2010/02/15

Automatically Create a Webpage of Articles for Astro-ph Discussion with PHP and Python.


Here is a guest post by Ian Crossfield, a third-year graduate student at UCLA working on the infrared characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, and Nate Ross, a first-year graduate student working on various projects relating to the history of star formation in the universe.

AstrocoffeeLike many astro groups, UCLA has had an informal astro-coffee discussion for years where people discuss the latest preprints hot off the arxiv.org presses. However, a barrier for some participants has been the unpredictability of the topics presented, especially for new graduate students. With an eye toward giving advance notice of what papers might be of particular interest (and in the spirit of entering the 21st century) we wrote up a PHP/Python package to automatically allow web submission of articles and generate this website. Read on to find out how to implement this at your institution.

Image Credit: Rick Harrison, OSU Alumni Magazine

In the hope that other departments might find this a useful tool, we’ve made all the code for the site available here, along with installation instructions and a bit of basic commentary. Briefly: a PHP-enabled web site lists submitted articles, has an input form for submitting additional articles of interest, and upon submission the site automatically updates the HTML/PHP code. Items can be subsequently deleted from the list using a password-protected PHP text editor. If you try it out, let us know how it goes and what improvements could be made!

The implementation isn’t the most elegant (or, probably, the most secure), and sites like those at UC Santa Cruz and Ohio State show that there’s no shortage of ways to design these tools. Nonetheless, in the few weeks since implementing this new setup we’ve already seen a substantial increase in grad student participation, so we’re quite satisfied thus far.

Any other good ideas for organizing the astro-coffee discussion? Let’s here them in the comments.

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