Author Archives: Adam Franco

About Adam Franco

Senior Application Developer

Weekly Web Updates – October 5, 2015

The New England Review website was updated last Thursday with a new design, developed by College Communications. This is a child theme based on the Genesis Theme Framework, which we’ve done an extensive security review on. It will be used to produce other custom WordPress themes including (eventually) a refreshed set of Middlebury-branded themes for use on your sites.

We have set up an application we’re calling “BannerSelect” that creates a nightly cache of Banner data that is used in our Drupal and WordPress sites. For example, lists of donors for the Online Donor Roll or course descriptions shown in the Course Catalog. This removes Banner as a dependency for these applications (though the Course Catalog was already creating its own cache) and will speed them up as well as make managing the web servers a little easier as they will no longer need to know how to connect to Oracle. We’ll be working with areas that rely on these applications to ensure they’re tested and working with the new system.


Fixes and Tweaks

  • When a piece of content on any of our Drupal sites appears on multiple pages, links to it will always go to the current page if you’re already on the current page. This mostly applied to pages with lists of profiles and lists of news stories. If you are viewing a list of faculty profiles on a department site and click on one of them, you should now always stay on that department site, rather than sometimes jumping to a different department in which that person also teaches.
  • We have disabled a redundant scheduled task that was causing slowness in the Course Hub application. This should slightly improve performance of all of our Drupal-based websites.
  • Information about commons association and advisors for students displayed in Course Hub Rosters is now stored in a local database (using the BannerSelect application mentioned above) and refreshed nightly from Banner, rather than being read directly from Banner.
  • The Study Abroad and Language Schools navigation elements will now appear properly as 36px high in all browsers.
  • When we upgraded the Drupal modernizr module this week, we took the opportunity to pare down the list of tests that the JavaScript file runs for older browsers. This shouldn’t affect anyone on the Middlebury campus, as most people should be using a modern version of each browser now, but this should mean a slight performance increase for people using Internet Explorer 7-9.

Weekly Web Updates – September 21, 2015

Last week there were not as many changes usual. We’re working on some interesting projects that are nearly, but not quite, ready for the live site, as well as supporting people getting sites updated and created for the new academic year.


Fixes and Tweaks

  • The link to the “Emergency” page has been moved from the bottom to the top of the “Quick Links” dropdown in the footer of the Middlebury Drupal site.
  • Images featured on the homepage of Midd History Online will be automatically resized to fit within the height of the homepage carousel.

Web Workgroup Updates – September 14, 2015

We’ll begin with a couple of notices about browser compatibility. First, while we try to support every major browser, a reminder that editing in Drupal with Internet Explorer (including version 11) is not supported at this time due to an issue with the pop-up window used to add images. If you notice any issues viewing the Drupal site in IE 11, or in any of our other systems, please let us know.

Next, many people using Chrome 45 have noticed an issue with the admin menu. Here are instructions on disabling a Chrome feature that is causing the problem. This is anticipated to be resolved in Chrome 47.

New Features

On pages with multiple Google Calendars you can now link to a specific calendar by adding “#1” to the end of the URL, using the number of the calendar in the dropdown list, starting with zero, that you want to select. For example, to get the Helpdesk Hours on the Library Hours page, you can go to since “#0” is Davis Family Library, “#1” is Armstrong Library, “#2” is Special Collections, and “#3” is the Helpdesk.

There is a new version of Monster Menus available. We have not applied this to the live site yet, and likely won’t during September. We want to test to ensure that there aren’t any issues that would impact our live sites, especially the Course Hub during the first weeks of classes. There are some interesting features in this version:

  • Recycle bins have changed substantially, with regard to what happens when a single node is displayed on more than one page:
    • Nodes are removed (or moved to the recycle bin) only from the current page. If recycle bins are being used, there is a new option to remove the node from all pages at once. Emptying a bin containing a node that appears on other pages does not permanently delete the node from pages outside of the bin.
    • When a page is moved to the recycle bin, and a node from it also appears on a page not being deleted, it remains visible on the page outside the bin. If the page is permanently deleted, the node remains intact.
  • Automatically clear specific Drupal anonymous page cache entries whenever a page or node is updated, so that anonymous users don’t see stale content. It can also clear Varnish’s cache, if used, under the same circumstances. This eliminates the 5 minute wait after you update content, in most circumstances.


Tweaks and Fixes

  • We fixed an issue with the “Site Banner” images on department and office sites. By default, the images in raw File Upload nodes link to the image file. For File Uploads placed in Site Banners, we overrode this so that they would link to the department homepage. However, if you entered a custom URL in the File Upload that the banner should go to instead of the department homepage, this did not get consistently applied. Your custom URL values will now override both built-in link URLs.
  • The Category Sticky Posts plugin in WordPress failed to load one of its dependencies, which caused other site features to break. There should no longer be any conflicts when using this plugin.
  • Some of the “Add User” links in the WordPress admin interface took you to the internal WordPress “Add User” page, rather than the custom one we set up to ensure that the user accounts are added from our directory so we can use our Central Authentication Service. any internal WordPress users created this way wouldn’t be able to log in. All of the links now go to the correct form.

Weekly Web Updates – September 7, 2015

New Features

You can now add flashcards to your WordPress site. Enable the “Middlebury Flashcards” plugin on your site and then use this shortcode:

[flashcard front="bonjour" back="hello" width="130" height="130" font_size="20" text_color="#FFFFFF" bg_color="#000000"]

Only the “front” and “back” attributes are required. The values shown in the example will be used for the default values if those attributes are not supplied.

If you are using the “subscribe2″ plugin in WordPress you may have noticed that you get copied several times on the emails that are sent out when you publish a new post. This is because the plugin will use the”FROM” email as the “TO” address when sending to a large “BCC” list of subscribers. You can now change the default “FROM” address to “no-reply@” the current site domain.

If you’ve ever wanted to get an RSS feed of a single node on the Middlebury Drupal site, you can now do that using this address: and replacing the ‘%’ character with the numeric ID of the node.


Tweaks and Fixes

  • When new course sites are created in Moodle via the Course Hub, we now set the start date of the course to the last Monday prior to the start date listed in Banner.
  • The Course Hub now handles any type of parsing error in the updates it gets from various resources and will not stop syncing updates after the first error. Additionally, the Course Hub’s sync process is now given sufficient time to complete.
  • The information shown in Middlebury Drupal profiles from the Online Directory was being cached “permanently” which meant it only got updated after we made a code change. It will now be updated every three hours, in line with our process to sync other user data from the Directory. Note that this means edits to your office hours may not show up right away, but will appear by the end of the day.
  • The “miis_alumni” view in Drupal, which is used on the MIIS website to display lists of stories related to alumni in various programs, can now be displayed with or without a pager element at the bottom of the list. This resolves a minor SEO issue where the view was included on pages with a lot of other content and the pager was creating a series of pages where most of the content was the same, in the eyes of search engine spiders.
  • The site slogan on the MIIS website was updated from “Be the Solution: Areas of Study” to “Professional Graduate Degrees for Global Action”.
  • Middlebury’s Study Abroad programs in the Course Information Database now include “Middlebury” in their program title.
  • When librarians save new versions of the Library Quick Search widget, the old version is now purged from the block, page, variable and theme caches in Drupal.
  • We have removed new visual styles applied to the President of the College site last month.
  • There’s a new version of the header graphic for the ArtsMail newsletter.

Accessibility Fixes

  • The image button for the List Manager subscription form in Drupal now uses the proper “alt” attribute to contain the text for the button, rather than the incorrect “value” attribute.
  • All instances of the “b” and “i” elements in Drupal theme code have been replaced with “strong” and “em”, respectively. In addition, any instances of those elements in user-supplied content will be replaced with “strong” or “em”.
  • If the image rollover for the links in the global Middlebury Drupal footer doesn’t load, the links will be underlined to visually indicate that they are links.
  • The HTML element in all of our Drupal sites will now include the “lang” attribute in addition to the “xml:lang” attribute. The latter is not recognized by all screenreader software.

Weekly Web Updates – August 31, 2015

New Features

  • The WordPress Next Page plugin has been added to provide shortcodes and template tags for next/previous navigation in pages. The plugin includes a shortcode and tag for the parent page, allowing Drupal-like book navigation.
  • A new Omeka plugin for displaying a login bar on the top of Omeka sites has been added and is available for use.


Tweaks and Fixes

Several changes were made to the Middlebury Institute site, including:

  • The home page has an updated set of slider items.
  • A “read more” link was added below the news stories region on the home page.
  • The site has updated MBA redirects to match explicit paths, rather than “starts with”.
  • Additional top-margin space on 3rd level menus has been added.

Other fixes this week:

  • The Term filter on Study Abroad’s Course Information Database has been removed because it wasn’t relevant for most searches.
  • We added filters to sort Alumni Profiles by Major and/or Class Year.
  • A fatal error that was occurring on Course Hub dashboards when one of the courses had a Syllabus link has been fixed.

Weekly Web Updates – August 24, 2015

We reached a significant milestone this week. With the upgrade of the Middlebury Course Hub and the MIIS Course Hub to Drupal 7, we are no longer running any Drupal 6 sites. We started work on the Drupal 7 migration project on October 31, 2011 on Drupal version 7.9 and finished on August 20, 2015 on Drupal version 7.39. In that time we made over 3,000 changes to the code.

We’d like to thank everyone who helped out in this effort, especially those who helped test the site upgrades and our site editors for their patience during this process.

New Features

We have upgraded both of our WordPress servers to version 4.3, which allows you to set a custom site icon, provides markdown support in the editor, adds a way to customize your menus in the theme customizer interface, and turns comments off by default for new pages.

On the MIIS Drupal site, editors can now add social media sharing icons to Basic Content nodes by checking a box in the editing interface. The same icons and service links are used on all News nodes on the site.


Tweaks and Fixes

We made many accessibility improvements to our Drupal sites this week, including:

  • The Quick Access content type now includes a submit button. Additionally, the selector for the Quick Access node on the Middlebury Office & Services page was updated so that the search will work again.
  • The Google Custom Search content type now has a proper field label for the search input.
  • In the Google Calendar content type you can list multiple calendars. If you choose not to overlay the calendars, a select box will appear above the first calendar allowing you to switch to other calendars. This select box now has an appropriate label.
  • If you set a page in Drupal to have an “Archive” a set of select boxes will appear at the bottom of the page allowing you to filter to a particular year, month, week, or day. We have updated these select boxes to have appropriate labels.
  • We have updated the four forms that let you search for Library resources from the Drupal site to have appropriate labels for their select and input elements.

Other fixes this week:

  • Profiles on the Middlebury Drupal site were not listing the office location. We have updated these so that the full mailing address will appear when viewing the full profile and the office building and number will appear when viewing a “teaser card” listing of profiles.
  • The WordPress NextGEN gallery will no longer overlap other page elements in Chrome.
  • Four forms that allow you to search Library resources were updated to use Drupal’s block system, rather than being embedded in content. This allowed us to remove the “Extended HTML” input filter that provided some editors with an extended set of allowed HTML tags, including form elements.
  • The WordPress WPML Translation Analytics and XLIFF plugins are now included in WPML Translation Management and were removed.
  • When embedding .mp3 audio files from MiddMedia, Firefox now uses the HTML5 <audio> tag for output.

Weekly Web Updates – August 17, 2015

New Features

We are working with the Office of Communications & Marketing to roll out new styles related to the identity system, including font and color changes. We applied the first iteration of these changes to the Office of the President website.

We have added a WordPress plugin to embed ThingLink interactive images.

New Documentation

Replacing files in Drupal appears to now be working as it did prior to the Drupal 7 upgrade. We have prepared documentation on how to replace File Uploads.

Our website privacy policy has been updated with new information about how we track usage of our web platforms and how to opt out of tracking, should you wish to do so. We recommend everyone read and understand this policy.


Tweaks and Changes

  • The trailing slash on any request to any of our Drupal sites will now be removed. This removes confusion for search engines wondering which of the URLs is the canonical version. It will also make Google Analytics reports easier to understand, as there is now only one version of the URL.
  • The sub-domain now exists and goes to the Bread Loaf School of English website.
  • The MIIS wordmark no longer contains the “Formerly… ” text.
  • When searching for files using the link in the Edit Console, URL encoded characters (such as %20 which represents the space character) will now be properly decoded before trying to find matching filenames.
  • The miis_alumni Drupal view, which displays a list of stories about alumni from particular problems, will no longer print out two pagers at the bottom of the list, just one.
  • Fixed an issue with Jetpack’s slideshow displays that was the result of a faulty merge operation in our version control system.
  • The height of images in the flexslider slideshow on the homepage is no longer hard-coded to be 405px, allowing the image to resize proportionally depending on the browser window size.
  • The BLOGS DOT MIDDLEBURY Landscape, Map, Metrics, Minimalist, Translucence, and Translucence Dark themes are no longer available to be enabled on new sites.
  • The Dining Menus Drupal site has been updated to use the core Middlebury theme, allowing us to eliminate a third party theme system from our codebase.
  • We have added the Google Tag Manager code to the Dining Menus, Reunion Yearbook, and Non-College Housing websites.

Course Hub Upgrades, Tuesday (MIIS) and Thursday (Midd)

This week we will be upgrading the Course Hub sites from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 before the beginning of the fall semesters. These upgrades will cause the Course Hub sites to be offline for approximately 2-3 hours while the database and configuration are upgraded.

The planned schedule is as follows:

  • Tuesday, August 18th from 8am – 11am EDT (5am – 8am PDT) –
  • Thursday, August 20th from 7am – 10am EDT (4am – 7am PDT) –

During these upgrades, direct access to Moodle, WordPress, SANSSpace, or other curricular tools will still work however new course spaces will not be able to be provisioned until the upgrades complete.