Formatting articles for apps: Markdown to the rescue

This week, our startup updated the official guide to the International Eucharistic Congress 2016 that will be held in Cebu this January. The update contained new information including the complete schedule, profile of speakers as well as a News sub-section that will contain updates leading to and during the actual event.

Among the new information that went into the update was the basic text of the congress or the “Theological and Pastoral Reflections in Preparation for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress.” It is a lengthy treatise on the Eucharist and the Church’s mission.

Auto-update convenience: WordPress upgrades itself to fix critical vulnerability

After yesterday’s upgrading of key WordPress plugins to fix a cross site scripting vulnerability, the WordPress team released version 4.1.2, which it described as a critical security release.

“WordPress versions 4.1.1 and earlier are affected by a critical cross-site scripting vulnerability, which could enable anonymous users to compromise a site,” the WordPress team said in a blog post announcing the release. The release also fixed 3 other security issues including an SQL injection vulnerability in some plugins.

I got the notification of the new release at past midnight. Years back, that would have meant that I’d need to stay up very late, download the latest release, upload the files to the server and perform the upgrade for each of the site I’m running.

Cebu developers harness tech to help in Yolanda rescue, relief efforts

THE day after super typhoon Yolanda battered Cebu, developer Albert Padin of Sym.ph went to their office on Escario St. to play games and work on some personal projects. Saturdays, Padin said, are days when their team does hackathons on projects that do not involve their day-to-day jobs.

While combing through news and social network updates, Padin read a call on geekli.st for developers to pitch in coding skills to build a system to help in relief efforts. Since he already had a team that was ready to build things, Padin said they decided to hold a hackathon to build a website to help in relief efforts.

They started the hackathon at 2 p.m. on Saturday with the goal of wrapping up by 5 p.m. They finished at 10 p.m. instead because they worked on 2 things: 1) a system that can help track the search for missing persons and 2) a site that can centralize relief and rescue information in the different areas ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda.

They later closed the person finder service and redirected people to the Google People Finder website. Padin said the Google system was better and the people running it had experience using it in previous disasters.

New #30DayChallenge: Write in Markdown

I’ve always wanted to learn and start using Markdown in writing. For some time, it hovered near the top of my to-do list but I never got around to actually starting to use it.

I use a Markdown-capable online writing tool – Editorially – but I never used it for that. I used it purely to manage articles and to allow me to work on a post in multiple workstations.

When I write, I compose only in plain text. As soon as I’d finish the article, I’d go over the post again and manually code the HTML tags for blog or website publishing.

Tech as enabling disaster preparedness: APSEMO experience

WERE you among the hundreds of people stranded in parts of Metro Cebu Saturday night? A strong and sudden downpour caused waist-deep flooding in several areas of the metro.

Flooding has now become all too common not just because of the sorry state of our drainage system and our explosive growth but also because of the weather. Climate change is upon us and its bringing disasters along with it.

One thing that empowers communities in dealing with disasters like widespread urban flooding is technology.

Before technologies like mobile phones came in, disaster preparation was a “failure,” said Dr. Cedric Daep, the head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo)

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Learning to build mobile sites, from WAP to JQuery Mobile

Sun.Star Cebu mobile app
EASY, POWERFUL FRAMEWORK. JQuery Mobile allows non-programmers like me to easily and quickly build powerful mobile Web apps and sites. (Photo by Max Limpag)

About ten years ago, I built a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) mobile news site. This was at a time when the cellphone to aspire for was the Nokia 7110, a slider phone made even cooler when a similar device was used in the Matrix movie.

At that time, the Sun.Star website signed a content agreement with Smart for SMS and WAP news and they needed a WAP mobile site. Nobody among the website staff then knew how to build a WAP site. Being a sucker for always trying to learn new stuff, I volunteered to build it.

I finished the WAP site in time for the launch after a 3-day development marathon done after I finished my work at the Sun.Star Cebu copy desk, fueled by more than a pack of Marlboro reds a day (I was still a heavy smoker then) and guided by a phonebook-thick Wireless Markup Language (WML) reference for the Artus Netgate.

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Why Flickr is awesome again

flickr

A free terabyte of storage. A thousand gigabytes. That’s how Flickr announced it was back in the photo hosting game.

Last week, Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer announced that the Internet pioneer is giving users of its photo sharing service  Flickr a terabyte of free storage. That amount of free space boggles one’s mind.

To show it off, Flickr has a slider on its homepage that allows you to calculate how many photos you can store in your free allocation, depending on the resolution. If you store 8-megapixel pictures, the resolution of the iPhone 5, you could store up 436,906 photos.

This column is still written by a human

THE Agence France Presse (AFP) published an interesting article last week about the use of algorithms to write news articles.

The AFP article, which was written by a human, discussed how a group of new companies use algorithms or mathematical procedures run on computers to turn large volumes of numeric data into articles.

A pioneer in the industry is Narrative Science, which was spun off from a joint research project at the Northwestern University Schools of Engineering and Journalism. The company said its first “automatically generated story” was on a Northwestern Wildcats baseball game.