June 17, 2008

Our summer in CommonSpot

We've had a staffing shuffle in LTS as Nicholle Stone, our director, accepted a new position. This was a bit of a setback for our project as Nicholle was doing some of the technical implementation and configuration, as well as overall project management for CommonSpot. We've added former student worker Ryan Peterson, a Technical Communications alumnus, as an LTE for CommonSpot projects, and are now moving forward.

Here are our summer projects:

--development of basic user training, specific to our configuration and needs
--a CommonSpot site for student organizations, to be developed and managed by the SSA. This will enable official student organizations to easily produce and manage their web sites with oversight by the SSA rather than our office--a major improvement in operational efficiency for all!
--train and assist in the conversion of our Athletics site (~50,000 pages)
--train and assist in the conversion of Graduate Studies site
--finalize the faculty profile entry form and display, so that faculty can easily produce their home pages and web sites
--go "live" with the academic department web sites in CommonSpot (requires training of department staff)
--creation of new college sites to correspond with academic realignment (July 1)

March 5, 2008

Sites converted so far

Here are some of the sites which have been converted into CommonSpot.
We've also added some global navigation to the template, here:

February 6, 2008

Mistakes we're not making

I read an article today on The Content Wrangler offering Michael Silverman's "top-ten-and-how-to-avoid-them" list, and I decided to review our project based on his criteria. I've paraphrased Silverman's points here to keep it brief--you may wish to read the entire article.

Mistake #1: Making Decisions by Committee [We're good: we have a group of three-four decision-makers who consult further if necessary]

Mistake #2: Not Appointing a Project Manager [We're passing: while we have no dedicated staff on the project, the shared responsibility is working.]

Mistake #3: Failing to Make a Project Plan [Passing: our plan is well-sequenced and appropriate; implementation is slow due to a shortage of available hours.]

Mistake #4: Picking a CMS Before Doing All Your Homework [Good--we dedicated a project position (2002-2006) to preparing the site, structure and users to make the transition. A knowledgable committee performed needs and feature analysis before recommending CommonSpot.]

Mistake #5: Ignoring The “Simple is Better” Rule (for work flow and approval processes) [We pass, so far. We haven't brought in any users yet, though, so we'll see what happens then. ]

Mistake #6: Underestimating the job of moving old content into the new system. [Good; sort of. We haven't underestimated, but it's a huge job. And, it's difficult and time-consuming to get content owners to write-edit-review their own copy.]

Mistake #7: Waiting Too Long to Plan for Site Hosting [Does not apply, as we do our own hosting on campus]

Mistake #8: Not Making Usability a Priority [Good; under constant review and revision, though.]

Mistake #9: Not Using Real Content in the Prototypes [We pass, after a hard-learned lesson. In our last template release, we used placeholding photographs in many locations while we worked on the layout, then lived with a few of those for far too long. We have a few blocks of "lorem ipsum" in CommonSpot, but not on sites that will ever be "live."]

Mistake #10: Waiting Too Long To Start Adding New Content [Pass, but barely, and primarily because the enthusiasm for a dynamic, engaging web site far exceeds the willingness and ability to write or produce appropriate materials. See #6, above, and "the content conundrum" post on Interllectual.com.]

January 14, 2008

We move forward

Today I provided an update to the campus on the CommonSpot project. This has prompted me to look back over the late fall, and realize that we've been making some good progress. We hosted five days of CommonSpot training here for other UW campuses in early December, which helped our literacy considerably. Day to day, it seems we go two steps forward and one back, what with everyone having more than full-time jobs in addition to this project, needing to revise our thinking about web sites, and so on. But taking a longer view, I see that we've done alot, learned alot, and can see the realization of some efficiencies and ease on the horizon, if not yet in the present.

I'm now in CommonSpot every day, updating and revising pages that we have converted, navigating with some competence through the administrative sections, and making fewer wrong guesses about where some setting is located. Most of my CommonSpot work, though, has to do with determining how we should use it, what can be re-used and how, developing our informational and photographic categories, thinking about the changes in everyone's workflow and tasks.

Steve and Nicholle are both very adept in the back end. Nicholle has been writing some scripts in Cold Fusion, making them work, and has articulated the steps and the assistance we need to bring data from the university's employee database directly into CommonSpot. This will be a great efficiency, as it will allow us to reuse the same data for faculty home pages, department staff listings, and campus-wide directory information.

Steve is working on administrative configuration, styles and documention. He keeps track of the geodesic decision-making process, which drives me nuts with its multiplicity of interacting choices and routes to a final product. More than anyone else, he's the one who understands what's happening under the hood, and what we need to tweak to get our desired results. He continually pins me down, getting me to define precisely what those results should be.

We're starting to speak the language of CommonSpot correctly among ourselves! This is (obviously) essential to our ability to teach it to the rest of the campus.