaded media.
- Laid out the Share form with new / amended fields and added the URL field in; updated all tab indexes.
- Re-written all customisation options. Updated all the code in functions.php to follow the order of the form fields (that itch again).
- Updated the layout of a post to put the URL in the top; removed metadata in the main area; bolded all the labels on metadata.
- Added in the CC license handling with cute images from TRU Writer.
- Updated styles.css to give it a new name and license info.
- Updated the footer to give thanks to CogDog and blame to me.
There’s still some more work to be done. A new screenshot is needed. The options page has a few switches that need some attention. Some aren’t relevant any more, others need different defaults (I think). Also the README for GitHub needs re-written.
Is it right now? I’m still not sure. but it’s a whole lot closer.
I’m still not sure that the header area isn’t a bit too deep, I would prefer the filtering by category/tags etc to be at the top of the page, not the bottom, and although I’ve allowed for a featured image, I haven’t been using it.
A little more spit and polish is required to make it shareable, and to make it reliable behind the scenes, but overall I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve done so far. Now I need to carry on filling it up with some real content and see how it feels. To that end, I’ve started something here: http://mechanical-reproduction.com/datalit/
The code is also in a new GitHub repo here: https://github.com/ammienoot/evalsplot
I think I’m also at the point now where I could take a totally new theme, not yet SPLOT-ified and make a whole new SPLOT. So that’s pretty cool.