Tags » conferences

 
 
 

Innovative Users Group (IUG) meeting – Chicago 2012

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Arabella Holzapfel, Shawn O’Neil & I (Barbara Merz) were at the 20th IUG in Chicago – beautiful city – love the lake, parks etc. etc. The meeting was quite interesting too. We’ll give brief highlights of the sessions we found to be useful, and we’ll download the associated materials, which in most cases will include PowerPoint presentations, to the folder \orgs\LIS\LISstaff\ILS III Millennium User Materials\IUG 2012 materials for your enjoyment & edification.  An observation I (Shawn) had after attending these workshops is that Middlebury College is ahead of the curve to many other Institutes in technology. Our network infrastructure seems to be superior to others.

  • “Running a User Experience Group in the absence of a Sys Admin.” (BM). Bentley University. Without a Sys Librarian, III duties fall to a group of 7: 2 tech support, 2 reference, 1 circ, 1 tech services, 1 special collections. 8 staff can access the III helpdesk. Very interesting model.
  • “Sierra Roadmap & Update” (BM) III’s pitch for the wonderful new world of Sierra. Sierra will have 100% of Millennium functionality.
  • “Learning Library-Specific Context to Mobilize Library Catalog” (BM) At University of Miami concern for the usefulness of the OPAC on mobile devices, even though searching starts with Summon, led to the adoption of Bob Duncan’s mobile stylesheet, with modifications to take care of their OPAC customizations. Definitely worth follow-up.
  • Load Profile Forum (BM & AH). Useful review of resources available to load profilers. Wiki available but underutilized! Time for Middlebury to review RDA implications.
  • “Automation: Boost your Productivity a Thousand Times.” (BM) Good tech geek presentation. Use of Expect in various flavors, AutoIt plus Java to automate repetitive tasks e.g creating review lists from record numbers, barcodes etc.
  • Systems Managers Forum (BM) Mostly controlled by III staff member talking about transition to Sierra + how things would work in Sierra. Take away message – III’s efforts will be largely directed to Sierra development from now on, even though they insist that Millennium development is continuing. My conclusion – Middlebury should consider the future of our ILS with all due haste!
  • “When your item types just don’t work anymore” (AH) was a discussion about how and why a library totally revamped their item types (going from around 10 to 101) to help them better identify various formats of material, which in turn aided greatly in tracking statistics of all kinds for all reasons. Most of it is useful ‘inside baseball’ stuff, but one intriguing thing that came out is that they (a public library in Oklahoma) loan out bike locks.
  • Two useful sessions focused on using Millennium (and, in one session, additional assistance from an outside vendor) to aid in weeding (AH). (One library had 100,000 volumes in off-site storage to weed.) Interesting factoids: Jefferson County Public Libraries in Colorado (my home state!), with 10 branches, serving 548,000, orders 100-120 copies of bestsellers. They run their weeding list weekly and withdraw about 120,000 items each year.
  • Four useful sessions dealt with various aspects of batch record loads, particularly those for e-books. (AH) One session was presented by staff from San Jose State University, where they provide e-books from 17 different providers/platforms, and have patron-driven acquisitions programs from three different vendors. They use a combination of tools, including Excel and WinBatch scripts, to de-dupe and perform other necessary functions on batch records.
  • “Using circulation data to validate an approval plan” (AH) described one library’s journey towards refining their approval plan profile (for print books) to match or surpass the circulation rates for firm orders.
  • “Getting the most out of Print Templates” (SO) –creating and using print templates for everything from spine labels to hold slips.
  • “Centralized Weeding: using create list and icodes to streamline the weeding process” and “Millennium Makeover magic: weeding in an INN-Reach consortium”- (SO) The 1st presentation dealt with both public and Academic libraries and the later was an academic library that was involved with  INN-Reach. In both, faculty  was given a say over the weeding. There seems to be no standard method for choosing what is to be weeded.
  • “Creating lists for Beginners – Why created the wheel again” (SO)  In other words, use others’ lists (with permission).
  • “Confounding by Copyright?” (SO) It seems guidelines change all the time and you can “buy protection” for copyright privileges.

Top Picks from DrupalCon 2012 Denver

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

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.

Keynotes

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.

Ian’s Picks

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.

Adam’s Picks

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.

Looking forward to next year in Portland, Oregon, or perhaps Munich or São Paulo later this year!

Vermont Library Conference Report

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I attended this one day conference on May 24th. Some of the sessions may be of interest for those of you outside the Ref & Instruction Work group.  My full notes are available online (no login required).  The topics in my report  include:

  • Health & Wellness Resources (mainly free online resources recommended by a UVM medical librarian)
  • Borrow or buy? The convergence of Interlibrary Loan and Collection Development
  • Use is King: User-Centered Acquisitions (background on past practices and details of UVM’s “Order on demand” program).

I tried to spell out some of the acronyms/jargon for the wider LIS audience, but if something isn’t clear, just ask me or post a comment.

Sierra product press release

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

If you have not already read the press release with basic info about the new Sierra platform, the link is here:
http://iii.com/news/pr_display.php?id=490

When additional info comes in, I will post it.

IUG Conference – SF

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The IUG (Innovative Users Group) conference was a great experience. Keynote speaker, futurist, and ex-IBM engineer Thomas Frey from the DaVinci Institute kicked it off with a fascinating peek into the future of libraries and how they are entering a period of rebirth. With information exploding everywhere, libraries are becoming the “crown jewels” of their communities. He ignited enthusiasm by stating libraries may offer a mix of media and book havens with a real-time info wall, virtual world areas, rooms to create videos, a place for gaming and music use, blogger studios, etc. The conference offered a complete variety of classes.  I attended Circ and media-related classes and forums (Mill Time Savers, Circ Forum, Mill Circ Update on Products  & others).  I spoke with conference attendees  about specific work procedures. It was fun to be a part of the info exchange in these forums by informing others of why, how, and what we are doing (i.e. condensing Music Library into Davis Main) and also to listen to them.  It was interesting to see how other schools handle their media, which often depends upon academic programs. Some schools offer gaming courses so they loan iPads (generally revving up, Kindles remaining strong).  If you want to check out a variety of conference programs, go to: http://www.innovativeusers.org/index.
I placed a few Power Point presentations in the folder on the O drive, so please add any that might be useful to your area O:\orgs\LIS\LISstaff\ILS III Millennium User Materials\IUG2011 materials

There were brief presentations each day by Innovative and SkyRiver staff highlighting tips and support info. They also had a poster area which showcased new ideas.
The Innovative Interfaces Info Center was available during the entire 3 days, and the staff told me the new product, “Sierra” is coming very soon (no date).  What I was told about Sierra is that it is a service-oriented architecture, acts as an integrated resource management and work flow with one piece of software (no modules), and users have a choice of a cloud or local-based deployment. Millennium will continue to be supported of course, with a new release underway.
If you would like to contact the Innovative Interfaces service rep Deborah Devine, she welcomes communication:
Internet: http://www.iii.com
Email:
ddevine@iii.com

Follow Innovative on Twitter http://twitter.com/iii_Innovative

 

Usability Testing & Web Analytics

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Last month I attended a NERCOMP presentation on usability testing and web analytics at UMASS Amherst. The information from the presentation led by staff from Yale University will no doubt be valuable as the LIS web team explores further usability testing. Below is a summary of the information. My full notes are available on middfiles under “NERCOMP Events”.

Summary

Usability testing uncovers why your users behave the way they do. It can lower costs, increase participation, increase satisfaction, and provide data upon which to base decisions. It’s low cost but can be time consuming.

All that’s required is a laptop, someone to administer the test, and recording software or an observer. Do usability testing periodically when implementing new features or redesigning. Test early in a beta version of the site/application.

Once features have been implemented, collect analytics data to see what usage looks like. Form a question that can be answered by analytics data, decide how to measure it, and then see if the data makes sense. Check user behavior before and after the change. Do usability testing again to see if there are persisting or new issues.

The “Think Aloud Protocol”

Have the user speak their thoughts/thought process aloud as they try to complete the task. Think about what the user sees, says, and does. For each task write a question designed to see if the task can be accomplished. Recruit 5-10 users from population and invite them to take a test consisting of tasks/questions.

When writing your questions consider the goals of the implementation from both the organization’s and the user’s perspectives. Identify the tasks that need to be performed and form them into clear questions that address a single task. When you’ve identified your tasks do a pre-test to see how well the questions work.

It’s important that the facilitator is impartial. The goal is to collect data. Explanations can be made after the session. Collecting general feedback can also be helpful though it should be tempered with other sources of data.

“It’s not the customer’s job to know what he wants.” – Steve Jobs

DrupalCon 2010 Trip Report Day 1

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Hello from San Francisco! I was waylaid in Chicago and missed the morning presentations, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far at DrupalCon. First, a quick bullet point summary for those who don’t want to dive into the details:

  • Drupal now powers over 1% of the total websites, closely tied with Joomla. Wordpress powers about 8.5%.
  • Drupal 7’s forms will allow us to add conditional form fields that appear for the user without requiring a postback to the server. See the (very relevent for us) example here: http://d7.drupalexamples.info/form_example/states
  • Drupal 7’s User Experience (UX) team has made improvements to the interface that on our site is called the “Edit Console”. You can read more about their project at their website: http://www.d7ux.org/content/
  • We can improve our site performance by moving functionality out of the template files and into theme functions. Basically, the way we currently do things, we have to read a file off the server’s disk every time anyone loads anything on the site. By using theme functions instead of template functions we avoid this disk read and dramatically improve performance.
  • You can watch many of today’s presentations at http://sf2010.drupal.org/conference/schedule for free! Many of those without video have their slides up. The presentations from Monday are at the bottom of the page since, at the time I’m posting this, they’ve already happened and aren’t as interesting to the conference attendees.
  • Monster Menus, the module the Amherst developed that lets you add sub-pages and manage permissions is a few weeks away from being refactored to eliminate any Amherst-dependent code. The version we’re currently running assumes that Amherst’s version of Banner exists, which we’ve had to work around. The new version will make this easy for us and open MM up for other schools to use.

All of the sessions I attended today focused on the improvements coming in Drupal 7. Currently, Drupal 7 is in “feature freeze” with 114 critical bugs left to resolve before it is released. At the keynote presentation today, Dries projected that Drupal 7 would likely be released some time between June and October of this year. Even so, and even with the large number of improvements it offers, we will not move to Drupal 7 when it is released. Our challenge is that the system we rely on to provide our site editors the ability to add sub-pages and manage permissions for their site is not part of “core” Drupal – it is provided by a module that is only used by us and Amherst College. I had an opportunity to speak with the developers from Amherst today and our projection is that, at best, we will be able to move to Drupal 7 for the start of Fall Semester 2011.

Even that timeline will be challenging, but I will provide a quick synopsis of each of the sessions I attended below, focusing on how they will impact our site if and when we make the move to Drupal 7.

The State of Drupal

http://sf2010.drupal.org/conference/sessions/state-drupal

The meat of this presentation was defining a framework for thinking about the future growth of Drupal. Right now the project is at a crossroads where it can continue to add features to satisfy the “enterprise” users of large organizations and compete with commercial CMSs like Microsoft Sharepoint, or it can aim to reduce the number of features and compete for the low end of the market with WordPress, aiming at people who just want a simple site with a few pages that is easy to manage. Dries seemed to believe that the Installation Profile system, of which there are now 19 releases, will allow Drupal to target specific low-end markets while core continues to add features to satisfy enterprise needs, but he seemed unsure of his own assertion that Drupal could do both.

This will be an interesting discussion for Middlebury as it continues in the Drupal community. We are one of those places that has an “enterprise” need that is not satisfied by Drupal core: the need to organize our site as a tree that allows our editors to add to that tree and manage fine-grained permissions in that tree. To that extent, Monster Menus is like our own installation profile of Drupal since we know that it imposes limitations on what Drupal can do since modules need to be changed to intergrate with it. We will have to see what features get added for Drupal 8 and how well they align with our needs.

The Rest

I had actually planned on diving into the details of the afternoon presentations I attended, but have run out of time before this morning’s round of sessions. Today, by the way, seems to be offer a lot more for the people currently running Drupal in production. Monday’s sessions were all about all the cool new features in Drupal 7, which is fun, but not something I’ll be working with for over a year. Today I’m attending sessions on search integration, search engine optimization, cloud computing integration and database optimization. These are topics closer to my day-to-day work.

Here are links to the sessions I attended on Monday. If you’re interested in hearing more, be sure to ask in the comments.

AJAX and JavaScript in Drupal 7

D7UX How to integrate the core Drupal 7 usability improvements with your module

Default theme implementations

Monster Menus

After the sessions, I had a good conversation with Dan and Victor from Amherst about the future direction of Monster Menus. Dan is close to being done with the “revamp” branch of Monster Menus that removes the Amherst-specific code from their system. We’ll want to convert to this and try it out when he’s done since there are some features of our implementation that don’t work right now because the module assumes that it will be able to talk to Amherst’s version of Banner on the backend.

Other interesting things from this meeting:

  • They are working on a way to move course sites (which are currently pages in their website – everything Amherst does on the web is in Drupal including their LMS) from one semester to the next while preserving associations like page permissions. This is tricky since you might assign permissions on a page in your course site to one student who won’t be in the course the next time it is taught.
  • We should be able to theme the RSS page content type without much trouble (this solves a request that I currently have with Communications to improve the way news items in the Newsroom are displayed), but we will probably never be able to theme the actual menu in the fashion that Drupal expects because of the processing overhead on generating that menu.
  • Amherst runs the Google Search Appliance to manage their search services. They allow the GSA to crawl their site as an administrative user and have a Drupal module that filters the search results based on the permissions of the currently logged in user. This is a requirement because their site also includes their LMS which they need to search with admin permissions. They are interested in seeing what we do with faceted search, an area they’ve wanted to look into but haven’t yet had the chance.

We had a lot more discussion about the minutiae of various modules and parts of Monster Menus, but those are the major points. I’ll post again this evening with a roundup of today’s sessions and on Wednesday after I meet with the guys from White Whale.