We’ll be doing some maintenance on the Connect server the evening of Thursday, October 9, 2014, from 7-8pm Central Time, which means the site will be unavailable during that time. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the work should go quickly. Watch Twitter for status updates.
I’ve been out of the office for a couple of weeks, so I’m playing catch up on the projects I’m involved in, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about our progress. This is hardly a comprehensive list, but it’s great to be able to share positive progress.
It was a huge project, but we now have all staff workstations in the Chicago office upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7, including updated printer drivers and the annual cycling in of new computers for some staff. I wasn’t involved in this, except that my workstation got upgraded and I’m a million times more productive now, so yay team. Although I saw the hiccups behind-the-scenes, I was impressed with how smoothly the transition went thanks to the extensive planning and testing that other ITTS staff and consultants did.
This is another project that I’m not directly working on, but it affects my projects because iMIS is the system that manages all of our member, committee, dues, CE, and registration data. This is a big number upgrade with some behind-the-scenes changes to the setup, not just a patch. The whole project has been complicated greatly by ALA’s extensive customizations of the iMIS software, as well as the fact that our ecommerce system is 10-years old.
The team working on this has hit roadblock after roadblock trying to get the new iMIS software and web services to work with our old ecommerce system, and they’ve smashed every one of them. If all goes well, we’ll implement this upgrade later this month. Watch for more information about this because there may be some downtime associated with it since we’re talking about the system that’s at the heart of the Association’s infrastructure.
The completion of the iMIS upgrade is great news for Connect and the Conference Schedulers because it means we can move those sites to Shibboleth. This means single sign-on between these sites and ala.org. You’ll finally be able to log in to any of these sites with your regular ala.org username and password and then be logged in to all of the other sites automatically (non-members, too). Huzzah! Our goal is for this to happen in early November before the 2015 Midwinter Scheduler opens.
This isn’t really a project update so much as a reminder to fill out the ALA Connect survey if you haven’t already done so. Besides the fact you could get an iPad Mini in return for your responses, your feedback will help us improve the site. We want to hear from everyone – members, non-members, frequent Connect users, infrequent Connect users, international folks, tall people, short people, basically everyone, which includes you.
The iMIS upgrade is the first domino in a series of projects that have been unable to move forward until it’s completed. The second domino is Shibboleth for Connect and the schedulers, and the third combines ala.org and Connect profiles into a single profile that can easily be managed from either site. Phase one combines all of the data into one profile and future phases will expand the amount and types of data we make visible to you in your profile, including expiration dates for member dues (finally!), lists of continuing education activities completed, past conference registrations, and more. Our goal is for you to implement phase one in November.
And now we get to the biggest domino in the path, the ecommerce system that desperately needs to be replaced. With the iMIS upgrade almost done, we’re scheduling meetings with potential vendors for later this month. It will still be a months-long selection process while we involve all of the various stakeholders and go though contract negotiations, but if this project stays on track then we’re in good shape for a 2015 (calendar year) implementation.
So that’s a quick update on some of the things that happened while I was gone. I’m thinking I need to take more vacations.
Five years, one redesign, and dozens of new features after its launch in 2009, we’re doing our largest feedback survey to date to learn how ALA Connect is working for you and how we can make it even better.
We’re asking both ALA members and non-members to fill out the online survey, which will be open through Sunday, October 12, 2014. Everyone who completes it will be entered into a drawing for an iPad Mini.
We’re also seeking ALA members who will participate in a one-hour site review and feedback session with $75 compensation. The ALA members who wish to participate must be either new to ALA Connect or have visited the website, but have not previously engaged in group discussions or forums on the site. The valuable input gathered from the interview will help launch a redesign of the site that encourages collaboration among ALA members. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in participating in this more granular feedback session.
We’re excited to announce that you can now search the 800+ awards listed in the Financial Assistance for Library & Information Studies (FALIS) Directory in the Opportunities Exchange in ALA Connect.
The FALIS Directory is maintained by ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR). All of the awards can now be searched by type (assistantship, fellowship, scholarship), library type (academic, public, school), education program level (Masters, Doctorate), state, keyword, and more. The Directory is also still available as a PDF.
This effort brings together in one place the more than 800+ FALIS awards with dozens of additional opportunities within the library profession for calls for proposal, equipment, freelance work, giveaways, grants, job exchanges, research surveys, volunteering, and more.
Originally started in 2010 as one of then-ALA President Jim Rettig’s initiatives, the Opportunities Exchange was conceived of as a craigslist for the library world. Anyone with an account on ALA Connect can add a new opportunity to the OppEx. Users can also save searches and request email alerts when new opportunities are added that match the interests listed in their Connect profiles.
See the Help section of the Opportunities Exchange for more information about this valuable resource and how you can add an opportunity to the database.
As we’ve done in past years when committee terms end during Annual, ITTS will be changing the end date on all committee terms ending on June 30, 2014, to July 13, 2014. The change will take place the night of June 30th, so anyone with an end date of 6/30/2014 in iMIS will automatically be changed to an end date of 7/13/2014. This will allow them to continue to access their Connect groups through Sunday, July 13.
The night of July 13, we’ll set the end dates back to June 30 so that they will be removed from the Connect rosters for Monday, July 14. Please let your committee members know that they need to finish their work in Connect before 7/14/2014 if their terms end on June 30.
Anyone with a start date of July 1 will be moved back to a start date of July 14.
When all is said and done after July 14, committee terms in iMIS will reflect their original dates, and rosters will be current to reflect the original start and end dates.
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.