Another toy: instant newsletter subscriber

Just so you know: this page was imported from my old blog. Some pages were rather mangled in the process; my apologies if things don't quite look right.

We have another new toy on the site. It's something that's been in the "planning" (i.e. the "thought about it, never got round to doing anything with it") stage for a while now - a one-click way of subscribing to, and unsubscribing from, a newsletter feed.

On we run a few different newsletter lists; the JobShop and Social:Life ones are two of the most commonly-used lists, and the compulsory list (which is used to send urgent broadcast messages to everyone) sees about one message every two months.

With our mass mailing lists that can be opted-in to, e.g. the JobShop, you used to have to go to your profile, edit it, and tick a box, then save it and wait for someone to e-mail you.

Now, we have a toy we can sit on whatever page we like (for the JobShop, it's under the menu on the right on every page apart from the job listings pages - check for yourself if you like ;o).

This toy tells you if you're subscribed to whichever list that particular block of code is looking after, and a button you can click on the subscribe or unsubscribe. Clicking the button takes you straight back to the same page, so you don't end up lost in a sea of back-button clicking just to sign up.

I'm also planning a re-jig of the Social:Life homepage to coincide with the new academic year, so we'll hopefully be adding one of these buttons for the Social:Life mailing list to that page as well... Soonish... Maybe...

I'm doing a spot of work-avoidance at the moment - I'm supposed to be working out how the NUS card sign-up system is going to work (and, at some point in the next month or so, actually making it happen: cry...) - so, to avoid having to start it today, I'm sketching out some ideas for a "My RSS" box on's new homepage (err, coming soon...).

The idea with My RSS is to give all members of the site a way of adding RSS headlines (from any website) to their homepage (i.e. the page they see when they sign into the site, on any computer). Users provide the URL of the RSS feed, choose how many headlines to show, and say whether they want to see the first few words of the description as well (... and if they want to see HTML or plain text? Or is that too complicated?), and voila, someone else's news on our website...!

It really is good stuff, and if/when it's running, will probably cause me to switch from using UPSUuuuugle as my homepage. The only potential problem is that, like a lot of things, it uses a tiny bit of Javascript to show/hide options menus; I know a (small) number of the University's PCs don't even support javascript, so this will mean another feature which some of the site's more technologically-limited visitors will have to live without.

Of course (without wanting to sound like I'm jumping on a passing bandwagon), it's a fairly Web 2.0 thing (although members will only see their own RSS choices), and - more importantly - it's another way of encouraging people to set as their homepage, which would be rather flattering!

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