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LIS Workshops – August

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

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 lynda.com and how you can start using it to improve your skills.

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!

Weekly Web Development Round-up October 10-21, 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Main site and mobile site speed improvements

Our main website and mobile website make fabulous use of data feeds from blogs, calendars, Twitter, and other sources to provide up-to-date news and information to users of the sites. Some pages in the main site have as many as 3 feeds in the carousel at the bottom of the page and another 2 feeds in sidebars. The mobile site displays 7 feeds on its home page for desktop users.

Unfortunately displaying all of these feeds on the site was causing performance problems for users when those feeds needed to be refreshed.  Even if the blog system returns each feed in under a second, that time adds up and was making users wait for 10 seconds or more for some pages to load.

We are happy to announce that we have now resolved this issue by piping all of our data-feed access through a system we call FetchProxy. FetchProxy sits between Drupal and the source of the data feeds and keeps a fresh copy of the feed always available so that Drupal never has to sit and wait for feeds. Pages that once took more than 10 seconds to load, now load in 1-2 seconds. You can read more about FetchProxy on Github.

Campus Map

We’ve updated the interface for our Campus Map with the help of designers in College Communications. New features include a list of locations with quick icons to help you find special locations, a search interface, an improved photo gallery, and more special filters which allow you to scope the locations on the map. For instance, you can get a map of all the locations on campus with Wireless.

MiddMedia

A permalink is now available for each file in MiddMedia. You can access it for a particular video you click the “Embed Code & URLs” next to any video you are browsing in MiddMedia and click on the “Click here to view and/or download this file.”. Alternately you can construct this URL like this “http://middmedia.middlebury.edu/middmedia/view/dir/[the directory where the file is located]/file/[the name of the file with its extension]

Example: http://middmedia.middlebury.edu/middmedia/view/dir/lafrance/file/go.mp4

This is useful if you want to reference your video without embedding it elsewhere.

Weekly Web Development Round-up June 12-17, 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Campus Map

  • Since last week’s post, we’ve added:
    • custom marker icons
    • course listings for locations
    • custom location categories like “parking lots”
    • autozoom and autocenter the map on available markers
  • You can read more about the Campus Map project in this earlier post on the LIS blog.

Course Hub

  • The Add Resource button now works in IE 7.

Drupal

  • We’re testing out a new spam prevention module on the Ask a Librarian form that block spam bots without annoying actual humans. It does this by adding some hidden fields to the form that trip up automated spammers. If you’d like to have this added to your form, just let us know.

Library Systems

  • Work continues on Summon.  Latest links into the Drupal platform include the search widget on the LIS main page (go/lis) where there was previously only a text link, and a proliferation of simple sidebar widgets on the Library pages.
  • SubjectsPlus interface alterations to reflects the change from WebBridge to 360 as our OpenURL link resolver in the Summon implementation.

Search

When we launched the new version of our website, we put in place a search strategy that would automatically forward you to a page if we were reasonably sure that the page was where you wanted to end up. For example, if you searched for “academic calendar”, you’d end up on the page with the current year’s academic calendar instead of a search results page. The way we made this work is to automatically forward you to the GO shortcut if your search matched an existing GO shortcut. So, if go/dining exists and you search for “dining” you go to the site that go/dining points at.

At the time we set this up, the GO database contained around 1,000 entries, mostly redirects to academic departments, offices, programs, or local government or non-profit organizations. GO was a self-service application at that time, but wasn’t often used by students, faculty and staff to create shortcuts.

There are now 4321 GO shortcuts in the database, including aliases. People use it to get the word out about their events (go/justice, go/bachfest), faculty create shortcuts to their course sites (go/chns0475), staff create quick links to advertise new services (go/getoffice), and many other great uses that make us glad this is a self-service application.

At the same time, there are now many GO shortcuts that are links to YouTube videos, other colleges, personal websites, and some that are just jokes. These are, generally, fine to have in the GO database. Even the first version of GO (at the time called the External Redirection Application) in 2005 had a few “easter eggs” that are still there. But because of how our search application interacted with GO, people’s ability to quickly and easily find information on our site was getting hampered by these “un-official” shortcuts.

We’ve now changed the search programming on our site so that it will only forward you automatically for a small subset of search terms. You’ll still go right to WebMail when you search for “webmail”, and similarly for “bannerweb” or “cso”, or “ccal”. But if you search for “chicago” you’ll now see search results instead of the Chicago Manual of Style. We used these criteria to select which search terms would continue to automatically forward you:

  1. It is something someone might search for (i.e. bannerweb, but not bannerweb?ugapp).
  2. It goes to a page on our site (i.e. capp, but not campusstorage).
  3. There’s really only one page that the person means by that search (i.e. chaplain, but not chicago).

New GO shortcuts will initially be excluded from being used in search, but we’ll continue to review the list and change it as needed. We’ll also review statistics from searches on our site to see if new shortcuts need to be created or if we need to make an existing shortcut searchable again.

A few additional notes:

  • We haven’t deleted any GO shortcuts today. go/bacon, go/engage, and go/oooooal still exist, but if you search for “bacon” you’ll now see more information about Sir Francis than images of meat.
  • You can send a note to go@middlebury.edu if you feel that a code that currently isn’t being used as a search result redirect ought to be. You can also flag GO shortcuts as inappropriate.
  • We’ve added a filter for “GO” to the search results page just below “www.middlebury.edu” on the right. Click on that box to filter your search results to only show pages from go.middlebury.edu.

And lastly, a reminder that when you (as a person with a Middlebury account) create shortcuts in GO, or comment on blogs on this site, or edit our wiki, you are bound by the College Handbook policies on Responsible Use of Computing Network Service and Facilities, Anti-Harassment Policy, and any other applicable policies from our Handbook. Though we’ve deleted a couple GO shortcuts in the past for being inappropriate, none have yet been referred to HR, Commons Administration or the Dean of Faculty, but logs are kept on the service and that option is always available.

WordPress

  • The embedded Flash audio player that you see in IE 7, IE 8, Firefox and Opera now renders correctly and allows you to play the audio file.
  • Many CSS fixes were made to the Translucence theme.

Introduction to Drupal Workshop Offered June 16

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

In response to a number of requests, we are offering an “Introduction to Drupal” workshop on Thursday, June 16 from 1-2:30 p.m. Now is your chance to learn the basics of managing a department website — from creating pages to building and maintaining text-based content.  This session will also cover how to embed images, as well as audio and video files.

To sign up for this workshop (or inquire about other learning opportunities) please send email to:  helpdesk@middlebury.edu.

As always, you’ll find the current Library and Information Services (LIS) workshop schedule by typing go/lisworkshops in your web browser’s address field.

Cynthia Slater
Education & Training Team Leader
Library & Information Services (LIS)
Davis Family Library, Rm 125

Weekly Web Development Round-up June 6-10, 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Tip of the week: If you’re able to access an image or file on our Drupal site only when you’re logged in, the file is probably in a Recycle Bin on a site you have access to edit. You can find the file in the Recycle Bin and click Restore to return it to a publicly visible page.

Campus Map

  • A new “alpha” version of the Campus Map can be found on our site. We’ve added integration with foursquare, outlines of each building, and soon many more features like course listings, directory listings for buildings and 3D models of buildings on campus.
  • If you want to check out some 3D models of Bread Loaf, fire up Google Earth and zoom on over there.

Course Catalog

  • The Course Catalog can now be searched by building code, allowing us to display the courses taught in each building through the Campus Map.

Drupal

  • News and Profile items now use a popup browsing window to select their associated images, instead of the autocomplete textbox. This shows the editor where their selected file is located in the site tree.
  • An issue with the video player controls has been resolved.
  • Modules updated this week: mimemail, monster_menus, rss_page, media.

MediaWiki

  • The LIS Wiki now uses a Google Custom Search engine for its search results instead of the default MediaWiki search feature.
  • Additionally, the LIS Wiki’s skin has been updated to use the core Middlebury site design and styles, which should make the transition from our site to our wiki less jarring.
  • The Midd MediaWiki skin also includes custom CSS for mobile devices that make the wiki easier to read and navigate on those devices.
  • The wiki is no longer running under HTTPS.
  • MediaWiki version update: 1.16.5

Weekly Web Development Round-up May 30-June 3, 2011

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To give our colleagues a better idea of what’s changed in our web applications each week, we’ll be preparing this quick list for publication each Friday. Not all of the details of each change are included below, but we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments.

Drupal

  • Did you know that you can “geo tag” any content on our site? It’s true! When you’re editing, you’ll see a field labeled “Location”. If you expand this, you can add an address to the content you’re creating. Most addresses can be automatically translated into a latitude and longitude by our system, allowing us to create maps highlighting that content. We’re going back and adding locations to stories to make our Middlebury Around the World page more interesting, but keep this in mind as you edit the site.
  • The Preview button has been temporary disabled while we fix an issue where all permissions would get wiped out when you previewed your changes to content. We know what was causing this to happen and will have a fix shortly after a few of the edge cases are dealt with.
  • Videos from MiddMedia in most of our supported web browsers now play using the native HTML5 video player. Browsers that support this feature include Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4, Chrome, Safari, Opera and the mobile browsers for iOS and Android devices. If you are using Firefox 3 (including 3.5 and 3.6), Internet Explorer 7, or Internet Explorer 8 you will still see the Flash player as these browsers do not support HTML5 video.
  • Additionally, MiddMedia videos on the site will now use the “full frame” poster image by default, which doesn’t include the “play” icon, but you can toggle between playing and pausing a video by clicking on it.
  • When creating a Story, there are now buttons to select the image instead of autocomplete text boxes. Clicking the button brings up the site tree so you can select your image (with a preview) from the page where you saved it instead of blindly hoping the “smiling_students01.jpg” is your image. This feature will be rolled out to more content types shortly.
  • XML sitemaps are now available for all of our Drupal-based sites. These files help search engines find content on our site. Middlebury’s sitemap is at http://www.middlebury.edu/sitemap.xml
  • Modules updated this week: Custom Permissions, Monster Menus, Media, RSS Page

Library Systems

  • As announced previously on the LIS blog, the Library Quick Search widget on the Library home page now includes a search form for Summon, a tool that searches across Midd’s many different collections at once.  New tabs, and other changes based on feedback and user study were also rolled out.

MiddMedia

  • All videos uploaded to MiddMedia are now encoded in both H.264 and WebM formats so that they can be played natively in browsers that support H.264 (IE 9, Safari, iOS) and WebM (Firefox 4, Chrome, Opera, Android).
  • When uploading a video, you can now select the quality that will be used when the video is transcoded (original, 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p).

WordPress