Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What's up with Cascade?

An interesting 2 weeks in Williamsburg:
Our new development server is up and running. We've used it to build some sample pages that we can publish to a development web server. And since users will eventually need to login with the same WMuserid and password they are using everywhere, we'll be setting up that connector as well. There's so much more Cascade can do that we're still anxious to see...

Work in progress:
But our own Cascade server is not where the real action's taking place. Our friends at Global Image are doing the heavy lifting for us—customizing their own install of Cascade with our Templates and the functionality we've been defining over the last month. We're continuing our weekly phone calls and email exchanges with Michael Burks about this "Functional Spec."—which we've hopefully nailed down after our recent modifications to the design suite. On top of this, we are now 4 calls into a 3-calls-a-week technical implementation schedule with our programmers, Kevin Zink and Joel Stevens. Kevin and Joel have their jobs cut out for them—walking us through implementation choices and data definitions, building templates and layouts for each of our page types, and helping us understand the magic behind the curtain. Did I mention they have only 5 weeks to get this done?

The two shall become one:
All of the programming, layouts, data definitions and templates from the Global Image server will migrate onto our own test and production servers in early July for Beta testing and sign-off. Then the final phase begins–pouring in pages and pages of content in time for launch.

There's plenty happening behind the scenes. We'll try to keep you updated as things move along.

posted by Andrew Bauserman


Tom MacWright said...

Sorry if I missed a post earlier about this: but has the team made any decisions about what this means for student org webpace? Thanks.

Mark W (re.web) said...

Hi Tom. I don't think it has been discussed yet on this blog. The decision has been made that student orgs will not be a part of Cascade Server. For now, orgs can continue to use the current "www-so" webspace with WM Templates which will be supported for at least another year. Or, we are encouraging them to try Tribe Voices, a new tool we developed for simple site creation and maintenance. Tribe Voices will be supported long term. We've already met with Student Activities to introduce them to the tool and we'll continue our relationship with them as they support student org accounts and websites. While Tribe Voices does not offer unlimited customization, many are finding ways to be quite creative with it. The William & Mary NAACP website is a great example. We'll have more themes and "sidebar widgets" in Tribe Voices soon, and we'll keep these fresh, but the core functionality which is weighted most towards simplicity and ease of use for any level of webmaster, will remain the same.

Anonymous said...

Here's a minor annoyance that I've always had with the William and Mary site. It requires the "www." to be in the url. For example, http://wm.edu leads to a page not found error. Call me lazy, but these days almost every site can be accessed either way.

Tom MacWright said...

Okay, that sounds all right.

My concern is thus:

First off, almost every org website has something that the current templates system simply can't do. The current read-only jail makes it impossible to do those things with any other publicly-available content management system or gallery, etc. Thus, student orgs have no other option but to move to independent servers (many service trips, Circle K, The Flat Hat, many frats & sororities have already jumped ship), which breaks them out of the W&M network and website, making it impossible to build a coherent identity or even a global menu to other school-related sites.

I hope that Tribe Voices will do the trick, but the fact that it's an internal tool makes me nervous that in 6 years, it'll still be in 2008-land - just like how Web Templates is roughly 1997-quality material.

It would be nice if student orgs could use one of the many existing multi-site versions of good CMSes. There's one for Wordpress, Drupal, and quite a few others. All of these typically provide a nice sandboxed ability to add widgets, pages, etc, without threatening the entire server. The fact that they're open-source and well maintained means that student orgs can have more than static, islanded websites.

Or... a VPS solution like Solaris containers would be great. Really, the point is - making webspace read-only cripples the identity of student organizations because we haven't taken a more sophisticated approach to security.

re.web said...

Hi Tom,

We'll continue to ponder this. IT will have a new student advisory committee beginning in the fall - perhaps we can use that group to help us assess options for student organization web space.

All the seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks till classes start up again are dominated by re.web.