Don’t miss out! There is still time to fit in some learning before fall semester leaps out from behind the nearest patch of sunflowers… Visit go/lisworkshops to view our schedule and get signed up for topics of interest. You’ll find Drupal sessions to help you get your departmental web site up to snuff before the next batch of students arrives on campus. You’ll also find another opportunity to find out about and how you can start using it to improve your skills.
You can now let people know how many machines are available in Middlebury computer labs in your department, building, or campus-wide. Add the following short codes to any content in our Drupal site.
|[labserver]||Shows the total number of available lab machines on campus.|
|[labserver 65]||Shows the total number of available lab machines in lab 65, which is LIB 105.|
|[labserver 65,43,58,15,13,14]||Shows the total number of available lab machines in multiple labs. In this case I’ve listed all of the labs in the Davis Family Library.|
To get the number for a lab, you can go to the main LabStats page and click on one of the labs. The URL will content some text like “id=65″ and that is the number to use in the short code. The LabStats site also has a lot of other information about our computing labs.
Thanks to Petar Mitrevski for helping out with some configuration on the LabStats site to support this new feature.
For the last two and a half years, College Communications has picked a set of one to a dozen stories that are “featured” at any one time on our homepage. When you visit http://www.middlebury.edu, one of these stories will randomly open. Now, another featured story will open after eight seconds, until all of the featured stories have been shown at least once, at which point they’ll start over again.
If you would like to pause this and explore the stories on your own schedule, just click to open one of the story bars. This will stop it from advancing to another story, giving you time to read the title and caption.
If you are browsing our website on-campus through an ethernet connection or connected to the midd-secure or midd-standard wireless networks, you should now see three links in the top-left corner of any page on www.middlebury.edu. If you are browsing from off-campus, you can log in to the site to have the links show up. These links will let you quickly get to WebMail, BannerWeb and the Portal.
If you’re on-campus you can also get to these resources by typing mail, go/mail, go/email, go/webmail to get to WebMail; go/bw or go/bannerweb to get to BannerWeb; and portal, m, students, facstaff, staff, faculty, go/portal, go/m, go/facstaff, go/students, or go/faculty to get to the Portal. Searching for any of these terms will also bring you directly to these sites and the links to them remain in the site footer. You can also customize how and whether they appear for you in the Portal.
Thanks also to Adam Franco for setting up Edge Side Includes so that we can show custom content to on-campus people while still delivering a cached copy of the page to make your browsing experience faster.
We (Adam and Ian) were in Denver, Colorado this week attending the annual US Drupal convention. In addition to attending sessions, we were able to connect with colleagues from other institutions including Amherst, Wellesley, Lawrence University, UNH, and CSUMB. We sponsored a “birds of a feather” session, with Amherst, to introduce interested parties to Monster Menus, a Drupal module that Amherst and Middlebury use to add a site hierarchy and manage permissions on our site. This session was surprisingly well attended by about thirty participants and we had a lively discussion about Monster Menus’ capabilities and limitations. We also attended multiple sessions on using Drupal in higher education to hear what people at other schools were doing with the platform.
All of the sessions can be watched on the conference website (use the tabs across the top to browse each day’s sessions). Adam and I will highlight some that we found especially engaging, but if there’s one we missed that you think others would enjoy, please share it in the comments.
Dries Buytaert: Dries is the guy who created Drupal and currently runs the leading Drupal consulting business and serves as President of the Drupal Association. His talk covered where the development team is focusing for the Drupal 8 release. There are three main areas of focus, (1) mobile compatibility, (2) modernizing the development API with the Symfony framework, and (3) improving the user interface for content authors. He announced a tentative release date of August 2013 for Drupal 8.
Mitchell Baker: Mitchell is the “Chief Lizard Wrangler”, the head of the Mozilla project that produces the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client among other efforts. She talked about the “Maker Ethic” and how the goal of Mozilla it to enable and promote the freedom to create, write, and publish. As she describes, the Firefox browser is but one product to enable this freedom and only one of the many projects Mozilla is engaged in.
Luke Wroblewski: Luke gave a very entertaining presentation arguing that we now need to develop web applications for mobile devices first and worry about the desktop experience second. He presents amble data backing up this assertion, which is guiding the mobile-first goal for Drupal 8. Adding responsive designs for mobile interfaces to our platforms is a 2012 goal for the Web Applications Development workgroup here, so we’ll be doing a lot of work in this space shortly.
Designing Fast and Beautiful Maps: This talk describes the TileMill and MapBox mapping tools, showing how you can transform a simple spreadsheet into an interactive map interface that can easily be added to a Drupal site (or any other website). Though this is probably not something that we’d use for the main campus map it looks like a great tool for one-off mapping projects including student research. By the way, if you have a map that you’d like us to feature on the site or in MiddLab, contact me and I’ll be happy to help you get that map online.
I just want to edit a node and Five things we need to create an awesome experience for content creators: These discussions describe the initial thinking about the user interface for content creators in Drupal 8. While we won’t be moving to that platform until late 2013/early 2014, and some of the decisions about the platform may very well change by then, this is an early warning about what to expect. I should note that some of the features they discuss, like inline editing, are already available to us thanks to the Monster Menus module developed by Amherst.
HTML 4 S – While We’re Waiting for the Revolution: We spent a lot of time thinking and talking about adding HTML5 features to our sites, but that’s not always possible due to assumptions made by the back-end systems as well as browser compatibility. This talk discusses the steps we can take to get “close enough” on HTML5 adoption and some of the pitfalls we’ll encounter that are specific to Drupal, though much of the information here is Drupal-agnostic. I’ll give a small warning that the speaker is quite colorful and animated in his speech.
Real World Performance Analysis: How to Identify Performance Problems in Your Own Sites: This talk provides a good strategy for tackling performance issues in Drupal sites without wasting time on optimizations that won’t have a big impact.
Keeping The Lights On – Operations and Monitoring Best Practices: This session is focused on practical tools and techniques you can use to keep “your fingers on the pulse” of your site, from availability to performance to security.
Also, we were able to enjoy Colorado for a bit before the conference.
On November 22, I added some code to our homepage that tracks when someone clicks on one of the waveform bars to open a story and when they click on the links within that story to read more about it. This doesn’t count the story that is initially open when you load the page. This tracking is done using the Google Analytics* Event Tracking code, which we can use to measure user interactions with the site. If you have suggestions on other activities that we can measure, please let me know.
Since November 22, 67,888 story bars have been opened on the home page, 20,973 of which have been “unique events”. Unique Events is the number of visits during which one or more events occurred. This means that an average visitor to the site who opens at least one story will open 3.24 stories during their home page visit. The people who use the waveform, like to click around and view multiple stories.
Around 1,000 stories are opened every day on the site. The day with the most opened stories was January 9 when 1,457 stories were opened. The day with the fewest opened stories was December 25 when only 461 stories were opened (Thanksgiving was a close second here with 464 stories opened). The most opened stories was A Green Tour of Campus which was opened 1,641 times since November 22. The least opened story (7 times) was Field Hockey Falls in NCAA Title Game, though that story was published shortly before we began tracking and may not have been featured for very long.
The average story was opened 411 times. In all, 161 different stories were opened on the home page. This is significant because, we generally have around 100 stories on the homepage at any given time; currently there are 90. This means that every story in the waveform is getting attention from some number of people visiting the site. There are usually a half dozen “featured” stories that are in the rotation of stories which will automatically open when you visit the site. These are always in the center of the waveform. The position of the remaining stories is random, changing once every five minutes or so when the cache for the homepage is regenerated.
One thing to note is that the waveform serves the primary audience of the homepage: external visitors. Of the 67,888 stories opened since November 22, only 12,491 were opened by people browsing on the Middlebury campus. Local users are better served by the new portal, which contains these stories alongside other information we hope is useful to the community. Also since November 22, the average time on page for an external visitor** was 3 minutes and 7 seconds, showing that visitors do stay and play with the waveform feature.
Of the 20,973 visits where someone opened at least one story, 8,344 resulted in the person clicking to read one of the stories they opened. The most read story was an AP article about a Middlebury alum winning Survivor: South Pacific. Other popular stories were A Green Tour of Campus, One Thing to Remember for Finals Week, and a Thank You to Donors for the Holidays.
These are my conclusions from this data:
- People who visit the set “get” the waveform and click to find multiple stories.
- The waveform is most interesting to external visitors and we should continue efforts to promote the new portal for the local community’s needs.
- We should look at what stories got the most clicks and which got the fewest to figure out what type of content is the most compelling for our external audience and produce more of that content.
** The average time on page for an local visitor was 5 minutes and 43 seconds, but these stats get skewed by lab and walk-up machines where the homepage is their default page in the browser and are left on all day.
We’ve expanded the selection of Open Graph tags that you can add to a page or node in Drupal to include all of the tags currently supported by Facebook. If you’re not sure what this means, check out this post from earlier this spring when we first added Facebook integration to our Drupal site. The information is also available in the LIS Wiki. Here is a list of the Open Graph meta information you can now add to content in Drupal:
- Facebook Admins
- Facebook App ID
- Country Name
- Fax Number
- Phone Number
- Postal Code
- Site Name
- Street Address
- Video Height
- Video Type
- Video URL
- Video Width
The default email template for the Drupal Webform module will send out the date the form was submitted, the name of the person submitting the form (if they were logged in to the site) or their IP address, the value of each field in the form submission and a URL to a page on the site where the form submission can be viewed or edited. This information is usually sufficient, but you might want to have different fields sent to different people when the form is submitted, or provide a custom message to the person who submitted the form, like a “thank you” note.
To do this, you need to use the Custom Template feature of the module. I’ve put together a guide on using this feature which is available in the Drupal documentation section of the LIS Wiki. If you have any quesetions, please let me know so that we can update the documentation.