After some discussion about ALA Connect on the ALA Council mailing list last month (here and here), I put together a report about Connect usage because just glancing at the site can leave the impression that it isn’t being used very much when in fact the numbers show the opposite. This PDF report is current as of January 16, 2014 (there’s also an accessible PDF version).
One thing in particular I want to note is that when someone posts something to a Connect group, the default setting is for it to be private so that only the group’s members can see it. This was done deliberately because many award juries, nominating committees, boards, and other groups that discuss confidential subjects needed to be sure their content was secure by default.
However, there’s a box on every piece of content that the author can check to make that post public so that anyone in the world can see it without even logging in to Connect. When someone views the Connect home page and isn’t logged in, they only see public content.
When someone is logged in and looks at the home page, they only see content from their groups. This person can’t see the content being posted privately to other groups, so looking at Connect groups you’re not a member of might not show anything new if nothing was explicitly made “public.” In fact, there might be quite a bit of activity going on but you just can’t see it. It’s the same as not being a member of an email list – as a non-member, you can’t see the posts to a private mailing list, but that doesn’t mean the subscribers aren’t using it.
That’s why I put this report together, to present a more general snapshot beyond just what an individual user can see by scanning the site. Look at the data and decide for yourself if people are using Connect or not and then please share your thoughts about how we can improve it to make it even better. We’ll be doing a survey later this spring to collect broad input, but jump in now if you have ideas.
Note that in the next few months, we’ll be implementing a Doodle-like module for scheduling meetings, adding 5,000 financial assistance grants/scholarships to the Opportunities Exchange, and implementing the new search engine that ala.org is using (Apache Solr). We’re also working on a way to email content in to a group so that you don’t have to visit the website to start a discussion.
In FY15, we’ll revamp MentorConnect, match users to groups they might want to join, and create a mobile app (for starters).
What else can we add or change to make Connect work well for you?
- Jenny Levine, ITTS (jlevine [at] ala.org)
Just a quick heads up that ALA Connect will be down from 6:00-6:30pm CST on Thursday, December 12th, while we install some Drupal updates. We’ll give the “all clear” signal on our Twitter account when the site is back up.
1. TrackIt! Requests (Sherri)
Reminder – Please provide us with as much information as possible (assume we know nothing – where something lives, URLs, etc.)
Please provide us with a due date, planned well in advance, for email blasts
Reminder – we can’t guarantee a response time given our staff capacity right now, but we’re doing our best to respond to every ticket
Questions about attaching files to a Track-It request – this should work (some people noted they’ve used it successfully); Might have to use IE to attach a file? Will check.
Question about how to get member lists from iMIS more quickly – ITTS is working on a way to allow units to do this themselves; to learn to do this yourself, put in a Track-It request for the access so that ITTS can create the queries for you; training can be done in 15 minutes
Request for a report to track division memberships for a specific iMIS group code; ITTS will try to work on this
2. New ITTS Project Request Form (Louise)
This form will have to be filled out in order for ITTS to consider committing resources to your project
Use it when you’re planning projects, not for individual tasks (those go in Track-It)
The form is still under development, but the link is in the left-hand navigation under “ALA Staff Resources” on the Support site (http://ala.org/support) and requires a staff login to view it. Please don’t use the form until we send an all-staff announcement that it’s ready.
Did a walkthrough of the form
ITTS’ queue is currently around 38 projects, 20 of which are rated as “priority 1″ so it’s very important to fill out all of the information in this form to get in the queue. This is in addition to all of the help requests in Track-It, so we won’t be able to help with your project at all if you don’t go through this process.
3. Demo of the New Staff Change Form (Louise)
This is the first item under “ALA Staff Resources” on the Support site (http://ala.org/support) in the left-hand navigation.
Note that it requires a staff login to access the form.
Use this form for all personnel changes – arrivals, departures, name changes, status changes, etc.
Please try to give two weeks notice, especially for Staff Support Services so that there’s enough time to get everything set up. This is very important for new hires.
Did a walkthrough of the form
We’ll try to add Outlook group lists to the form (eg, all-staff, unit managers, etc.)
4. Twitter Feeds on the ALA website (Sherri)
Twitter changed its API several months ago, which broke our implementation displaying tweets on ala.org
We’ve implemented the new Drupal module but it’s not a real-time feed, so we’re working on a way to schedule updates; until this is resolved, you might not want to add Twitter feeds back to your sites
We’re investigating options and will report back.
Question about ACRL’s implementation on its home page and how it’s working – we’ll investigate.
5. Postini Spam Filtering (Sherri)
Google owns Postini and they’re working on a new interface for spam filtering;
Changes will take effect sometime between now and December 31st
There will be a new “message center” and “quarantine summary” that uses Google Apps
No set date yet, so we’re waiting to hear from Google
All ALA email is routed through Postini first and then they go to OWA/Outlook
This will represent a routing change for us, so there may be an interruption when we do the switchover
All the Sympa lists hit Postini first, so they’ll be affected, too.
6. Informz Training (Pam)
We’re working on training classes to show how to build an Informz email and send it out based on iMIS queries
The first training session will be on October 15th
Advantage: emails sent through Informz using iMIS-based lists are always current
You can use it to send thousands of emails at once
We bought a large block of emails – when you log in, you can see how many emails are left on our account
Using Informz queries respects member communication preferences, which is an important issue
Once Irene creates a view for an Informz list, you never have to go back to her for that query – you can then run it yourself, so good for repeat queries
Submit a Track-It request for a new query
7. Drupal Changes to Slideshow Feature (Louise)
We’re trying to implement fewer microsites but provide more flexibility with slideshows so we’re removing the limitation of one slideshow per site
By the end of the year, we’ll transition to a new setup that will allow for multiple slideshows and tabs on one site; you’ll no longer need a new microsite just to have these options.
The new system will use new content types, so the previous ones will be deprecated.
Let Louise know if you want to volunteer to implement the new system first
8. Solr Search Engine Implementation (Louise, Sherri)
The Solr search software is installed and is almost ready to go
Allows for faceted searching (like Amazon’s seach results pages with options for filtering results in the left-hand column)
Still crucial that authors enter metadata or those pieces still won’t work
9. ALA Connect (Jenny)
10. Ecommerce Project Update (Sherri)
A revised RFP was sent out last month and we’re starting to receive responses back from vendors
Proposals are due by October 16th
We hope to have the new system in place by FY15
11. Next Meeting will be in early December – we’re moving to a quarterly schedule
Question: Timeframe for Windows 7 implementation? Staff need to be able to test most current versions of browsers, but IE9 and IE10 won’t install on Windows XP.
Sherri: It’s one of the 20 “priority 1″ items in the queue and will start soon because Windows XP support expires in April; we have to get a working image and test all of our software on it before we can begin rolling it out
Contact ITTS if you need to occasionally use a Windows 7 computer/laptop for testing purposes
We’re not planning to go to Windows 8 at this point
All of our computers and laptops are Windows 7-ready because we anticipated this migration.
1. Drupal Modules (Rob)
Rob explained how decisions are made about which Drupal modules we can add to the ala.org installation and why
ITTS evaluates each module request, with the first criterion being its development status;
“alpha” modules are never installed because they’re too unstable and there’s no guarantee the developer will fix any problems
modules in “beta” testing are considered, but we’ll still take into consideration other factors, such as whether the developer is actively working on the module, if it’s dependent on other modules being installed first, etc.
“release candidate” status on a module still equals “beta”
even when accepted for testing, modules can still fail when implemented on the development site because the module just doesn’t work properly in our environment or with other installed modules
a list of existing modules in the ala.org installation is available at http://www.ala.org/support/res/modules
we’ll also add a list of rejected modules to the Support site
2. Connect Migration to Drupal 7 (Jenny)
the upgrade is scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm CST on Wednesday, March 6th
Connect will be offline for approximately an hour if all goes well
watch the Connect Twitter account for updates – http://twitter.com/alaconnect
users shouldn’t notice any major changes when the new version is up – the interface will be the same, with only minor changes made to chats (see January 2013 meeting notes)
once we’re in Drupal 7 and the dust has settled, we’ll begin working on better email notifications
watch for an online poll to provide feedback about how you think the notifications should look and what should be in them and where
we’re also planning a larger survey about Connect later this year to get broader feedback about how to improve the site
3. Merging Connect and ala.org Profiles (Jenny)
ITTS continues to work on the plan to merge Connect and ala.org profiles into a single profile that will result in a new, standalone membership directory; all of the data will be unified and will live in iMIS as our central source
we’ll be implementing Apache Solr as the search engine for profiles (members, non-members, and staff), which will allow us to offer faceted searching
this also means that Connect profile interests will be available to units via iMIS for use with Informz
4. Status of the New Hire Form (Louise)
the form is not yet ready but is getting closer to going live
Louise discussed various features and showed the “Changes and Departures” side of the form (building on what was shown at the January 2013 ITTS Update meeting)
when live, the form will be behind a staff login on the Support site
ITTS will seek feedback from Unit Managers before the form goes live
all other related, existing forms will be deactivated when this new one goes live
5. New Event Management System (Sherri)
the group working on selecting a new system has narrowed the choices to two vendors
we hope to sign a contract in March and begin work as soon as possible since the new service has to be ready for testing in August
1. Blog & Wiki Migrations (Rob)
The blog and wiki migration from Dreamhost to ALA servers has been put on the backburner due to other projects right now
We did a test moving the ITTS News blog, which was successful
We’ll work on this project after Midwinter
We have more than 80 blogs and more than 70 wikis, so this will be a long process because each site needs a little work in order to get it ready for migration
Rob will work with units individually because all of a unit’s sites on a single domain must be moved at once
wikis.ala.org will be the last site moved because it has 50 wikis on it
Moodle will remain hosted externally because we need additional support for it; we’re investigating specialty Moodle hosting services now
2. ALA Connect (Jenny)
Drupal 7 Upgrade
We’ve postponed the upgrade until the week of February 11th so that we can ensure proper testing and not run into any problems right before Midwinter
The change should be pretty seamless to users – the interface is the same, the functionality is the same, etc., so no major documentation or training should be necessary
Two things will be different, though:
Chats will work a little differently because that module was re-written by the author
Individual chats will now work like every other content type, so you’ll be able to create an individual chat from the “Add” button
You’ll also be able to categorize your chats using your group’s existing subject headings and chat transcripts will be searchable
Also, chats will appear on the group home page, so chats occurring now should be easier to find because they’ll appear as the new content at the top of the page
Email notifications will also change in Drupal 7 and hopefully will get easier to read
Because we’re using our own Drupal module now, we can format the notifications however we want (especially for digest versions)
In the weeks after the Drupal 7 launch, we’ll work on reformatting these emails
We want feedback about what users would like to see change with notifications, so we’ll do a survey of both members and staff to ask for suggestions
Connect-iMIS sync issue
Members and staff have reported enough problems with Connect rosters that we know there is some kind of an issue with the synchronization between iMIS and Connect
Since nothing has changed on either side recently and the problems appear to be random, it’s been very difficult to troubleshoot the problem
In February, we plan to pull together a group to work on resolving the issue
In the meantime, we’ve put every active committee member in the overnight sync in order to re-synchronize the rosters going into Midwinter
We also turned on email notifications from committees for every committee member as part of the re-synchronization
We believe that this will solve the problem short-term until we can implement a long-term fix, but it’s important for all staff liaisons to check their rosters to make sure they’re updated
Please report any problems to Jenny via Track-It so that we can continue logging issues and find the pattern
3. Reminder to access remote resources prior to leaving for Midwinter conference (Louise and Pam)
A reminder that the document for accessing remote resources can be found on http://.ala.org/support
ITTS has moved the old support wiki into ala.org now that the ALA website is in Drupal 7
Pam has been working on updating the content and adding new information
The one thing to note is that there are pages that only staff can view; if you have a member account, you won’t be able to see the staff-only page
The “staff resources” area includes the “remote resources” page that can be very useful if you’re going to Midwinter
Note that you can’t test your NetStorage access to the LAN from inside the building – it only works externally
4. Review of New Hire Web Form (Louise)
We’ve moved the “New Hire” form to th3 “staff resources” section on the Support site (http://ala.org/support)
The great thing about this new form is that portions of it can be sent to whichever unit needs that information
Use this form for:
The form walks you through the various options for each type of request
Note that it isn’t quite ready to go live yet but will be soon
Question: When will the Outlook Address Book be cleaned up?
Answer: Not sure who has access to maintain that and authority to change it. We need a way to kludge together the Outlook Address Book, the KM staff directory, and the ala.org Contact Us list. Mary G. will look into who is responsible for what to sort this out because at least one of them needs to be reliably updated. Discussion about ways to do this, and we’ll try to work on this after Midwinter.
We’re excited to announce that the ALA Connect redesign is finally going live. As part of the 2012 redesign of the ALA Connect interface, we’ve moved some things around, added shortcuts to make it faster to get places, and changed some labels to make it easier to figure out where to start.
We don’t want to take the site down during the day while we implement the new templates, so we’ll begin at 6:00 pm CDT tonight (August 1). During the implementation, the site will be unavailable and a “maintenance mode” message will display.
We expect access to be restored with the new design around 8:00 pm CDT, but we’ll post an “all clear” announcement at http://twitter.com/alaconnect when everything is done.
The following help documents are now publicly available in the “Help” community on Connect.
The Member Chair FAQ at http://connect.ala.org/chair-faq has been updated, and a new version of the Staff Liaison FAQ is being uploaded in to the KM System.
We can’t wait to hear your feedback about the new version, so don’t be shy – let us know what you think about the new design.
ALA Connect (Jenny)
The Annual Scheduler went live last month and we’re now working on the mobile Scheduler app for early June
- Don’t forget you can add descriptions and speaker info to Annual sessions all the way through the conference itself
Beta testing for the new Connect interface went so well that we postponed implementation until after July 4th to try to incorporate as many user suggestions as possible; Jenny will send out an all-staff announcement when we have a specific date for the launch, along with dates for more staff demo sessions and eventually online webinars for members.
The upcoming timeline for Connect work includes some major behind-the-scenes projects:
We’ll resume feature development in calendar year 2013.
Drupal CMS Migration Update (Sherri)
Ecommerce Project (Sherri)
Virtual Meeting Software Update (Sherri)
After reviewing the results of the Online Learning survey, ITTS has determined that we should have three shared rooms seating 100. Because of Adobe Connect’s named license requirement, we need to determine which ALA units will be assigned to each room. Please contact us with possible partnerships for each shared space.
Discussions continue, and we hope to have a decision soon.
1. Web Working Group, WWG (formerly Wed Editorial Board) – Eric Cameron, Program Officer ALA Public Programs Office and co-convenor of the new Web Working Group
Eric covered the mission and scope of the new Web Working Group as outlined below.
Mission: To create and maintain a strong web presence for ALA by incorporating best practices and trends, with a shared strategic vision.
Rationale: To optimize resources by engaging stakeholders across the association in actively sharing and implementing best web practices, rather than current editorial-only focus. To increase ITTS’s effectiveness without adding resources. To make policy and high-level recommendations to and receive such recommendations from ALA Management Group.
Who: Rotating conveners (elected by group), with staggered 12-month terms. Group open to all; outreach will be made to any units that the group identifies as lacking needed representation, especially if projects affecting that unit are planned. Two levels of participation possible: participatory or serving as representative/liaison (following in Connect only).
• Policy/ high-level recommendations to and from ALA Management Group
• Develop objectives for web presence
• Discussion forum for stakeholders (key feature)
• Representative and inclusive group with flexibility of membership, and short-term ad hoc groups for specific projects
• A *working* group, with time commitment on a self-selected basis (mirroring the social media group which has been both creative and productive)
• Resource for colleagues—reach out proactively
• Work with trainer to identify training needs.
• Work with Usability Officer to continuously improve website.
• Make recommendations about priorities for ALA web presence.
• Bring to group issues/proposals/changes that affect the selection and display of items on the homepage, and the top level left navigation menu, prior to implementation
• Help units adopt best practices (e.g., migrate a Word Press site to Drupal, or replicate effective ideas from other units) including implementation of microsite guidelines
• Provide coaching [and fun] for building new skills
• Create updated style guide for Drupal
• Organize informal information-sharing events open to all staff, similar to recent social media group brown bag lunches
• Track specific pages needing review; identify “owners” of seemingly abandoned pages or areas
• Identify projects, gather input, develop draft and have conveners/stakeholders take to Management Group
• Use group to help develop association-wide buy-in so changes are easier to make and more effective
• Develop pilot projects as examples of an improvement
• Solicit feasibility/analytic input from ITTS
• Identify projects deemed critical by the larger group for consideration for inclusion in ITTS budget
The new group is a successor to Web Editoral Board (WEB). WEB started out selecting News and Highlights for the ALA homepage. WEB’s charge then expanded to cover other areas on the ALA website. WEB outgrew its orginal charge and decided to redefine its mission to encompass its new role.
WWG serves two functions:
1) To identify Projects & Initiatives that need to be addressed
2) To be the Representative body of all stakerholders
Co-convenors are Eric Cameron, Mary Mackay, and Gwendolyn Prellwitz
Two levels of participation possible: participatory or serving as representative/liaison (following in Connect only). Representatives/liaisons can bring issues to the group.
WWG is a central place to think about what ALA and its related websites do.
2. Drupal CMS Migration Update – Louise Gruenberg
The homepage is the only content that is being served by Collage web servers. We plan to migrate the ALA homepage on May 9th, barring any unforeseen complications. We are configuring new server hardware for load balancing to handle the increased traffic and URL rule sets.
The Drupal book module is now available. It allows you to create web pages that will build a PDF for download. Eric Cameron will explore the application of module.
Lightbox is now available in Drupal. This application allows you to expand the display of an image or text file on the website.
A submission form for adding hightlights to website pages has been developed on the ALA training site. The form will be made available for staff to use very soon.
A feedback form for members and the public has been developed for various sections of the website. The feedback form will route information to appropriate staff based on the section of the site they’re visiting. The feedback form will be deployed as soon as minor revisions are implemented.
3. ALA Connect – Sherri Vanyek
We’ve had many members and staff helping us beta test the redesign of ALA Connect. The feedback to date has been very positive. Jenny has been giving tours of the new design to staff. We hope to finish up with last minute revisions based on the feedback received very soon. The launch is scheduled to take place in May 2012.
4. Ecommerce RFP – Sherri Vanyek
The new ecommerce system will replace the old Active Matter system that members currently use to join or renew their membership, register for small events and continuing education, fund raising, subscriptions, and profile management. We have been meeting with various stakeholders across the association to gather requirements. We plan to draft a RFP and circulate it for review. The funds for this project will be available in the fiscal year 2013, which begins on September 1, 2012.
5. Virtual Meeting Software Update – Sherri Vanyek
We are looking at various solutions for the association. It was noted at the meeting that ease of use is very important. Sherri and Louise will meet with the ALA Online Learning Task force on Thursday, April 26 to discuss findings.
6. New Categories and Priorities for Track-It!- Irene Marquez
Track-IT Priorities (implemented 4/3/2012)
1. Just a casual question, comment, idea, suggestion…
2. I need some help but it’s not super time sensitive.
3. I can’t get things done until I hear back from you, please reply ASAP.
4. Things are broken and I’d like them not to be!
5. OMG! EXTREME CRITICAL EMERGENCY!! EVERYTHING’S BROKEN! People are DYING!
Track-IT Categories (implementation 04/25/2012)
1. ! Server Down !
2. Access Rights
3. ALA Software: Accounting
4. ALA Software: Outlook
5. ALA Software: iMIS
6. Hardware Support
9. Email Marketing/Lists
11. Web – ala.org
12. Web – ALAConnect
13. Web – Apps & Forms
14. Web – Blog, Sympa, Wikis
15. Web – Drupal on Dreamhost
16. Web – Moodle
17. Web – Other (KM, JobLIST, Store)
Feedback on the priorities have been very positive.
151 categories were whittled down to 18. The group felt “ALA Software: Email” should be changed to “ALA Software: Outlook” and ”Reports” should be changed to “Email Marketing/Lists”. The list was updated and implemented around 5:30pm yesterday.
7. Investigating Remote Office Worker Functionality – Sherri Vanyek
We are investigating several solutions to provide remote office worker functionality. We plan to make this available to all staff. Our current Citrix solution is being used by our remote offices. We are looking at application virtualization or desktop virtualization as possible options. We are also looking at different options for NetStorage file sharing.
1. CMS Update (Louise)
Things are moving along
Everything will go into the review stage during the next few weeks
Showed the new versions of PLA, I Love Libraries, LLAMA, AASL, RUSA, ASCLA, LITA, YALSA (some of which still need some work) but are displaying at some level in the new system
Hope that all divisions will have first round of pages on the review site by the end of this week
Then we’ll start on the round tables, offices, and sections
Reviewers should begin hearing from Louise soon
Will take PLA live when Shibboleth is ready, hopefully next week
When your site is ready to go live, you do one last lookover with ITTS on Monday
Tuesday the site is frozen and the migration starts
Go live on Wednesday (can rollback to old site if things don’t go well)
Thursday you come to training (Friday if you can’t make Thursday)
Member volunteers will all eventually get trained, starting with iLinc webinars
Screenshot-based documentation and training will probably become available in December
We’ll be taking sites live on a rolling basis as they’re ready
Shibboleth is moving forward, with just one remaining hangup to get it working on the dev sites
2. Connect update (Jenny)
Showed the new “Suggestions” feature that will be coming soon
Connect Roadmap for FY12:
3. Service outage on Tuesday, September 22, 2011, 5:30-8:30 pm CDT – corrected date (Sherri)
Hopefully the following services will only be down for a few hours early Wednesday evening
Staff: if you’re already logged in to the network, you’ll be able to keep working after 5:30 pm CDT; otherwise you won’t be able to log in during the outage
We’ll put up a message on the public sites when this happens so that users will see a meaningful message
Calling all members of active committees: we’ve automatically turned on email notifications from your committees. We hope this helps your group communicate better, but you can also adjust your personal settings by going to the “Subscriptions” tab on your profile when logged in. Learn more over on ALA Connect….