Author Archives: Adam Franco

About Adam Franco

Senior Application Developer

Weekly Web Updates – March 14, 2016

New Features

The login page for CAS, our single-sign on service, now uses a responsive theme. This should make it easier for you log in to our services on your mobile device, particularly useful for responsive-enabled services like WordPress.

We have added the CommentPress plugin to WordPress, which allows line-by-line commenting on a document.

Similarly, we added the Scripto plugin for Omeka, which enabled crowd-sourced document transcription.

iFrames from SensusAccess can now be embedded in Drupal using the iframe shortcode.

When our front-end caching service, Varnish, is unable to fetch a new page from the Drupal servers and has no cached copy of the page it used to show a gray error page that said “503 Guru Meditation”. We’ve improved this so that it looks like a regular Middlebury page, has a human-readable error message, and a link to Web Helpdesk.

School of Hebrew classes are now searchable in the Course Catalog and can provision curricular resources through the Course Hub.


Tweaks and Fixes

  • The MIIS Drupal site now uses the Institute’s shield for its favicon and the Middlebury and MIIS WordPress sites will now use their shield favicons by default. Individual sites can override this using the WordPress Customizer in the dashboard under Appearance.
  • We’ve improved the performance of the query that the Drupal Monster Menus module uses to apply permissions to multiple pages so that it’s optimized for our database software. This operation should run somewhat faster.
  • The homepages of our Drupal sites had titles ending with ” |” when the “site slogan” wasn’t set. These extra characters are now removed so that the title of the Middlebury site is now “Middlebury”, not “Middlebury |”.
  • We have resolved an error that was preventing some custom splash images from being used on MiddMedia embeds in WordPress.
  • The WRMC site was fetching and stores new cover art URLs on every page load, whether it already had them in its local database or not. It now only fetches cover art it doesn’t know about yet, reducing somewhat the 9,000,000,000 records stored previously.
  • The Pinterest sharing button on the MIIS Drupal site stories now uses the custom icon that matches the other share buttons.
  • Added 10px of padding between the main content region and the content sidebar on the MIIS site to ensure that the text doesn’t run directly against the sidebar, which now has a different background color.
  • Resolved a display issue with the Log In / Log Off links in the Course Hubs.
  • We added maps for Congo, Ghana, Mexico, and Palestine to the Davis Projects for Peace site.
  • We have removed a number of Drupal modules from our sites that were not actively used. These include accessibility, addressfield, bundle_copy, cf, config_perms, content_taxonomy, data, elements, expire, feeds, feeds_oai_pmh, feeds_tamper, geocoder, geofield, geophp, git_deploy, jquery_countdown, kml, middlebury_mobile_detection, middlebury_subjectsplus, migrate, node_accessibility, node_accessibility_statistics, oauth, openlayers, phplot_api, proj4js, quail_api, rules, twitter, twitter_pull, and views_rss. Additionally, the zen theme was removed.
  • MIIS Language and Professional Programs are now searchable again in the Course Catalog.

Weekly Web Updates – March 7, 2016

You No Longer Need to Wait Five Minutes to See Your Drupal Changes (Most of the Time)

When you save content, save page settings, or create new content, that change will now immediately appear for everyone browsing the site, whether they are logged in or not. We use a caching service named Varnish that takes the rendered output from Drupal and keeps it in memory for five minutes. Everyone who is not logged in visiting the site (if you’re logged in you will always get an un-cached copy) will get the copy of the page from Varnish within that five minute window, meaning Drupal doesn’t need to use resources recreating the page for each visitor. After five minutes, the next person to request that page will get it from Drupal and Varnish will update its cache with the new copy.

Now, when you update or create new content on many of our Drupal sites, Varnish will be notified in the background that it should clear its cache and get the new copy of the page. So even if it’s only been a minute since the page was requested when you click the save button, the next visitor will get a fresh copy of the page from Drupal with your latest changes.

Unfortunately, this does not work for content displayed in page regions other than the main content area. If you update a sidebar item on a department homepage, the cache will only clear for that homepage, not all of the sub-pages on which the sidebar item might also appear. You’ll still need to wait the five minutes for that to happen.

We have only made this change to the Drupal sites where we run Monster Menus. Right now, that includes:


We will roll out a similar change to our other Drupal sites soon.


Fixes & Tweaks

  • We’ve corrected several JavaScript errors that were preventing the footer from appearing correctly on the L&ITS Wiki.
  • The Audio Player plugin for MediaWiki now works as intended.
  • Drupal webform radio and checkbox lists that are marked as required will now correctly show the red asterisk next to their field label when the field allows “Other…” as an option. It was missing, previously.
  • The Site Editor Log In link on the Middlebury Drupal site now appears in bright green on blue backgrounds, making it visible.
  • We have removed the WordPress Simple Footnotes Editor Button plugin, which no longer works.
  • We have removed the Pinterest link from the MIIS site footer.
  • The Varnish 503 Error page has been re-themed to provide better messaging during an error or widespread downtime.

Weekly Web Updates – February 29, 2016


Fixes & Tweaks

  • The MIIS Course Hub now has a print stylesheet so that the course photo rosters can be printed off without cutting people’s faces in half on page breaks.
  • Vimeo embeds in our Drupal sites now have the “allowfullscreen” attribute, so people can watch them in full screen mode, if they wish.
  • Shows that overflow into the next day on the WRMC schedule will now just appear on the day in which they begin.
  • Our CategorySuggest plugin for MediaWiki now has a Spanish translation and can allow categories beginning with lowercase letters, if those are configured for the MediaWiki site.
  • Recycle Bins will no longer appear in the drop down navigation on the MIIS site.
  • Fixed an issue that was preventing the sidebar navigation from working on some MIIS sub-sites like MonTREP.
  • The MIDD and MIIS Course Hub’s now use Drupal’s Batch API to handle course builds, which helps prevent page timeouts and keeps the build interface consistent.

Weekly Web Updates – February 22, 2016

New Features

The Middlebury Institute homepage received a new design. This features three content regions (the slideshow, Important Dates, and Academic Highlights) that can be edited by the Communications team at MIIS in the admin interface directly, giving them more flexibility in ensuring timely content appears on their site.

As part of an update to the WRMC website, we’ve added the Chat plugin to WordPress, which you can now activate to add a chat box to your site. You can try it out by chatting with the WRMC DJs.

At the request of several MIIS programs, we have added a WordPress plugin to that embeds appointment booking from the service.

We added a block to the Middlebury Drupal site to display tweets from @MiddInfoSec.


Tweaks and Fixes

  • We made many updates to improve the WRMC site, at the direction of their board. The weekly schedule now starts the day at midnight, rather than 5am. The “On Air” section only shows up if a show is in progress and the current playing song will be shown based on the DJ playlist and the duration of the song, according to Last.FM. In addition to many other small stylistic tweaks, we’ve fixed a performance issue that caused very long page loads.
  • The Quick Chat plugin was replaced with the Chat plugin in WordPress and the former is no longer available for use.
  • The Arclite WordPress theme only allowed network administrators to access its settings form. It may now be access by site administrators.
  • If you try to view a syllabus on the Course Hub that is private and you’re not logged in, you will now see a “not authorized” message rather than a “no syllabus added” message.
  • Fixed an issue on the non-flash version of the MiddMedia uploader that was causing problems.
  • The MIIS forms site is now included in the weekly SiteImprove index.
  • Navigation for the “Giving” sub-section of the MIIS site was updated in GO, the Course Catalog, the MIIS forms site, and the MIIS Directory.
  • The CSS file for the Drupal “Edit Console” is now loaded in a way that allows it to be merged with all the other Drupal CSS files, saving your browser having to issue a separate request to download it.
  • We have removed the “Location Type” taxonomy and the “Location” content type from the Middlebury Drupal site. These were used for an older version of the Campus Map. The current campus map is hosted externally.

Weekly Web Updates – February 16, 2016

New Features

You can now embed content from in WordPress. This was added to provide trail conditions for the Rikert Nordic Center.


Tweaks and Fixes

  • We made several improvements to the program that fetches images for the Athletics history wall from flickr, including ensuring that photos no longer in flickr are removed and email reports of errors on importing images.
  • Fixed an error that sometimes prevented a WordPress site from being able to be added to a Course Hub page.
  • Three Google Web Fonts will no longer be loaded on each Drupal page load as we decided to use the licensed Sentinel and Whitney fonts instead. This should improve page load times for first-time visitors as their browsers will no longer need to download the Google Web Font files.

Weekly Web Updates – February 8, 2015

New Features

In collaboration with College Communications, the new site for February Orientation uses a responsive design to make it easy to browse on mobile devices. This is a sub-theme in our main Drupal site, meaning that the same features are available as elsewhere on the site, just presented differently for these sub-pages. The responsive theme works best with content designed to be shown at multiple viewport resolutions, so it’s something we’ll roll out to new portions of the site that have carefully crafted content.


Tweaks & Fixes

  • We have removed the “Profiles” view from the main Middlebury site. This was used to aggregate profiles from multiple sub-pages, but was difficult to set up and made sorting the profiles a pain. We moved away from this on all academic sites over a year ago, but have finished migrating the other portions of the site that were using this. The documentation on using Profiles on the Middlebury site is now accurate for all instances of this content type.
  • The Group Manager now has a “super admin” role that can modify group membership, allowing us easier management of web permissions groups maintained by people who have since left Middlebury or are otherwise unavailable.
  • Fixed the Group Manager‘s notification system — changes to groups are now reflected in the Drupal sites after approximately 20 seconds rather than waiting until the next full sync.
  • The NextGEN Gallery plugin will, by default, save a backup copy of all the images you upload, more than doubling the disk space used by the plugin. This option will now default to “off” for new sites enabling the plugin. Those desiring it can still enable the option through the “Other Options” screen in the plugin settings.

Weekly Web Updates – February 1, 2016

New Features

When sharing News stories from the Middlebury site on Facebook, the top right image will always be the default image for the post. You can change this to a different image by editing the “og:image” field in the Meta Tags section. See our documentation on meta tags. Choosing these defaults for other content types is something we’ll be working on in the future and your suggestions are welcome.

The Enable Media Replace plugin is now available for WordPress. With this, you can replace an old file with a newer version of the file. This is particularly useful if you have a PDF or Word document that you need to replace with an updated copy. The replacement is done in a way that preserves all the existing links to the file.

We have added support for Emma email marketing signup forms in WordPress.


Weekly Web Updates – January 25, 2016


Fixes and Tweaks

  • Corrected an issue in MediaWiki where new users were unable to log in and edit due to an error saving information to the users table in the database.
  • Syllabus pages on the Course Hub that don’t have any syllabus on them will now issue a “404 Not Found” header to the browser, but won’t redirect the user to the central 404 page. This is being done so that search engines know that there’s no content on the page and won’t return it in search results.
  • Fixed an issue with cascading permissions in Drupal’s Monster Menus that would sometimes cause queries to the database to get backed up and slow down the site.
  • Our script to create new wikis in MediaWiki now works with version 1.26.
  • We removed NER digital and Behind the Byline from the list of categories that are excluded on the New England Review site’s posts list.
  • Fixed an issue where creating sufficiently large CSS in WordPress using the Jetpack plugin’s “Edit CSS” module would cause the CSS editor to fail.