17 Sep 08 Updated Timeline for ALA Connect

Now that we seem to have cleared the iMIS hurdle, we’ve adjusted our timeframe for next steps. Urban Insight is still working on the iMIS module so that we can grab user information (not just log you in), and then we need to import data such as committees, units, rosters, etc. into the system. Going through all 1500+ active committees was…interesting, but that’s a story for another blog post.

So there’s still a lot to do, and we’re still wrestling a bit with Drupal to make it more intuitive. Given our progress so far, we project that we’ll start alpha testing with the Website Advisory Committee the first week in October. We had several groups volunteer to beta test the site (seven, to be exact), so we hope to begin involving them before the end of October. If all goes well, we’re on track for a November soft launch.

Keep in mind that phase one is the collaborative, virtual workspace for ALA committees and an online sharing space for any communities you want to create. After we get the kinks worked out, we’ll start on phase two, which will include the professional networking pieces. That’s when things get really interesting in terms of helping you make connections with the other 65,000 members of ALA.

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28 Jul 08 Questions about ALA Connect

I was recently asked two questions about ALA’s upcoming Online Communities v2 service, now known as “ALA Connect.” I thought I’d answer them here in case others are wondering the same things.

Q1. Will the new version be for ALA members only, or will it also have public-access communities?
A. ALA Connect will not be members-only, although there will be sections that will be set up that way. There will be a basic, “registered users” login for non-members who want to comment on blog posts, participate in discussion forums, and contribute to public-access communities (e.g., a community for library advocacy). However, all of the networking, member search, online résumé, and other pieces that connect you specifically with other members will be available for members only. The different types of permissions are outlined in the Requirements Document available at (section 6, page 9). It will be up to a community’s administrators to decide how they want to configure access for their community.

Q2. Will Google search ALA Connect communities and show results?
A. Google the web search engine will be able to index publicly-accessible pages in ALA Connect (AC), but those communities that have set permissions to member-only will not be searchable outside of the AC search engine. ALA does run its own version of Google to search our website, but it won’t be able to search members-only areas of ALA Connect because of those permissions, either. ALA units probably want to take this information into account when deciding how to configure their communities.

We’re moving forward (full speed ahead), but we’re happy to take a break to help everyone understand where we’re heading, so please use the Contact Us form or leave a comment if you have further questions.

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08 May 08 Online Communities Update (with Documents!)

ALA Connect logo It’s been a while since I posted about our Online Communities project, mainly because we’ve been putting things in place and ramping up to get started. Unfortunately, the RFP process took a week longer than we’d planned, and then it took a month for the lawyers to hammer out the contract. Having lost five weeks from our original timeline, we’ve had to revise our schedule.

That said, we are thrilled to finally be speeding full steam ahead with Urban Insight, the company we’ve hired to create our new Communities service in Drupal. UI submitted a very thorough proposal for the project, and we can report that they’re doing a great job so far getting things moving. More importantly, they’ve been essential in the planning process, which has been a big help.

Things are ramping up now, as we have a dedicated server in place specifically for this project. We’ve also contracted with UserWorks to design the interface. You may recognize this name as the company ALA has been working with to redesign our website, so they’ve already got a head start understanding our needs.

So given the initial delay, we’ve had to revise our schedule. It’s no longer possible to have a live, fully-functional product for Annual in June. However, we will have a working demo of a sample committee using the Web Advisory Commitee as an example. Our plan now is to spend July and August implementing all of the features and start beta testing in September. If all goes well, we’ll have a live product in October for use leading up to the Midwinter Meeting.

We’ve been working hard to get to this point, and I think it shows in the Requirements Document & CMS Architecture . This planning document will guide us through the development of this phase of the project, and soon we’ll have a Technical Specifications document to share here as well.

I want to provide some context for you as you read these documents, though. Phase one (which we’re in) involves replacing and enhancing our existing Online Communities service that is designed to allow members to collaborate virtually. In the new version, there will be more tools and they will be a little more social, in that you’ll be able to find fellow members with similar interests, create special interest groups on the fly (including ones such as “librarians who love dogs and knitting and are going to Midwinter 2009”), explore the beginnings of a mentoring network, and more.

But it’s really phase two where we start implementing ways for you to find and connect with other members around professional interests, issues, advocacy, your job, the work of the Association, meeting up with friends & colleagues when you attend ALA conferences, and the like. Although we’ve referred to this as “ALA’s social network,” it’s probably more accurate to think of it as ALA’s professional network, an online version of what has traditionally taken place in the physical world. This isn’t going to be “ALA MySpace,” although there will be hooks into and out of some social sites such as (bookmarks), Facebook (connections), Flickr (pictures), and Twitter (micro-conversations).

I’ll be writing a lot more about this here in the coming months, but for now, I want to note that when you read these documents and see the new site, it will be branded “ALAconnect,” not “Online Communities,” because this is the foundation for the social network (phase two) and a possible CE clearinghouse (potentially phase three). The name “ALAconnect” will be the umbrella for this more interactive side of our website, so we’re implementing the branding now to avoid confusion later.

If you have questions about these documents (or anything else about this project), please leave them as comments here so that everyone can see the answers.

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