WPHMI: Help Me investigate for wordpress

WPHMI - Help me investigate for your blog

WPHMI is a plugin version of the Help me Investigate website.

The orginal HMI site was designed to handle a large number of users and diverse investigations. If that sounds like the kind of thing you want to do then the code for the orginal HMI website is still actively being developed and you can download it via github.

But if you have a small number of investigations and a small team then WPHMI allows you to set up and manage a small number of crowdsourced investigations using a wordpress blog.

The plugin follows the HMI structure of Investigations and Challenges.  An investigation starts with someone asking a question. The questioner can then set a number of challenges to help them and the community answer the question and share the results.

You may, for example, ask What is the average cost of a pint of bitter?. A good challenge may be to ask participents in the investgation to find the price of bitter in their local pub. But you could also set a challenge to map the information and publish it on google maps. 

Some limitations.

Because this isnt a full conversion of the code or port to wordpress there are limitations. The scale is an obvious one – it isn’t designed for lots of investigations and users.

Another limitation is that the plugin has been written to work with the default TwentyTen theme that comes with wordpress. The idea is that you would set up a blog to run your investigations.  It will work with other themes (its not bad on the new twentyeleven theme) but the sheer range of themes out there makes it difficult to be consistent. The style sheet isn’t very long so a little tweaking shouldn’t be too hard.

Setting-up the plugin

  • Install the plugin in the usual way
  • Create a new page with the title Investigations and publish it
  • You’re done!

The plugin will ‘hijack’ the new page and add the navigation for investigations and challenges.

How to set-up an investigation

The investigation screen

The plugin adds a new menu option for Investigations.

  • Click Add New Investigation
  • Add the question you want answered in the title box
  • Add a description (and any supporting information and links) that will help people understand why you’re asking.
  • Add topics for your investigations. These would be keywords that describe the subject(s) you’re investigating.
  • Publish the investigation

Your investigation is ready to go.

Create a challenge

The challenge screen
The challenge screen

The plugin also adds an option for challenges

  • Click Add new Challenge
  • Add a title for the challenge in the title box
  • Add instructions for the challenge in the post box. You should offer instructions for submitting their responses to the challenge. This would normally be via the comment form below but it could be a link to a google doc or other collaborative tool.
  • Select the Investigation to attach the challenge to using the drop down in the challenge settings panel
  • Publish the challenge

Sign-up people to contribute

The plugin creates a custom user called Investigation Contributor. This allows a user to join investigations and take challenges. Unlike the full version of help me investigate, WPHMI does not have a membership facility because the plugin is designed for small groups. You have a number of options to add users:

  • The admin for the site can add new contributors through the normal process .
  • You can allow anyone to subscribe to the blog as an Investigation Contributor. You could allow people to subscribe as a subscriber and then change their user type.
  • You can use a registration/membership plugin like Register Plus Redux to give you more control over the sign-up process

What do I do if a challenge has been completed?

  • Click Challenges to list the current challenges and find your challenge
  • Check the This challenge is complete: option in the challenge settings panel

The challenge will now be marked as complete.

What do I do if the investigation is complete?

The plugin displays the progress of an investigation based on the percentage of the challenges that are complete . But it’s the author of the investigation (or admin) who marks the investigation complete.

  • Click Investigations to list the current investigations and find your investigation
  • Check the This investigation is complete option in the investigation settings panel

The investigation will now be marked as complete. No one will be able to join or contribute to the investigation. Any challenges associated with the investigation will become inaccessible.

What if no one is helping with a challenge or investigation?

WPHMI can’t make people to take challenges or get involved – you have to work out what motivates your community to get them taking part. But you can feature an investigation on the main investigations page to raise awareness:

  • Click Investigations to list the current investigations and find your investigation
  • Add Featured to the Topics box.
  • Update your investigation

You can flag a challenge as needing help using the Still need help radio button in the Does the challenge need more help? section of the Challenge settings.

What else does the plugin do?

Not a lot! It’s as much a proof of concept/beta thing at the moment.  It does add two widgets that you can use to promote investigations and list the topics you have created.

If you can think of anything else you’d like it to do or have any suggestions on how it could do things better,then let me know.

Download the WPHMI Plugin.