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FinalSite prep

I went to a 2 full day workshop last week with our new software Finalsite.  This system is replacing a 10 year old website on Blackboard schoolworld.  Incidently, BB announced
EOF for schoolword effective 1/1/18.

Finalsite – CMS, LMS – web site software.  The prep workshop featured 60 minute presentations on difference managers (pieces of the software).  They showed us how the software worked in a fast detailed way.  We had 6 different presenters over two days.  It was a good experience.

20 Primary take away’s

  1. We have work to do getting the modules – (managers) ready to go.  The have to be feed – prepped, rules established
  2. We need to figure out who will be content managers for different modules.
  3. CM = Constituent Manager.  We need to sync CM with our MS LDAP directory.  BOCES LDAP master – Finalsite CM (slave).
  4. We need to establish groups and start populating them with accounts from CM.
  5. Constituent Manager, E-notify, Media Manager, Calendar Manager, Groups Manager, Composer.
  6. Composer is the tool content managers will us to create, edit web pages and their content. Composer is constantly being updated and improved.  Look at site dashboard Updates for details.
  7. Composer has access to content that is in the modules.  Content is added to the web page via elements – very granular and specific.  elements like content, navigation, calendars, media, people.  As a content manager, you access a lot of site content from the module – elements.
  8. Pages have elements.  Elements have content.  Pages have permissions – among other things.
  9. Pages and elements have settings – look for the gear icon.  Choose the page or the element in the page – explore their options – of which there are many.
  10. That we should look to use the Posts tool and not the News tool – as the News too is fazing out, new development has been in the Posts module.   Teachers who want teacher pages will use Post tool
  11. The Manager tools all have the concept of a dashboard -of course.  At a glance see what, when and who.  Each manager is similar – with dashboard and green action buttons with white text.
  12. fs-actionbuttons
  13. When building content, use vertical layers, not horizontal.  Vertical layers respond better in mobile devices.
  14. Don’t mess too much with the home page.  It has special sauce.  You can change photos in the media manager – or text in a content element or the name of a button….BUT, you cannot change the layout, order, main elements – that would require a work order.  The mentality is do not mess with home page – we worked hard at nailing that look and feel.
  15. When you are in *compose mode in composer – you can hover over page elements and access their properties via pink gear.  Elements like, Search, navigation, content, media, embed – the elements all share common look and feel and some functionality, but also posses unique options.
  16. Some page elements will be shared.  Shared means live in one place and referenced from multiple.  Do not upload things to multiple places.  If something needs to be included in multiple places on the website – then create it once and share it.
  17. File Manager module.  We need to establish a hierarchy of information management.  File manager module is also under development and can expect changes in near-ish future.
  18. Portals are just a concept, nothing magical.  Control access to content in *portals by simply assigning visibility permissions to a group – that have the constituents in them.
  19. We can conceptually separate pages that are restricted to just groups in the site architecture by using a portal file structure like portal/hr or portal/principles – and then keep the pages to be restricted in those folders.  There is nothing different about a page that is visible to the public -vs- a page restricted.
  20. The software modules are continuously in development – via *agile methodology.  The presenters talked about changes in the software and how often it is deployed.  Updates are reported in the admin dashboard.
  21. To sport the nifty sticky navigation – which we want, is additional $.  Our client success manager said he would talk to Shanda about that cost.
  22. We meet our client success manager Jerard Gustafson.  He is our POC once the project is completed.  Jerard and Shannon.
  23. shannon-jerard2
  24. I meet Amy – who will be coming out to visit for a live training.  Amy the FS trainer.  She also went over the site admin. stuff at conference.  She will be training content managers on Composer.
  25. E-Notify – a good tool, should depreciate the list server for Edutech.



What we want from our website rebuild

Well, that is wide open!.  I spoke with my boss yesterday, she gathered her 6 managers and talked a little web site rebuild with them.  These are the things I heard her say.

can we still put passwords on pages that are intended for the public?

the site map we have to give you (thats me) needs to be two tiers?

Will there still be a *site wide search feature?

will we use our network login credentials to log into the private facing content on the website?

can we still keep a quick link to the web email?

should we have a twitter feed?  or what do we think about social media?  Do we really need social media?  If we create social media, who will feed the beast?

we should use pictures of people, who we serve, not things, technology things.

how would all the old content get moved to the new site?  Some would not, its old and irrelevant, some would be restructured, like three pages become one, we would move some, the vendor would move some.  Its a real chance to take things to the curb.  Just like when you move, you make hard decisions about what is moving and what is going.

that our organization would be using mylearning plan for development / training type events – since our districts use this too, we can see their scheduled events while considering our own.  I added that we purchased the calendar module already from our new vendor and that each of the 10 schools in our organization would have their own.  they would still use the calendar to schedule things, events for their schools.


We are in the discovery phase of our project.  We have a couple weeks to produce our first set of deliverables.  Those in the form of – a theme, site maps, images and a design survey.  These things are used by the designer who will mint the site using the deliverables.

Our next meeting in next week, when we are hoping to nail down the top elements of a theme – they have a bunch of existing ones, but we seem to like specific things from a bunch of them, so maybe they will simply build us a new one.  Our designer needs from us ideas, starting points, things we like – so she has things to go with upon initial build.

The day I exported 35 hrs from 7 cameras

Yesterday, I have a request from a big cheese.  Something like this “James, I need to see the interior cameras for building bla”.  After locating the interior cameras and showing them to him via a screen grab, he was able to narrow them down to 7 and the range of time to about 5 hrs.  A total of 35 hrs, 7 cameras * 5 hrs from each.   In my old brain, I though man, that’s a lot of video to export and for someone to watch.  I thought I would be chopping the video up into 1 hr. exports, 5 per camera – for a total of 35 distinct exports.  I worried about the playback of such large videos. That was where I was wrong.  The software dominated the process.

We use Genetec software, with its heavy footprint, in terms of drive space and memory, but, it was the right tool for the job. An impressive piece of software for this task.  Incidentally, I first tried exporting from a camera using the web client, I quickly found that  was not the right tool for the job.

Once I got the hang of the export tool/interface, using the default export format g64 was a breeze.  I was able to easily choose the day and time range for the export. G64 is the default proprietary format for the software and has amazing video compression.

So good, that I was able to create a single export for 4-6 hrs for each camera – each about 75 MB.  How 4 hrs of video can be compressed into 75 MB is pretty impressive to me. The exportation of a 6 hr range from one camera took about 90 seconds and created a 140 MB file.  Impressive.


At the end of this process – I was able to put all the exported video and the player on a thumb drive while using about 2 of 15 GB.

My customer can now either play the exports in his Genetec desktop client or he can use the portable player,  allowing him share with someone else.

The end.


Our security camera software – exporting video

I support our Genetec security camera software.  Today, I was testing my understanding of which cameras stored video and for how long.  We have about 100 cameras in 6 buildings.

One might think that every camera keep its video for at least a short time, but that is not the case here. Some cameras store 30 days worth of footage.  After that, the space is *recycled by the server.  It is expensive to keep 720 hrs of video.   I can request a time range anywhere within the stored data.

To test which cameras were storing, I opened the web client and dragged cameras to the grid and then choose to export from the camera – the system reported no video avail for some of the cameras, while others exported short 1 minute videos.


My takeaway?  Know which cameras store video and for how long.

Results – for James


Managers want this thing, often….

Or is it IT directors, or Admin?  None or all.  Anyway.

We have systems, like most people/organizations.  Those systems have credentials, like usernames and passwords.  Systems no longer are allowed to work in silos – they must, share their data.  The systems want to share their data, they want to connect to other systems.  Systems / software stays healthy and relevant when it connects to other software and shares things.  Fine, lots of standards out there trying to promote rules for sharing things, but to my simple point.

One of my customers was how do you say,  Seduced?  He was tasked by NYS government to do something, saw a presentation on how it could be solved and wallah, sold.  Flash forward a couple months and he contacts me with a question like this

“James can the link in so and so open the security cameras into a view, automatically?”

On further review we notice that his customers would use system a to get information and then system b to view security cameras.  System a makes the user authenticate.  System b also makes the user authenticate.  My customer wants the authentication in system a to also work in system b.    He figures they already logged in over here, why do they have to log in over there?  Its a valid question.  I told him out of the gate that we may not be able to accommodate the request – meaning system b may not have the capability to allow system a to bypass or feed in credentials.  The user of system a will also have to authenticate in system b.

My customer wants to bypass the front door of the house and the need to show proper id for entry.  He wants them to use the back door with a special token gained from system a.  He wants his customer to arrive in the living room, bypassing the door and id check.  No can do.  I tried, I worked with the engineers of system b and asked if we could somehow provide id on the link in system a, that would automatically allow entry into the living room.  Nope.  I get it.  Its a risk.  Software wants to make people authenticate too, especially software that contains cameras.

Moral of the story?

People want shortcuts, ease of use, but systems still require id.


Sharing and consuming

Starring, RSS feeds and google drive.

I like to write about this because it helps me to understand it all at a deeper level.  Kinda like teaching or explaining things to people.  Simply by giving voice to something, you are forced to think more critically about it.  “Well, that does not sound so simple or clear, for example”.

I was in a general moodle help forum this am, just reading some of the posted questions, this also helps aid in overall deeper understanding of, since I am forcing my brain to look at things from another perspective…but I digress, and I noticed a RSS feed.  It was simple and clean and out of the way, but there it was right in the prime real estate – for people to subscribe to.  Let me explain that common scenario again.

Common RSS scenario

You are on the web looking at things, you come across a news, sports, political, you name it, topic.  The folks publishing those topics want to get their news to you.  You, the consumer, have to say “yes, i want your info shared with me”.  I used to say pushed to me, but in reality, its pulled for you.  You click on the RSS link icon and get a prompt that allows you to specify what reader you want to use to poll the feed.  Readers come in lots of flavors and size, perhaps the most common now are the web browser themselves.  You choose it, registering the feed URL with it.  Now, all you have to do is look at it, maybe open the reader and it will have already collected up to date data on the feed.  The reader probably has a setting or two where you can tell it how ofter to pull or check the feed for new stuff and an option or two on how you want to display it.

A 1 minute video explaining how to find the feed on the website page

AND then, the google drive share.  I have been working on and off in this concept really for a couple years.  I have talked with my wife about it, the cloud in general, sharing and paperless solutions in particular for longer.  Google drive, like dropbox and MS Drive are other document clouds that people share.  The general idea?  Stop saving files on someones hard drive, flash drive, zip drive or floppy disk, ok – that last one only lives in my mustle memory ;).

Google drive is a share space, Google docs is software to create the documents.  This was a communication that came across my desk today, and illustrates the push or reality of files in the cloud, even collaborative ones.  Someone is managing a conference that has lots of classes and they are trying to get monitors signed up for each one.  Now they have some of the courses covered and need to share that info. with people while trying to get the others covered, so – share an editable document.  Put the file in a sharable location with permissions allowing users to edit it, to write into it.  Now, in real time, you can have a document that is up to date without the need to send or push communications around for it.

Hello all,

We would love to have you volunteer as a Presider at the Annual NYSCATE conference.  You will help us tremendously while simply attending the sessions you want to attend and doing a few housekeeping items for NYSCATE.

Please use this link to see the sessions open to presiders:

The tabs are located on the bottom left of the spreadsheet for the days (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday).  The sessions that have INSERT HERE  in the presider column are the sessions we need filled.  Simply write your name and email address in the presider column for the session(s) you’d like.

The document is shared so everyone should be able to get into the doc and edit it.  Please choose one, two or three and insert your name and email address into the spreadsheet.  We’re asking that you have this done by Nov 10th so we can find presiders for the sessions that still need coverage.  If you know of anyone else who’s attending and would like to volunteer please send them our way.

Thanks so much!!  We look forward to seeing you at the conference and let us know if you have any questions.

Michelle  & Amy 
NYSCATE Presider Co-Chairs


that’s how you do that…

I support various software system, its my job.  I am the gatekeeper.  If questions arise, I am generally the one to answer them.  Or, when requests are made, I’m the one to do them.

One of the systems I support is a security camera system.  We have a new user, who needs credentials to the system.  The permissions in this system are mainly with the groups, not the accounts.  I create the account, then add the account to a group.  The group has cameras or doorways in this case.

I was able to that, sent email to the user with simple directions.  I then discovered that one of the *tasks that was created in the system has been modified.  The task is a view of certain doorways and cameras.  I could open the task easy enough and make changes to its content, but I could not find an open to save the changes.  Poor software design (IMHO).  The interface looks like it were designed by engineers, not designers.  Yes, a common enough mistake.  Companies figure the same people who write the logic and build the software functionality should be the same people who design the interfaces (UI).  Nope, bad idea.  But, I digress.

Eventually, i discovered how to save the changes I made to the task by right clicking on one of the menu bars – no kidding.  There I saw an option that said Save workspace – with a keyboard short cut.

No kidding.  Not a single object, button, word or otherwise that says *save this or that.  You had to happen to right click on the menubar to happen across it.

Anyway, now I can save changes to tasks (sets of doors and cameras) that people make for others.