I was recently given the honor of reviewing the Universal Tag Cloud Module. This module is released by InspectorIT, a Washington D.C. based company, whose many talents happen to include DotNetNuke®. The company has deep roots in the DNN project. They have a hand in developing the Core Blog Module, Links Module, and the Installer Utility. You may recognize the name of their CEO, Antonio Chagoury, who is very helpful in the community, not to mention very talented. He also founded the Capital DotNetNuke User Group.
The Universal Tag Cloud Module is available through the InspectorIT website for information, support, and a demo. If you decide to purchase it, you will then find it in the Snowcovered marketplace. I downloaded and used version 1.02.00. Once downloaded, I was very happy to find out that it is packaged as a customer would expect it to be. There was no need to extract it, and then find the installation package like some other vendors do. This is especially important to anyone new to the DNN framework. Once I installed the module (like any other module), it looked like the image below.
There is obviously one or more things to be done to get the module up and running. The next logical step was to check the Module Settings, so I did. To do that for any module, we would use the Actions Menu. One thing I noted immediately, was that InspectorIT makes it very easy for their customers to find support for their modules. For what we need to look at, I chose to click on Settings instead though.
The settings dialogue is full of features and ways that make the module both useful and flexible. I could see at first glance that I could easily apply this module to most of the websites that I manage.
The first section labeled, Tag Cloud System Status Center, is very useful. It very quickly gives you a little troubleshooting information that you can use for any number of reasons. For example, if the search index scheduled job is not enabled, you would get a warning or error status here. Looking at this section, I realized that I had not set my personal defaults for the DNN search indexer. As you can see from the screen shot below, I quickly went and changed it.
This section has another importance that is worth noting. If you do not have the default search provider in DNN enabled, this module will not work. Many people do indeed disable the search provider for many reasons – not the least being that the search engine in DNN is still not as robust as we’d all like. That being said, this module uses the DNN search provider to generate it’s tag cloud – a very innovative use of this DNN feature. I think it’s so cool!
In order for me to set my search defaults, I needed to make sure I was logged in as a host, and then go to Search Admin page in the Host Menu. That will bring us to the following dialogue.
Going through the individual settings is beyond the scope of this post, but here is what I put in for my testing of this module (see below). Realistically, I should have also clicked the Re-Index Content link once I updated the settings, but I didn’t for our demo.
Now that I had my search settings set-up, I could move on to get the rest of the module set-up completed.
Our next section of interest is simply labeled, General. In this section, you will find all of your true settings that really manage how your tag cloud is generated and functions. I was once again very pleased to see that all of the settings made very good sense to me – this coming to someone who only understands tag clouds at the conceptual level.
I am not going to go over what each setting does, because the module does a pretty good job of explaining that to us already. I would like to point out that the default settings are very well chosen. I believe that the defaults will fit most installations, such as the Number of Tags, and DotNetNuke Search. My first glance got me really excited, as I could already visualize the settings that I would soon be using. For example, I already knew that I would need to filter out certain tag names, and enable caching. For the demo, I didn’t enable caching at all.
I didn’t change anything on my first visit. I moved down to the next section, labeled Tag Cloud Source Management. This section tells this module instance which data sources to look to for tags. This is very important. If you choose too many, or the wrong ones, you will not get the desired results out of the module. In this section, you will see all of the available modules that implement ISearchable in their code. This is not important to the layperson, but from a technical perspective, this just means that the modules in the list contribute data to the DNN search provider.
I removed all of the module id’s in the screen shot above because I am paranoid. I know that they are easily retrieved, but why not hide it one more time? :) As you might imagine, this section has the possibility to get quite long. I hope that InspectorIT has a plan for organizing this better for the larger DNN sites out there. For our demo today, I simply checked the blog module as our data source, and I clicked the Update link at the bottom of the module settings. I did this, as I was only interested in tags generated from my blog posts.
With our settings left at the default, and only choosing the blog module as my data source, my first view of the Universal Tag Cloud Module with data is on the left.
You may not notice what I have, but I am certainly not happy with my first view, and it’s not the fault of the module. There are some tags in this initial view that I do not want in my list. For example, words like “byval”, “great”, and “free” are not words that I think would generate interest to my site visitors. I need to remove them from the tag cloud.
Removing tags from the cloud is SUPER easy with this module. Simply go back to the Module Settings, and go into the General section again. For every tag that you want removed from the cloud, enter it into the Tag Exclusion List, separated by commas like I show in the screen shot below.
Once you put in all of the tags that you want omitted from the cloud, save your changes by once again clicking the Update link at the bottom of the Module Settings. Now, our initial tag cloud view will look altered.
You might already be thinking what I am. “That looks much better.” We might definitely want to think about removing more tags from the cloud, but we now a very good idea of how to do so, and what affect our changes to the settings might have on our tag cloud.
I continued playing with the module for a little bit of time, just to see what I could do. You obviously see it on my site right now. I used the word “play” on purpose. Managing this module is fun. It is so rewarding to use a module that is easy to implement and set-up, and even better to see immediate results.
Once I was done playing with the module, it was time to finally put it to its final state, by saving my final module settings, including module cache for performance, and to save on database requests. Here are my final settings, and you can see the results on this very page:
There is so much room for more cool features for this module. I cannot wait to see what Antonio’s creative mind has in store for future versions of this module. If you need a tag cloud that has only positive impact on a DNN site, and uses existing technology, this module is definitely the standard one to use, and sets the bar very high. I can already see all kinds of uses for this module on various types of sites.
Great job on the module!