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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Hometowners site

May 30th, 2013 by Erick Beck

We haven’t posted about any of our projects lately, so let me tell you a bit about some of the things that we do behind the scenes. While plenty of our projects are highly visible, some of them go largely unnoticed and are part of the general university support system.

Every May and December hometown newspapers around the state publish lists of students from that town who have graduated from various colleges. Did you ever wonder how they got that information? For Texas A&M, our office provides that through an application that we call Hometowners (sorry, no links, it is a protected site.) We receive a list of graduates from EIS, and the system matches their home town to a list of newspapers which are published in and around that town. It then emails each newspaper the relevant list of graduates for them to publish.

The Hometowners application has had a rocky existence for as long as I have been in Marcomm. When I arrived it was running on a Windows machine all by itself…because half the time it ran it would throw a fault that was so bad that it killed the machine at the hardware level. That made it one of our first projects — at least making it work well enough that it could be put onto the production server with our other sites.

It stayed in that shape, relegated to a low-priority project, until a few weeks ago. We hired a new student worker and decided that this was the perfect project for her to learn our departmental procedures. She has completely rewritten the application into our newly adopted Yii PHP framework. We have now gotten the application pretty much completed and are in the testing/validation stages.

A few years ago, one of our sister schools in the TAMU System asked if we could share the Hometowners code so that they could use it for their campus. That code base was so specific to the data file that we received from the local campus student information management system (and equally important, it was still pretty broken and too embarrassing to be shown to anyone else) that we couldn’t in good conscience allow them to use it. Now, however, we plan to make it available as part of the general Shared Services model that the system is focusing on to help reduce costs.

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 Ongoing Projects
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2 Comments to Hometowners site

  1. Nice – great to hear this app is getting some TLC.

  2. Wally on May 31st, 2013
  3. Sharing the software that colleges/universities create benefits everyone involved in education.

    Making software that is better than “embarrassedware” does require more resources (schedule and/or budget), but the investment is always worthwhile, except when the urgency is so great that we’re willing to sacrifice the security and sustainability of the code to get fast and/or cheap.

  4. Monty on June 7th, 2013

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