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.
Updated the class photo roster application to work with the new class-group structure in the Active Directory. You will now see separate lists for instructors, students, and audits for each course.
Internet Explorer 7 users saw a notice on our homepage about a script taking too long to load. The IE 7 rendering engine has problems displaying over 100 stories on our homepage, so people using that browser will now see a smaller, random selection. If you’re using any other browser you’ll still see all the stories.
We’ve switched back from the OSMF player to FlowPlayer temporarily for videos. The OSMF player requires the user to have Flash Player 10 and the distribution image just includes Flash Player 9. We’re going to add a prompt to the OSMF player to let people know they need to upgrade, then put it back in production.
Custom splash images now work in Drupal videos. To add a custom splash image to your video use the [video:url image:url] syntax.
We’ve removed the Banner Web Scout which provided pseudo-load-balancing between the two BannerWeb servers through GO. All of the GO shortcuts for Banner now go directly to the primary server with no intermediate steps.
We’ve redesigned some aspects of the MiddLab theme to make the site easier to navigate and provide more space for project content and larger video players. Watch MiddLab next week as many new projects from the Spring Symposium will appear.
In order to address recent bot activity, input validation has been tightened on the form elements in GO available to non-authenticated users. This includes a captcha validation challenge on the “flag as inappropriate” area for non-authenticated users. In order to avoid having to fill this in you can always authenticate with your Middlebury account via the “log in” link at the top of go.
Also some usability enhancements have been made on the administration back-end to make GO administration smoother.
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.
Addition of separate billing and shipping addresses when ordering tickets or gift items from the box office, especially useful for parents purchasing items for students.
Improved the user interface to make purchasing as a returning customer and identifying seat locations in the seating chart simpler.
CAS – Single Sign On
The Central Authentication System (CAS) was introduced last year and allows you to move between many of our web applications after you’ve signed in once. GO and the main college website were already using CAS this time last year but since then it’s been added to many other applications, including:
Over the past two years we developed the Course Catalog application at catalog.middlebury.edu to serve as a clearing house for accessing course information on the web due to the limitations on searching for this information via BannerWeb. The Course Catalog application allows users to search for courses based on a wide variety of criteria (including keyword searching) and properly displays and links-together cross-listed courses. The Course Catalog application also feeds course information to the department pages and faculty profiles in the main Drupal site.
New for this year, the Course Catalog has been extended to add a Schedule Planning tool that allows students to bookmark courses they are interested in, then group them together into weekly schedules to ensure that they do not have timing conflicts and that lab and discussion sections are chosen. These schedules can be printed or emailed to one’s advisor.
Printing: A special stylesheet allows you to print just the content of the page including contact information in the Address area.
Search: Converted the main site search engine to use a Google Custom Search Engine to improve results, increasing our index from 175,000 pages to over 360,000 pages. You can also ask us to create a custom search engine for your part of the site. This complements the large review of Search functionality we conducted immediately after the site launch.
Sharing: Added sharing buttons to news articles to let you send emails to friends, or post the stories to Facebook and Twitter.
Webform: Many new features including multi-page forms, validating responses, and email templates.
LIS Pages: Problems with this Page? link on LIS pages allows you to report an issue with the content on a page such as a spelling error, incorrect information, a broken link, etc. The submissions are reviewed by our newly assigned content managers.
The GO shortcut/permalink application has become quite central to the web infrastructure of the college since its launch several years ago. It eased the launch of the new site by allowing links in content to be easily updated en-mass. In the past year GO has become central to our search strategy as GO shortcuts are now provided as suggestions and automatic-redirects when you enter search terms on the main site.
New “Info” pages for every shortcut allow everyone to see detailed information about the shortcut such as who maintains it, what its aliases are, and where it goes.
All GO shortcuts are now shown publicly in the GOtionary (with the exception of a few internal shortcuts) to improve the transparency of the system.
Enhanced admin interface for flag admins and the new super admin role.
Can now switch between the Middlebury and MIIS GOtionaries.
New “Midd” theme integrates more closely with the current Middlebury theme.
Add to MiddTube button allows users to check off the videos they would like to batch add to MiddTube as video posts.
We’ve upgraded to Flash Media Server 4, with a lot of new features that we’ll be rolling out and supporting in the coming months.
We’ve been able to expand the Drupal and WordPress platforms to add a CMS experience for sites that were previously static HTML files and create new sites to show off and assist student research and projects.
In December, we upgraded from version 0.7 to 0.9. Changes include:
In addtion to Research by Subject, two new guide types are available: Research by Course and Research by Topic.
Widget-based, drag-and-drop control panel for content creators.
Multiple subject specialists (guide owners) now possible.
Description field override. This allows for a resource description to be customized for one or more guides, while still allowing the resource record to be shared among all the guides. This cuts down on duplication of records and/or breaking others shared work.
Research guides (access via sidebar at go/lib and go/subjectguides among other places.)
globally adding EZproxy prefix for off-campus access.
WordPress usage has been growing over the last few years at Middlebury and beyond. In late August, we updated WordPress to v3, a major new release to this platform that introduced features such as custom menus and top navigation that extended its usefulness beyond blogging.
Plugins and New Functionality
Added a new user-management screen that ties into our central authentication system to allow searching for users and bulk-adding of group-members to a site.
Added the BadBehavior plugin to prevent pingback spam from overloading the server.
Themes and User Experience
We created a number of blog themes for WordPress based on design prototypes developed by White Whale (designers of the main college site). These blog themes were updated to take advantage of new functionality and to generally provide a flexible, easy to use templating framework that could generate extensible thematic variations and would work on multiple platforms, including mobile and touch enabled. New features developed in the last 6 months include:
Introduction of a standardized header on all blogs that provides quick links to create a new blog, search blogs and a given site’s dashboard
New standardized widget areas including 3 sidebars and 4 footer areas
Introduction of support for custom menus and top navigation bar for mapping a site’s information architecture (IA)
Refinements to navigation UI to highlight current location in IA and provide more navigation links in context to improve usability on sites with many pages (such as sites for courses, projects or documentation)
Perspective, an aggregation and usage analysis tool was developed to keep track of how WordPress was being used, what plugins and themes were most popular, which blogs were most active in a given time period and so on. We also built into Perspective tools for communicating with users so that we could more easily identify all users of a given set of features to allow us to inform them of updates or issues. These same tools when combined with activity filters have allowed us to identified inactive sites, contact their owners and archive or delete these sites as appropriate, providing the foundation for a contention retention policy.
We recently updated the GO application with a new editing interface including more verbose, color coded, messages as well as additional input validation. We are looking for feedback as to the ease of use, etc. so please share any suggestions or feedback with us.
Also a comment/reason is now required when flagging go links to give admins a clearer idea of why a link was flagged. Thanks to all who have helped us by flagging links so far.
Do you need to get a hold of someone about changing a GO shortcut or becoming an admin of the shortcut? Try contacting the shortcut administrator. We’ve made a 1min 30sec screencast on how to determine the administrator(s) of a GO shortcut.
NOTE: It is no longer possible to “hide” GO links. GO by its nature is a public application with publicly searchable and publicly usable links. “Hiding” a GO link is more or less a misnomer and is no longer supported. If you have hidden GO links they may be unhidden. If you feel you have a legitimate reason to hide GO links and you are concerned about this please feel free to contact email@example.com.
Also, the main Middlebury and Monterey Institute of International Studies sites now have print themes. Please enjoy the new printer friendly pages that are generated on print/print preview.
We are happy to announce a new feature to the GO shortcut application, the ability to flag go links as inappropriate. While our community of users is certainly of the highest caliber, the GO application is susceptible to the occasional prank or other abuse. If you stumble upon a link that may not meet our community standards please use our new “flag as inappropriate” feature to make an admin aware of the link.
This feature is available from the info link featured next to each link in the Gotionary. Just look for this icon .
On the info page you’ll have access to a “flag as inappropriate” button:
If you’d like to flag a link as inappropriate, simply click the button. You’ll see the following message:
As per the message, one of our capable admins will review the link at a later time and take any necessary action.
We hope that this new feature helps make the GO application even more relevant and useful to the community. Your participation in managing GO links helps keep our online community healthy and active. Visit go here: http://go.middlebury.edu/
Since we moved GO to its new home last week I’ve been busy fixing a number of bugs that have come up, as well as made a few improvements that I hope will be helpful.
Today’s big improvement is that the GOtionary now provides info pages for every shortcut.
The info page will tell you who created and who administers the shortcut so that you know who to contact to when a link is broken. As well, the info page will now serve as the landing page when trying to access a broken GO shortcut, rather than being presented with a blank screen.
Over the past few years the GO shortcut and redirection application has become central to the college’s web infrastructure, allowing easy-to-remember permalinks that can be updated as resources are moved.
Tomorrow morning we will be migrating GO from a multi-use Windows server to its own RedHat server. The primary impetus for this move is to resolve a PHP-on-Windows memory leak bug that has taken out GO for several minutes every few months. In addition to this bug fix, migrating GO to its new environment allows a few additional improvements at this time:
GO will be on its own server, more isolated from interference from other applications
GO will now fail-over to a secondary database should its primary database become unavailable.
Improved user-information caching will dramatically speed up the self-service admin screens
Redirects will now be re-written internally, requiring one less round-trip to the GO application for every redirect.
go/shortcut should now work more reliably on the MIIS network without having to type the full go.miis.edu/shortcut URL in the address bar.
Note: the full http://go.middlebury.edu/shortcut or http://go.miis.edu/shortcut URL should still be used when putting links in websites or email.
The GOtionary will now live under go.middlebury.edu and go.miis.edu, allowing go.miis.edu to have its own logo.
We do not anticipate that this migration process will result in any downtime as the new GO server and the old GO server will both continue to operate at the same time, against the same database. After we switch the DNS records for go.middlebury.edu and go.miis.edu users will slowly move over to the new GO server as their computers look up the address of go.middlebury.edu again. For on-campus users this may happen quickly, while for off-campus users it may take several weeks. After the vast majority of users are accessing the new GO server (likely two weeks or so), we will turn off the old GO server.
Update 1 – June 23rd
We successfully migrated go.middlebury.edu to the new host and haven’t had any problems. We’ll be waiting for a while for go.miis.edu to switch over.