Tag Archives: Web Application Development

Posts related to the the Web Application Development work-group.

Developing a Social Media Strategy with Communications

I’ve been working with staff in College Communications, College Advancement and the office of the Vice President for Administration to develop a coherent strategy for managing the College’s social media networks and engaging with people through them. I’ve been asked to update you on our progress so far and where we hope to go from here. We have some exciting work ahead of us in the Spring and are always looking for new ideas and inspirations, so please feel free to ask questions and make suggestions about any of this.
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Home Page Stories Analytics

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:

  1. People who visit the set “get” the waveform and click to find multiple stories.
  2. The waveform is most interesting to external visitors and we should continue efforts to promote the new portal for the local community’s needs.
  3. 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.
I’d be happy to expand on any of this and answer any questions you might have.

* See the Middlebury Privacy Policy for our data collection policy. The Middlebury website does respect the Do Not Track header, if you have that turned on in your browser.

** 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.

Digital Lecture Archive now available in MiddLab

All 316 records from the Digital Lecture Archive are now available for browsing in MiddLab where they can be browsed with the subject tags assigned to them, commented on, and shared with others using the social media links in MiddLab. As new recordings are adding to the archive, they’ll be automatically added to MiddLab, making this a great way to find new content.

One of the original goals of MiddLab was to increase the visibility of Middlebury’s many academic projects and resources that would otherwise be buried within the site by giving them a central site accessible from the main site header. Adding the Digital Lecture Archive is just one of many such planned additions to MiddLab.

If you have other suggestions, please let me know and remember that it’s easier than ever before to tell the world about your research through MiddLab.

You can also follow MiddLab on Facebook and Twitter.

MiddSTART at CASE D1/D2 Conference

I was in New York City on Monday at the CASE D1/D2 conference to present MiddSTART with colleagues Maggie Paine, the Director of Advancement Communications, and Molly Sullivan, the Assistant Director of Donor Relations. My role was to speak briefly about the technology behind MiddSTART and answer any technical questions that came up. You can view the slides from our presentation in this PDF.

MiddSTART went live in September 2010, but it wasn’t until March 2011 that we’d finalized the site, added student projects, and begun advertising it. Since then, MiddSTART has raised $58,955 from 380 donors in FY11 and an additional $26,183 from 214 donors in FY 2012. The average gift size as $155 in FY11 and $122 in FY12. Between the two fiscal years there have been 50 repeat donors.

On the technology side, MiddSTART is a WordPress blog, on the same server as this LIS blog, just with a custom theme. Each post on the blog is a different project and is linked to a different form that Advancement staff create in our Harris Connect Alumni Community. Each of those donations forms has a unique code, which can be seen in the nightly reports that we fetch from our credit card processor. Those donation amounts and the names of the donors are added to a custom database table in our WordPress site and used to calculate the donation totals for the MiddSTART projects.

Most of the questions at the conference had to do with concerns from other schools about this taking away from undirected giving, but we’ve seen that a large number of the donations (187 in FY11, 109 in FY12) were from people with no previous history of donating to Middlebury. Many also give to multiple projects and like the experience of communicating directly with the student(s) using their gift to carry out the project work.

Just last week we set up MiddGOAL, a copy of the MiddSTART site that is solely focused on Athletics fundraising. Right now people can fund the teams’ training trips through the site, which you’ll see has already brought in over $10,000 in a little less than a week.

sites.middlebury.edu now on WordPress 3.3.1

We made the upgrade yesterday to WordPress 3.3 (and 3.3.1). The video below gives an introduction to the changes and new features in version 3.3. We tested as many features as we could think of before applying this change, but please let us know if something’s not working as it should be.

As an added bonus, we now show videos from MiddMedia using the HTML5 video player in browsers supporting WebM playback: Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and browsers on Android devices. Internet Explorer 9, Safari and iOS users also get the HTML5 video player, playing the video in MP4 format while Internet Explorer 7 and 8 users will still see the flash-based player.

More Open Graph Tags Available for your Drupal pages

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
  • Description
  • Email
  • Fax Number
  • Image
  • Latitude
  • Locality
  • Longitude
  • Phone Number
  • Postal Code
  • Region
  • Site Name
  • Street Address
  • Title
  • Type
  • URL
  • Video Height
  • Video Type
  • Video URL
  • Video Width
Refer to Facebook’s documentation to determine what are appropriate values for each of these items. Note that the Admins and App ID are now multi-valued fields. Previously there could only be one admin for a page. Now there can be as many as you’d like. Admins will have access to use Facebook Insights for your page to see information on what content is being shared.

Update on Yesterday’s Google Analytics Update

I had not realized that the Custom Advanced Segments that I created as an administrator would not be available to other users. Here are links to each custom segment that you can import into your account. In order for this to work, you have to (at least temporarily) switch back to the Old Version of the Google Analytics interface, since segment sharing hasn’t been added to the new version yet. You can switch back to the New Version as soon as you’re done importing the segments you want.

Site middlebury.edu (all) middlebury.edu (internal) middlebury.edu (external)
bat.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
biblio.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
sites.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
boxoffice.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
cat.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
catalog.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
courses.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
eres.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
ezproxy.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
facstaff.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
go.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
google.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
m.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
measure.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
mediawiki.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
menus.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
middarchive.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
middathletics.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
midddigital.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
middlab.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
middstart.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
moodle.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
museum.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
portal.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
sandcat.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
segue.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
seguecommunity.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
sp.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
students.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
web.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external
www.middlebury.edu Add to all Add to internal Add to external

The reason we’re using Advanced Segments here instead of separate profiles with filters is that we’ve reached the internal limit of 50 profiles and would have to delete some of the historical data in order to create new ones. Chris is in touch with our Google reps about increasing our quota and, if he’s successful, we’ll create profiles for each of these services. You’ll still be able to use these Advanced Segments on the main profiles and, personally, I find them a lot easier to work with.

You can also create your own Advanced Segments to filter the Analytics data. Here’s how I created each of these to filter on Hostname (these steps use the New Version):

  1. Click on Advanced Segments in the Standard Reporting screen.
  2. Click on + New Custom Segment.
  3. Give it a name like site.middlebury.edu
  4. Choose Hostname from the green drop-down box.
  5. Choose Matching RegExp from the next drop-down box.
  6. In the text field enter ^site\.middlebury\.edu
  7. Click Save segment.
The “^” character means “at the start of” in a regular expression. This way we can filter on, say, m.middlebury.edu and not have it conflict with museum.middlebury.edu. The “\” is used as an escape character for the period, which has a special meaning in regular expressions.

Change to Google Analytics for 2012

To kick off the new year, we’re beginning to combine tracking of web analytics under a single Google Analytics tracking code. This will allow us to better understand how visitors to our many web sites and applications browse between them. When someone visits our homepage, clicks on a link to a story in the Middlebury Magazine blog, which then links them to an event with tickets for sale at the Box Office, we’ll be able to visualize the entire visit to the site. We’ll also be able to easily do side-by-side comparisons of traffic across our sites.

The screenshots below show the new version of the Google Analytics interface, which you may choose to enable in the upper-right corner of their page.

When you log in to Google analytics you’ll now want to select “middlebury.edu (all)” (or internal / external) under “UA-993303-1 – http://www.middlebury.edu”. This “middlebury.edu” profile includes traffic from the sites we’ve moved over.

On the Standard Reporting page, you can select Advanced Segments at the top and then narrow the reporting data to include only the sites you want to view.

We have not yet moved over all of our services into this tracking code and some we’ve only moved today, so you’ll only see data for them from January 5 onward. Here’s the list of services we’ve moved at the time of this post:

  • cat.middlebury.edu
  • biblio.middlebury.edu
  • sites.middlebury.edu
  • boxoffice.middlebury.edu
  • courses.middlebury.edu
  • facstaff.middlebury.edu
  • go.middlebury.edu
  • m.middlebury.edu
  • menus.middlebury.edu
  • museum.middlebury.edu
  • portal.middlebury.edu
  • sandcat.middlebury.edu
  • students.middlebury.edu
  • web.middlebury.edu
  • www.middlebury.edu

We have not removed any of the historical data for these services, so you can still check the other profiles you had access to previously to examine that information. This change does not affect any domains other than middlebury.edu, so there will be no changes to miis.edu, davisprojectsforpeace.org, alumniconnections.com, etc. at this time.

If you’d like to learn more about using Google Analytics, there is a great course available on our online learning system at http://go.middlebury.edu/lynda.