Archived letters

Yet Another Community System

Sent on Dec. 31 2004 to "all"


Welcome to the newsletter from Yet Another Community System. This mailing lists the most recent articles that have been published or updated. As always please visit the web site at: for more details and up to the minute technical information.

Have a very Happy New Year!

In the Features and Design section:

*** You have driven YACS development in 2004
Since we are closing the year it’s good to review what has been done so far. YACS has evolved tremendously over the last 12 months. And it is my very pleasure to admit that a lot of the new features have been suggested by one of you. Therefore, thank you for your positive input and directions.

*** YACS has less bugs (supposedly)
Open-source advocates have stated for a long time that sharing source files had very good effects on program quality. This has been proven to be true for Linux. Moreover, while Stanford University computer science researchers have not looked at YACS yet, I'm pretty sure we are already doing better than usual commercial software.

*** Add 150 avatars to your site
The standard YACS archive has 20 avatar images. Do you need more? Get the full library featured at this site.

*** Ten things your web sites should be doing
Nick Finck wrote on Dec-15th: "Rather than posting about my web predictions for 2005 or rambling off a list of products or tools you must have, etc. I have decided that this year I will post a list of things you should have or be doing on your web site or Intranet. After all, we are living in a modern world, it's time your web sites start acting like it."Ok, lets see how this site -- and, more generally, any YACS server -- compares to Nick's wish list.

*** YACS preserves Unicode
YACS is now able to preserve UTF-8 entities, even if PHP and MySQL (version 3) only support ISO-8859-1. To achieve this, YACS translates extended characters into Unicode HTML entities.

*** YACS supports blogging templates
The templating system used by YACS is, by far, more sophisticated than usual blogging models. This sounds normal, since YACS is aiming to support different kinds of web communities and is not restricted to blogs.However, this power has a price, and I know that a lot of you are so poor First of all, regular bloggers do not want to be considered as specialists of PHP or of XML nor even of CSS. Let face it: bloggers mainly focus on content and brand. Content is in the blog itself. And for the brand, why about reusing templates made by others? Of course, these would be changed a little bit to make the thing more 'personal'.Secondly, bloggers are used to changing templates directly from within their blogging software. For example w.bloggar features commands to do exactly that.Lastly, we also have to better support those of you who'd like to take the most out of YACS. Are you coming from the blogging world? If yes, we probably have to take your preferred template into account.In order to address blogger needs, we have added an importing facility to YACS, and we have exposed it behind standard XML-RPC primitives.

*** Why should you suggest your boss to switch to YACS?
Is your company looking for an open-source platform to support intranet web servers? Ok, you have checked all major solutions available today, from those recommended by CMSWatch to those listed at DMOZ. Can we suggest to consider YACS as well? You may be surprised by the number of features that do match corporate needs. Well, actually YACS has been used to support some intranet web sites for about 18 months, and therefore we do have the experience of such things.

In the How-To section:

*** Improve Firefox response times
As a network specialist, I've always been interested into protocols. More specifically, the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is used for web access, allows for several transfers through one single TCP connection. This is called HTTP pipelining, and it has been extensively described in Internet standards. Actually, this is not a new topic, since the W3C proved in 1997 the interest to add pipelining to HTTP version 1.1.What is new, however, is the broadening usage of Firefox to browse the web. By default Firefox has a conservative setting and it makes only one request to a web page at a time. Moreover, this clever piece of software may benefit from HTTP pipelining. You just have to activate it properly. When you enable pipelining Firefox makes several requests at once, which really speeds up page loading.

*** How to link to your gravatar?
If you create a new user profile and provide your e-mail address, YACS will automatically use your gravatar, if one exists.Or maybe your user profile has been defined some times ago, and you want to change it to benefit from your brand new gravatar?Since YACS combines your gravatar with the library of avatar files at one single page, switching to a new avatar becomes as simple as clicking on an image.

*** How to use the side panel?
The side panel is a convenient form featured at the left of the browsing window. It is aiming to let you prepare your next blog entry during a normal surfing session.

*** How to send a newsletter
In this tutorial we will show you how simple it is to list most recent articles and to make an e-mail out of it.

*** How to import a Blogger template?
YACS comes with 11 ready-to-use reference skins. But of course, you'd like to use your own blogging template.Ok, no problem, YACS can help you to create a skin out of your template.In the following tutorial we are showing you how to do this with a standard Spiderman blogging template.

*** How to develop on top of YACS?
YACS, like many CMS packages, can be extended with additional pieces of software.Do you have to add a new feature to YACS? Would you like to integrate an existing set of PHP scripts into YACS?If you have answered Yes to any of these questions this page is for you. Here you will learn how to add any PHP script to a YACS system, and to integrate it to our lovely templating system.

*** How to post by e-mail?
Prepare a message using your preferred mail software, be it Mozilla, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook, or another one. Actually any software able to send a plain text message is ok, including mail robots that generate messages automatically.Of course you will have to send the message to the adequate recipient address. On reception, some YACS server will process the message as if it were some text coming from the usual web form.

*** How to restrict the home page to news only?
When this site has been created every page was appearing at the home page. At that early times every section could be a blog, and YACS natively supported the mix of these blogs at the home page.Then we introduced discussion boards, and setup one of these to support our Forum. Therefore, any request, question or idea posted in the forum also popped up at the server home page. At the beginning I found this rather handy. Instead of scratching my head every day to find something to blog, I just had to wait for other submissions to populate my home page No laziness here, just the feeling to be clever than others, you know what I mean...Then ArunK sent me the following idea: "YACS looks pretty good for a community based website. I would like the front page to have news articles submitted by users, not the forum topics like it is currently."He is so right. When you let people post directly to your home page you are actually losing control of it. Therefore I have changed the forum to not allow topics posted there to appear at the front page anymore.This was an easy task, since the feature required to support this has been made available for months. Basically, you just have to add the keyword no_home to the Options field of the target section. Browse the following screenshots to see by yourself how simple this is and, if you are not using YACS yet, compare with your own CMS/blogging tool.

In the Install and upgrade section:

*** Dec-27, neighbours, manual layout, navigation, files syndication, ie bookmarklet and more
This is probably the very last 2004 release of YACS, and we have put as many gifts as possible into the basket.The first gift was on Eoin's wish list. It was about geographical distance computations. YACS has now the complex MySQL statement that makes it all. As a result nearby articles and user profiles are automatically listed where appropriate. All you have to do is to attach one (or several) location(s) items to your pages and/or to your user profile.The second gift is not ready yet, but will pop up in coming weeks. We are preparing an on-line user manual for YACS, and have enhanced the layout articles/layout_as_manual.php to support structured lists of articles, similar to table of contents in electronic books. The outline is based on dotted strings of number (eg,, that allow for up to four levels of classification. The next step is to apply this layout to articles anchored in the section "How to use it?" and to turn this section into an electronic on-line manual, with the support of end-user comments. The third gift is a navigation bar for articles. They make sequential reading of blogs a breeze. Links to go to the previous or next pages appear automatically in the sidebar. Of course, the navigation bar is compatible with the manual layout described previously.Several gifts have been included for people who syndicate everything. The most notable one is the creation of a RSS feed for public files shared at any YACS server. Give it a try.Note that attributes are provided as weel, to enable a bare form of podcasting. Moreover, YACS better integrates with Radio Userland, with Sharpreader and with Moreover.A special gift is given to people who are using Internet Explorer with Windows. They can benefit from a contextual bookmarklet to blog to their YACS server. This is a special gift, since we prefer to support portable solutions. But at the same time we have to recognize that Firefox has not taken over yet... [...]

*** Dec-12, sidebar editor, gravatar, page locator and more
With this release we have added a handy feature for bloggers: a smart side panel form to post new articles. If you are using Firefox 1.0, Mozilla 7 or Internet Explorer 6, you can authenticate to your favorite YACS server, visit the Control Panel, and click to add a side panel to the browser window. Then browse as usual, and push some text in the side fields to develop your blog entry. When you are ready, click on the submit button to push the new page to your site.With all these communities we are involved in today there is this common issue to register again and again. Some weeks ago we introduced the Drupal login RPC interface to allow for some centralisation of user profiles. Today we are moving forward with the support of gravatars. Simply stated, a gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is an 80×80 pixel avatar image that follows you from weblog to weblog. If you provide an e-mail address to YACS, it will be checked against the gravatar web site to load any defined gravatar you can have. With gravatars, we do have a simple system to spread our visual appearance across web sites.YACS now also has a page locator, which is aiming to streamline the usage of nick names. YACS is supporting nick names for a long-time for articles, categories, sections and also for user profiles. Nick names are good, except that you have to remember the kind of things they are referencing.For example to view the user profile associated with the nick name 'foo' you have to use the URL '/yacs/users/view.php/foo'. But to view the category with the nick name 'bar' you would use '/yacs/categories/view.php/bar' instead.The page locator will take care of nick names at a central place. [...]

*** Dec-4th, Unicode support, blogging templates, and more
YACS is now able to preserve UTF-8 entities, even if PHP and MySQL (version 3) only support ISO-8859-1. To achieve this, YACS translates extended characters into Unicode HTML entities. For example, the euro character € (UTF-8 bytes \xE2\x82\xAC) is translated into the HTML entity €.Once again, this simple mechanism is enough to preserve UTF-8 entities, and therefore to make Skara, who uses greek characters, happy When both PHP and MySQL will actually support UTF-8 natively, we will change YACS to streamline the whole thing...

*** Nov-19, PDF, template import, message processing, and more
YACS already supported the download of any article into either MS-Word, or into your Palm-OS powered handhelp device, or into your printer. With this release we have added the ability to transform any article into a downloadable PDF file. We are aiming to provide a better support of images and tables with this format than with others. This work is based on the free FPDF library, that has been included into YACS distribution. The Acrobat Reader has been made available by Adobe on many platforms.With this release we also have tried to improve the management of skins. First of all, reference skins have been made customizable. Were you dreaming of reusing the boxesandarrows template, but wanting to add an image and a slogan? Now you can do that from the configuration panel for skins, modifications of PHP files are not necessary anymore. Secondly, we have added a small importing script that is able to parse a regular Blogger template, and to make a YACS skin out of it. Expect to see various examples popping up at our site soon. Last but not lest, we have implemented the blogger.getTemplate and blogger.setTemplate XML-RPC calls. This means that YACS should be able to better support your particular templates in tools such as w.bloggar.For corporate developers, and for those who want to use YACS as a development platform, we have added some hooks to the message processing. To catch every message submitted to the server through e-mail, you just have to drop a PHP script, and to handle $context['mail_body'] and $context['mail_headers']. Quite easy isn't it? Well, I suppose I should provide some example to further convince you...

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