24 May 10 MemberFuse Pilot

A few months ago, we came across some software that does some of what ALA Connect does but also offers additional features that we plan to add (such as member matching, 2-way iMIS synchronization, expanded profiles, etc.). Conversely, it’s also lacking a few things we have now in Drupal (polls, chat, sub-networks beyond just “friends,” etc.).

It’s intriguing enough that we think it’s worth pursuing a test, so we’re working with a company called NFI Studios to run a beta pilot of their MemberFuse software to see how it compares to the current version of Connect and if it’s a viable alternative to run the site. It may resolve some of the issues users have had with Connect, or it may not, but we’ll give it a trial to see.

 The test is underway with three specific groups of members who have given us the most feedback about Connect, helping us improve it along the way – the ALA Board, the ACRL Executive Committee, and the Website Advisory Committee. This gives us approximately 50 testers with a wide range of technical skills and comfort with online environments. Each group in the test has announcements, discussions, files, live docs (online docs), and a calendar available for testing. Eventually, NFI will add polls and chat rooms in order to replicate the full functionality currently offered in Connect, as both of these features were already on their roadmap for implementation later this year.

The pilot will last through the end of June, at which point we’ll send the testers an evaluation survey to solicit their feedback in comparison to the current, Drupal-based version of Connect. If possible, we’ll also try to test the (very basic) event planner/conference scheduler NFI offers to see if it’s something we can build on. We’ll release the survey results here in July.

I want to stress that no decisions have been made at this point. Connect turned one-year old last month, so we’re naturally taking stock and reviewing the landscape. We definitely consider Connect to be a success (read the one-year report to learn why), we’re constantly improving the site, and we have big plans to add more services and make it even better.

We’re also inviting any ALA staff who’d like to test the software to join the pilot. If you at least an hour to devote to testing MemberFuse and are willing to provide feedback on the survey, please contact Jenny Levine to request access.

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