Online Committee Report

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Summary

The website is running smoothly and consistently, and we are seeing 25% growth in visits since a year ago.  A handful of bug fixes and minor feature enhancements have been incorporated in recent months.

The Online Committee recommends Matthieu Bloch, Assistant Professor at Georgia-Tech Lorraine, for consideration as the next Online Editor. Although Nick Laneman, the current Online Editor, plans to step down, he will continue to serve on the Online Committee and in a supporting role during the transition.

The Online Committee expects to operate close to its annual $10K budget for 2010 and 2011. If the Society anticipates a surplus for 2010 without too many other demands, the Online Committee has additional features that could be developed to continue enhancing Conferences, Lectures, Collaboration, and Email Integration.

Analytics

The last 6 months of web traffic show over 300 visits / day with 57.21% from search engines, 24.23% from direct traffic, and 18.56% from referring sites. The table below compares various analytics between the six-month periods of 03/01/2009-08/31/2009 and 03/01/2010-08/31/2010.

Statistic Current Previous Change
Visits 58,468  46,909 +24.64%
Pageviews 201,728 201,611 +0.06%
Pages/Visit 3.45 4.30 -19.72%
Bounce Rate 51.51% 48.57% +6.05%
Avg. Time 3:06 3:32 -12.05%
New Visits 41.9% 50.61% -17.21%

All of the above statistics may be self explanatory except for bounce rate, which is the percentage of single-page visits.  The growth in visits overall is encouraging; other number suggest that the community has grown a bit more accustomed to the site over time.

Of 160 countries represented in the past six months, the top 20 countries in terms of visits are summarized in the following table.

Country Current Previous Change
USA 25,364 19,618 +29.29%
Canada 3,333 2,050 +62.59%
China 2,752 2,268 +21.34%
India 2,345 2,272 +3.21%
Iran 2,148 985 +118.07%
Germany 1,840 1,496 +22.99%
France 1,742 1,300 +34.00%
Japan  1,712 1,629 +5.10%
South Korea 1,553 1,444 +7.55%
Israel 1,231 780 +57.82%
UK 1,067 1,010 +5.64%
Turkey 995 426 +133.57%
Taiwan 914 759 +20.42%
Switzerland 854 781 +9.35%
Greece 846 1,282 -34.01%
Sweden 758 377 +101.06%
Australia 728 670 +8.66%
Italy 665 618 +7.61%
Spain 608 503 +20.87%
Russia 560 448 +25.00%

Software Development

Feedback from the BoG in the previous meetings suggested that we flesh out features to increase the visibility of media resources accumulated over the years and foster the creation of new content that extends that of the Newsletter. The Online Committee has pushed the development of three features: Lecture objects, LaTeX support and integrated Conference websites.

Lectures

A specific object has been created to archive Lectures on the website. Examples of such objects can be found on the 2010 School of Information Theory website. See for instance 2010 Padovani Lecture - Can an Information Theorist Be Happy in a Center for Information Storage? and Reading Shannon. This object will provide better visibility to many of the media resources accumulated over the years (ISIT keynotes, Shannon Lectures, School of IT lectures, Panel discussions). Presently, the object offers the following features: 
  • The lecture is linked back to the speaker's profile on itsoc.org (see for instance Jack Wolf's profile)
  • The lecture object encapsulates slides, and can be linked to a video stored elsewhere (presently, most videos are stored on media.itsoc.org)
In the next few weeks, the Online Committee will create lecture objects for archived resources.

During the next round of development, the Lecture object will be enhanced to support streaming of video. The Online Committee is exploring the possibility of hosting videos on Vimeo (a youtube-like website that hosts HD videos) and embedding an HTML5 player in the lecture object. The advantages of this solution are the following:
  • hosting of videos is handled by a professional company, which limits the risk of service interruption and simplifies tremendously the technical role of the Online Committee
  • videos are streamed to the end-user directly and not through itsoc.org, which reduces bandwidth requirements
  • the IT society retains full control over videos (see http://vimeo.com/terms)
  • the Online Committee needs not worry about video formats since Vimeo is regularly updated to follow latest standards (for instance, the transition from flash videos to HTML5)
  • hosting costs are low ($60/year at most) and can be covered by the Online Committee operational budget.

LaTeX Support

The website now supports LaTeX equations (such as \(C=\frac{1}{2}\log\left(1+\frac{P}{N_0}\right)\)) via the jsmath plugin. An example page detailing the full capabilities of the LaTeX support is available here. The online committee hopes that this feature will
  • allow the publication of newsletter articles online 
  • encourage people to submit brief surveys or tutorials on specific topics
Note: Although there are minor differences between strict LaTeX syntax and Jsmath, porting a LaTeX file to the website requires a minimal amount of work.

Conferences

Hosting websites for events such as workshops, schools and conferences within the infrastructure of itsoc.org has been one of the early objectives of the Online Committee. The infrastructure of itsoc.org has been used to host the School of Information Theory website two consecutive years (http://www.itsoc.org/school), which has been a positive and encouraging experience. The current infrastructure is well suited to host the static content of websites (program, events, etc.), makes it relatively easy for a group of people to update the website, provides consistent urls, and simplifies the problem of archiving past websites.

Below is a summary of the features currently offered by the website, those that will be developed in the next round of software development and those that might be convenient but probably complex (and costly) to implement.

1. Existing features

The current infrastructures offers the possibility to create "child-websites" within itsoc.org, which look independent of the main website but can leverage the infrastructure (collaborative editing, search engine, etc.) of the main website. This was used for the 2010 School of IT (http://www.itsoc.org/school). The main benefit is that we can provide simple urls, such as www.itsoc.org/school, that point to the current year's event as well as archival urls, such as www.itsoc.org/school2009, that point to previous year's events. These child-websites are hosted within itsoc.org and there is no need to worry about archiving. It is also easy to grant or limit access to parts of the website to a group of people.

2. Features down the road

Presently, the layout and graphic design of child-websites is identical to that of www.itsoc.org. The Online Committee has started interacting with the developers to provide customizable templates. Sub-websites will have to abide by the template, but colors and logos will be fully customizable. 

Conferences and Workshop are "large events" that we already advertise on www.itsoc.org, but they also contain "sub-events" (talks, keynotes, etc.) that we don't advertise at the top-level site. The Online Committee is interacting with SFU to create "sub-events", which could be uses within a sub-website. This feature would allow conference organizers to post an entire technical program in the website, in a format compatible with most calendar applications (ical, outlook, etc.).

3. Complex features

There are two complex features that the website does not support at all

1) There is no simple mechanism for paper submission, review process and TPC management. This probably means that another site such as EDAS or Easy Chair would have to be used.

2) There is no support for online payment.

These problems are not specific to our website; for instance, ISIT 2007 had different websites for paper submission and payments. The Online Committee can support the conference committee and conference organizers to develop best practices but does see a compelling reason to develop another custom solution. 

Leadership

After serving the IT Society since 2006 as the first Online Editor, Nick Laneman has indicated that he plans to step down in 2010 but remain a part of the Online Committee. Having led the development of the new web infrastructure and helped form the Online Committee, Laneman looks forward to finally soliciting and editing new content for the website going forward.

The Online Committee recommends that the Officers and the BoG consider Matthieu Bloch, Assistant Professor at Georgia-Tech Lorraine, as the next Online Editor beginning no later than January 2011. Matthieu has served on the Online Committee since its inception, and has become deeply involved in content creation and software development in the last two years. For example, he led the creation of the websites for the Schools of Information Theory, and has led new software development to support Lectures and Conference websites as described above.

In addition to Laneman, there are several members of the Online Committee who have become increasingly involved in the day-to-day operations of the website. The Committee anticipates that most of this team will continue to participate and support the Online Editor in 2011 and beyond.