We are moving our web services (cont.)

This is the continuation of a previous post. If you missed it, I recommend reading it first and then resume reading this post where I explain the new wiki for our users, the forum for news and announcements, and the new version of the booking software.

A wiki for our users

Until now the information relevant to users was scattered (some say hidden) throughout the pages at our website, and its management was affected by the technical limitations I already mentioned in my earlier post. In an attempt to improve the situation, less than two years ago we started a wiki site to evaluate the possibility of using a wiki to handle the amount of information we generate. Although the circumstances have forced us to prioritize the wiki as a tool to manage the SeRMN, we have nevertheless realised that it is an agile and productive way to collect, organize and make available all kind of information. In consequence, we plan on using it to convey our users the knowledge required to optimally use the scientific equipment available at our facility.

Our plan for the incoming weeks is to move the current wiki to its new location, and to reorganize its content, making freely available as much of it as possible. The next step will be to move all valuable information from the old website to the wiki. Last, we will add new content, prioritizing the information about practical aspects of using the spectrometers, guidelines for safety at work, and facility running rules.

And in the meanwhile we achieve our goal, you can continue browsing the old website.

E-mail lists replaced by a forum

In September 2006 we started two email distribution lists to keep our users aware of any news related to the SeRMN. Although they have been a useful tool, we think they have two important limitations,

  • Managing the subscriptions is not easy, and it requires accessing the mail list server and editing text files.
  • It lacks a repository of past email messages, and users cannot browse past messages in search for information.

Certainly, we could replace our current list software with a new one solving these limitations, but we opted for trying a bulletin board system and we have come to like it so much that we will replace the mail list with a dedicated forum in our bulletin board.

Since September last year we have been testing a bulletin board running on phpBB. Most of the forums are of internal use and its access is restricted to SeRMN staff, but there is a forum called Anuncis generals dedicated to notices and news relevant to SeRMN users: instrument failures and problems, purchase and installation of new instruments and accessories, availability of new techniques and methodologies, announcement of training courses, and similar events. Subscription to that forum will be mandatory for current SeRMN users.

A similar forum exists for news only relevant to research group and/or project leaders, access to that forum is restricted to its intended end users.

The spectrometer booking software

Back on 2007 we tried a first booking software to replace the monthly calendars posted next to the spectrometers. That first software had some serious drawbacks, and we replaced it the following year by Bumblebee v. 1.0.6, a web-based instrument booking system. This software has been a great success and has vastly improved the management of users permissions and spectrometer booking at the SeRMN.

These last weeks we have installed a newer version (1.1.4) of the software at our new server, we have moved all our booking records to it, and we have been testing and improving it for the past two weeks. After fixing a minor albeit annoying bug, we may complete the move next Wednesday during maintenance time and make it available afterwards. 

© 2011 – 2013, Miquel. All rights reserved by the author(s) and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona except for texts and images already copyrighted by third parties (e.g. journal publishers) and used here under the fair use provision.