Sunday, July 11, 2010

Updated Blogger Tools

I've updated the "Blog Archive" and "Labels" gadgets on this site - as visible in the right-hand margin of this page. Please leave a comment with any issues or suggestions.

Over a year ago, I had already replaced Blogger's default Labels gadget with the Yahoo! UI Library (YUI)'s TreeView component, which provided:

  • A view that is collapsed by default, saving screen space for other features unless the Labels are clicked and expanded for use.
  • A complete and compact list of tagged posts under each label, without having to request a new label search page - while still providing these links.

This tree is populated with an AJAX request to Google's GData Blogger API, using the JSON Alt Type and YUI's Get Utility. Since the returned data is a list of posts, a limited amount of JavaScript is needed to group and sort the posts into the labels. As part of this last update, a label will now again automatically expand to show the related posts if the current page being viewed is a label search page. (This is similar to the default functionality, but is determined by the current URL.)

Also now just completed, I've also replaced Blogger's default Blog Archive gadget with another YUI TreeView, providing:

  • A consistent look-and-feel between the Blog Archive and Labels features.
  • A more compact display, while maintaining readability.
  • Post titles were previously truncated after 50 characters. Complete post titles are now displayed, along with the specific date posted.
  • As the same data retrieved to populate the Labels is re-used, the page loading performance should actually be improved as the HTML is now dynamically generated client-side - instead of downloading what was essentially duplicate information as additional HTML from the server.

As with the Labels, the archive will also automatically expand to show the related posts for the time period being viewed - similar to the default functionality, but again determined by the current URL.

Also just added are "loading bar" graphics for the short period of time between the initial page load and the population of the trees.

A few other quick things to note:

  • The source JavaScript code used for these features is available for reference in this page's HTML source (among the rest of Blogger's default and somewhat cluttered code), using your browser's View/Source feature. Even though it is only ~250 lines or ~7 KB of code, this is not the most efficient as this code is reloaded with every page load. I'd like to be able to properly move this code into a separate and cacheable *.js file - but can't currently find a usable solution that matches the reliability and pricing (free) of the rest of Blogger. I attempted using versions stored on Google Code and Google Sites, but each had various issues - including being able to properly make updates, as well as having download landing pages interfere - partially complicated by not being hosted on the blogspot.com domain. Amazon's S3 storage service looks like a promising option that I may still consider. However, while it would likely only cost pennies / month to use for this, it's another bill to take care of.

  • The JSON data feed received is a bit large - currently ~200 KB - but unlike the JavaScript code, this data is returned with proper HTTP headers by Google, and should be cacheable by the browser. Much of this data is information that is not necessary or used, such as post summaries and comments. Hopefully, these extra fields will soon be selectively disabled - as soon as the Blogger GData API supports partial responses.

  • As visible in the source code, I also needed to implement a custom "clickEvent" handler for YUI's TreeView - otherwise the HTML links contained within the tree nodes were not clickable, as any clicks would instead expand/collapse the node instead of activating the link.

A few ideas for future enhancements:

  • Options to alternatively sort the labels, including by post count.
  • Having the displayed labels under each post interact with the Labels tree.

2 comments:

Σωματείο Εργαζομένων ΕΙΝ Αττικής & Νησιών Αιγαίου said...

very ineresting. espessialy the achive gadget problems.

alya said...

I loved the way you have organized the labels and tried to edit my labels based on the codes posted online but they seem not to work at all. Appreciate if you could help me how to organize my labels in similar way. Thank You!