16 Dec 10 ALERT: ALA Connect is down (now back up!)

Final update 5:

We’re thrilled to announce that after an intense day of work, ALA Connect is back online! We’ve done thorough testing and haven’t found any bugs or problems, and no data was lost. This also means the Conference Scheduler is live, and schedules that were already created should still be there.

If there’s any upside to this whole thing, it’s that the site is running on a more powerful server, so you should notice improved response times. Although we don’t anticipate any issues, please contact us immediately if you encounter any problems.

Thanks for your patience and support while we worked through this trying time.

Well, technically the server is going up and down, but we’re considering it down because access is not stable. We attempted a RAM upgrade last night to ensure the site’s stability leading up to and during Midwinter, but it seems to have had the opposite effect.

The hosting company is working to restore access, which includes a firmware update for the NIC card among other things. We hope to have access restored soon. At this point, we recommend that you not to try to use the site until we post an “all clear” message here and on Twitter so that you don’t lose any work.

Thanks for your patience.

06 Dec 10 URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT: New Chats Will Be Disabled on Dec 7

We’re very sorry to report that the chat module is causing problems on the Connect server again, to the point where it can crash the site. We’ve therefore decided to disable the creation of new chat rooms in order to maintain the stability of Connect itself. Beginning Tuesday, December 7, 2010, groups will no longer be able to create new chats, although all past chats and archives will remain available.

Read more and ask questions in the Help community on ALA Connect.


22 Oct 10 ALA Connect at 18 Months (Report)

I put together a brief overview of usage patterns for Connect at the 18-month mark. Ready to start walking, but still so much growth in its future. You can download the PDF of the report (362KB), but the full set of snapshots of statistics is available on Flickr at

The takeaway: usage continues to grow, with an anticipated doubling of traffic around Midwinter and Annual. Not surprising for a professionally-oriented site. More info in the report.

27 Sep 10 Connect Chat Upgraded

We soft launched the upgraded chat module in Connect a few weeks ago and wanted to see how it did after testing proved it was more stable than previous updates. I’m happy to report “so far, so good.”

So this is the official announcement that we think we’ve improved chat overall in Connect. Here are some reasons why:

  • Hopefully, the biggest improvement will be better stability, and the random problem a few users experienced getting kicked out of a chat will decrease. Since we don’t know what caused the problem in the first place, we can’t really say the upgrade will solve it, but the newer code might help overall. If you or someone in your group still experiences the problem, please let us know.
  • One of the really nice, new features is that you can now pop the chat session out into a new window so that you can still browse in the old window without affecting the chat. When you’re in a chat session, you’ll see a link next to your name in the middle of the screen that says “[View in popout]” specifically for this purpose.In fact, we think this might have been one of the problems related to folks getting kicked out of chats. In some instances, if a person clicked on a link in the chat or elsewhere on the page, they’d leave the page, inadvertently leaving the chat. With this new feature, you can still click around in the original browser window without leaving  the chat once you’ve “popped it out” into its own window.
  • For accessibility purposes, we also took the time to add a new checkbox on the screen that pauses the autoscrolling in the chat window. Sometimes the text flies fast and furious, and it can be difficult to read it all before it’s gone off the screen. If this is happening to you, just check that box to pause the window, catch up on the conversation, and then un-check the box to restart the scrolling. Like curb cuts and high contrast text on web pages, this addition should help everybody, not just users with accessibility issues.
  • If you look at the bottom of the box where you type your text, you’ll see three short lines stacked vertically. This is an indicator that you can drag the bottom of the box downwards in order to make it bigger. If you find that you’re consistently typing a lot of content into that box and the words scroll off to the side so you can’t see the whole sentence, you can now drag that bar down to make the box bigger in order to see all of the text. Once you change the size of the box, it should stay that way until you leave the chat.
  • You shouldn’t run into problems with counting how many characters you can type anymore, either (hooray!). I still wouldn’t type an essay at once, though, since it makes it difficult for others to read the whole thing before it scrolls off the screen.
  • There are now separate buttons for archiving chats and deleting them. You no longer have to archive a chat first in order to delete it. (Reminder: archiving a chat just means it’s closed and no one can join it anymore.)

Please let us know if you have questions about any of this or if you encounter any problems with the chat feature.


23 Sep 10 ITTS News Meeting – September 21, 2010

  1. CMS Update (Louise)
    the contract is with the lawyer – we hope to have it signed in October
    Louise is giving an update to Unit Managers at their October 6 meeting
  2. Introducing Jeff Dong, newest member of the ITTS staff (Sherri)
    Jeff’s primary responsibility is for our database servers and the interaction with them (maintenance, upgrades, support, etc.)
    we’re very happy to have Jeff on board
  3. Blogs & wikis migration (Rob)
    Rob is working away on the Dreamhost migration and is making good progress; he’s already about 50% done
    one thing he’s discovered during the process is that themes can get lost for blogs, so make sure you have a copy you can reapply

    Rob is contacting units to schedule the migrations; submit a Track-It ticket if you want to discuss timing before he contacts you

    many of our wikis seem to be informational and aren’t updated much
    a lot of them are getting spammed to the point where they’re unusable
    Rob has developed a script that checks for any admin activity in the last 90 days
    if the admin hasn’t logged in during the last 90 days, it will send an email to the address listed for that account to let them know the site is being converted to “read-only” status
    this means updates/edits will no longer be possible, but Rob can always reverse the read-only status so that it can be edited if changes need to be made at some point
    this will prevent spammers from creating new accounts and vandalizing the wikithe new blogs/wiki server is working amazingly well and is nice and clean

  4. ALA Connect Updates (Jenny)
    Jenny showed screenshots of the following Connect enhancements:
    – Round Table statistics
    – New link to download all attachments at once
    – Email notifications when someone friends you
    – New option to attach files to comments
    – Added a direct link to the revisions page for online docs in email notifications
    – Position titles now appear on rosters that synchronize with iMIS; note that if a member has two affiliations with a particular group, only the last one listed in iMIS will display in Connect; if that’s a problem, you might want to remove the affiliation you don’t want to display.
    – iMIS groups can no longer be made “open” since the rosters synchronize with the member database
    – We added more options for listing additional education and work history information in profiles
    – Because we’ve added the time and date of an event to the email notification for it, we now require you to pick a time zone; if you don’t, it will say “no time zone selected” instead of listing a time zone, so please be sure to pick one!

    We also upgraded chat a few weeks ago; there have been no reports of users getting kicked out of chat rooms since the upgrade was installed.
    There are some new features that came with the upgrade (see next blot post for more details), but you can now:
    – Pop the chat out into its own window
    – Pause autoscrolling
    – Make the box you type in bigger by pulling down the bottom border of the box

    Right now, we’re working on offering the ability to do “drafts” so that you can start writing something and stave it but not publish it yet.

    This fall, we’ll be working on the new conference scheduler (used to be known as the “event planner”) and giving each group its own file repository. We’re also going to redesign the Connect home page and group home pages so that they’re easier to read and use.

    These three major projects will take up the bulk of our time, so there won’t be a lot of smaller enhancements until either December or January.

  5. Web Application Firewall (Sherri)
    everything will be down when this is being worked on
    will be between 5-60 minutes at 5pm on Wednesday, October 6 (which is our normal maintenance time)
  6. KM System (Irene)
    we’ll be upgrading the KMS starting at 2pm this Friday (/24)
    it should be back up in a couple of hours, but if you access it during that time and notice something strange, it’s because the system is being upgraded in the background
  7. Web Editorial Board update (Karen)
    meeting summaries are publicly posted to its Connect space, with an email notice sent to unit managers
    there’s a special WEB meeting next week to discuss what needs to be done in preparation for the migration
    the overall message: be prepared to spend some time working on your unit’s content to make it clean and valid

    the Library has become less reactive to questions and more proactive to get the information out there and reorganized ahead of time
    they’ve have been working on the Guidelines and Standards section, the Library FAQ Sheets, an A-Z of topics
    they’re also doing interventions in major areas because then the number of questions about that subject drop when work is done to address problems
    one of the problems has been the Policy Manual, which was originally posted as a straight translation of the print version to the web (150 print pages as one long scrolling page)
    – the Library has redone it, with Rebecca taking the lead to work with Lois Ann and the Governance Office
    Karen showed work that was done to make it a true web document, such as making the data that needed to be in tables accessible, adding anchors for navigation, and adding a section for recent changes
    they’re still building the left navigation
    ITTS fixed everyone’s links to the Policy Manual and deployed the pages so the links wouldn’t break
    please be sure to link to the new version, rather than reproducing it (or sections of it) elsewhere on the site

    the Library has begun working with OIF to restructure some of its pages and is starting another project with the Governance Office

03 Sep 10 A Gaggle of Connect Enhancements

As we head into the fall, when we’ll be working on some major projects (file repositories, the conference scheduler), we took some time in August to make some minor improvements across the site. You’ve been requesting some of these for several months, so we hope they enhance your Connect experience.

  1. Possibly the biggest change we made was to implement HTML email in order to make it easier to read notifications from the site. This means styles will be preserved (bold, italics, lists), and the text won’t be just blocks of Times New Roman words.
  2. Last year we built a statistics module that gave us more granular information than Google Analytics. You can see some screenshots of it at, but basically it tells us more about the users logging in, rather than just the top pages.For some reason, when we began counting how many members from each division are logging in, we didn’t create a similar report for round tables. This glaring omission has now been rectified. When we do the biannual update in October to analyze the latest statistics, we’ll include recent round table numbers for the first time. In addition, a round table’s staff liaison can look up these statistics at any time.
    round table statistics
  3. Although we’ll be building a module for group-based repositories this fall, we know it can be a pain to download a bunch of attachments so in the interim, we installed the PCLZip module that lets you download all attachments as a single zip file. Much more convenient. Of course, if you don’t like zip files, you can still download each attachment separately.
    download all attachments at once
  4. You’ll now receive an email notification when someone friends you on the site. Sorry this took so long to implement.
    email notifications when someone friends you
  5. You can now attach files to comments. This should work on any type of content that offers commenting (posts, online docs, calendar events, polls, and discussions).
    attaching files to comments
  6. In July, we added the ability for you to “compare versions” of online documents so that you could see exactly which text had been revised. In August, we added a direct link to the revisions page in the email notifications so that you can quickly go straight to the page on the site to see what changed.
    direct link to revisions
  7. All of our working groups (committees, task forces, etc.) and dues-based groups (divisions, round tables, sections) have rosters that synchronize automatically with our member database, saving staff a ton of time. In the past, staff liaisons and member chairs were able to edit a working group’s properties and could change the status of the group from “closed” (synchronizing) to “open,” thinking anyone could now join the group. This caused some confusion, because users added to a roster only in Connect and not in our member database would lose that affiliation the next time they logged in. The database would tell Connect the person isn’t affiliated with the group, so Connect would remove them. This happened enough times that we’ve hidden this option from view for those working groups. Hopefully this will clear up the confusion.
    "membership requests" block when editing a group's properties
  8. We added some extra fields to the Opportunities Exchange that will allow our awesome Office for Human Resource Development & Recruitment staff to begin adding the thousands of opportunities available in the Financial Assistance for Library & Information Studies  (FALIS) Directory so that they’re searchable and shareable.
  9. We’re excited to announce that you can now view position titles on working group rosters. Now you can tell what each person’s role is in the group when there’s a specific title noted for them in our member database. This is especially helpful on something like the Website Advisory Committee roster, where each person represents a different constituency.
    position titles on working group rosters
  10. And saving big news for last to see if you read down this far, we’ve upgraded the chat module without any loss of archives. There’s no guarantee this new version will solve the problem a few users experienced getting kicked out of chats, but it worked well in testing and we’re hopeful it will resolve things.I’ll do a separate post about the upgrade in order to provide more details, but while we were working on the chat module, we also added a checkbox you can use to “pause autoscrolling” in case the conversation is going by too quickly for you to read. We did this primarily for accessibility purposes, but we think it can help everyone (as is so often true with accessibility improvements in general).

Whew! We’re constantly trying to improve the site, and we have a couple more things in this month’s pipeline, but let us know how these enhancements work (or don’t work) for you. And as always, additional suggestions are always welcome.

23 Jul 10 ITTS News Meeting – July 20, 2010

  1. New CMS vendor selection (Louise)

    Will email a survey link to the folks who attended to get detailed feedback
    Asked for feedback about the first vendor meeting on Monday
    Next vendor is scheduled to come in on Thursday
    Hope to make an announcement sometime after August 1 so the lawyers can start on the contract

  2. ALA Connect (Jenny)

    Recent enhancements to Connect include:
    – Rotating banners on the home page to help highlight all of the new features and changes
    – You can now compare versions of online docs to see what actually changed (the way you can on wikis or on new press releases). Just go to the “revisions” tab on an online doc, select which two versions you want to compare, and click on the “show diff” button.
    – In the email notifications for updates to online docs, we’ve added a line that links you directly to the revisions page so that you can immediately go see what’s changed.
    – Right now we’re working on implementing HTML formatting in email notifications in order to make them more legible. We know it’s difficult to read blocks of unformatted text, so we hope to make this easier.
    – In the last two weeks, three new versions of the chat module have been released, so we’re currently testing the latest one to see if we can go live with it to try to resolve the problems that some users encounter when using the chat function. We’ll report back on the testing soon but even if it’s successful, we believe the links to past chats will still be broken, so we’ll again have to give folks time to archive their chats before implementing the new version on the live site. More news on the blog as we have it.

    MemberFuse pilot restarting
    This is the project to test some software called MemberFuse to see if it’s a potential replacement for Drupal to run Connect. Although we got some good feedback from a handful of folks in late May and early June, things kind of died off as we got into Annual. We’re going to add a few more testers and restart the pilot so that it runs July 26 – August 15. If any staff person wants totry it out and give us feedback, please contact Jenny to get access.

  3. WEB report (Louise)

    Inventory project
    inventorying each unit’s pages and deleting unneccesary ones
    took three weekends to finish the inventory of each unit’s content
    only removed content that had already been removed from the website by someone in the unit, so no live pages should have disappeared
    we removed 20,000 pages, so we hope that will help with deploys since we’re not trying to publish thousands of removed pages anymore
    HTML Tidy project
    we had a version customized for us to remove font tags, inline formatting, and non-XHTML compliant code, as well as alert us to other accessibility issues
    we have to take files from the website, run them through HTML Tidy, and then return them to Collage
    we’ll be starting to run the program on unit’s files but will coordinate with each unit because we have to lock out authors during the run so that the files don’t change
    units will receive a before and after “snapshot” of the changes to show the differences
    it took Rebecca less than a minute to make most of the changes suggested for the Library’s pages

    question: what are the options for loading new CSS files in Collage for migrating tables?
    answer: we can figure out a way to add the necessary code, hopefully as a universal solution for everyone

    Louise showed the newish Online Learning section of the website since it’s gone live since our last meeting
    we’ll be adding Round Tables as contributors
    trying to get all units to use the templates for uniform display of information

    Louise also showed the revamped Conferences & Events section of the website
    work was done to condense the “calendar of events” area down to three: affiliates & chapters, American Libraries Magazine’s, and a new list of celebration/promotional weeks/days

  4. Moodle upgrade to 1.9.8 (Rob)

    happening on Wednesday, July 21, around 5:30pm
    the current content will be copied onto a brand new server using the latest version of Moodle may be down for up to 4 hours while the DNS propagates
    there don’t seem to be any interface changes, although there are a lot of new report options available for instructors; most folks shouldn’t notice any change at all.
    we’ve posted an announcement on the Moodle site for the last week and did a post on the ITTS blog last week

  5. Knowledge Management System (Sherri)

    ITTS has worked with the Library to add “expertise” and staff photos to the staff directory in the KM system
    Sheila is working on documentation for how staff can add information to both; it should be ready in mid-August
    all you need is a square image of yourself to add your picture
    Karen showed how to use the expertise directory to find who in the building is a notary public, just as an examlpe

  6. Dreamhost Application Migration (Tim)

    we’re migrating from a single, private server on Dreamhost to two new private servers on Dreamhost
    why now?
    because we have some intrusions on our current server that are serving up pharmaceutical ads
    this happened because we have a lot of blog and wiki software on Dreamhost that is very out-of-date
    going forward, we’ll be upgrading all blog and wiki software at once as soon as new versions become available
    the main issue will be that if you have a custom theme for your site (in other words, you’ve changed a default one in some way), you may have to re-install it after the upgrade
    unfortunately, whole domains will have to be moved at the same time (eg,,, etc.), so Rob will work with each unit to coordinate timing
    for content you don’t need anymore, ITTS can archive it on a DVD, although that will just be the data and not necessarily a way to easily view it; we’re investigating options for this.
    if you want to make a site an online archive, we can migrate it and make it uneditable so that it can’t be spammed
    we’ll also be increasing security, like requiring secure FTP, changing everyone’s passwords, and encouraging strong password use
    on the plus side, the new servers will run much faster and perform better

  7. Please submit your help requests through Track-It.

    The best description possible in the Track-It ticket helps us resolve your issues faster.

  8. Don’t forget to subscribe to updates from the blog!

07 Jul 10 New Feature on Connect: “Compare Versions”

We’ve released another new feature on ALA Connect, one that will look familiar to wiki users. One of the problems with using the online docs (as opposed to uploading a file) is that you couldn’t see what had actually changed from version to version. Now, you can.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Go to an online doc that’s been edited. (View the 2010 Annual ITTS Report to WAC for an example.)
  2. Click on the “Revisions” tab in the middle of the page.revisions tab on Connect online docs
  3. Click on the buttons for the two versions you want to compare. In this example, we’ll just compare the two most recent ones, but you can select any two from the list on the screen.
  4. Click on the “Show diff” button."show diff" button on Connect online docs that will compare versions
  5. The left-hand column will be the earlier version you selected, while the right-hand column will be the later one. Anything with a yellow background in bold, red text on the left-hand side should have a green background and some modified text in red on the right-hand side. You can easily scan to see what’s different by looking for these changes.version changes on an online doc in ALA Connect

This should apply retroactively to all online docs, as well as all new ones. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to keep track of what’s changed from draft to final in your online documents. Let us know how it goes.

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01 Jul 10 New Rosters in ALA Connect

Consider this confirmation that the rosters for committees in Connect did flip last night, so they look different today than they did yesterday. Anyone whose term ended on June 30, 2010, no longer has access to the posting tools or private content in that group in Connect. Anyone whose term starts today (July 1, 2010), does. This holds true for staff liaisons, as well as ALA members.

If you’re seeing problems with your rosters, it’s likely a problem in iMIS since all term dates come directly from there. We suggest checking rosters and dates there first. If you fix a problem in iMIS, it will get updated in Connect during the overnight sync. Alternatively, you can have the person in question log out of Connect and log back in to immediately trigger a new change.

If you go through all of this and are still experiencing problems with your Connect roster, please let us know.

15 Jun 10 ALA Connect Rosters

Just a quick note to reassure everyone that rosters in ALA Connect will flip old committee members off and new ones on the night of June 30, 2010. This is important to think about for several reasons.

  • You don’t have to make any manual changes in Connect in order for the transition to take place. Note, though, that the switch will only happen for committee members’ whose terms end on June 30 or begin on July 1.
  • The switch will make incoming chairs admins for the committee workspace in Connect.
  • Group members posting content from Annual to their Connect spaces will need to do so during their terms. In other words, if the person’s term ends at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, she’ll need to complete her work in the group before her term expires on July 1. Beginning July 1, she won’t have access to the “add” buttons in the Connect group to add content, and she won’t be able to read any “private” content posted for group members only.

Incoming chairs should read the [newly updated] Member Chair FAQ in the Help community on Connect. If you’re a staff liaison, please be sure to notify your groups about the roster change and point your new chairs to the FAQ.

Have further questions? Let us know!

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