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TAMU Webmaster's Blog


Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Talking to Vendors is a Good Thing

March 3rd, 2017 by Erick Beck

Just like at any conference, last week’s Tech Summit had its vendor room.  Many of the people that I talked to didn’t engage with the vendors, though.  There were a couple of common themes for this – they thought the vendors were just there to sell you something, or that the vendors’ products were nothing that you are interested in, or that there was no value in talking to vendors because they are not in a decision making role in their department.

These are all common responses, and I have thought them myself at various points of my career.   Having matured a bit, though, I can say that there definitely is value in talking to vendors, and that these reasons are not as valid as we think.

Yes, these people are there to show off their products.  After several years there have been very few that have pushed the hard sell.  They know that we aren’t the ones who will be writing the check.  They love to interact, though.  While most companies do send sales teams, they also send engineers to explain the product.  These are IT folks too, and love to geek out the same sorts of things we do.  You can learn lots of tidbits just through this type of interaction that you would never pick up from a white paper.

Also remember that “corporate sponsor” means that they are helping to support the conference.  If you enjoy the conference drop by and give them at least a “thank you.”  This is often a good icebreaker to extend the conversation into other areas. A lot of times you find out things about the company that you didn’t know, or find out that some of their business is in areas that you didn’t know about but are interested in.

Probably most important, don’t think that you don’t affect decisions just because you aren’t in a managerial role.  If you specialize in something, your bosses will likely come to you for input on topics relating to that area.  If you have talked to vendors and have a sense of options they can offer your advice will be more trusted (and they will be more likely to come to your for advice.)  It also pays dividends into the future.  As you progress in your careers this kind of background knowledge becomes more and more assumed.

Interaction doesn’t have to be brilliant conversation.  Half of the booths that I visited started something like  “I’m in web development, what do you do that might be related?” Once the ice is broken, questions and discussion becomes pretty straightforward.  So next time you attend a conference, approach the vendor room with a new sense of purpose.

 

Friday, March 3rd, 2017 Miscellaneous No Comments

Tech Summit Review

March 1st, 2017 by Erick Beck

Charlie mentioned last week that we had a great time at the Tech Summit.  I agree wholeheartedly.  This was my third time to attend, and was by far the best.  The Tech Summit is different from any other conference you might attend.  The attraction is that it offers all of the normal track sessions, but you are attending with people that you know and work with from throughout the system.

This, to me, is the most important part of Tech Summit. It is easy enough for us to set up an appointment if we want to talk to one another here on campus, or there are social opportunities like the GoWeb presentations and meetings.  None of those approach the conversations that happened last week, though.  The casual atmosphere and diversity of attendance created a bonding opportunity that I have not experienced here in town.

I know budgets are tight, but I encourage you to consider this as your destination location next year, and to start showing your decision makers how useful and even important it can be.

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 Miscellaneous No Comments

Major Love From Our Calendar Partners

February 27th, 2017 by Erick Beck

LiveWhale has updated their product web page, and are giving us some prominent recognition.  See the Our Favorites in the right column of the Our Customers page, the Calendar Inspiration section of the User Guide, and the main body of the Demo page.

Big shout out to LiveWhale for their product, their team, and the recognition.

This recognition is also a reflection of all of you who worked with us on the selection process, through implementation, and who maintain events within the system.  Thank you all, and I hope we can continue to make the system even more useful for our audiences.

Monday, February 27th, 2017 Calendar No Comments

Tech Summit 2017

February 24th, 2017 by Charlie Harris

Had a great time at the TAMU Tech Summit this week in Galveston. It was my first time attending, and I have to say I was pretty impressed overall with the tracks and the level of expertise gathered. There were some really good keynote speeches, and I finally got to meet a number of people I had only known by name before. Personally, I’d like to see at little more in the system administration or networking areas, but that just means there are areas of opportunity to grow in the future.

Thanks to all our leaders on campus who worked to facilitate and make this possible.

Friday, February 24th, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

Campus Analytics Team Revisited

February 20th, 2017 by Erick Beck

After losing Chase Friedman as the leader of our GoWeb Analytics Special Interest Group, we have rebooted the group and are starting fresh.  We have now met twice and plan to be more active than we have for the last several months.

The goals we have set for the team are:

  • Learn analytics ourselves so that we can be a local resource
  • Create a plan to get a central tracking code on top-level university sites
  • Survey university units to determine their needs
  • Create a local documentation hub that web professionals on campus can reference
  • Set up training and consulting opportunities so that the team can share what we learn with the rest of campus.

Obviously there are many sub-points to each of these, but this gives you an idea of the direction we are going.

Monday, February 20th, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

CMS Use on Campus

February 10th, 2017 by Erick Beck

I posted this on the GoWeb site a few weeks ago, but since people have continued to ask about it I am repeating the information here.


Several years ago we did a survey of what content management systems were in use across campus.  After several years of change in this space we thought it would be good to see what those numbers look like now.

A trend of consolidation stands out.  Through self selection, the majority of us are naturally aligning around Cascade and WordPress.  Most of those who have not made that migration are considering it.  The exception is Provost IT, which is firmly tied to Kentico.

Cascade

  • Bush School – moving into Cascade
  • College of Architecture
  • College of Engineering – moving from Umbraco to Cascade
  • College of Geosciences
  • Health Science Center
  • Libraries
  • Division of Marketing & Communications
  • TAMU IT
  • TAMU Galveston
  • Tarleton State University – for the entire university

WordPress

  • AgriLife
    • Extension programs
    • Department of Wildlife & Fisheries
    • Department of Entomology
  • College of Dentistry – for news site
  • College of Education – moving from Drupal to WordPress
  • College of Engineering – for some smaller sites
  • College of Science
    • Department of Statistics
  • College of Veterinary Medicine – moving from Umbraco to WordPress
  • Health Science Center
  • Mays Business School
  • Division of Marketing & Communications – for news site
  • Public Policy Research Institute
  • Student Affairs
  • TAMU IT
  • TAMU Qatar
  • TEEX – will soon begin using for microsites

Drupal

  • Education – but actively moving to WordPress

Umbraco

  • College of Engineering – but actively moving to Cascade
  • College of Veterinary Medicine – but actively moving to WordPress
  • Finance & Administration – but considering moving to Cascade or some other platform

Kentico

  • Provost IT

Drupal

  • College of Education – but actively moving to WordPress

Sharepoint

  • TEEX

No CMS

  • Transportation Services -but considering moving to Cascade or some other platform

Custom

  • College of Science – but likely to change
Friday, February 10th, 2017 Miscellaneous No Comments

SXSW Website

February 6th, 2017 by Eric Bakenhus

A&M is going to SXSW this year and we have a new website to support everything that’s going on. It will be updated before and during SXSW, so you should keep an eye on it if you’re interested.

Check it out at sxsw.tamu.edu:

#TAMUatSXSW | Texas A&M Logo | March 10 -15 | Austin, TX

Monday, February 6th, 2017 News No Comments

Let me introduce myself

February 2nd, 2017 by joeprather

Howdy, my name is Joseph Prather.

I previously worked for Texas A&M as an independent consultant for the Department of Information Technology (DOIT), Division of Student Affairs, for over a year. In 2015, I became a full time staff member of the DOIT team as a Senior Software Applications Developer.

I am thrilled to be the new Web and Information designer for the Marketing and Communications(Marcomm) team. My job will be a combination of web developing and marketing strategies. I will be taking over the day to day operations of Google Business products, as well as Maps and Google Analytics.

My goals involve using my experience as a web developer to lead the efforts in creating a more coherent environment for Content Management Systems (CMS) used at TexasA&M. To achieve this goal, I plan to aid in providing additional centralized resources for widely used CMS, such as Cascade and WordPress. This strategy combined with marketing tools and better practices, will result in a more coherent experience for the end users of the Texas A&M University brand.

I look forward to contribute in upholding Marcomm as the premiere resource/leader for those under the TAMU brand.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

WordPress CAS Authentication Issues

January 31st, 2017 by Charlie Harris

So apparently several of us around campus simultaneously experienced a similar issue recently with the CAS authentication plugin many of us use. The basic issue was that we were getting “Application Not Authorized” when trying to log into an HTTPS protected WordPress site using the CAS Maestro plugin. Our friend Donald St. Martin over in Engineering wrote up this great walk through of the problem and how to fix it.

HTTPS and the CAS Maestro WordPress plugin

 

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 CMS, Systems, Uncategorized, Web Security No Comments

Ansible

January 19th, 2017 by Charlie Harris

So over the last several months, I have been dedicating a fair amount of my time to updating our configuration managment system. Several years ago I started using Puppet for this purpose. Due to some of the limitations of both my knowledge and the SUSE Enterprise version we have been using, our methods and implementation have been in need of a good update. After spending longer than I care to admit evaluating what was out there, I finally decided Ansible is where I wanted to start.

So far… Ansible is awesome.

I have only begun to scratch the surface, but I can definitely say I’ve been able to get much further and much deeper, MUCH faster than I ever did with Puppet. Now to be fair, my experience with Puppet certainly helped give me a good jump start, but I feel like its been much easier to get in and do things quicker with Ansible. Certainly the iteration process is many times faster.

There is a few reasons for that.

Its agentless. This is so awesome, and honestly probably was the single biggest reason for deciding to try Ansible. In the grand scheme of things, I admit, its not a huge deal. However, the fact that you don’t have to authorize and manage an agent on each server is just one more layer you don’t have to worry about, or troubleshoot. All you need is a relatively up-to-date version of Python (2.6), and SSH. Simple. Being agentless also implies another awesome feature…

Its serverless. No server to run on a centralized machine. You can run all your scripts from your own workstation… or ANY workstation for that matter. That’s two less things to worry about.

Developing with Vagrant. Now this isn’t part of Ansible itself of course, but we have been slowly working Vagrant into our workflow, and it is a huge help. I can run a complete copy of whatever server I’m currently working on and test, re-test, and test some more, very quickly. If I totally screw something up, all I have to do is delete the virtual machine and re-deploy it. All on my local machine. This speeds up things dramatically with out the worry or hassle of connecting to a remote machine.

One last thing I’d like to mention is that Ansible is now owned by Redhat. Now this may not be a big deal for some people, but I feel like its nice to have some backing by a longstanding, trusted company, especially when it comes to using new technology on production machines. So far it seems that Ansible has been left to do what they do best. We will see, but for now I see this as a nice bit of insurance that it will be around a while. This also coincides with our decision to move everything to CentOS 7.

That is all I’m going to go through at the moment. There are a million posts and articles out there on “Ansible vs.” whatever configuration management flavor you’d like if anyone is curious. I’m looking forward to how far and deep we can take our Ansible implementation, and hopefully I can share some more knowledge about it in the near future.

 

 

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 Uncategorized No Comments

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