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ITTS Report to WAC, January 2013

Tags: 2013

1.0 ALA Web-Related

1.1 New Conference Registration & Housing Application

As you’re probably aware, we have new conference registration and housing vendors. Registration was supposed to open on January 7. We tested extensively and found flaws which precluded opening.  For example, we determined that the housing form was inaccessible, and that was when we learned that conference services made the decision to rollback their accessible version due to some browser display problems.

Conference Services agreed to delay the launch until January 14 so we could continue testing and develop a priority list for the vendors’ corrections. We had four staff members running copyedit, usability, interaction, and accessibility tests with various member types. ALA’s membership types and pricing options makes this a time consuming task.  Testing continued throughout the weekend preceding the launch. Feedback was provided to the registration vendor so the most critical issues could be addressed. Most of the accessibility remediation had to be delayed. We asked that messages about accessibility be added to the interface with phone numbers to call as a way to provide alternative access.

There was a problem on opening day affecting the Bundle registrants.  Over 600 new registrations and 3200 sleeping rooms got processed, generally without issues.  Exhibitors registered and booked housing without problems.  Over 600 Bundle registrants also booked housing, though not quite as smoothly. The Bundle registrants were invited to log in and select housing.  The housing vendor failed to pre-load the Bundle registrants, so they were unable to log in. That got sorted out by afternoon and things began to smooth out.  ALA Conference Services met with the housing staff on Tuesday morning to work through both process clean-up and the issue of appropriate apologies to the ALA members affected.   Additional information is going on the Annual Conference website; communications are being reworded for clarity.  We’re going back through emails, tweets, and public Facebook posts to be sure everybody’s concerns were addressed.

We’ll switch to the newer version when we open registration and housing for MW2014 – and the vendors have committed to make them accessible.

1.2 Midwinter/Annual Website Integration with Scheduler

Beginning with the 2013 Midwinter Meeting, ITTS has brought the Midwinter website in-house to the Connect installation and combined it with the conference scheduler so that all of the event’s information can be found (and permanently archived) in one place. We also redesigned the site’s information architecture to make it easier to use based on user comments. In addition, several ALA staff members across multiple units can now update the site anytime, which means the information available is more current and accurate.

This effort allowed us to open the Annual website with a preliminary list of programs drawn directly from the session data that will grow as more events are added leading up to the launch of the full scheduler in April. For future conference sites, we’ll be integrating more of the session data across the site and previewing recommendations to users who are logged in directly from the conference home page.

Eventually we plan to personalize the site further by also integrating your network (eg, show a list of your friends attending the conference on the home page as incentive to register, showing sessions where your friends are presenting, etc.).

1.3  ALA Connect Conference Scheduler Update

The Scheduler itself continues to receive great feedback, and beginning with the 2012 Annual Conference we began offering a mobile website and app (iOS and Android). Feedback on the mobile versions has been very positive, with users appreciating the new ability to see their existing schedules on their devices. For statistics and comparisons for usage of the Scheduler and mobile app, see the report posted at http://connect.ala.org/node/189961.

In 2013, we’ll be adding a feature that lets users rate sessions and leave evaluation comments on the record itself. At this time it’s unclear when we’ll be able to add offline access to user schedules and exhibitor lists, but it’s still in the plan for future implementation.

1.4 New Event Management System

An RFP for an Event Management system was developed to replace Conference Services’ abstract/ program submission and proposal system.  This centralized system will be used to gather, evaluate, and select programs, as well as handle the placing of sessions across the conference campus.   The system’s data will be integrated with the conference scheduler and will include room and resource data. The RFP was sent out at the end of August 2012. Several demonstrations from two vendors have taken place with key stakeholders.  We hope to have final pricing in January for review and to select a vendor in February 2013. The new system must be in place by August 2013. 

1.5  ALA Connect to Drupal 7

The biggest change for Connect since Annual has been the implementation of the redesigned interface in August. Feedback from users has been positive so far. Work still needs to be done to update help documents and write new ones.

We also attempted to bring the Connect installation in-house to ALA’s virtualized server network, but this work had to be postponed until more resources are available internally to work on the project. We’ll attempt to complete the move in 2013.

Since August, we’ve spent the rest of our Connect resources upgrading the site from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 when not working on the conference websites and schedulers. This turned out to be such a large undertaking that it has taken much longer than originally anticipated. Connect requires more than 70 Drupal modules, all of which had to be evaluated as Drupal 7 versions, tested for changes, upgraded, tweaked, and in some cases replaced or re-written.

The migration work is essentially complete, but rather than launch right before Midwinter when usage of the site spikes, we’ve decided to push back the go-live date to mid-February.

Although Connect won’t look different in Drupal 7, there are a couple of improvements we’ve been working on to make it easier to use. The first is an upgrade to a new version of the chat module, which makes individual chats their own nodes. This will allow groups to categorize chats and make them appear on group home pages (so it will be easy to find a chat happening right now). We’re also re-working how email notifications are formatted so that they’ll be easier to read.

Once the Merged Profile project is done, we’ll be moving Connect to Shibboleth for single sign-on with the ALA website, moving profiles out of Connect to a separate ala.org domain, and implementing federated search with the ALA website using Apache Solr.

1.6 Merged Profile Implementation

We are working on a project that will make it possible to merge the profiles from ALA Connect and the member profiles available on ala.org into one profile, available for editing from either location, and using Shibboleth for single sign-on. The wireframes for the edit and display versions of the profile have been designed, and the new fields required have been installed in iMIS, our association database. Eventually much of the profile data currently stored in ALA Connect will be shifted to iMIS. The product we are configuring for profile display and editing is produced by Computer System Innovations. We expect to launch the new profile system before Annual.

1.7 Plan & Implement Solr Integration

The first phase of the Solr integration involves making it possible for members and non-members to search the new merged profiles, which are the online Member Directory. Search and display options for non-members will be far more restricted than for members.

1.8 Shibboleth Update for Cadmium

We will be working with Cadmium on single sign-on with Shibboleth.  Cadmium will be recording conference programs and making them available for a fee to members and the public.

1.9 Blogs & Wikis

There were some isolated incidents of blog hacking. They were resolved quickly. In one instance, the resolution required wiping all plugins and themes.

Blogs were upgraded to WordPress version 3.5.

There was one critical incident involving four wikis. Spammers had taken them over and placed over 200 GB total worth of spam. Dreamhost threatened to take the sites offline. The wikis had to be rolled back to a backup copy.

Wikis were upgraded to MediaWiki version 1.19.2.

1.10 CMS Migration Project & Review of Recent Improvements

We successfully migrated the homepage on June 12, 2012. The migration of all content from Serena Collage to Drupal 7 is complete.

We have not yet rolled out the calendar (event content type) options to eligible staff, but expect to take care of that before Annual.

We also have not yet shifted the press release processing and publication from the americanlibrariesmagazine.org site to the ALA News & Press Center at ala.org/news. That change will occur when the Drupal 7 version of americanlibrariesmagazine.org launches. We have copied several years of press releases from the Drupal 6 americanlibrariesmagazine.org to ala.org/news in preparation for this change.

Recent site improvements include the ability to remove the left navigation, double up the horizontal top navigation, and install larger slides in the slide show. It’s also possible for Round Tables to theme their sites with a custom banner and color scheme. To make feature requests, or to have available features enabled on your microsite, have your staff liaison fill out the request form described in 2.3, below.

1.11 American Libraries Magazine

We have been working with our consultants to migrate American Libraries Magazine’s content to a Drupal 7 version of the site. ITTS has been handling as much of the project as possible, consolidating content types, moving some content manually and other content by export using the Feeds module, and this month we’ll be building views. We hope to have the site available for the ALM staff in March.


2.0 Working with Stakeholder Groups

2.1 Web Working Group Accomplishments

The Web Working Group has been working on plans for a homepage redesign.  Activities have included a review and analysis of the homepage content and layout of other association sites, and a content analysis and prioritization of ALA resources. The next step is a wireframe of the proposed design, incorporating insights from the homepage usability tests that took place this fall. We will be asking WAC to provide feedback on the proposed plan.

Recent brown bag lunch sessions included one on Google Analytics and another on Informz email software. You can follow the group’s work at http://connect.ala.org/wwg.

2.2 ALA staff Social Media Working Group

The SMWG continues to hold brown bag lunches for staff to highlight new sites and services. This fall, the group helped Conference Services implement Pinterest boards for ALA conferences, made several recommendations to the Web Working Group regarding ala.org (to implement Facebook Open Graph Metadata fields, replace the ReadWriteConnect wiki, and add more social media icons), and helped acquire a Mac for ALA staff to use to edit video for posting online. You can follow the group’s work at http://connect.ala.org/smwg

2.3 New Feature Request Form

The protocol for staff to use to make requests for new features or other changes to ala.org is to fill out the form at http://www.ala.org/support/res/webrequest. The form is set for staff access only, so have your staff liaison fill it out for your group. There’s a list of modules already available on the site, and an explanation of the terms in use and any lead times required. It’s likely that new module requests will require a chargeline, since modules must be installed and tested on the dev site before they can be approved for use on ala.org. Requests will be reviewed for appropriateness and functionality. (Note that just because a module works on a simpler site somewhere else, doesn’t mean it will seamlessly integrate on the ala.org installation.)


3.0 Infrastructure & System Upgrades 

3.1 Exchange Upgrade

ALA’s email server will be upgraded from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010 in February 2013.  This version will improve remote access and provides better support for other browsers.

3.2 Virtualization

In our internal zone, we’ve continued to virtualize significant portions of our infrastructure, including Joblist, Knowledge Management, and several Microsoft SQL database servers.  

During the upcoming months, we expect to further virtualize our iMIS system, Sympa List Server, and the rest of our databases.

3.3  Infrastructure Upgrades

We have finished deploying all of the new hardware. We have added off-site monitoring of certain critical web pages on Monitor.us, activated environmental monitoring of server room and fiber POP room, begun moving files by unit to a larger virtual file system, established a virtual web hosting platform onsite to begin migrating off of DreamHost, continued enhancements to backup-to-disk service for on-site short-term backups, and begun initial planning of infrastructure upgrades and enhancements to support eventual Windows 7 deployments.

3.4 Sympa Upgrade

The Sympa upgrade project has been on hold pending the completion of the Drupal migration. Current plans are to use a purpose-built VMware appliance to host the next version.

3.5 Moodle Courseware Software

Moodle has been stable, except for times when the hosting platform has been down at Dreamhost. ITTS is currently investigating dedicated outside hosting for Moodle since it is revenue generation.

3.6 Dreamhost

Dreamhost has continued to suffer outages. Plans are in motion to migrate away from them completely.

3.7 App Development

ITTS recently took on the role of maintaining the Apple developer account. We have been working with Ora Interactive to bring the new version of the YALSA software to release. The final version was uploaded and is in the process of being approved by Apple.

ITTS is also now coordinating the ALA Google Play account for Android app submissions.

3.8 Virtual Meeting Software

We contracted with Adobe Connect for meeting rooms this August, and copied all iLinc recordings requested by staff into Adobe Connect. We configured Adobe Connect for use by ALA staff and rolled out preliminary training.

3.9 ITTS Staffing

Our new e-Learning Specialist, Pam Akins joined us in September. Pam is working on documenting Drupal, including the Awards & Grants database implementation. She has also been working toward streamlining elements of the ALA staff onboarding process and updating the new http://www.ala.org/support site.


4.0 2013 Upcoming Projects

4.1 Ecommerce System Implementation

We reviewed the RFPs and developed a shortlist. The project has not yet been awarded.

4.2 Committee Appointment System

An RFP to replace our committee appointment application system for the ALA website was developed and released over the summer.  Proposals were reviewed in late October and early November. After reviewing the proposals, we decided to revamp our current system.  We expect work to begin sometime after Midwinter 2013. This system will include an improved interface on the website, a more consistent look across those units using the volunteer form, and improved navigation through the form.  We are also improving the administrative interface for staff.  The system collects and manages member committee appointment information in our iMIS 15 association management system database, and displays some of the information online.

4.3 New Financial System

Additional units were brought live in the SharePoint application to process expense authorizations and check requests. More advanced reporting was developed and is now available to our units.  Funding for a budgeting system using Prophix has been included in the fiscal 2014 budget.

4.4 Upcoming Division/Office Projects that Impact ITTS

Both YALSA and PLA have significant web projects in the works.  We may also be involved in assisting with the Leadership Initiative.

Please let us know if you have questions about any of these items.