18 Oct 2009 » GSoC wrap up & more updates

Better late than never, here’s a summary of the activity from the last few months. GSoC has concluded, and I’m happy to say that the project has been successful. I didn’t manage to complete all the envisioned user-facing features, but on the other hand we made heaps of improvements on other areas, e.g. the whole architecture and hosting platform of the app. Even though GSoC is over, I am still working on the site, albeit at a slower pace than before. Future improvements will be announced on this blog as usual. Without further ado, here are the latest updates on the site:

The latest changes to crantastic have focused on keeping you up-to-date with what’s going on with CRAN and crantastic. You can now sign up for regular email updates, we are tweeting daily digests (also available on identi.ca), and there are a range of feeds you can sign up to if you’d like to track an individual author, tag, or package.

We’ve also started sending weekly announcement emails to r-help. This will help you keep up with the latest and greatest R packages by listing new packages, updates and new reviews on crantastic.

Another major feature we’re rolling up is full text search for packages, documentation, and functions. The first stage of this development is already available on the site, making it much easier to find packages. The search results are being improved as users continue to tag packages, since packages now can be found by searching for tag names. Popular packages with many users will show up higher in the results. If you haven’t tried the new search yet you can give it a spin here. We are working on some quite exiting features for the search – another update will be provided when we are ready.

Please let us know if you find these new features helpful, or if you have any ideas to make the site better. Visit the site, rate & review your favourite packages, and give us some feedback! If you run into any bugs or errors, please report them at GitHub Issues or send us an e-mail.

Written by Bjørn Arild Mæland

03 Aug 2009 » Latest updates

We’re very pleased to announce an update to http://crantastic.org/, the community site for R packages.

Notable new features include:

  • Crantastic now tweets package releases and updates to the site’s twitter account.

  • Package pages now include a list of related packages, based on package tags.

  • We’re now using Feedburner for our main feeds – this means that we now can provide updates through email.

  • Popularity contest for packages: you can now select which packages you use on the site. This will be used to provide stats on package popularity. We’re looking into ways for integrating this with Jeffrey Horner’s PopCon.

  • Reviews can now be written in Markdown, and supports highlighting of embedded R code. For an example, take a look at this review.

  • Users can now identify as package authors.

  • Its now possible to comment on reviews. If a package author responds to one of “his” packages, the comment will be marked accordingly. Note that this feature will receive some polish in the coming days.

  • Greatly improved cross-browser appearance – the site should now look much better in Internet Explorer and Opera (we mainly use Firefox and Safari ourselves, so these browser receives most attention).

Other minor improvements include:

  • Added possibility to reset passwords, for the forgetful.

  • “Live” validations of the signup form, providing instant feedback on e.g. username availability.

  • All packages now have links to the R Graphical Manual.

New features just around the corner:

  • A new R package for interacting with the site through the R console (tagging packages, ++).

  • Weekly digests including all activity on the site.

  • ..and more!

Please visit the site, rate & review your favourite packages, and give us some feedback! If you run into any bugs or errors, please report them at GitHub Issues or ship us an e-mail.

Development notes

We’ve done a lot of refactoring since the previous update, the biggest change being the transition to the excellent authlogic authentication system.

Written by Bjørn Arild Mæland

04 Jul 2009 » Another round of updates

We’re very pleased to announce an update to http://crantastic.org/, the community site for R packages. Notable new features include:

  • More package relationships. We now have enhances, imports, and reverse relationships.

  • Easier rating: just log-in, and click the number of stars you think the package deserves. You don’t even need to leave the page.

  • A latest versions feed, which lists all package updates. The feed displays package descriptions, readme’s, news, and changelogs. The feed is available via auto-discovery (in most browsers this means that it is listed in the feed-list in the right part of the address bar), or directly from http://crantastic.org/versions/feed.

  • A new packages feed, which only includes new packages. This is ideal if you want to follow a low-traffic feed but still keep up-to-date with package releases. This is also available via auto-discovery, or directly from from http://crantastic.org/packages/feed.

  • Integrated CRAN package priorities. These packages are now automatically tagged with a special priority-tag (either “Recommended” or “Base”). Have a look at the boot package for an example.

  • You can now set up a homepage and a short profile for your user page.

Other minor improvements include:

  • Made the package index page more “browser-friendly” - one can now use the browser’s “back”-button to return to the previous state and link directly and/or bookmark searches.

  • Package ratings are now displayed in search results.

  • Instructions for how package ratings integrate with reviews are now displayed when writing a new review. Its possible to rate the package while filling out the review form.

  • Login/signup is now displayed in a single Ajax dialogue (for clients that has JavaScript enabled).

Please visit the site, rate & review your favourite packages, and give us some feedback! If you run into any bugs or errors, please report them at GitHub Issues or ship us an e-mail.

Development notes

We’ve upgraded to the latest version of the compass stylesheet framework. This includes version 0.9 of Blueprint. No problems were encountered.

We’ve added a sitemap which should help keep search engines up to date with changes to R packages.

Written by Bjørn Arild Mæland & Hadley Wickham

23 Jun 2009 » Announcing new features

We’re very pleased to announce an update to http://crantastic.org/, the community site for R packages. Notable new features include:

  • RPX login. This means that you can login/signup with an existing account from Google, Twitter, OpenID, Yahoo!, Flickr, MyOpenID. This makes sure that it is painless to contribute to the site — no signup is required.

    There was some initial bugs with this system, but they should be fixed by now. Please try again if you ran into any problems earlier.

  • Timelines with recent changes. The main timeline is available right from the front page, with customized ones being available from e.g. user profiles and tags.

  • Task View integration: http://crantastic.org/tags.

  • Ratings. You can currently rate the package as a whole, or just the documentation. This way package authors could get insight into the quality of their documentation. (Thanks to Peter for suggesting this on our page at UserVoice)!

  • Package search.

  • Many smaller fixes/changes, including gravatars (profile pictures) for users and package authors.

Please visit the site, rate & review your favourite package, and give us some feedback! If you run into any bugs (e.g. spelling or errors), please report them at GitHub Issues or ship us an e-mail.

Development notes

We have also moved the existing site and infrastructure to a new cloud-based hosting platform for Ruby web applications called Heroku. This means we don’t have to worry about servers any more and the site should run more smoothly. There definitively was some challenges along the way but we think it will pay off. In the process we managed to improve the CRAN interaction - the code is completely rewritten in Ruby. We have released a Ruby gem for parsing DCF files (the format used for describing CRAN packages), as there was no such existing tool for Ruby.

Most of the time so far has been spent on refactoring/robustness and building up an automated test suite. This will pay off by making it easier to provide new features. We’ve got some pretty neat stuff coming up, so stay tuned.

Written by Bjørn Arild Mæland & Hadley Wickham

02 May 2009 » Introducing blog.crantastic.org

Welcome to the new development blog for crantastic.org! My name is Bjørn Arild Mæland and I’m one of the R Foundation’s lucky GSoC students for 2009. I will work full-time on expanding and improving crantastic for the duration of the summer. The full project details can be viewed here. This blog will be used to document the development progress – hope you’ll follow along! For smaller updates you can also follow me on Twitter.

I’d also like to use this opportunity to thank my mentor Hadley Wickhan and the R Foundation for the warm welcome, it’s great to do GSoC with you!

Written by Bjørn Arild Mæland