There has been much activity behind the scenes in the past 2 months since the new web site was launched . Here is a summary of some of the changes - some of which may affect you directly while others will have indirect effects.
The biggest news is that we have hired a new Web Developer, Will McMain. Will only officially started working for us last week. So we want to give him some time to settle in and get the feel for the place before we officially introduce him. But rest assured, we'll post a profile of him soon enough and probably also have him as a guest in the chat room sometime in the next couple of months.
One of the many things Will brings to us is experience and a knowledge of industry standards. He will be building out our infrastructure to professionalize our web development processes. Gone will be the days of everyone hacking away at a problem on the live site and one hand not knowing what the other is doing. This summer we already started using project tracking software and setup a basic development platform. Will is going to expand on that by putting the web site into a source repository and establishing an independent development server that will act double-duty as an instant backup web server. Yes, all of this can add overhead to small fixes here and there. But in the long run it will make for a much more reliable and efficient system for both developers and users.
Our contractor finished up his work last week. We rolled out a number of new features on the site Wednesday. Many were small bug fixes that you may or may not have noticed. Some examples of new things in the update (some are due to the contractor and some are early work done by Will):
- We now have separate RSS feeds on the home page: one each for the recent activity and staff blogs.
- A tool for modifying MyNewsFlash subscriptions has returned
- Quick Look tweaks: Can search by JD now and show all data received on a specific day
- WebObs tweaks: Download data tool is now sorted by JD instead of when the data was submitted and you can type "All" to see all your data. Small bugs were fixed, too (mainly related to archival data displays)
- "Renew membership" link on the user profile only shows to the user
- WebObs file upload (PCObs) tool now shows the confirmation page of observations in the same order as they were submitted by the user (makes it easier to check your obs before final submission)
- Fixed bug that sent duplicate confirmation messages when someone renewed their membership via Paypal.
There are some new features that were added and being tested, but aren't live yet. Usually this is because we have a couple of final tweaks we would like Will to do, and/or we need to write documentation. Expect these to come online in the next few months.
- A new chat room: This is the same chat room many of you helped us test a few weeks ago, except we patched it to allow users to change their "nicknames" with "/nick WhatYouWantToBeCalled".
- A tool to upload spectra to a central repository of spectra (similar to our GRB afterglow observation report tool)
- A staff tool for sending Alert Notices & Special Notices and a user tool to automatically subscribe/unsubscribe to them
- Online forums
As of this posting, we currently have 32 projects in our web development project tracking system. The vast majority are assigned to Will with a few assigned to me and one for Rebecca. There are some pretty exciting and big things in there that should be fun for us all. And there are also some pretty boring, easy-but-important bug fixes too. And everything in between.
Please continue to contact us with suggestions, requests and reports of bugs. And expect more expansion and improvement of the web site in the coming months!