On September 4, I wrote a blog post asking for some suggestions regarding what we should do to update MaplePrimes. The responses that we got back were varied and very valuable. Using those suggestions as a foundation, we have mapped out a list of features that we will address in this project.
Migration to a Windows architecture & cosmetic update
As most of you know, MaplePrimes currently runs on a platform called Drupal. Drupal was, and is, a great social networking platform, but it is written in PHP and our in-house proficiency in that language has diminished over the past few years, and this causes resource struggles when we want to work on Primes. To remedy this, we are going to switch the architecture to use the standard Windows/Visual Studio platform that we use for our other web endeavours. Among other things, one of the primary benefits of this change is that we will have increased capacity within our web development team to troubleshoot and update the site. Coupled with the architecture update will be an entirely new look and feel for the web site.
Important note: All content currently on Primes will be migrated to the new platform.
Improvements to typesetting & the addition of inline Maple plots
The reliability and ease-of-use of 2-D math typesetting will be improved. We won’t be able to support direct pasting of 2-D math from a Maple worksheet in this round of improvements, but we will definitely improve Primes’ 2-D math capabilities. In addition, we will be adding support for inline plots so that you can include a plot command in a message and on output, the plot will automatically appear. Of course, you can still include plots as images as you do now, but hopefully this added feature will make this easier.
The MaplePrimes search will be dramatically improved. We will take advantage of some in-house Google technology that we employ for our general site search, and this will dramatically improve speed and accuracy. In addition, we will augment the general site search with some optional, advanced options to specifically search through blogs, particular forums/questions, use date ranges, etc.
Automatic links to Maple help
If you use standard Maple help notation in any of your posts (e.g., “?plot”), it will automatically be hyperlinked to the associated help file in the Maple Online Help system.
Rating content and tagging
The ability to rate and tag content will be added. This will allow the community to bubble up the best content, and to also quickly search for content using tags.
Change style of forums to a question/answer format
This is something that wasn't raised as a suggestion, but it came up during internal brainstorming and we think it's a good idea. Those familiar with the extremely popular Yahoo! Answers site, or StackOverflow (a resource for software developers) will know that these sites operate differently than standard user forums. These sites ask users to submit a question and other people can then provide answers. Answers can be voted on so that the best ones rise to the top, and everyone can also engage in discussions by commenting on a particular question or answer. What results is a community-generated library of questions and answers, much like we have now, but in a format that is more focused on promoting the best response.
Based on the fact that the vast majority of content posted by users is in the form of questions, we would like to borrow some ideas from these sites and make Primes a very effective tool for users to get answers about math, Maple, MapleSim, or anything else. Critically, you will still have the ability to maintain your blog and comment on any of the questions & answers, so the ability to discuss and debate different solutions, and initiate any type of discussion will remain as it is now.
I am very interested in your thoughts on this.
Some things that we will not be addressing in this update
There were a few suggestions made for elements that would mimic features that currently already exist in web browsers. For example, there were suggestions to add the ability to store favorites, or to conduct a Primes search while editing a post. For both of these cases, there are easy work-arounds directly within a web browser, and for that reason, we felt that it was a better use of our resources to work on entirely new features than to tackle those in this update.
Performance Improvement & Minor Bug Fixes
I commented on this in my last blog post, but for those who may have missed it, I am happy to report that we have acquired a new server and are currently in the process of migrating the current MaplePrimes site. This will address the excessive downtime that we are currently fighting with and should improve site speed as well. In addition, although we are discontinuing the current platform of Primes, we are going to address a number of the smaller bugs/improvement requests that have been made. The current site will be up for another 3+ months, so it makes sense to address a few of them. When we are ready to launch, we will post a message indicating the fixes that were addressed.
Increased Support from Maplesoft
In addition to all of the feature requests, a number of you mentioned that you would like to see increased attention to this site from within Maplesoft. I am very happy to report that this is also happening, and more on this will be posted shortly! [Update to Original Post: Stephanie Rozek has now posted a message introducing herself as Primes' new Community Manager.]
So once again, I want to thank everyone for your comments and suggestions about the site, and please keep them coming. MaplePrimes is very important to us, and we want to make sure that we are giving you the type of platform you deserve.