Public Lab Wiki documentation

plots2: the Public Lab 2.0 website

1 | 20 | | #4826

This is an information page for the now-complete rewrite of the Public Lab website on a new platform, with a whole new look. The new website (which you are using already!) replaced the Drupal-based (on Github which is now redirected, and the old codebase shut down) with

This project is specifically intended to address many issues with the legacy website, which we'd outgrown in many ways. The new website:

  • boasts more usable, friendly, but also more powerful interfaces
  • simplifies and refine common tasks like posting research notes and filtering spam
  • enables faster development (based on Ruby on Rails and Twitter's Bootstrap frameworks)
  • completely revises and streamlines "following" other contributors or specific keywords, with email alerts
  • works on tablets, smartphones, and in recent versions of Internet Explorer

The new site uses almost all of the same URL paths as the legacy site -- all old URLs should remain functional.


The new site will continue to evolve and be refined -- and just like the old site, it may have bugs! Please report these to, or enter them here:


These are now divided into 8 categories which we tracked on Github:

  • Look and feel
  • Finding stuff
  • Authoring and editing
  • Everyday use
  • New and growing users
  • Legacy features
  • Power users and admins

A smattering of exciting features is listed here; also see the gallery at the bottom of this page


Nov-Dec 2012

  • review of web survey and additional brainstorming & refinement of plan
  • build out of read-only site
  • variations on sidebar design, different navigation paradigms, advanced search and site-wide look & feel
  • pilot log-in system

Jan-Feb 2013

  • subscription management and test email system
  • drag & drop file upload testing
  • integration of Google Groups
  • commenting tests

Mar-Apr 2013

  • initial tests of research note and wiki posting
  • registration testing
  • SpectralWorkbench and MapKnitter integration with post templates
  • probable Beta site launch for wider public testing
  • archive display and interface design

(we are here, and more or less on schedule!)

Apr-May 2013

  • beta testing, bug fixing, final feature adds
  • heavy push for "trying the new version" through alerts on old site
  • reviewing feedback and if all goes well, switching over to the new site
  • spam filtration interface
  • staged "helpful hints" system which grows with a user
  • optimizations and scaling, slashdot-proofing

June 2013

  • shutdown of old site (fingers crossed!)
  • slow migration to native database

Alpha tester group

Many of the more adventuresome and patient of you have joined the "alpha user group" (so named although we've now moved to beta). We ask folks in this group to:

  • subscribe to the "plots-alpha" Google Group (below on this page) to be part of ongoing discussion and brainstorming
  • respond to occasional requests for input, such as jotting down your thoughts on a new page design or process
  • check how specific pages render in specific browsers & devices, and upload screenshots
  • try out new interfaces and provide constructive criticism

We try to keep these sorts of requests to once per week or so at a maximum. The benefit of joining the alpha user group is that you'll have a greater say in how the new Public Lab site is designed and implemented -- so if you're opinionated about or dissatisfied with the current site, please join!

Read more detail about the alpha testing program and sign up

Sign up for the alpha tester list here:


Visit this group

Thanks for your patience with the current site and here's looking forward to a newly refreshed website!

Bug reporting

Report bugs on Github (or email and we'll enter the bug for you) at:


Public Lab 2.0 website relaunch previews: place pages

Place page sidebars with list subscription & upcoming events

Public Lab 2.0 website relaunch previews: autocomplete search

Autocomplete search, sorted by type

Public Lab 2.0 website relaunch previews: like/follow

Like/follow buttons on most content

Public Lab 2.0 website relaunch previews: note posting

Completely new simplified authoring forms with preview and easy formatting

Public Lab 2.0 website relaunch previews: spam moderation

Fast and easy spam moderation

Public Lab 2.0 website relaunch previews: wiki sidebar

Recent contributors on a given topic

Public Lab 2.0 website relaunch previews: subscriptions

Integrated subscription management


These are the needed steps to migrate the entire old site off and make the new site the default. We are planning to do this at the end of May or start of June 2013.

  1. Pull new openid code to
  2. Set to point to drndl server
  3. Batch migrate users to new openid auth, test
  4. test users who do not have an account on
  5. test users who do have an account on
  6. test completely new users to
  7. Repeat above tests with users
  8. Set openid client to point to, confirm that it works, test #3 again
  9. Redirect to
  10. Point to using nginx redirects
  11. Change Google Analytics codes for PublicLab to point to stats
  12. Hold onto your pants and await load issues and bugs

(time passes)

  1. (Someday) copy (rsync) media (images, attachments) to and close up old site

This is complete! Hooray!