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Proposal: If a twiki page hasn't been updated in 3 months, the background color should be changed to a light yellow. Hasn't been updated in 6 months? a darker yellow.


It would be useful to have a visual indication of how old (and therefore, how out of date) a twiki page is. For example, real paper (the kind made from dead trees) turns yellow when it gets very old. Looking at a stack of real paper, you can tell how aged the page is by how yellow it is, and possibly how much dust there is on it. With web pages there is no such mechanism. It would be useful if Twiki could set the background color based on the age of the page. (Dark yellow for more than 6 months, light yellow for more than 3 months.)

One of the most powerful parts of a wiki is that they tend to not get out of date because they are so easy to update. This makes a visual indicator for old pages even more important. Since people tend to assume twiki pages are current, being alerted in those rare situations when a web page is old becomes even more critical.

This isn't an original idea, I saw it here:

  • Doree Duncan Seligmann & Stefan Bugaj, "Live Web Stationery: Virtual Paper Aging", In Visual Proceedings of ACM SIGGRAPH '97, Technical Sketches, Los Angeles, California, August 2-9, 1997.

Other ideas:

  • Rather than just a 3-month/6-month decision, nightly scan all web pages and come up with a new color scheme. Updated in the last month always gets a white background. Everything else gets a shade of yellow based on how it compares to the oldest web page proportionately.
  • Twiki should expose the age-of-page metrics to skins they can do something useful with it. (Possibly showing icons or depicting age some other way, such as a crinkled paper background image)

-- TomLimoncelli - 31 Jul 2003

Interesting idea.

Some ideas to take or leave:

Two suggestions:

  • Do this as a plugin - this might require the addition of plugin hooks (That said, I'd doubt it). These are actually pretty simple to do - and is more likely to be viewed favourably by the CoreTeam (at a guess) - hooks themselves have much less of a performance hit than new features. You're also more likely to find an audience for this functionality.
  • Implement as a variable or as a Metadata value (done on a nightly scan as you suggest or similar - how this works with sites with no access to cron needs to be considered). Meta data values can be used by skins for formatting/etc in the latest TWikiAlphaRelease - hence that suggestion. If stored as metadata it would also allow the information to be searched on.

Values that could be made available either way:

  • PAGEAGE (Perhaps with values relating to "new" (less than a week), "recent" (less than 1-3 months), "less than year","older than 1 year", "older than 1 year".

The latter of course could be used in conjunction with a stylesheet if appropriate.

Other metrics worth considering that would require alot more work:

  • Number of revisions on the topic? (Making the paper grubbier?)
  • If the topic has been refactored this is like starting a new sheet of paper. How new might depend on how refactored. One indication you would expect of good refactoring is where you have 2 revisions with the resulting on smaller than the discussion mode page, with very few common lines between revisions. (Refactors make paper less grubby? Certainly makes pages easier to read)

Side comment: changing the colour of the entire page is nice in theory, but having cues by the side of the page is probably better from an actually usability/readability perspective. (IMO)

-- MichaelSparks - 31 Jul 2003

I saw once this idea nicely used for a diff view of a (now dead) wiki in java: the "see diffs" presented you with the page with background black, and recent text in bright orange, old text in grey, the text "fading away" with its age like a drying ink. Very nice and useful, but it was possible because this wiki didn't allow HTML in pages. We could apply this idea to a "map" view of the page such as the TreePlugin

On your idea, I think the underlying need is a kind of workflow, as not all pages have the same "shelf life". A company Java coding policy should be still fresh after some months, but the planning of a meeting next week will be obsolete after this date.

So perhaps, having some kind of meta data on pages indicating at which date this page will be obsolete may be the needed feature... not unlike the Expires: HTTP meta data. A notification email could even be sent on expiration date to subscriber to email notification of the web...

-- ColasNahaboo - 31 Jul 2003

Colas's point on pages aging at different rates is well taken. As for the last paragraph, one of our developers implemented something almost identical to this for our internal TWiki, and it has proved extremely useful. I've added details at PageExpiryPossibleImplementation. Let me know if anyone is interested in this and I can look into getting it packaged up as an addon or similar.

-- MartinWatt - 07 Aug 2003

Yes, Martin, I am very interested in that kind of implementation, where someone is alerted when a document expires. I mostly use lynx, so colours don't always help, and I am writing up policies and procedures which must be updated or at least reviewed periodically but nobody remembers to do so. The age of topics is not as important as whether they have exceeded their individually allocated lifespans. It doesn't directly address most of the wishes expressed above (where relative ages is the focus), but it fits mine (TWiki for document maintenance) perfectly.

-- SueBlake - 07 Aug 2003

although this isn't exactly what was asked for, here are patches for TWiki.pm to implement elapsedSecondsToText() and for Search.pm for $documentAge variable; some sample output at SaneAsylum:System.AllWebChanges (the page takes a while to load)

-- WillNorris - 16 Jan 2004

See an example of fading dates in this listing.

-- ArthurClemens - 21 Feb 2004

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Topic revision: r7 - 2004-02-21 - ArthurClemens
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