Online Editor's Report, Allerton 2006

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Several developments, including a new web server, media services website with ISIT 2006 media, web usage statistics, and thoughts on mailing lists. As always, suggestions and feedback are welcome; please feel free to insert your comments at the bottom of this page.

New Web Server

A new web server has been purchased by the IT Society and housed at Notre Dame for web development purposes. The specifics of the server include:

  • Supplied by Aberdeen after extensive price/performance comparisons
  • Intel Xeon 2.8 GHz, Dual-Core
  • 1 Gb RAM
  • RAID 5 Disk Array with 156 Gb Effective Storage Space

The server runs Debian Linux; the standard web tools of Apache, PHP, PERL; and Zope/Plone.

Media Services

The new web server allowed us to roll out a separate website (Media Services) for large media content, starting with the ISIT 2006 Lecture videos. Some of the rationale behind this site include:

  • Access Speed(s)/Video Quality. To enable a variety of users to access the videos, they should be encoded at several quality levels, say 3-4. Encoding takes time (about a solid day per lecture), but it's something that we can get students to do in the long run.
  • Space. The five lectures from ISIT 2006, with 4 separate encodings for different quality levels, take up approximately 5 Gb of disk space. The "old" model of web hosting at Interland will not scale up (at least in a cost-effective way) for storing this kind of content, so it seems we are stuck running our own servers if we value this kind of content.
  • Bottlenecks. If videos become popular, they can potentially overwhelm the server on which they are housed. To avoid affecting Pareja, it isbest to store the video on a separate server, so this point is inline with the disk space issue discussed above.

Suggestions for other media-rich content to archive at this site are welcome. It may make sense for the Online Editor to engage Conference Organizers to ensure the quality and organization of the media capture during the event.

Web Usage Statistics

Cron jobs have been setup at www.itsoc.org and media.itsoc.org to automatically update web usage statistics using the webalizer program. (See www.itsoc.org stats and media.itsoc.org stats) These statistics will allow us, among other things, to:

  • Prioritize web page updates according frequency of usage
  • Monitor the relative importance of various media file types, e.g., Quicktime vs. Windows Media
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various modes of making announcements with links to website content

A few examples of the useful information obtained so far include:

  • JNL announced the Media Services site with ISIT Lectures to the BoG on August 19, 2006. Usage of the site shot up for ~3 days.
  • JNL posted a link to the Media Services site on the main IT Soc website on September 22, 2006. Usage of the site has again shot up, with most visits from outside the US. We will monitor the "impulse response" of posting to the IT Soc website without email announcements, for comparison with mailing list announcements (See Below).

If you have questions about the web site, we can probably answer them using these statistics.

Mailing Lists

With the new server, there is also the possibility of running a mailing list server (e.g., GNU Mailman). This will allow folks to send email to one address instead of 30, and will also allow for web archives of the lists (either public or private). The software is installed and being configured, and we expect to do some initial testing in the coming weeks.

We could create a mailing list for each position/committee that wants one. The archive of the emails could help with transitions. At an appropriate time before their tenure begins, new officers could be added to the list. Similary, at an appropriate time after their tenure, old officers could be removed.

We'll want to think through some logistics, i.e., which lists to create, which archives to make public/private, and so forth. But once this is in place, email among Society officers and the BoG should be much more convenient.

Ongoing

We are working with Officers to create Conference Status and Volunteering pages. The IT Students Committee has expressed interest in working together to integrate the websites, avoid redundancy, and better utilize student volunteers in the web effort.