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Web Communication WSUWP Platform upgraded to WordPress 4.1

WSUWP Platform upgraded to WordPress 4.1

WordPress 4.1 “Dinah”, named for jazz-singer Dinah Washington, was released today. Around 10:30am, the central platform server was updated to coincide with the release. This was a very smooth cycle with some great progress and included contributions from a record 283 people!

Many improvements will be unnoticeable on the surface at WSU, as much of the work was done to improve code we will take advantage of while building the platform. Look for those that are missing from the list below on your own personal installations of WordPress as they are pretty fantastic.

Log Out of All Other Sessions

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.05.27 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.06.02 PM

New session tracking will watch for other browser and computer sessions that are using your credentials when logged into the platform. If you are concerned about what other machines are currently logged in, you can check your profile by clicking on your name in the top right. At the bottom of your profile page will be one of the two screenshots above, allowing you to clear all sessions.

In the future this will be expanded to list all of your sessions so that you can see what computers may be logged in.

Just Write

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 3.10.25 PM

As you can see in the screenshot above, the distractions around the post editor have been removed as I write this post. If I’d like access to other options at any point, a move of the mouse outside of the editor will cause the screen to re-fill so that I can save, add categories, or update the post as needed.

This feature is off by default, and can be enabled in many contexts by clicking on the distraction-free writing icon in the upper right of the editor.

A new default theme – Twenty Fifteen

Most of the sites at WSU will be using our Spine Parent Theme to be a part of the overall brand presence. We do have sites being used by students and classes that will now have access to the new default theme—Twenty Fifteen—as part of their suite. As a blogging focused theme, Twenty Fifteen does a great job of allowing you to focus on your content while also offering many customizations to the look and feel on the front end. I’ve been using it on my personal site for months and have been happy thus far!

Feedback

We’re always looking for feedback around the WSUWP Platform, the Spine, and anything else web related. Please reach out over email (jeremy.felt@wsu.edu) if you have any questions. We also have a great open lab session in ITB 2025 every Friday morning from 9:30am-11:30am where we discuss the web at WSU.

WSU Spine Parent Theme 0.17.0 Released

A major cornerstone of WSU’s Spine Parent Theme for WordPress is the open source theme, Make. For several months we’ve been behind on some great upstream changes from that theme, focused more on our own customizations. Today we’re happy to announce that version 0.17.0 of the Spine Parent Theme mirrors the builder functionality provided by Make 1.4.6.

You’ll likely notice the change immediately if you use page builder for creating pages in WordPress as there have been several improvements to the interface.

The section layouts available in version 0.17.0
The section layouts available in version 0.17.0

When you choose a section layout, you’ll see a couple different configuration icons available. As demonstrated in the animation below, clicking on these will bring up an interface for adding custom classes or other options to the sections and the columns within.

spine-0.17.0-003

While the ability to add custom classes and wrappers to sections has been in the page builder for a while, adding custom classes to individual columns is new. We hope interfaces like this allow designers and front end developers to stretch the bounds of the page builder and the WSU Spine framework while continuing to make it easy for those who manage content.

The interface around the banner/slideshow feature has been improved quite a bit as well. There are still some areas which will require custom CSS on the front end, and we’ll be tackling a default set of styles for that in the near future.

Also worth a mention, from 3 previous minor releases that did not get a full post:

  • In 0.16.1, we added a class to main for search results pages to help with targeted styles.
  • In 0.16.2, we added template support for the very much in alpha University Center Objects plugin.
  • In 0.16.3, we corrected an overlapping media query that caused the WordPress admin bar to jump at the wrong time.

As always, please reach out if you have any issues or questions! Issues on GitHub for the Spine Parent Theme can be created by anyone. A general forum for community support will be coming soon.

Update – 0.17.1 Release (3:40pm)

  • The option to set Slide URLs was not appearing properly in the builder. This has been resolved.
  • Campus signatures are now available for most campuses in Appearance -> Customizer.

WSU Spine 1.2.1 Released

The latest version of the WSU Spine framework has been released. This release specifically addressed a bug in which the mobile menu icon may not appear for some mobile devices. We recommend updating as soon as possible so that mobile visitors are not left wondering about the menu. 🙂

To automatically receive the benefits of bug fixes like this, we recommend using the latest version of the Spine from the centrally hosted repo.wsu.edu server.

https://repo.wsu.edu/spine/1/spine.min.js
https://repo.wsu.edu/spine/1/spine.min.css

The above are the current, best URLs and are cached by browsers for an hour. When a new minor version is shipped, bug fixes and enhancements will appear very quickly. We will not break backward compatibility in a minor release.

If you would like to stick to a specific release:

https://repo.wsu.edu/spine/1.2.1/spine.min.js
https://repo.wsu.edu/spine/1.2.1/spine.min.css

These have the benefit of being cached in browser for 120 days, though require attention whenever the Spine is updated.

When following along with development:

https://repo.wsu.edu/spine/develop/spine.min.js
https://repo.wsu.edu/spine/develop/spine.min.css

These are cached in the browser for only 10 minutes and can be considered bleeding edge. This is the first place to test fixed bugs, but may also be considered unstable from time to time.

Updates will continue to be posted on this site about the Spine and other web projects. You can also follow along with development at the WSU Spine repository.

Spine Parent Theme 0.16.0 Release

Version 0.16.0 of the Spine Parent Theme has just been released. There are multiple improvements over 0.15.0

Archive pages for tags and university categories were displaying Archives as a generic sub header. This has been changed so that the name of the tag or category is displayed instead when viewing an archive of posts.

Our default 404 text was This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it? While this is light hearted to some, it can also be embarrassing in itself. We’ve replaced it with a standard Page Not Found and will attempt to provide something more useful to the visitor over time.

Individual slides in slideshows built with the builder templates can now have URLs assigned to them. If a URL is assigned, the entire slide will be wrapped in that URL.

An option is now available under Advanced Options in the customizer to display either full content or an automatic excerpt on archives of posts where there is no manual excerpt or inserted read more tag. This is a site wide option and will affect all archives.

Spine Parent Theme 0.15.0 Release

Version 0.15.0 of the Spine Parent Theme has just been released. There is a significant change in how columns are presented in the builder template sections as well as a couple more minor updates.

Previously, when a “columns” section was added to the page, we displayed each of the columns at 50% width. This was the same for sidebar right, sidebar left, halves, thirds, and quarters. While this was almost useful in helping to show how content would display on the front end, it made it very tough to manage large blocks of content in simple layouts–especially when the majority of that content was going in one of the columns.

Today, the templates have been changed so that each column fills 100% of the section width when editing the page. Columns are stacked on top of each other in the order they will display on the front end. Each column has a toggle to expand or minimize the full content area when editing. This state is persistent when saving the page, so comes in very handy when dealing with large pages.

We’ve also added more social channels to be configured through the Customizer. Flickr, Instagram, Vimeo, and Google Plus URLs can now be entered. If you are using the develop branch of the WSU Spine (configurable through advanced options in the Customizer), you will see icons immediately. If you are on version 1, these icons will appear when the next major release of the Spine is deployed.

And finally, we’ve removed the sidebar class from the sidebar right and margin right page templates. This was deprecated a while ago in favor of the more explicit side-right, margin-rightside-left, and margin-left classes and is not targeted anywhere in the Spine framework.

July 11th Open Lab Recap

Apologies for the lack of updates over the last few weeks! Here’s hoping we can get back on a regular schedule. Even though no recaps have been posted, open lab has been in session every week. We had 15 attendees for today’s session, including a handful of new faces.

Topics discussed and bugs found:

WSUWP Platform: It appears that the WSU SSO Authentication plugin is not being activated by default when a new network is created. This was a bug and was resolved shortly after the open lab under issue #171.

WSUWP Platform: Network admins do not currently have the ability to promote other users to the network admin level. Issue #172 has been opened to address this.

Labs@WSU: We’re just starting to talk about this a little more and will continue to spread the word as we sort out some of the details. Our intent is to have a labs.wsu.edu space available for any lab at WSU to have a free site with features and content organization common to a lab’s general needs. Jake Leachman’s HYPER lab was our first test and we’re looking to expand. If anybody is interested in this, please contact Jeremy Felt.

WSUWP Platform: Discussed some of the possibilities around enqueuing custom Javascript from outside CDNs and the various needs of custom Javascript entry in general. This is a feature that is not yet enabled in production, but will be available in the near future.

WSUWP Platform: We need to start documenting several parts of the platform. Two areas were brought up today. First, how is PHP code introduced into the system. We’ll want to lay out what the review process looks like for that. Second, how users are added and managed at the global, network, and site level.

Web: Some kind of newsletter would be nice from the web team to keep everyone apprised of recent updates. Right now, web.wsu.edu is likely the best place. We can create a newsletter from that content.

Web: Where do we host large files? Chemistry currently has a couple videos that are many hundreds of MBs in size. We don’t want to handle the upload through WordPress, but we should have another solution where those files can be uploaded and then served.

WSU Spine Parent Theme: At this time, we link to facebook.com instead of the default WSU Pullman Facebook account in the parent theme. Issue #72 has been opened to resolve this in the theme.

WSU Maps: We covered the embedding of maps in WordPress with the shortcode that is now available. We also went through some of the custom functionality that is available to groups of the University when requesting a custom map from University Communications. This can all be done through maps.wsu.edu.

WSUWP Platform: We should document the best way to use YouTube embeds so that they are responsive and mobile friendly. The default oEmbed method works, but we can probably do a bit better to make this flexible.

WSUWP Platform: It would be interesting to see how well the WordPress iOS and Android apps work for publishing to a multi-network platform. I’ve opened issue #173 to track progress on this.

That’s that. See everyone next week!

Introducing WSUWP Platform, Version 1

Over the last year, we have started work on a central publishing platform for the University built around WordPress. The progress we’ve made thus far has been exciting and we’re ready to announce that version 1.0 is officially ready.

The number 1 is more symbolic than anything. There are many features to build and likely several bugs to fix. However, we are at the point where we want to share our work with the University and receive the feedback needed to continue building an excellent product.

Several sites are already running on this platform. Over the last few months we have launched brand.wsu.edu, medicine.wsu.edu, and cleantech.wsu.edu. A few colleges have staging sites coming closer to launch every day.

We’ve even progressed with the first labs.wsu.edu site, using Dr. Jacob Leachman’s HYPER Lab as a guinea pig.

Of course, we’re just getting started. Over the course of the next year, we expect hundreds—if not thousands—of sites to be hosted on the platform and we intend to provide a stable, secure, performant, and feature rich experience that is tailored for the needs of a university.

The WSUWP Platform project is also completely open source under the GNU GPLv2 (or later) license. Our hope is that the work we’re doing in satisfying the needs of Washington State University can be shared and applied to other universities and organizations around the world.

Here’s a look at what is available in Version 1.

Spine Parent Theme

The default theme available on the platform has been built by University Communications to apply the elements of the new branding through the WSU Spine framework. This is the easiest way to move your content into the new brand. The page and site you are now reading is built on this theme and is one of many examples of how it can be altered to meet your design needs.

Page Builder

pagebuilder-01

Thanks to the power of open source, we have been able to use portions of the WordPress theme, Make, to create a content building experience that harnesses the WSU Spine framework and allows you to break outside of the standard one column content format.

Edit CSS

A CSS editor is available directly in the dashboard, allowing custom styles to be applied to your pages without requiring any changes on the server. Revisions are stored as changes are made so that you can revert to a previous style at any time if something did not appear as expected.

SSL Admin

ssl-labs-01

Our partnership with IT has allowed us to quickly provide SSL certification for all administration areas in the platform. This keeps data secure and encrypted as it passes back and forth between you and the server. The SSL connection currently receives an A+ grade from Qualys SSL Labs. The provisioning process we have in place allows us to apply security fixes to the server quickly when they arise.

Active Directory Authentication

Authentication is handled through the University’s active directory system. Only one login is necessary to access all of your networks and sites on the platform. In addition to WSU Network IDs, users with friend IDs can be added to your site as well.

More Plugins

We’re continuing to work to build out an impressive feature set within the platform. At launch we have both Gravity Forms and TablePress available as optional plugins that can help better manage your data. We also have an early version of the WordPress JSON API available so that front end developers can harness the power of Javascript to manipulate data from around the network.

Get In Touch

To start using the platform, contact Michelle Felt or your University Communications coordinator. To learn more about the WSUWP Platform, attend one of our open lab sessions, Fridays between 9:30am and 11:30am in ITB 2025.

May 30th Open Lab Recap

A very belated recap at only 15 hours away from the next open lab!

We had a great turnout again, with 11 total in attendance, and there was plenty of good conversation.

Topics discussed and bugs found

WSUWP Platform: We’ll need to do some work to better clarify how the platform can be used to host various intranet type sites where only certain groups have access to both the back and front end. We have the ability to make sites private, but there are issues with hosted uploads being accessible to everyone. This is something we’ll need to keep on the radar as we continue building things out.

General: Related to the intranet topic, we do have a regex that matches all WSU IP addresses. Jeremy Bass sent that out in an email after the session. We should also discuss if there is a place where that makes sense to be published.

WSUWP Platform: The space restrictions for sites are handled in a better way now. We have uploads capped at 50MB per file across the board with no maximum limit on total used space. We talked about raising the limit to 100MB in the near future, though it may not be necessary. See the next item for other considerations around that.

WSUWP Platform: Can video files be uploaded? Technically, though the current maximum upload size can restrict that. WSU does have a video server that is better equipped for hosting videos, though we should figure out how to best provide that as a service if possible. Nonetheless, we should remove MOV, WMV, and AVI files from the allowed upload list and add MP4 as an acceptable video format. We should also test some short videos from iOS and Android to see what the experience is like. (Filetypes were adjusted in #151 and deployed as part of v0.7.5 of the platform)

WSUWP Platform: It may also be desirable to handle CSV, XML, and SVG files. We need to explore the list of possible file types and the security implications that may come with each.

WSUWP Platform: Gravity Forms is now available as a plugin on the platform. There is still plenty to learn about the plugin, but we were able to cover some introductory material. Basic forms can now be created through WordPress. Forms that require more advanced logic around inventory or pricing should go through Magento.

Magento: Magento will be available for testing soon with a store that will wipe out daily. We talked about how tiered pricing could look like for internal and external users of a college site. We also walked through some basic scenarios for the use of Magento.

Spine Parent Theme: A “header” layout option will be added to the page builder. Follow progress on #45 in the Spine parent theme repository.

General: We talked briefly about the new Pullman WordPress Meetup that was created. This will be a way for those in the Pullman area to get together outside of work and talk WordPress. Please join the group for updates. Our first meetup is June 18th. Brought up the new Pullman WordPress meet up as a way to find WP folks.

WSUWP Platform: We discussed the need to enable site paths that are two levels deep. Sites at domain.wsu.edu/site/subsite/ can then be created. Issue #152 has been opened to track this.

Spine Parent Theme: Revisions are created each time a post is previewed when using the page builder. This is likely because of the way content is compiled before a view can be shown. We’ll need to check upstream to see if this is something that can (or should) be modified.

See you all tomorrow!

May 23rd Open Lab Recap

Another good turnout today, especially for a slow Friday right before the holiday weekend. Thanks everyone!

At the beginning of the session we did an overview of the current content creation status in the WSUWP Platform. We walked through the newly deployed Page Builder area to show off the new functionality and discussed some of the work that can be done through the customizer. We also highlighted the framework that exists behind the Spine as it is becoming much easier to visualize in combination with the Page Builder. I think this will continue to be a focus over time as we introduce new features to this and other platforms. The possibilities for the content created throughout the University are pretty amazing!

Topics discussed and bugs found

WSUWP Platform: Talked a bit about how the Javascript and CSS editors inside the dashboard could be used together to do some pretty cool stuff with the theme. The CSS Editor is already available in production, the Javascript editor is forthcoming. We want to make sure these are handled properly on the site level, with a possible option to add common CSS and Javascript at the network level.

WSU Spine / Spine Parent Theme: How will galleries and slideshows work? We’ll have some good defaults in place soon. At the minimum, a gallery of images will be displayed with a nice modal interaction to view each of the images. The best method for prepping these into a slideshow will need to be worked out over time. There are also opportunities to handle this all with custom Javascript and CSS, but it will be nice to have a clean solution for everyone.

Spine Parent Theme: We briefly discussed what the default template should be. Right now the Builder Template appears when a new page is created. It may make more sense to show a standard page layout. We’ll also want to revisit some of the existing page templates now that the builder is available as they may not be necessary.

Spine Parent Theme: Through some of the discussion during lab hours and some after, it’s apparent that we can probably do a few things to make custom header graphics easier to implement now that the page builder is available. We’ll explore adding a header section that can be customized accordingly.

WSUWP Platform: Upload settings should be set to 50MB by default. The default site level setting was currently 1.5MB, which is way too low. This is actually a setting that could be changed at each individual network level, but it does make more sense to have that as a global setting. #132 will make its way to production early next week to resolve this.

WSUWP Platform: XLS should be allowed by default. This is also a network level setting that should be controlled globally. Also in #132, due early next week, we’ll be adding XLS, DOC, PSD, AI, EPS, and ZIP files. This is very much subject to change over time, mostly for security reasons.

WSUWP Platform / Spine Parent Theme: How will comments be handled? There seems to be a general agreement that comments should be available, though disabled by default. We want to avoid using a comment service such as Disqus or Facebook. We should look into a university license for Akismet. We’ll need to work within the spine parent theme to handle the display of comment forms. I’ve opened issue #38 on the parent theme and #133 on the WSUWP Platform to track this.

WSUWP Platform: Useless new user emails with passwords are still going out. We’ll be working on making the user process much better in the near future. Emails should be relevant and it should be easier to ensure that users added are valid users on the WSU network.

We almost talked about labs.wsu this week, but then I missed it. I’ll make sure that this is brought up in next week’s session as I’d like to continue spreading the word on that initiative.

Thanks again to everyone who attended. Everyone is welcome to come hang out next Friday!