Vestigial Features: On Splotology and Phylogeny

(with some apologies to Stephen Jay Gould) SPLOTs evolve? Well yes.

I’m starting some new work with Daniel Villar-Onrubia at Coventry, where they seem to have taken a shine to SPLOTs. It was their creative ideas for using the TRU Writer and TRU Collector SPLOTs that led to me adding features I had not anticipated.

Specifically, an issue came up yesterday for the latter, that led me thinking to third eyes and vestigial features. Look up the pineal gland –a sensitive area of the brain that once, when we were creatures living in the mud, was a third upward looking eye

The original concept of the Collector SPLOT (I know because it was blogged) was based on a specific need:

It’s not all that novel. The idea came from TRU Instructional Designers Kelly Warnock and Melissa Melissa Jakubec who will be doing a workshop next Friday on finding openly licensed images (and we will have a version of this Tuesday for the You Show). What they described was wanting an online image gallery where participants could share the images they found.

Again, the idea is a way people can build a shared pool of images, organized by maybe categories and tags, with some extra data for license and source info, but that would not require any accounts or selling of one’s data tracks to [fill in the name of your not favorite data overlord].

YAS (Yet Another SPLOT) TRU Collector Jan 2015

It was built around a place to share images, with maybe a caption, and some info about the source, licensing. A few clicks back Daniel had the idea of using it for students in a class to post short bios as a class directory, and thus calling for maybe a way to add links to the caption (it was plain text only), first done with a shortcode, but then it was not much to have an admin option to use the rich text editor.

This led to a use in the Mural UDG project— in the Acumulador where we used it as a way for groups to post ideas from the discussion activities, where they had sketched ideas on paper (for the image) but also had written more than a caption.

Daniel contacted me because they were setting up a site where some of the content wa authored as normal posts (more like the resources/directions for an activity from what I could see) that would be mixed in with items people would share normally via the anonymous from form. He could not understand why images in posts they created inside WordPress were not displayed.

I poked around, thinking maybe it was a plugin conflict (no), a weird Gutenberg issue (nope, but why not blame it), and then realized it was me… well an old feature that I added early on in first days of the TRU Collector. Inspired by similar features done by Tom Woodward, I added a way to use the JetPack Plugin Post by Email tool so a site optionally could be used to submit content via email.

I have no idea how much this was used. I tried it in a TCC Presentation I did last month, on the SPLOT I made at http://photos.cogdogblog.com/.

The problem with this is that there is none of the information that comes in the email that normally gets entered in the TRU Collector form. And it calls for a plugin that makes the first image in a post the featured image. In the Fukasawa theme, this means that the image would be atop as featured image and ALSO in the post, which looked redundant. So I had some code in the template, that more or less stripped out any images in the body (because in the first generation, it was really just a caption).

It was based on the logic if that one of the required form elements was not defined, that it was one sent by email.

<?php if ( is_single() AND $wAuthor == '')  : // empty meta data for author means post by email ?>

<?php
// strip the img tags out of content for stuff sent by email
	$content = get_the_content();
	$content = preg_replace("/<img[^>]+\>/i", "", $content); 		  
	$content = apply_filters('the_content', $content);
	$content = str_replace(']]>', ']]>', $content);
	echo $content;
?>

<hr />

<p><em>This item was posted by email.</em></p>


<?php else:?>

// do normal splot display stuff

I hardly saw a need for this anymore… so the SPLOT has evolved it out. Plus I added a few more options in the theme to choose whether or not to display the image URL field, and to skip displaying any SPLOT specific info (like license, name of person who shared) if it was not defined.

This enables a TRU Collector SPLOT to mingle form submitted stuff with locally authored normal posts. It’s in play now at the demo Collector SPLOT

The item for My First WordPress Toolbox was submitted as a visitor would do, via the Add to Collection form. It has all the content features set up by the site admin for this site.

But the one preceding it was a post authored by me directly in the WordPress dashboard, and has no SPLOT specific info, not even a featured image.

This hardly seems exciting, right? But the whole thing here as this SPLOT that crawled out of the ocean in 2015 now is walking upright!

So what if you still want to post by email? It can still work if you set up JetPack with a Post by Email address and add a plugin that makes a featured image out of the first image, kind of like how one can extend SPLOTs w/o programming changes. I just took out the weird organ that I grafted early in to make it work at the time.

I try always with updating these SPLOTs (and anything else I do) to not break any functionality once used. But I am hardly as master of designing species, just a tinkerer on the edges.


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