Oct. 21st, 2013

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
In place of a list of stuff I did, here’s some musings on a few simple changes I made to the tech setup of the wiki that are saving me a lot of time and frustration. Looks worse, works better!

I’ve been adding a lot more words to the glossary of fandom terminology in Japanese and English over the past weeks, but none of those ever actually showed up on the page. Up to now, I was adding the words in a separate google spreadsheet and importing them into the wiki as they got finished. Turns out that I often didn’t bother updating the glossary because I was tired from other things and the importing step just seemed like one hurdle too many. Now I just embedded the google spreadsheet straight into the page. It looks messier, but I’ll take that in exchange for a more hassle-free workflow.

I’d been trying out a lot of options for displaying my bibliography in the wiki as well, mostly focused on several promising MediaWiki extensions. None of them worked exactly like they had to, though, and all of them would have necessitated regularly importing new stuff from Zotero. That program is my one true love for collecting and manipulating bibliographic data, but its online display interface is confusing and irritating enough that I hate sending people directly there (example). But importing stuff from Zotero into a simpler display in the wiki would create the same problem as with the glossary - an extra step in the getting-stuff-done process that I’d get sick of in very short order. I’m not going to update some other place every time I add or change something in Zotero; this has to happen automagically.

The only way to sync a Zotero bibliography with something outside of it like that is by pulling in content via Zotero’s RSS feed. Zotero has all the RSS feeds you could ever dream of - for whole libraries, collections, subcollections, individual tags, what have you. (Not author, natch.) That’s great, because you can theoretically call up an automatically updated list of pretty much whatever you need wherever you want it: a short list of recommended reading on a particular topic, a full giant bibliography, and so on. The problem is that actual order of items as they’re pulled into the wiki via the Zotero RSS feed is pretty useless. They’re displayed in chronological order, by date added, and that makes no sense for a display for a bibliography of resources on a thing. Nobody will ever be able to find anything in my giant bibliography if it’s sorted by date added.

This flummoxed me for a while until I found out about changing an RSS feed’s display using parameters in the URL. In an RSS feed URL like the ones you get from Zotero out of the box, like https://api.zotero.org/users/14360/collections/FH46FU3G/items/top?start=0&limit=25, the “limit=25” bit is a parameter: it says how many items to display, max. The first thing I did was put a very big number in there, because the thing needs to display all items, not just 25. Then I needed a parameter to control the order in which the items were displayed. It seems like parameters for RSS feeds are not very standardized and sort of all over the place, but I tried out the likely-sounding ones, and “order=title” did the thing for Zotero. The end result, https://api.zotero.org/users/14360/collections/FH46FU3G/items/top?start=0&order=title&limit=500, displays up to 500 items from an RSS feed in alphabetical order by title. Much better! There are more parameters to control what info an RSS feed displays. Given how many sources of information online have RSS feeds but no other way to pull data out of them and into something else, this is going to come in reeeeally handy. There’s so much basic stuff about the internet that I haven’t discovered yet :/

Again, the resulting display doesn’t look nearly as nice as the ones generated by dedicated bibliography-related MediaWiki plugins. For one, there’s no way to display author as well as title, because of a stupid thing in Zotero’s RSS feeds that I can’t change. But it’s good enough for the purpose it has to serve, and it’ll keep working even if I don’t give it any thought again from now until Christmas.


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