Salsa Scoop> tag: ”blog:ui“

Salsa Weekly Highlight: Snappy new update messages

by Leslie Hall

Image: An update message in your Salsa headquarters

(From this week's Weekly Highlight email. Click here to sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday!)


It's the "Salsa Weekly Highlight," your quick hit on what's new in Salsa to help get the most out of your online program. As always, you can find plenty more news, updates, and conversation throughout the week on

You may have already noticed that we've added slick new update messages, like the image at right, in the Salsa headquarters.

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Projecting Credibility on a Website

What makes someone hitting your web page stick around, join an e-mail list, forward to a friend? This Slideshare presentation makes clear that design and content both play crucial roles in creating (or undermining) an appearance of credibility on a website. The research here is much deeper and could be of particular interest for anyone involved in a redesign ("Websites lose credibility whenever they make it hard for users to accomplish their task at hand"), but here are a handful of top-level takeaways of use for any nonprofit whatever their web presence or expertise:
  • Show your physical address -- proving the existence of a real organization that stands behind the site.
  • Don't link to non-credible outside sites ... but do link to source material for your claims, showing confidence in your positions.
  • Update often.
  • "Small errors like misspellings and broken links hurt a site's credibility more than most people imagine."

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Why We Salsa

October 15 is a milestone for DIA and our users: it marks the end of support for our legacy codebase. You may have heard already. From here on out, everything is in Salsa. While users of the original system can still log into and use their accounts, and old pages calling that system will continue to function (well into the future, if not indefinitely), there is officially no development, patching or support available for it. It's a day ripe with the auspices of history: this date in 1582 marked the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, an overnight 10-day leap forward to correct the backwards drift of the old Julian system. We've been on in this space about Salsa's bells and whistles -- the dashboards, custom reports, and other exotica. And we've been talking about and working on it for well over a year, and lately had scarce time for much of anything else. But as we finally make the break, it's worth a few words about the deeper change Salsa represents and the bigger-picture reasons why we're making the move.

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Copious Salsa Documentation

A great software tool deserves great (and a great deal of) documentation. Simultaneous with polishing the code and building new features, we've been hard at work trying to take our documentation to a different place. We've been keenly aware for a while that we've left something to be desired in that department. Believe me, we're all tired ourselves of having to say that we're working on it. But we really have been. And finally, we have a comprehensive FDA-approved* label identifying every ingredient. Click here for your Salsa documentation. (It's permanently linked from our Training & Support section.) Now what you gets here at the moment is three different things, although like all great art it will over time grow and evolve new meanings, fresh interpretations, unexpected interlocutors. (And like the Capitoline Wolf, someone will come along later and slap some new content into it.)

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DIA Salsa Spotlight of the Day: In-Line WYSIWYG Editors

Though it seems like a minor tweak, swapping the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor from the old system in favor of a better one was a long and perilous adventure.

It's all in the editor

The WYSIWYG editor of the current system is a decent little program called TinyMCE. We did not write it; instead, we grabbed it from the great farm of available open source software. Sadly, we picked something rotten. It looked shiny and it smelled pleasant, but it was not edible. Unless you were starving. At the time we chose it we were famished. The great limitations of it are known to all of our users: from the Bush Administration-type quality control that would re-write your content to the minuscule editing window on pages that used templates, TinyMCE clearly had its upbringing at the teat of Mussolini.

. Like Mussolini, we were lying when we said it made the trains run on time. We even had to go so far as to create "features" to work around the problems caused by TinyMCE. That "disable WYSIWYG editor" was so that our users would not have to suffer through it. TinyMCE brought a lot of heartache, and that was just the daily impact we would see on our support staff. TinyMCE had to go. Under the new Salsa regime it was first against the wall. But first we needed a replacement. The new editor needed to:

  • Generate really clean HTML.
  • Be lightweight. (TinyMCE was a hog dipped in butter.)
  • Clean out the crud that Microsoft Word generates.
  • Be cross-browser compliant.

A clarion call was put out for a new editor. By this I mean I turned around in our cramped office and said, "TinyMCE blows. Any suggestions?" The response was clear: "All inline editors blow." This was not encouraging, but I was not one to give up. Every, and I mean about a dozen, open source or free editors were looked at. About a half-dozen editors with a price were tested. Rumors even started that one rogue programmer in our midst had written his own editor. The story gets even weirder: said programmer has also written his own spreadsheet application, and wears a colander on his head because he is convinced that Google is stealing all of his ideas. These were scary times. Then I discovered KTML. KTML from our friends in Romania was a godsend. Sure it cost, but it was slick and it met all of our requirements. And as a bonus they had a JSP version. Being a JSP shop this sounded good. In June 2006 we made the plunge to KTML. Happiness, briefly, reigned. Around December, our intrepid developer Erin pinged the KTML support team. In the past they generally would respond in a day or so. This time, silence. She pinged them again. The silence extended into January. Was Romania invaded? Was KTML a front for an eastern European drug syndicate? Nope. Adobe bought them. Then, Adobe summarily executed KTML for JSP. I felt dirty, alone and I panicked. AHHHHHHHHHHH. Salsa was already in an early form of its public beta at this time. Some of you even used it with KTML. Do we stick with the devil we know in TinyMCE or do we start our hunt anew? Testosterone flowed and the hunt began again. From our past crusades we knew where to look and quickly narrowed the field down to one: FCKEditor. Its name is odd, but its form is elegant. (Or as elegant as an inline editor can get.) It generates XHTML-compliant code, it's lightweight, Microsoft's mucus-laden babel is easily tackled and it works across a variety of browsers. From first glance it seemed great. Then, as we began to install it, it made us smile. When we opened its image library function we fell in love. And this is how we came to love the editor with the seemingly offensive name. Deus ex machina.

You may remember us from such posts as: Queries
Reports Dashboards Email, Tags and Scoring

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Salsa Is Here: Get It Free With a DIA Empowers Grant

There was a star danced, and under that was I born. -Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing Well, it's here, as you may have heard a few times. (Relive the announcement here if you must, on the Salsa updates blog.) At some time today -- no one can say the hour or the place any more than the meaning -- Salsa became. It's the end of the day. The party is already beginning to crank. It's been a devil of a ride, not that it's over yet, as the views into tool development (see here, here, here and here, and check back tomorrow [update: here] besides) indicate, though plenty of the hours logged are the unbloggable drudgery of bug-spotting and -swatting.
To mark the occasion, we're giving it away. No foolin' -- get a year's service on us, with no lock-in, hidden fees or other nasty surprises with a DIA Empowers Grant. Even signups with our regular low-low, won't-be-undersold fees are taking it in the shorts: pocket $500 for beer money (or, if you're coming to the bash tonight, hangover remedy).

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DIA Salsa Spotlight of the Day: Email, Tags and Scoring

The email blaster is by far our most-used tool. Since its inception it has, like many of the DIA tools, evolved organically. There are six separate steps to send an email blast and most of the steps seem to be just thrown in random order.

Master Blaster

In the Salsa edition of the blaster we decided to follow a more logical approach and one that is more akin to composing and sending an email from your desktop email application. The number of steps has been reduced from six to three: Write, Target, Send. In the first step, writing your email, we've combined the ability to choose a template, set the from fields and then compose the email. The new template chooser allows you to see a preview of your template than just having to rely on a name.

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DIA Salsa Spotlight of the Day: Dashboards

Third in the series. Previously: Queries Reports

I want it MY way!

Yeah, yeah. We've heard you. All of you. You want your own, customized, slice of DIA heaven. You loathe having to share you preferences with others in your office. Sharing is not caring in your book. Instead you have a rugged sense of individualism. We know. You are a special and unique snowflake. Well, we listened. Not only did we listen (and listen and listen and listen) but we did something about it. Salsa is about you. All about you. You and your needs. We can wait for our needs until our Guacamole release is ready.

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DIA Salsa Spotlight of the Day: Custom Reports

Long one of the DIA toolset's frustrating limitations, reports in Salsa -- flexible, customizable, savable -- put the copious data lodged in the system suddenly at your fingertips, not excluding visually relieving graphiness. Heck, maybe too much. In striking a balance between power and usability, we've had to introduce some fairly advanced concepts to the Report Builder interface, and they can take some getting used to. The query builder actually lets you construct a SQL statement, so users who are comfortable with the argot will be ahead of the game, but really, everyone can play. Yesterday, Anthony toured the buffed-up Query tool for pulling a finely-targeted slice of the list. Today, we talk Reports for pulling finely-targeted everything else.


Reports can actually do some of the things that queries do, but they do a whole lot more -- because they can be run on any data object in the system. Begone, export-to-Excel-and-figure-it-out! (Naturally, you can still do that too.)

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DIA Salsa Spotlight of the Day: Queries

This is the week. It's sure to be less fun than the release party this Thursday night (you're coming, no?), but the blog pays its own form of remixable tribute all this week with a countdown of the top enhancements you'll find when you log in to Salsa. Sure, the party has an open bar. But does it have an RSS feed?

The birth of the condiment:

For Salsa, at one point called Fuse, and at another called Joan Rivers and Six Million Dollar Man (granted, only I called it that) we set forth some very basic, high-level goals.
  • make the system easier to use
  • make the system more stable
  • make the system more flexible

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