Web Development Status Report

April 2008

Jennifer Oxelson and Tom Yoksas

In this status report:

  1. Web site upgrade to version 3.0
    Work is progressing on the new website, which will be deployed fall 2008.

    1. Feedback wanted on site design candidates
    2. Revamping mailing list archives
    3. Jive Forums: end of life

  2. Refactoring rtstats

  3. Unidata 2013 panel report

  4. Action items from April 2008 meeting

I. Web site upgrade to version 3.0

Work is progressing on the new website, which will be deployed fall 2008.
  1. Feedback wanted on site design candidates
  2. Revamping mailing list archives
  3. Jive Forums: end of life

Site design candidates

Jen is soliciting feedback from the UPC staff, Policy Committee, and User's Committee on three candidate designs for the new website. The three designs are similar with subtle differences. While nothing has been finalized yet, the final design will look very similar to the candidate designs and may incorporate elements from each design.

The new design addresses known usability issues and provides some new features that hopefully the community finds interesting and helpful. Making extensive use of CSS, JavaScript, and AJAX, the new design will provide a richer user experience for site visitors.

Revamping mailing list archives

To address the many shortcomings of Mailman's HTML archives, a separate mailing list archival package (MHonArch) is being integrated with Mailman to allow further customization/control over the appearance of the archives.

The disadvantage to incorporating MHonArch into Mailman has resulted in the creation of new/different URLs for the archived material. Jen will therefore keep around the old archives until the new content can be indexed by search engines. Also, while seemingly widely used, MHonArch has not received active development since 2006. Jen will continue to explore alternatives to MHonArc and Mailman.

Jive Forums: end of life

Jive Software has announced an end of life date of October 2009 for the forum package we use. (!$#@*%$#@!*!) This is a major setback and surprising as Jive Forums has a large client base with the likes of Apple and Sun Microsystems. Jive Software proposes customers use another package (Clearspace) which is a larger (monolithic) content management system (with a hefty price tag).

Consequently, Jen has been looking into alternatives for the forums. We can continue to use the Jive forums package for awhile, but must look for a more permanent solution.

Jen is compiling a list of alternatives and will meet with Tom, Mike, and Brian to discuss options. PV2 will weigh on the final options which will then be fielded to the UPC staff.

II. Refactoring rtstats

Jen, Tom, and Mike at refactoring the Real-Time IDD statistics program written by Chiz.

While doing a good job of showing IDD stats, the current program's use of cracking netCDF files has not scaled well to the present demand/usage and is proving to be a resource-intensive process.

Jen will begin this project after the newest version of the web site has been completed and launched.

III. Unidata 2013 panel report

In response to the Unidata 2013 panel report, Jen has been working to address the following specific areas of the panel's response:

Web site maintenance and improved documentation

The UPC is currently working on a redesign of their web site to address such issues.

Pertinent, yet old material still exists online and is not easily discerned as being obsolete. The new site design will denote such material as 'archived' or historical material and provide links to the latest documentation. This should aid in discovery of the needed information.

Currently, not all UPC developers utilize the same tools/format in creating package documentation. The new site will address the issue of creating a standard look and feel for technical documentation. The uniform format of the documentation will prove to be less of learning curve for the users.

NOTE: the above "solution" may prove to be an inconvenience to certain developers who might find a switch in document generation to be inconvenient. I am focusing on automating the process as much as possible, but successful implementation of this "standard doc" mechanism will require buy-in from all the developers (which is not assured). This is a issue I will have to tackle.

Also, please not that this does not address the "quality" of the documentation generated. A lack of technical content and/or grammar, etc., will not be improved by the "standard doc" solution...

Community assessment

The current Unidata database, when used in conjunction with web logs, download statistics, etc., provides key information regarding the Unidata community.

This resource is tapped to provided community member information, but infrequently.

Jen is working on a web-interface to allow easier access to this information (will take some time and testing to ferret out all the queries that may be transacted against the database and program those into the web-interface).

Furthermore, the UPC will be looking at the modifying the website registration form to require more information from the user during registration.

The UPC will also evaluate whether all packages should require login to the Unidata web site to access/download (currently, only GEMPAK, McIDAS, IDV, and Decoders require the user to login). This obviously has pros and cons yet to be evaluated. The pros would be better tracking of who is using our software (such info could be compared to stats from support, etc., to make an interesting analysis of UPC efforts).

IV. Action items from April 2008 meeting

Regarding the action items related to 2006 Workshop (some left over):

  1. Jen has added a LEAD link to the page
  2. Due to the issue regarding the Jive forums outlined above, Jen has held off on modifying the forum code to add a "reply" button that is visible even if one is not logged in.
  3. Jen has set up a student listserv/forum called student_community. Linda and Jen would like to speak with Sean regarding the role of this list and its relation to the other community lists before advertising to the community.