Updates for MiddCMS

I want to get back in the swing of actually posting on this thing and fortunately, I have a reason to do so. There are two major changes to the CMS that will go in place, hopefully early next week. These are to accomodate plans for an Emergency Response web site, but are also things that we’ve wanted to do on the CMS for some time. Now that we actually have a reason in the form of a project, it’s easier to sit down and write them out.

Last Modified By

The first change will affect almost every page on the CMS. Anywhere that’s publicly viewable and has editable content, except for the front page, will have a tagline at the bottom that says “Last Modified by Person on Date“. The person and date information are drawn automatically from the metadata that the CMS keeps about page revisions.

This feature will let users know who to contact if there’s content on the page that’s inaccurate, needs to be updated, or that they have more questions about. Prior to this update, you had to notice that there was a link named “Contact Us” on the bottom left of most pages, click on it and try to decipher who to direct your request to. Now you’ll know exactly who is responsible for maintaining the information on the page, making it easier to track them down.

There are a few exceptions, of course. Many pages are edited by LIS staff during support calls about the CMS. Others are automatically re-approved by a nightly batch script (HR Job Descriptions fall into this category). These will always appear to be edited by the “Middlebury College Web Master”, rather than by me or the backup script user account. Also, much of the content on the CMS is actually edited by students and then approved for publication by a staff member. When you’re viewing this content in published mode (always unless you’re a CMS editor) you’ll see the staff member’s name. If you’re trying to edit the content, you’ll see the person who last edited it, which might be that student worker.

It’s my hope that this change will raise awareness on campus and off as to how many people manage content on our website. It’s well over 200 active accounts spread out throughout the CMS. Many of those, like the Academic Coordinators, manage the entire site for their department, including the profiles of the Faculty. It takes considerable work to keep all of the content (somewhere on the order of 30,000 postings with even more documents and pictures) up to date.

Contacts Lists

Even though we’ve updated how “Last Modified” information is posted on the CMS, there’s still a need for up-to-date lists of contact personnel. In the past, we’ve used these exclusively for Contact Us sections on the CMS to identify persons responsible for content. Well, the LIS staff directory also. For that purpose, all that was required was the person’s name, email address, office telephone, and office location. However, with the prospect of an Emergency Response site, more information is required. Everything from home phone numbers (which we have), to cell phones (which we might have), to radio numbers for Facilities staff (which we don’t have).

Information like this begins its life in Banner, updated by HR for Faculty and Staff accounts or by the Dean of Student Affairs office for students. There are also all kinds of other accounts: Emeriti professors, High School students, contractors, some Alumni, Spouse/Partner accounts, and now the account information for MIIS, which is stored separate of Middlebury records. Some of this information is then moved into the Active Directory by scripts that run at least nightly. The Active Directory is like a phone book for computers and contains all of the Windows and Exchange user accounts. If you have an email account at Middlebury, you’re in the AD.

These contacts lists have been modified so that they can display any number of attributes from the Active Directory. By default, they still show the name, email, office location, and office phone number. There are several attributes, like ID Number that we don’t want all people with access to edit Contact postings to be able to add to the list. These are reserved for a select set of CMS administrators. Additionally, the Contacts posting will maintain the display permissions you set up in the Directory’s Change Information screen. You can go there to set it up so that your email address doesn’t appear to people off campus. There is an override option available to administrators to force the Contacts posting to show the information, regardless of what the user specified. This is a necessary addition for the Emergency Response site. We need to be able to see your Cell Phone number to call in the event of an emergency, even if it’s not shown to folks outside of that site.

Coming Changes for the CMS

That nearly wraps up changes we will be making to the current code base for the CMS, which is running on Microsoft Content Management Server 2002. That product has been sunsetted and we’re examining replacements with the idea of being fully off MCMS by Summer 2009.

The final major revision to the MCMS code prior to then will be the migration of the current Events at Middlebury calendar from custom PHP. This will allow us to have a more stable Events calendar and also have site-specific events listings in the navigation controls. Imagine going to the Math Department’s site and seeing their Seminars listed automatically from the Events Calendar. That’s the general idea here as well.

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