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FinalSite -website upgrade notes

Meeting on 8/22 with vendor – shannon and mike

Meeting was to cover contract specifics, clarify what we needed.  We discussed the migration of some of the content.  We want out content editors, that is people with editing privilege in current system, to take ownership of their content.  We want them to be responsible to move *some of their content.  I know, that is a reach for black and white in a grey nebulous situation.   The content in the current system that could be migrated is old, some of it very old.  We assume a position of “if its on the site it moves over”, another reach for black and white in a grey area.   Perhaps we, shannon, will issue an edict for example like this “during the month of November is opportunity for you to *freshen up your content on the website.  As you know we are changing to FinalSite and will be moving content to the new site… bla bla bla”.  We are paying the vendor $20 a page for the first 400 pages, then $10 a page after that.  That deals is like banks and interest – steepest up front, so they get their money first.  Anyway, we estimate about 1200 live html pages between our 11 sites that being updated.  I am guessing after the *freshening up, we will have between 800 – 1000 pages to migrate.  Some of the pages will be migrated by Edutech staff, as maybe 400 of the pages belong to their site, edutech.org.    Migrate = Move.  That process will look like create new page in FinalSite site, copy content from existing schoolworld site, paste into new FinalSite page.

We discusses the main three build options, theme, theme + and theme + advanced.  In a nutshell, the theme option means they build our site using an existing theme just the way it is, no changes to the theme.  That option seemed a bit restrictive.  Theme + allows us to make a couple (2?) changes to a theme – with the added provision that it, the *custom theme, will become part of their avail. templates for future customers.  clever – they get us to pay them to build themes for their future customers…..

Training.  Finalsite has good training content, including *live webinars that they like to advertise as their best options.  My colleague Shannon wants 2 training dates, where they come on site for a good old traditional classroom training.  We pay the trainer $3000 plus travel expenses.  We, WFLBOCES, not Edutech, may want someone from our staff development ranks to become the staff trainer for any future needs.  I am extrapolating here, my other colleague Mike said “I would be happy to do 1 on 1 type training”.  It is my opinion, that I did state to him and Shannon, that training would be handled by Staff Development, probably.  More to follow….

We also discussed the concept of a Portal, which is the Vendors *private facing area.  He actually called it a site, but I think its a space on the same site, but whatever.  The Portal is a space where we would host our intranet – where staff could authenticate to access.  Our current Intranet is used robustly by a few, lots of documents, AR’s – policy – job postings internal – things like that.  Most of our site is and will continue to be *public facing, but the Portal will require a level of authentication.   Additionally, the portal can have groups or group spaces which include collaborative apps like, forums, blogs.  Our vendor described it this way

You can have a portal without using Group Spaces.  So a portal is just a private site, by role, that allows those people to get access to content, information, documents that you don’t want the general public to access or, alternatively to make things easier for your stakeholders by serving up content for their role rather than having it in various places on the public facing site.  Group Spaces makes this experience richer by including collaboration tools.  Without it a teacher would log into the portal and see information on professional development, job openings, employee news, documents etc but with it they could also collaborate on specific projects, committees, tasks, or special groups.

How would they collaborate?  in the private space – they could take surveys, use forums, , post or comment on a blog  or even contribute to a wiki– standard types of asynchronous stuff – may even use a synchronous tool, like a chat – that’s me extrapolating again.

The vendor provided an updated proposal after the meeting that specified this and a bit more for the following first year cost

  • Site build – theme + – 20000
  • on site training (2 days) 3000
  • content migration 600 pages – 10000
  • total first year 33,000
  • Annual fees of 20000, second year and beyond

Meeting on 8/17/16 – shannon, mike and james.

Content – we will not be paying the vendor 10 per page to move content.  We will do that.  We, edutech, says to shannon, public relations – that we will ensure content is moved, not by the vendor – that makes little sense, but by us – and by us, I mean Mike and I and the content editors who’s content it is to begin with.  my customer shannon says “we told them we would migrate their content – they will not and or are not able to do that themselves” – fine, a point taken.  But, we also know that a key component of learning the new system is using it, sooner than later.  Content editors could/should be involved in that process.  Mike said “ok, they don’t have to move the content, but we want them to, we encourage them to be involved, but they don’t have to”.

Two good perspectives and points.  Also, when we move to a new website vendor, its a change for all 10 of our *schools to put things out to the curb.  Take our the trash – put things in boxes for removal.  Its a prime opportunity to *freshen content, and by freshen, we mean get ride of.

 Especially since there is not a concept of a sweeping simultaneous process moving 1200 html pages from sites A – J to site K., instead, it is an iterative process of creating a page in the new site and copying content (text-images – links) from the old site.

It really does not make a lot of sense for the vendor to do this – since A) its expensive and B) we miss out on the *freshening up opportunity.

The vendor will work with us to set up the site, its infrastructure AKA sitemap – creating the skeleton for the site, but we will create and populate most of the pages on the new site.  We will iterate through the process of create new page in the site, copy content (text and images) from old page into new one.

Training – while we see lots of good training options spelled out in the 25 page a new website a-z, provided by FS, it does not include traditional classroom training.  My customer shannon *knows that some people, content editors we call them, will need hand holding and traditional classroom training.  We, Mike and I balked and said stuff like “its all right here, avail on line whenever people want it, we could even to a live training webinar”…but, shannon makes a point.  If our customers, lets say we have 40 content editors, want traditional classroom training, then we should provide that.  Maybe even a couple times.  We will pay the vendor to come here and do a traditional session, a couple times – then, we will suppliment that traditional training with what FS provides.  The bottom line here is we do what we can to empower our content managers.  We want them to take ownership of their content – whatever we need to do to facilitate that, we do.

Got it?  Get it? Good.😉

First thoughts: 8/14/16

We are using FinalSite as our new web site CMS.  We currently have 10 different websites that will be mashed together into one.  Probably not actually mashed, but something like that.  These are my thoughts as as look through the 25 page deployment file that FS sent us.

The document is intended to serve as a general guide to help through the phases to deploy new FS website.  Boiled up over 1o years.

Pick a client side lead – someone on our side to be focal point of communication – coordinate collection of assets, content materials from members of our team – be responsible for delivering materials to FS in timeline set up, replay communications as needed.

We will be paired up with a deployment team.  Team consist of Project manager, Web designer front end web developer.  PM reviews project scope, budget, SOW.  PM will call weekly meetings.  Our FS software will be enables and modules activated.  PM creates project in Mavenlink software.

Kick off – client project lead and others on our side  (stakeholders)join the kick off call.  Initial kick off review

contract deliverables – SOW, modules purchased, data imports.  main phases dis. Discovery, Design, production, training – review timeline – milestones, mavenlink overview, project site – messages, uploading files, launch date goal, establish weekly meeting time, status reports, assign first tasks to get things started.  Project space is where this happens.

Discovery phase  – FS discovers what we need – we provide a sitemap – , we complete a marketing and design survey  and provide graphic assets, branding guidelines, logos and photography.  the draft sitemap – provides outline for the navigation structure – PM will review and provide feedback.  This will require a sign off, once agree upon, as it effects the rest of the navigation (anchors the creative theme).  PM can assist with questions about how do organize site content.  Consider now making things more succinct.  If we have sections with lots of lengthy pages – consider making this more succinct.   We will sign off on that top level navigation.  I think we will have a lot of flex.  within that top level navigation – but that does impact the design of the site.

We will provide feedback to the project designer by completing a survey that help provide design direction.  What is our message – what do we do, offer, what makes us unique, things like that.  We also gather and share our graphic assets – logos, colors, brand guidelines, fonts, photos of our business – at least 10 – 15, slogans like “making success possible: or “students are the heart and sole of what we do”.  We also come up with our DNSing, like wflboces.org and wflboces.org/wtccc …. and so on for each of the tech and ed centers.

 

 

 

 

 

Google taking over the world

Lets start at the beginning. Remember 2000?  When google first appeared on the scene as a search engine?  Yes, they were quickly the favorite search engine on the internet.  Their clean interface, fast and thorough result set , set them apart from competitors.

Then, gmail.  Email is very popular, still.  Gmail has been dominating the free email sphere for many years too.  I’ll guess 2005.  Gmail bested it competitors Hotmail, yahoo, juno etc.

How about Chrome anyone?  A web browser.  Surely Google was not going to miss out on that.  Chrome now holds what percent of browser market?  Chrome appeared in 2008.  look at the interesting annual percentages by browser.  Notice Chromes growth month after month, while others shrink.

Flash a couple more years ahead and Google Drive appeared on the scene.  People wanted to save their digital things somewhere other than a hard drive, thumb drive, flash drive, you name it.  They wanted somewhere else.  The cloud!  Google provides free storage space on one of their many servers.  Free!  Just need to have a Gmail account, see whats going on here?  If you have a lot to store, then you start paying for it after a limit, but that is a digression.  I support moodle sites and have seen how popular Google Drive has become with high school students.  I have configured four different moodle sites (moodle is a popular open source ((free)) LMS, allowing them to connect/integrate with Drive.  Users on the moodle site can access files in the Drive space, download to a moodle assignment, for example.  But, another digression.

Google Maps anyone?  Yea, we know how good they are, very!

Google Docs – productivity software – yes, very popular.  Google is so much like Microsoft back in the day, whenever a niche developed and companies developed software for it, they would soon develop something to compete with or purchase it, if they could not product equivalent piece.

Google slides, what? I know, I just discovered this today.  I am putting information together for a talk tomorrow, and wanted to put in powerpoint type format.  I went to Google Docs, looked around a little and found….drumroll, ……… slides

Now, how about Google classroom.  A *free LMS for teachers, students, schools.  A place to set up shop for classes.  A place to execute on line courses.  At the very least a place to add files and other digital assets.  Some of my customers are talking about classroom now.  I figure I should dig in a little, so I can at least sound knowledgeable when the topic of classroom comes up.  It is worth mentioning too that Schoology has been getting some discussion too.  Schoology is a LMS, sort of free – at least some of its capacity.  I assume classroom is the same way, get started for free.  Get things set and going for free.  If you really get going, then additional stuff that you will likely use is not free, or to keep the space and things you have been using, would no longer be free after a certain amount of time.  That is another digression.

The remainder of this post is to learn concepts about Google Classroom.

Wait, how about Google for Education.  That’s the one that is interesting.  Since I work in education.   Their tag line?  “empower your educators to transform learning”….gee, I never heard that before (dripping sarcasm).  I’m sure the tools are well developed, I just don’t think Google should go into every business like they do.  Is there a Google Finance? Google Money?  How about Google Faith or Google Government?  How about Google for president?  In this election cycle (2016) – Hillary and Trump, Google president makes a little sense.  Seriously, how about Google Cooking?  Google Security?  Im sure the is Google Fun or Google Entertainment.

There is an IT section for the Google Classrooms too.  That is a little telling about the complexity of the software.  Which is probably exclusively in the cloud, meaning there is not an option to set up software on local servers, like has been the norm for years.  Now the services that you can use/buy are cloud based.  But, there is IT training and need.  More specifically, there is training for Google Apps – which are probably the building blocks for the Google Classroom concept.  And of course there is a certification – to show how amazing you are in your knowledge of their application – we call that a revenue stream.  In a lot of way, nothing new here.  Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Novell and many other large software systems have provided the same type of training, certification etc….

Google Apps for Google classroom.  Also a lot like Moodle or Blackboard Wires or SchoolWorld or FinalSite academy.  These vendors also model the concept of Apps.  Little pieces of functionality that can be used in a space on a website.  Organized behind a group.  A common way to allow a subset of users access to something, a space or app, on your website.

50 millon users of Google Apps for Education.  Impressive number.  I’m sure a couple of those apps are Drive and Gmail.  how about this tag line “a solution build for teachers and students – big or small google provides tools to engage students anytime, anywhere, any device.”  that’s a grand statement, one that we as internet consumers have been moving toward for years.  A promise made years ago by many vendors – anything, anywhere and anytime.

so far thats

  • Google search engine
  • Google Gmail
  • Google Chrome
  • Google Docs
  • Google Drive
  • Google maps
  • Google classroom

Ok, I found the jackpot in terms of a holistic view of Google apps by category.

Did I mention Blogger, a blog that I have used for years in my job supporting Moodle, PHP, MySQL and Apache – is owned by Google… I did not know that….and Google hangout, which we did a few times last summer with my daughter when she was traveling.

It never ends, Google and their net worth and influence.  Another tagline from Google

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Seems they are well on their way.  I am going to change that last statement a little, ready?

Google’s mission is do dominate and control the world and its inhabitants, what they see and how they do things.

Ok, to my final point.  These are the educational apps that are *free and avail. to help educators…..

google apps for education

 

 

 

 

RSS – Feeds – Readers and software

Software wants to connect to things.  People who write things want others to see them, people want things delivered to them.  People no longer want to have to go and get things, they want them delivered.  These are just a few high level concepts.  If I have to explain to people about feeds and RSS and feed readers, then I need to be very conversant in them.

One of my fav. political sites, Real Clear Politics is a reader, an aggregator – a collector of feeds from many places.  I go there to see all the different news items that have been pushed to RCP by feeds that RCP choose.  I can go to RCS and consume my news.  One place.

RSS: Making Information Come to You: Popular Feeds

My son likes Reddit – its the same thing.  An aggregator, a reader a “feed reader”.  It, Reddit, subscribes to lots of feeds and present a neat interface to all that data that is being pushed to it by feeds.  That is the evolution of a feed reader.  How it presents its feed data to the consumer.  Maybe 10 years ago when RSS technology was new – it was enough just to aggregate or collect data from lots of sources in one place.  Show the data as links or a list.  Fine.  But now, its not nearly enough.  People have come to expect data to be organized in clever meaningful ways, to control what they see and how they see it.

I think Facebook is one big fat aggrigator.  It displays information that is being pushed to it all the time by your friends.  Your friends are your feeds.  When you friend them, they become a feed that pushes notifications to you and vice versa.  But, I digress.

This conversation started when someone asked me, why are there sometimes the orange symbols on web pages.  Specifically, in a CMS that we are considering upgrading to.  They said, “why do some pages have the icons and others not?”.  I explained that some of the pages contain things like a blog or a forum or a list and they, the blog, forum or list app in the software, WANT to CONNECT to things.  They want to push their information out to other software.  They are feeds.  When you see one on a page – you have the option to *follow it by subscribing to it.  If you follow it, then you get to tell it where you want its notifications to come to.  In other words, if you choose to follow a feed, it needs to know where to report the feed information to.  That is called a reader or aggrigator.  The CMS we are considering, SS SchoolWires has a concept of a *dashboard where feeds can be streamed.  This supports the idea of a *data driven dashboard where all the information that you want comes to.  Get it?  If you want to get notified when the boss enters a new blog entry or someone reply’s to a conversation you are in on a forum or someone puts a big on an item you have on the intranet – well, you can push all those *notifications to one place – your data dashboard.

A few years ago, I subscribed to a few different feeds, mainly because I wanted to experiment with different readers as much as I actually cared about the information being reported – but, alas, that tool got a little stale.  I did not keep up with checking my readers.  I guess then I would be a good candidate for a single stop reader.  Think about the home page of say Yahoo or other social media programs – they all have this idea of a *one stop shopping for all your news needs.

Check out the information about popular Feed Readers (aggregators) from wikipedia.

I used to use Mozilla Firefox, alot, and I set up a few feeds in it, like one to Ravi Zacharias Internation ministries.  I have a menu option where the items pushed by the RZM feed appear.

Figuring out what feeds are worth following is a HUGE task.  There are so many feeds available and your own interest will change over time.  Start small – pic a few – then actually go to your reader and consume them.  Be faithful about doing this.  Over time, you will realize that feed x blows and feed y is really good.  Or vice versa.  Give yourself time to consider them.  Find a couple topics that you are interested in , find out who creates good news, information around that, and subscribe to their feed.  Simply go to their website, find the feed icon, click on it and choose the reader you use.  Its not always that simple, but if you have the idea down, you can work through the minutia of subscribing to a feed – its a lot easier than it used to be!

Here are a couple perspectives on finding *good sites to subscribe to.

A good way to measure this is to look at what the popular feed readers report about popular feeds.  Like bloglines, for example – there list of popular feeds is more relevant than Joe Blows list of feeds, you dig?

This is a good topical arrangement of popular feeds – with a global twist.

 

Which to choose – software analysis

We are, have been considering software upgrades for our main CMS – content management system.  This kind of software is full featured, complex.  The software we have been using for about 10 years – yes, that is a long time, SchoolWorld, is getting shut down, end of life order.  I get it, the same thing happened with our product, that I was a developer on, DataMentor.

We are looking at two platforms.  A small of team of us evaluated options and recommended two.  SchoolWires and Finalsite.   Two similar products that serve similar audiences.  One may favor k-12, the other community colleges.

Each platform has its strengths.  Each includes little apps or programs that allow you to build a web site how you want.  Common apps include, content, forums, blogs, director listing, media rotators, file cabinets etc.

Each platform has the concept of a shared space.  Where only some people can access it.  In the shared space is a sense of collaboration, or so people hope.  You try to build software so its useable, friendly.  In the context of a web site and people using or owning parts of its content – would be content managers.  They are the real rock stars of a web site.  Not the technology, but the person, people who contribute to it.

My customer has a sense of a shared space.  Where groups like school principles or the PTA, or Gifted students or Budget Counsil.  I guess practically any group you can think of.  To be fair, there are many other types of software that want to do the same thing.  That do a good job of doing that.  think social media.  But, my customers, they want to keep the information behind a password or a log in.

Picture this then;

people are in a group – a group has a space – a space behind a password or login.

I then try to help people see how that space and how it could look (prototype – proof of concept).  I did this on one of the platforms.  I modeled a space, behind a login, and added things like, forums, content, images, blogs, file resources, agendas, discussions (forums), a survey, a podcast, a media rotator and a  email link, that allows a user in the group to initiate a group wide email (push).  We have to think social media too.  Our space may also have a social media integration, or presence.  Think “follow us on Twitter“.  Or “Like our Facebook page

There is the concept of pushing a communication to the group – via email.  For that, I built a link with simple instructions to use the web email and use the group name there.  The group name would contain the email of the participants.  This is not real technological, but it works, its understandable.   On this group wide communication, think – “when I update information in the group – the group needs to get an email sent to them”.  I believe that is what they (group admin) wants.

Information in a group changes – initiate group wide communication (email push).

I need to think about my customers, what do they want?  How can I help them see what they want?  They see it more clearly when I model something.  It sparks the creative bone in them.  Show them!  Which is what I am doing.  Model for them a concept of what they asked for.  I did.  Wait on them to look at, play with it a little, give a little feedback.  I will make a couple more changes, until the idea is clear in their head.  That is how it should/could work.  Remember when you were a developer, much of your success came from this type of modeling of concept for the customer!

CMS’s like BB SchoolWires and FinalSite academy have lots of little apps.  that can be used on pages that can be built.  pages can be organized in many ways on the site.  Sites can have themes, they can render according to the device that you are holding – think laptop, notebook, phone.  Pages can belong to groups.  Groups can contain people, accounts.  Some accounts in the groups could have more permissions than others.  The little apps that you could use on your pages in your space ‘;) are

Content, media, video, blogs, gallarys, file cabinets, directory listing, chat, (think commercial web sites or banks – love those live chat options, podcasts, media rotators.

 

 

Software, upgrades, politics and listening

We have been working on a web site upgrade evaluation for a few months.  Recently I had the big cheese and another little big cheese show up in my office to discuss a couple things.

Listen – listen to what is being asked for.  Talk about it, with them, with yourself and with your colleges.  You cannot over talk some of this stuff – since the talking should lead to enlightenment or understanding.

Rather than push some opinion about what could be done, listen, listen critically, understand what they are trying to express.

Specifically – I heard these things

our list-server – push email solution is not the best for sharing information.  Rather, we would like a space on the new web site where we could put things, like files, discussions.  Rather than a discussion in the email list serve – with file attachments, we should have a space on the website where the people we want (people on the current list serve) could come into to and engage the content there.  We would need a forum type activity – that would promote discussion among the group.  The space would be password protected, in addition to hiding behind authentication requirement.   When content in the space updated, we would want to push out an email to them, like the list-serve – inviting them into the space for discussion or whatever.  The concept of a push notification is still important, but only as a means to bring them into the website space.  Even include a link in the email to the space.

How then can we add a discussion type activity to a space, where we also can upload files and video links etc.

There is currently a shared space on the existing site – hiding behind a password, but there is no forum or other other medium for discussion.

I also heard one of the chiefs say “we want a consistent use of software – or a familiarity.”  They would like a common piece of software to use to improve collaboration.  Some of our other customers are already using software a, so software a looks better in our comparison to software b.  Software b is good, strong, but unfamiliar.  That is software b’s disadvantage.  It is unfamiliar.  When big cheese  says “some of my districts already use it”, that is a big fat influence to the decision to use software a or b.

Before concluding, let me try to brain dump what I heard from both big cheeses.

a shared space for collaboration

the list server is not efficient

is there additional cost if we need to create accounts in the software to allow authentication into shared space? – no was the answer – we have unlimited account creation options.

We want to use a common piece of software.

Moodle is a LMS, BB Wires, Finalsite would be CMS’s. ( leaning -vs- content management systems).  Moodle could be the best tool for creating a shared space that included a discussion forum, files, videos etc.

An email group would still be used to notify people when something has changed in the group.   A push to a group called say – big_cheeses.

School notification systems

We are a school.  Actually, a BOCES – who supports schools.  One of the many things we do is provide insights into software.  Consider solutions, contrast benefits, tradoffs. etc.

A notification system is a big deal to us at BOCES.  We have lots of communication that we have to do.  Our web site software has a native notification module as part of its core.  But, it does not do the things that are requested of it.  This is not an uncommon scenario.  Software doing some of what you would like, but not everything you would like, or at least not as well as you would like.  Maybe the issue is with how it communicates.  Want a message across the front of your website?  Want a push notification to your phone?  Want a notification send to the local media outlets?  How about a Facebook post or a tweet?  How about to an email list?  How about someone calling your phone?

Part of the recent conversation about our website upgrade was around this.  Does SchoolWires by Blackboard have a notification module?  Does it do this or that?  How about FinalSite?  How does their software solution handle notifications?  What if you want to notify parents or the community?  Or even the students that their lunch money account is low?  Lots of needs, lots of scenarios.

Some of our districts use SchoolMessenger.  This is from their website

“When it comes to school notification systems, reliability, ease of use, and security are the most important considerations. That’s why leading districts from coast to coast rely on the SchoolMessenger Communicate service for notification. Discover what sets our system apart today.”

I think the website solution we are upgrading to has a pretty good Notification feature.  It does not come with the core application, but rather is available as an additional module.  This makes sense too, as software gets bigger, trying to do more things, it starts to get a little bloated from a space and memory requirement.  Not everything should be included in the software, so things should be available as plugins or additions.

We shall see.  School Messenger, Blackboard notifications, or some other 3rd party vendor will offer their respective solution.

Correct process or update data?

Deal with the problem or react to the symptoms.  Logic dictates correcting the problem, not the symptoms.   All other factors equal, correct the problem.  Except…

When dealing with old legacy Access DB, with lots of VBA and old code.  That code may have been correct years ago, but the process changes.  When the process changes, and not the code – then issues start to seep into the code.

This is the process we follow for most issues that arise.

  1. I would clarify the problem,
  2. investigate the code
  3. test a correction
  4. verify with my customer.  She would test and verify.

Or

in this particular case.  I can step back, allow here to use the system, create her bookings and then run an update query on the data.  Is this lazy?  Sort of.  Is this smart?  Sort of.

I do not really want to make big changes to this part of the application.  This is the part that writes data to a table using VBA.  I have not every changed this particular code in the app.  The code works, sort of.  The problem could be the process my customer is using.  She may be doing something out of sequence.  Maybe she is supposed to do something in a different order?  I don’t really want to get into this.  It is not hard for me to react and update the order data using a query.

Rather than changing the system, change the data resulting in the system.This is faulty, but does make some sense.

When my customer says ”

Hope all is well!! I’m having trouble with the Estec code.  When I go to the main menu to kits, I’ve increased the costs for next year. When I “transfer” the costs to next year, it doesn’t seem to do it. “

Open the DB

Open the kits table – so you can view the cost field and kit id. (hide other columns)

Open the booking table – so you can see kit id and booking cost (hid other columns)

Create a simple update statement using the cost field from the kits table to update the booking records in the booking table

update tbl_bookings

set booking_cost = (xxx)

where kidid = xx and yearid = xx

 

Maybe I should look at the code executed on the button clicked …..

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