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Running Weblogs with Slash by David Krieger, Brian Aker, Chromatic

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The Slash Author Interface

As mentioned earlier, each Slash site has a set of privileged users, called Authors (or Editors), charged with the responsibility of approving and publishing Stories. Some Authors may have additional privileges such as modifying the site’s appearance, deleting user comments, adding or deleting Slashboxes, or regulating the privileges of other Authors.


The phrase Slash site administrator can be a little misleading. There is no special “Administrator” entity in the software, merely Authors of varying levels of privileges. “Slash site administrator” is shorthand for “any of the site’s Authors who has sufficient privileges” for the operation under discussion.

Authors are simply regular users with additional access bestowed by an existing Author with the ability to do so. Thereafter, these users have access to the Author interface (at the relative URL admin.pl), which provides access to site administration functions. Depending on their access level, Authors have an additional row of links to administrative options at the top of the page. The Author interface uses a simpler layout with a grayed-out color scheme to distinguish it from regular pages (see Figure 4-1). Furthermore, a logged-in Author sees special interface elements on every page of the site that do not appear for run-of-the-mill users, such as the Author menu, a row of HTML links to the various pages of the Author interface. The links available in the Author menu vary depending on the privileges of the Author viewing it. For example, only Authors with the highest possible privilege level will see the Authors or Vars links.

The homepage of the Author interface is the Stories list, available via admin.pl or through the Stories link in the Admin menu. The Stories list provides Authors with a quick overview of recent publishing activity on the site. The New link allows an Author to create a new Story from scratch. The nSubmissions link leads to the Story queue, where users have submitted n articles. This is the most important source of new content for many Slash sites. Chapter 4 describes the mechanisms of the Slash publishing cycle in detail. The next section presents a broad overview of the publishing cycle.

Home links to the site’s homepage, while Help links to a terse help file for Authors, located at the relative URL /slashguide.shtml. Topics links to the Topics page, which displays the names and icons of all Topics defined for the site. Each icon is a link to a reverse-chronological list of Stories published on that Topic; each name is a link to an HTML form for editing or deleting that Topic or changing the icon associated with it. Similarly, the Sections link displays a list of the site’s Sections and provides the ability to modify and delete them. See Chapter 7 for more details.

The Templates link allows Authors to modify the site’s templates. This is a very powerful feature. Templates control the appearance, layout, and wording of most of the site’s common interface elements: the structure of Story boxes and Slashboxes, general page layouts, and other types of generated pages. Additionally, they control the wording of standard forms and messages such as the Login box and the email accompanying a new user’s password. They have more powerful uses, too. Blocks lets Authors modify the contents (or, for live Slashboxes, content sources) of Slashboxes and other simple site components. SiteColors provides a special interface to modify one of these blocks, which contains the HTML hex triplet values (e.g., #FFFF00 for yellow) for the colors used in rendering the site. Section 10.1.1 in Chapter 10 describes color blocks, while Section 9.1 in Chapter 9 discusses the mechanics of block editing.

The Vars link allows site administrators to change the values of important configuration variables. These control, for example, whether Anonymous Users can comment on Stories or if non-Author users can view submissions currently in the queue. Chapter 3 discusses the how and why of basic Slash administration in depth.

Similarly, the Authors link is available only to the most privileged Authors. It provides the interface to create and delete Author accounts as well as to manage their privileges. Section 3.2 in Chapter 3 discusses the mechanics of the interface; Section 8.5 in Chapter 8 outlines principles for choosing and managing Authors.

Comment Filters

Depending on the level of maturity of your site’s audience (and let’s face it, if your site is open to the public Internet, your audience is guaranteed to include a number of folks who haven’t progressed much since their toilet training), you may be troubled with various kinds of comment postings that, shall we say, don’t add much to the discussion: posts composed solely of non-alphanumeric or whitespace characters; ASCII drawings of Homer Simpson, Mickey Mouse, or more scatological subjects; or posts with an empty subject or empty body. Slash provides a highly configurable mechanism, comment filters, to catch these kinds of posts when they’re entered and chuck them back at the poster with a helpful explanation. Each comment filter is made up of a Perl regular expression, a field of the comment to apply it to, and numerical parameters governing the sensitivity of the filter (“Do non-alphanumeric characters make up over 30% of this post?”). The CommentFilters link provides Authors with access to the interface for establishing and modifying comment filters. The entire comment system, including filtering and moderation, is covered in Chapter 6.

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