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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Job Opportunity – New Position Available

October 15th, 2014 by Erick

The Division of Marketing and Communications has an immediate opening for a Web Communications Specialist.    This person would be doing primarily user interface development, but would be involved in all areas of development and support for several university web sites and applications.

The position summary can be found at   If you are interested or know someone who might be, please take a look at this and pass it along.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 Uncategorized No Comments

Has Your Site been Hacked?

October 13th, 2014 by Erick

Imagine you come into your office and sit down at your desk to start your day.  You log into your computer and visit your departmental website…and to your horror you see that the front page has been hijacked and it is now selling Cialis or streaming the latest pirated movie.  You have been hacked!  Would you know what to do?  That question was recently asked in two different groups that I have been in, both of which were filled with people who should have known.  Most didn’t.

Come join us at the next uWeb meeting, where the CIS security team will be talking about exploits on campus.  They will show a few examples of what has been reported on campus, some of the most common platforms that get exploited and how to prevent them, and advice on what to do if it does happen to you.

The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday October 28 at 3:30 in Room 2605 of the GSC.  The presentation will be broadcast on TTVN Channel 9 and will be recorded for later viewing on MediaMatrix..

Monday, October 13th, 2014 Miscellaneous, Web Security No Comments

Texas A&M University System Digital Center of Excellence

October 1st, 2014 by Erick

I am part of a System-created Committee that is exploring the opportunity to provide a shared “virtual resource” for the Texas A&M University System to disseminate the best practices and specific channel strategies to:

  • Present a unified digital experience across online sites, mobile sites, social presences, and marketing campaigns in the System
  • Streamline processes for publishing content, moderating social communities, measuring campaigns, and acquiring tools
  • Create cost efficiencies

To that end, I am requesting your valuable input on your unit’s digital media needs and resources, so we can include this feedback when the Committee selects its areas of focus for 2014-2015.

Your help is needed to 1) rate the top five areas of priority that the Committee may explore in 2014-2015 and 2) help us identify the personnel, best practices, guidelines, and services that are available System-wide.

Please complete this brief online survey by October 14, 2014 so that your input can be included in the decision-making process.

Survey Link:

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 Miscellaneous Comments Off

Farewell to Rebecca

September 25th, 2014 by Erick

Rebecca Negron has been a valuable part of our team for the last two and a half years.  Sadly, today is her last day with us.  She has taken a job in Washington DC, but will always be part of the Aggie family and we wish her all the best.

This will, of course, affect some of our project timelines, so updates here might be coming a bit less frequently for a while.  We do hope to refill the position, and I will be announcing the details when/if it makes it through the approval process.


Thursday, September 25th, 2014 Miscellaneous Comments Off


September 15th, 2014 by Charlie

We have been using Varnish to cache our WordPress sites (such as this one and Tamutimes) for several years now. We feel that it has worked really well for our needs, adding a bit more speed to our sites to help with higher traffic days.

Varnish is highly configurable and is transparent to its backend so it doesn’t require any code modification on your web servers. The way we have configured our installation is to use RAM as the cache for our static content which can serve out requests very quickly.  In addition, it saves on requests on the backend so those requests that do get sent to it get served out a bit quicker as well. All this makes for a snappier experience on the users’ end.

Another one of the great things about this setup is that we can also cache multiple sites on different machines. This means we can just put the necessary CNAMES on the varnish server and then point them to different machines as needed. The only thing required is a restart of the Varnish service to make the change. This helps a huge amount when we are migrating sites to new machines.

Overall we’ve been very happy with Varnish. For WordPress especially it has given us a little extra peace of mind that it can help out when there will be more traffic. I really encourage anyone to look into it if you run your own web servers and see if it could help you out.

Varnish Website

Varnish on Wikipedia

Monday, September 15th, 2014 Systems Comments Off

SEO Consulting

September 11th, 2014 by Erick

The SEO research that we did this summer and which I posted to this site was never intended to be a “one and done” project.  The intent was always to offer this information, and our team’s time, to other university and system offices in a series of presentations and individual consultations.  I had been busy reworking the blog posts already online into a more focused presentation format, but a conversation yesterday showed me that I needed to announce this service sooner rather than later.

If any of you would like some help, whether it be just a simple conversation or a full-blown review of your site, please get in touch with me.  This certainly applies to any of the colleges, departments, and divisions on campus, but we are also wanting to assist the system universities and agencies as well.


Thursday, September 11th, 2014 Search Comments Off

Digital Center of Excellence

September 8th, 2014 by Erick

I attended the kickoff meeting for a new project last Friday — a digital center of excellence that is being organized by Mark Stone and Diane McDonald from the system offices.  I am excited about this partnership because it solidifies a close working relationship between IT and marketing — and a mutual affirmation from both sides that the other is a critical part of our overall success.

The goal of this project will be to create an online resource, available system wide, that will allow us to share best practices, streamline the publishing process, and create cost efficiencies.  The search engine optimization research that I did over the summer, for example, will likely be expanded and become a part of the content.  The CoE will include not just web related information, but also social media, mobile apps, branding, contracting, and other areas relevant to online development.

We should be sending out a survey relatively soon that will offer an opportunity for feedback in which topics to focus on first.



Monday, September 8th, 2014 Miscellaneous Comments Off

Training Opportunities

September 4th, 2014 by Erick

This week was the first day back for our students.  For those who want to join in and further your own professional education there are several opportunities being offered to university staff.

The Web Accessibility Essentials class offered through Employee & Organizational Development will be taught on September 8.  This is a great opportunity for anyone who has not been exposed to accessibility but who need to know the basics.  Designers, managers, and content writers will benefit as much as web developers.  The corresponding advanced class will take place in November.

Another set of classes that could be useful is the project management training offered by the Project Management Office.  Anyone leading significant projects should consider taking these courses.  The PMO offers a series of classes, which can be combined together into a certificate program, throughout the year.  There are two courses scheduled for September, one for October, and one for November.

The university also offers several programs for supervisors and managers, including three certificate programs.

My inbox is constantly being bombarded by third party organizations offering both free and paid webinars.  If none of the university offerings meet your needs there is always something online that you can find.  Whether you take one of these courses because your job requires continuing education credits, or just because you want to enhance your skill set, classes are now on session.

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 Miscellaneous Comments Off

A New Take on an Old Site

August 29th, 2014 by Erick

Yesterday we launched a new version of the Texas A&M Impacts site. The site was originally a republication of news articles from around campus that were collected and organized by theme.  This content is being removed from its own site and will be re-absorbed into a redesigned TAMUtimes site (coming soon!)

The current site is meant to serve as a call-to-action anchor for the TV commercial that will appear during Aggie football games.  The site was designed as a companion by the same firm that created the commercial.  It is similar to the old site in that it serves to showcase selected Impacts taking place at A&M, but it does so in a more modern and media rich format.

Friday, August 29th, 2014 Ongoing Projects Comments Off

Designing in the Open

August 26th, 2014 by Michael

In recent years, web designers have been discussing a concept called “designing in the open.” That is, letting other people see the website in development while it’s still being developed. This can mean an “open source” attitude, where anybody can chime in electronically. Or it can simply mean giving your client the URL of your development site so they can keep up with what you’re doing.

According to Brad Frost, losing the “Big Reveal” is one of the benefits of designing in the open. You’re not staking a month of work on whether your client likes what you did all month, or wants you to start over.

Basecamp’s Ryan Singer explains why he likes designing in the open:

Instead of asking for 10 changes and waiting a week, you can ask for 1 change and wait 15 minutes. Evaluate the change, praise it or identify weaknesses, and suggest the next change. By asking for small changes, you take the pressure off the designer because you aren’t asking for miracles. You also take the pressure off the review process because the set of constraints and motivating concerns is smaller. The design is easier to talk about because there are a fewer factors involved.

There are disadvantages to designing in the open, of course. When seeing a work-in-progress, clients may criticize the details instead of evaluating the big picture. That’s why many designers like to show clients black and white pencil sketches instead of the current State of the Website. When it’s obvious that they’re not looking at the final version, clients are less likely to ask, “Uh, you do intend to do this in color? Just checking.”

But if designing in the open became a habit, maybe your clients would get used to looking at the forest instead of the trees. Maybe they would learn to accept your ongoing project for what it is – ongoing. Maybe they would appreciate the chance to participate in the creation of their website while it’s being created, and not at carefully orchestrated intervals.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 Web Content Comments Off