Google Summer of Code 2008 Project Ideas

Thiblo is an abbreviation for Thinking Blogs. This doesn't say too much about who we are, but you get some idea. We are yet another bunch of people who want to change the Web. But we are serious about it. Here's a very brief description how we're gonna do it.

We have developed an innovative web journal system, that

  1. fills the gap between current "personal journals" (blogs), and

"internet news portals", which are generalized from legacy paper-based journals and the corresponding traditional workflow. Our system enables middle sized, community-driven online journals to come into existence. These could have the look and feel of a journal, not a blog, and are managed by editors, though for some or most of them it might just be a hobby.

A technical detail, for the sake of example: an editor can create a rule for (semi)automatic importing of articles from a given column of some other journal (given that the other journal is hosted within our system as well).

  1. It has a novel commenting system, WebMore, which allows commenters to

have their comments appear in bubbles within the leads, spatially organized. In essence, comments are anchored to individual phrases. This commenting system places such a journal somewhere in the middle on the "journal-wikipedia" scale: instead of letting users simply edit the text, they can make change proposals where they are due.

A lot of it has been already done in the last two years of active development (and couple of years just thinking and designing before it). But there are couple of important parts to be done yet. And we also have several loosely related project ideas which are interesting on their own, and can add value to our thiblo system. So, here are the "ideas".

Web based GUI for designing Journal Front Pages

A GWT based component for visually creating and editing front page designs. This sounds like a traditional table editor, and it basically is one. But because of special requirement of this particular application, it has to be "done right" to be usable and actually useful. Instead of zillions of details and html features, it should provide the user a very clean interface to design just the structure of a page.

The end result will be a reusable component, like those found on the  GWT's page of the community developed components.

Difficulty: medium-hard

Requirements: solid knowledge of modern web developing techniques; javascript/AJAX. Familiarity with GWT is a big advantage. Basic knowledge of python is also very welcome (it is our language of choice for server-side development).

Web "snapshotting" tool

One of us is particularly interested in political journalism. Which often involves commenting on news coverage of recent political events. Which can be surprisingly different for electronic media, as they tend to change very quickly. And a comment abount some front page (comparing coverage of two politicians for example) can become obsolete in a matter of hours if not minutes. So, we are in a dire need of a tool which can automatically capture and preserve to exact look and content of a specified web page. Which would enable to "quote" it later confidently.

Several tool exists which perform a similar task, so it could happen that this is mainly an integration of different technologies project.

Difficulty: easy-to-medium

Requirements: experience with the gecko rendering engine is of course a big advantage, but is in no way a strict requirement.

E-mail drawing

Today, the most important mean of communication on the internet is still the e-mail. But e-mail lacks an important aspect of the "snail" mail letter. You can't draw on it. For example, on paper you can draw a small heart near the name of the addressee or at the end of your letter... And pleeeease, :* is not an adequate representation of the same concept! Or, you can do a more useful thing, like draw a little how-to-get-there-scheme right on the margin or between the lines.

So, the idea is to implement a thunderbird/firefox extension which makes it possible with the e-mail. You can draw on a special layer above your e-mail text. The drawing gets converted to some image and/or SVG format, and is attached to the mail. And if the recipient have the same extension installed she sees the letter the same way as it was composed. (If she doesn't have the extension install, she still get the image attachment which is viewable by itself.)

Difficulty: easy (just the thunderbird extension part); hard (the firefox extension with integration to popular web based e-mail clients).

Requirements: javascript, experience with firefox/thunderbird extensions is a big plus.