This week Ian and Adam are in Chicago for the bi-annual DrupalCon developer conference. Drupal is the software that we use to manage the Middlebury and MIIS websites, as well as a couple others.
Read on for notes on the sessions we attended.
We wanted to let our website editors know that we plan on updating all six of our Drupal websites on March 13. This update is to the modules for that system that we work with Amherst to develop: Monster Menus, the Media module which manages files on the sites, and the RSS Page module which provides a content type for displaying feeds. This update may result in the site being unavailable for a few minutes while a database update script runs and will be done during our scheduled downtime that Sunday.
The affected websites are:
Yesterday, we updated WordPress to v3.1. Most noticeable change in this update is the introduction of a new “admin” bar that appears after you log in. This admin bar includes quick links to all sites in which you are a registered user. Site authors will also see links to add new posts and editors will have quick links to comments. The other notable new feature is a “link browser” that allows you to search and quickly link to other posts/pages on your site.
Most importantly, this release includes over 800 bug fixes by over 180 developers from around the world. It has been downloaded over 1 million times in the last week.
Let us know if you have any questions about this update or experience any problems.
The search interface for all five of our websites Middlebury, MIIS, the Museum of Art, Davis UWC Scholars, and Davis Projects for Peace, has been upgraded to use the Google Custom Search Engine. The GCSE creates a custom search index on Google’s servers for each of our sites which gives us far more control over which pages to include and exclude from the search. Previously, our search was going against Google’s full web index, which we would tell it to narrow to just our site. By creating the index ahead of time, we can get better and more extensive search results, solving issues we were having getting good results on our News Release Archive search.
The GCSE also lets us define “refinements” for sub-sites we want to search. You can see these on the right side of the new Middlebury search page. Click on the sub-site in the list to narrow your search. Though all the examples are separate sites in our case, we could refine on any URL path. For example, we could add a “Dining” refinement or one for an academic department.
The Catalog and Directory search results have moved from a cramped right column to a new blue bar just below the search box. Simply click on the name of the catalog or directory you want to search and you’ll see results from that application. The last search page only showed the name of the course or person, but now that these are show in the center of the page we have room to include the full directory entry or course description.
This also gives us quick statistics on the most popular searches. This new search was introduced for Middlebury in January, so we can see that over the last couple weeks, these were the most popular searches:
There are still a few refinements to be made to this service, so please give us your feedback and let us know what we can do to improve our site’s search experience.
Now that the LIS website content managers have been established, the LIS web team has provided them with a tool to help identify and deal with errors in the content of web pages. The SiteCheck tool from Siteimprove will generate a report every 5 days for designated pages that it has crawled and let you know what errors it has found.
Currently a member of the web team is compiling these reports and sending a monthly report to content managers who are in turn dealing with the errors. Spelling suggestions are reviewed on the SiteCheck page before they appear on the report. A single report is sufficient for all of LIS since the number of issues is not so many that CMs cannot find the ones that pertain to their area.
The effort has been a great success with the 28 pages with broken links reduced now to only 6 in the last report. Spelling errors were also reduced from over 20 to only 2. We are very excited to have this process in place going forward.
What follows is a report on the state of notable web applications and sites in use at Middlebury including the College website, the Middlebury instance of WordPress (i.e. sites.middlebury.edu) and a variety of key web applications that provide services widely used by faculty, students and staff. Continue reading
Summary for those who aren’t interested in the details:
Videos on our website, like the new chapter in the Aunt Des story that was put up yesterday, are now available on more devices. We’re using the new <video> and <audio> tags that are part of HTML5, to enable site visitors to watch videos from MiddMedia (our local, streaming media server gives all Middlebury users space to host videos of any quality and length) and YouTube without needing to have the Adobe Flash plugin installed.
This feature has been rolled out for MiddMedia videos on Drupal and WordPress and YouTube videos on Drupal.
Don’t worry if you’re not using one of these browsers or devices. You’ll see the same Flash video player that was there yesterday.
You will now see your browser’s built-in HTML5 video player for MiddMedia videos if you are using one of these browsers or devices:
The HTML5 audio player for MiddMedia videos appears if you are using one of these browsers or devices:
To see a list of the supported browsers for video in YouTube, visit their HTML5 Video Player site. You can sign up there to opt-in to their HTML5 video player trial, if you like. Note: the site lists several browsers currently in their “beta” development phase. We recommend that you do not install these browsers as features of our site may not yet work in them.
The technology to support these features is very new and constantly changing. We’ll keep rolling out support to new browsers and devices as it becomes available and the experience is at least as good as what you get from the Flash player. For instance, Chrome currently supports HTML5 video, but we decided not to enable it for that browser because the fullscreen button doesn’t work. Firefox also supports HTML5 video, but in a different video format that we don’t currently produce for videos uploaded to MiddMedia (WebM or OGG).
Lastly, you might notice that some of the MiddMedia videos on our site cannot be played on devices like your iPad or iPhone. The method used to encode these videos didn’t produce a video in a format that these devices recognize. However, the majority of MiddMedia videos do work and we wanted to give you the opportunity to watch some of them, rather than none of them.