Saturday, January 12, 2008

Threading again

I’m doing Pre-Session and Week 1 Threads this year in BaW08. I’m using the program Miha kindly created to help me out last year (see if interested in how it started).
The program is available at

Miha blogged about it here.

What the program does:
• extracts all the necessary information from my Outlook's digests (message No., author, contents),
• allows to easily sort and group these messages (into groups, between groups, and within the group),
• allows to easily clean the messages (automatic removal of line breaks within the selected paragraph and automatic marking of hyperlinks) ,
• allows to easily add links to photos (database of authors is generated automatically, I need to enter links to photos in this database - this info is then linked to all the posts made by the same author),
• allows to easily adapt the width of columns,
• in the end generates the code which can then be simply exported, copied and pasted into the wiki using classic editor.

How it works?
Threader works with reader's digests from MS Outlook (should also work with other email clients, but has not been tested; you basically need to use the message source i.e. unformatted message).

1. Install and run the program

2. Copy reader digest’s source
To do this in Outlook:
- double-click the digest so that it opens in a separate window
- selecting Other Actions>View Source from the message toolbar
- select all and copy the contents (Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C)

3. Go to the program and click 'Parse' in the taskbar- now you should see all the digest's messages in the top window (if you don't see them, that's a problem :-( ).

4. Select a message in top window, determine its level 1 and 2 groups (in the two textboxes by writing/selecting the name there - e.g. 'Week 3 Tools' and 'Blogs' ) and click the 'add' buton; (group names can later be edited by clicking 'groups' button and editing the name; a message, which has already been sorted can also later be assigned a different group by clicking the group name at the bottom of the bottom right window),

5. Threader fills all the required cells itself – the added message is visible in the bottom left window – message #, reply to #, date, author, contents, group) (if you've added the message to the wrong group, you can remove it using 'remove' button, the delete key, or change its group as described before in pt. 4).

6. Once the message is added to a group, find it and select it in the bottom left window - it's contents should now appear in the bottom right window. Clean the text using the 'break' button for cleaning line breaks and the 'hyperlink' button for marking the hyperlinks appropriately.

7. If necessary, move the selected message (bottom left window) up or down the group using 'up' and 'down' buttons.

8. When all the messages are done this way, click 'tables' in the menu, choose 'groups' button and determine the desired order of groups/tables using 'up' and 'down' buttons. You can also edit the group names here if necessary. When happy with this, click 'close'.

9. Click again 'tables' in the menu, choose 'authors' button and add links to photos to the authors database and the correct display of names if necessary (authors might sometimes not be recognized as the same persons, which means that you will have to add the photo link more times). When happy with this, click 'close'.

10. Save the file.

11. Click export, check the results, if happy with them, click 'copy' button, go to wiki / other HTML editor and paste the code. You should get the table of contents and the tables with messages and back-to-top links. All cells should be filled in appropriately. If not happy, return to the threader and correct whatever bothers you (e.g. columns' width is adjustable after clicking 'settings' button in threader menu...) and repeat the export procedure.

12. The threading part is thus done - what is yet missing is the introductory table with info about the weekly threads – copy it from one of the previous weekly threads pages and insert the code where it fits.

That’s all folks. Let us know if you try it out. Happy threading. :-)


Dennis said...

Zdravo, Saša.

What a fascinating post! I, with all the others, was greatly impressed, last year, when you not only finished a week of threading in record time but also created an end product that was very appealing visually. Kudos to you and Miha!

The detailed information on the application used to do the threading is a very good illustration for a key technological concept: that a utility which allows a user to accomplish a task automatically may itself be complicated even though the user interface is not. I am impressed and amazed at how Miha has thought through the operations which are involved in organizing a large collection of messages and then set up a program which eliminates the tedious, time-consuming task of organizing and grouping those messages in a logical order. The analytical and programming expertise which enabled Miha to create "Threader" and the high level of skill you have shown in using "Threader"are a wonderful combination, Saša. Čestitam!

Objemy from Dennis in Phoenix

Saša said...

Thank you Dennis, for dropping by and taking the time to write your kind comments. Miha was patiently adding the bits and pieces to the application and fixing bugs along the way, while I was making the threads... It was gradually developed... :-)

Berta said...

Dear Sasa,
How wonderful Miha could develop this threader and you were able to handle the threads at BaW. I am impressed. I helped out with week 6at B4beginners but set out at the very beginning of the week, so it did not seem so terrible (besides, there were not that many mails by then). Has the threader been used by other EVO sessions?
Congratulations on a great job and contribution to the group.

Saša said...

Thank you, Berta, what a lovely surprise! :-)))
I don't know of people from other EVO sessions using the programme... I posted about it last year in the BaW co-mods YG but EVO was already winding up at that point... So I posted about it again at the beginning of EVO this year and 3 other BaWers decided to try it out; Jose Antonio, Sharon and Fernanda. It seemed to work for them too. :-)
A big hug, s