You may have noticed from reading the Bulletin Board that the Internet Committee is pursuing the development of a new website for nargs.org.
The most important features of the proposed new site are the following:
Drupal Content Management System
Improved User Interface
Non-technical editorial control
Enhanced navigation and ease of use
Updated and enhanced visual design
Single User Login
Integrated Membership Database
Join and Renewal On-line
Members Update Profiles
Enhanced RG Quarterly Page
For a more complete discussion of the process and an up to date list of features, go to mcnargs.org/New_Website.html.
Sounds like "consultancy speak" for "we're going to make improvements folks" ! ;D
These planned improvements are significant and congratulations to all involved in getting this moving along for NARGS.
At the Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia, we recently upgraded our website and included many of the features proposed for the new NARGS website. In particular, the Content Management System (CMS) revolutionizes website functionality. It allows a website to be modified with little computer knowledge - about the same level as required to post to this Forum. This means that almost anyone can take on the role of "webmaster" and may in fact, make that role obsolete. With a CMS, a number of members can easily contribute to various aspects of the website.
We have implemented an integrated membership data base that allows on-line new subscriptions and renewals and gives members access to their contact information which can be updated by individual members. This reduces the requirement for central administration - important in a volunteer organization ;D. We have also applied the structure and functionality of e-commerce to our seed exchange which makes it more effective to use. It can be viewed here:
We have found these website changes to be very effective at the Alpine Garden Club of BC and, with the CMS, I hope our website will eventually be an effective "meeting place" for our members all over the world. I am sure that the new NARGS website will be of great benefit to the far-flung NARGS membership and make running the organization easier and more effective once it becomes the real hub of the society.
There are some definite complexities here, particularly regarding incorporation of the NARGS Forum and the fact our forum not only allows NARGS members to participate, but it is also open to non-NARGS forum membership upon forum moderator approval; this aspect not necessarily easily rolled into the planned upgrade to the NARGS website. I am traveling this week in Las Vegas (for work) and cannot contribute to this discussion in a more meaningful way until this coming weekend of Dec 1 & 2.
Non-members will have no problem registering and logging into the Drupal site. They will be users with permission to contribute to the forum pages.
There definitely will be work involved to make sure that the Drupal forum works to your satisfaction.
What does "Drupal" mean please?
I think the main points are that it's a tool for developing websites and it is "open-source" which basically means that anyone can use it, there are no owners of the tool system, and so on. There is an entry on Wikipedia but it's the sort of entry that doesn't help.
I'm sure there are others who could give you a better answer but since no-one has this is the best simple answer I can give you.
Many thanks Mark.
It is the "consultant" again.
A Content Management System (CMS) is software that organizes and controls the components of a website. The current nargs.org uses the Joomla! CMS. The Internet Committee chose Drupal CMS because it, like Joomla!, is open-source and widely supported. It is particularly useful for community-based websites such as ours. There are many developers who have contributed modules for each of the components. For example, there are several forum modules, one of which we hope to adapt to NARGS Fourm users' satisfaction for the new website. (The current Forum runs on SMF software and is an entirely distinct component of nargs.org. Hence, separate logins.) The availability of these modules means less programming (and less expense) to develop the website. Drupal CMS permits us to assign page privileges at many levels which means that non-technical members can have much more editorial control over the content. (Currently, only administrators, who have better things to do with their time, can make editorial changes to the main pages.) We anticipate that this will make nargs.org a much more vibrant site.
I hope this helps.
I've always wondered what the reason is for multiple logs.
Thanks, Ben, and a belated welcome to the Forum, too!
........ Drupal CMS permits us to assign page privileges at many levels which means that non-technical members can have much more editorial control over the content...........
Many thanks for responding Ben, I'm a little clearer now!! One thing that worries me is the assumption that "non-technical members" actually want "more editorial control over the content" Some don't and couldn't care a fig about exercising their own "editorial control". Maybe it's an age thing but speaking personally I'm happy to leave the technical "guff" to Mark and others and concentrate solely on enjoying the content in the spirit of learning, comradeship, and, if there's a laugh about then enjoying that too.
I'm supposing this could be useful in the sort of case that has come up a few times for me: I have wanted to post things in the Family/
genus section of the forum, but found that there was no area for Ericaceae, for example. While I could add topics to an existing board, as a non-administrator, I could not add new boards, so I had to pester administrators for that. I would think, though, you might want to carefully examine which editorial tools you want all members to have access to- you could in theory get a situation where people are constantly splitting off topics and creating new boards to the extent that it is all too fractured... If this is even the sort of editorial activity Ben is talking about...
That would be chaos, Cohan. Or worse, maybe even CHAOS (from the Get Smart TV series). ;D ;)
I think it would be more like allowing Chapters to edit their own individual info pages in the main NARGS site, for instance.
I should have been clearer; Rick is correct. I was speaking about the main nargs.org website. It is our view that the Forum and the WIKI are models for how the entire site should be run. In the case of the Forum, Mark is doing a remarkable job of keeping the site not only operative, but vibrant, because he has created an environment whereby registered users are actively contributing interesting an exciting material.
Editorial control does not mean administrative or structural control. If you look at the information that we have distributed and posted you will see that we envision that web developers will be contracted to make major changes and upgrades. A site administrator will be responsible for assigning page privileges, maintenance and minor structural changes to the site. A Content Editor will have overall editorial control of the content on the website. He will have provide the vision for how it should look and in addition to providing material on his own, will assign editorial tasks to managers for specific pages and approve changes before they are posted. Malcolm McGregor has agreed to be our initial Content Manager. We are fortunate that he has agreed to take on this responsibility because it will provide continuity between the Quarterly and the website. Malcolm or one of his assistants will field suggestions or contributions to the website. The Drupal database allows for an infinite permutation of page privilege assignments so members will only be allowed to work on pages for which they have been assigned.
The Drupal database also permits us to integrate the membership database into the site. Bobby Ward, our Executive Director, will continue to administer the database, but we believe that many of the tasks he performs now will be automated. Forum users are familiar with managing their profiles. Those who are NARGS members will be able to update their membership information. Online membership renewal, as well as joining, will be easier.
No changes for administration of the Forum or the WIKI pages are planned.
So pleased to hear that, Ben ... and many thanks to each and every contributor to this wonderful resource.
Hello all, after an exhausting week in Las Vegas (15,000 attendee conference) and long bookend days of travel, I'm back and can contribute. First, I will respond to some of the previous posts.
I have wanted to post things in the Family/Genus section of the forum, but found that there was no area for Ericaceae, for example. While I could add topics to an existing board, as a non-administrator, I could not add new boards, so I had to pester administrators for that.
Cohen, no need to worry about pestering the moderators team, we're happy to help and give full consideration to any and all suggestions. There is of course need for control and organization of the NARGS Forum at the "board" level, otherwise there would be chaos (or CHAOS, good one Rick ;) ).
In the case of the Forum, Mark is doing a remarkable job of keeping the site not only operative, but vibrant, because he has created an environment whereby registered users are actively contributing interesting an exciting material.
Thanks Ben, but I do not deserve full credit, as moderation of NARGS Forum is performed with equal activity, contribution, competence, and dedication by fellow moderators Lori Skulski and Rick Rodich.
There are many developers who have contributed modules for each of the components. For example, there are several forum modules, one of which we hope to adapt to NARGS Fourm users' satisfaction for the new website. (The current Forum runs on SMF software and is an entirely distinct component of nargs.org. Hence, separate logins.)
Let me clarify this point, which also connects to to my concern about how registration might work under the Drupal environment. Originally when NARGS Forum opened for business, it was for NARGS Members only. Accordingly, the self registration component of the SMF forum software was disabled because there was no need for it, all new NARGS members were given NARGS Forum membership.
Once it was decided to open NARGS Forum participation to any validated and approved internet users (e.g. NARGS membership not required), we (myself and Hugh MacMillan) had to implement a number of steps to make this work. Basically, the self-registration component of SMF forum software had to be turned on to allow internet users to sign up for the forum. To avoid becoming inundated by spammers and seas of internet miscreants, we installed a "anti-forum-spam" plugin to the SMF forum software. As registration requests come in, their IP address, email address, and forum username are compared to a massive database of "content spammers", and if they come up positive as spam, they are automatically denied access. The NARGS Forum experiences 200-400 bogus registration requests each day, which are thankfully auto-rejected!
Here's an example of an automated registration request rejection, this applicant tried registering 20 times so far today:
The user sdfdsfghhja with Email [email protected] (IP 22.214.171.124) is a Spam.
As you can see from the results using the Forum Spam List Checker utility, this is one busy spammer.
Spammers are industrious malefactors, continuously generating new email & IP addresses to give the "appearance" of having clean credentials for a day or two, until their bad behavior gets them reported to anti-spam databases. Accordingly, some spammy registration requests still get through, as many as 10 per day, which sit there and await moderation by myself. To vet registration requests awaiting moderation, I use a forum spam checking utility that runs the applicant's credentials through 14 different databases; 99% of the time these prove positive for spam.
Sometimes I run across registration requests where it is difficult to evaluate validity. In such cases, I google search their credentials, including general geographic location determined from their IP address, to find more clues to make a determination whether to reject or accept the application.
Given this rather manual process, what I'm interested in hearing from the web redesign and project management team, how do we accommodate the NARGS Member registration, and NARGS Forum registration open to both NARGS and non-NARGS members, and protect the forum from entry by internet evidoers?
That would be chaos, Cohan. Or worse, maybe even CHAOS (from the Get Smart TV series). ;D ;)
Agreed. Just please don't try to get Maxwell Smart to fix anything!
Given this rather manual process, what I'm interested in hearing from the web redesign and project management team, how do we accommodate the NARGS Member registration, and NARGS Forum registration open to both NARGS and non-NARGS members, and protect the forum from entry by internet evildoers?
A good point I think, Mark.
In the SRGC, we keep Forum registration as a separate entity for just that reason - also we keep seed exchange registration as a separate process - we are very mindful of the risks of any online database of all members' details being vulnerable to hacking and so we restrict online info in that database to names and addresses.
Thanks Maggi for weighing in on this issue, your perspective on how things work at SRGC is most pertinent and valuable to this discussion.
Thanks Mark for so diligently monitoring the front gate. Your anti-spam program scores 100% in my books.
My name is Daniel Dillon. I am a new NARGS member and Technical Advisor to the Internet Committee and the Adcom on the web site re-design project. I share Mark's concern for identifying and eliminating spam on the new site. I believe that no automated anti-spam program is fool-proof, so we must always, as Mark has done, add human eyes in the end.
Spam is any unwanted posting on a web site, be it a comment to an article, a forum post or a user registration by a spammer (who will then create more spam on your site). Several Developers (computer programmers/web site builders) in the Drupal community have contributed automated spam detection modules that can 'plug in' to a web site built on the Drupal framework, such as our new one. Three of the best modules that we are considering are Mollom, Antispam and Spambot.
Spambot works like the anti-spam plugin that is currently installed on this SMF forum. It queries the same third-party database to compare data provided upon registration, weeding out the known offenders.
Mollom is a new anti-spam service, created by the founder of Drupal. So of course, it integrates into Drupal hand in glove. As well as filtering out spam, it rewards proven non-spammers with reduced interference in the form-filling process.
Each of these services do the same things, just in different ways; they stop spam, they learn from experience, and they try to stay current. The two items that remain are saving the false positives, legitimate posts, from being flagged, and visually finding the few that get through. This will be a shared responsibility on the new site, so we are hoping (fingers crossed!) that this will make Mark's job a bit easier.
Anyone wanting to know about the new site can of course continue this thread or contact me in which ever way you choose. Thanks for listening.
Is there work going on the NARGS front page, it looks decidedly odd today?
There must be!
On Wednesday, June 12, 2013, the NARGS Forum will be closed, for transition to the new NARGS.ORG web site. The NARGS Forum as we know it will be very different, using a web-based interface instead of the SMF forum software familiar to NARGS and SRGC forum users.
Regarding NARGS Forum logins, I've been provided with the following information: all current NARGS Forum users, whether a NARGS member or not, will maintain their original USERNAME and PASSWORD with which to login. Any NARGS forumist wishing to change their password can do so by clicking the login link and select the "request new password" tab. As before, people not already members of NARGS Forum can request a password to log in.
My understanding is the functionality and capabilities of the new web-based NARGS Forum, are comparable to what we had previously. No doubt there will be some edits and tweaks necessary to get things converted over and running smoothly. Please bear with us during this transition; I'm along for the ride, as are our Moderators, as fearless explorers without much knowledge of what's in store ahead of us; the forum just being a piece of the much larger overhaul of the entire NARGS.ORG web site.
NARGS Forum Lead Moderator
I've made a strong effort to stay out of the way on this rather remarkable process, but at this point a few comments from me are appropriate.
First, we all need to understand how much work has been VOLUNTEERED by Ben Burr, Daniel Dillon, Mark McDonough, Malcolm and several others. Their efforts have been essential to the success of this project, and they all deserve our thanks. Second, as the new site gets going, we're all going to discover how much new 'stuff' we're going to have to play with. Make sure you visit frequently, and spend some time just moving around the site, checking out the resources we're making available to all rock gardeners, all over the world. And finally, this has been a NARGS project, funded by NARGS members, but it won't be limited to NARGS members. But unless some of you that take advantage of our benefits actually join the organization, we're going to face increasing financial challenges in the near term. So consider (seriously consider!) joining. We'll all be better off for it.
Congrats to all on the changeover.
I love the fact pictures ,up to 3, appear side by side and it appears that the quality of the pics is clearer ....or is that my imagination ....(can't find the smiley button yet).
Congrats to all on the changeover.
We could have any number of photos side-by-side before. There are a bunch of things that need to be addressed in this new web-based NARGS Forum to address how to do certain things, like how best to post photos, how to regain (if possible) some functionality we had in the old SMF NARGS Forum that is missing here, and iron out the wrinkles, such as the fact there is no way to get to one's message inbox except to falsely start a new personal message to some user, and once that action is invoked, one can actually get to their "inbox", "sent messages", etc... try to get to your messages directly, it currently seems impossible (the link to one's inbox needs to be added). I like you optimism Dave, but personally, I'm not very happy with the change.
I heard a rumor that Monarch is no longer working on our website and that someone in Poland is now working on fixing and improving it. Any truth to this rumor? If so I'd like some details.
Sorry, Jan, I don't know anything about it. Perhaps one of the other moderators might?
If it is so, I"m glad to hear that it's being worked on - sounds positive.
Very sorry for the tardy reply.
Since January, NARGS has contracted with Blazej Owczarczyk for web development. He quickly identified and repaired the programming error that lead to delays in the seed exchange program for some users. He and Daniel are responsible for the smooth functioning of the program in the surplus round of the seed exchange and the registration page for the upcoming Santa Fe AGM. I am sure that you will be pleased when you try it yourself.
Daniel has communicated easily with Blazej and his time estimates for work have been very good. He has been very responsive and works until a job has been completed. Among other tasks, he has allowed us to register secondary members and correct a number of errors created by the previous developers.
So is Monarch completely out of the picture? If so this is probably good. I think they sold us all a bag of goods because it sure seems like the website has more problems than it should have. Our website certainly doesn't work as well as it should on my Ipad. In particular I have problems with the drop down menus.
Is there a list of problems Blazej is going to fix? Improvements he'll implement? It's good to know he's good at follow thru and completion. I just hope I never have to try to figure out how to pronounce his last name!
I won't be going to Santa Fe. We're leaving in less than two weeks for three weeks in Europe so asking for another trip would be a bit greedy.
Thanks for taking the time to respond and fill us in.
How does one contact Blazej to report site problems, that is, does he look in at this site regularly, or should he be contacted by some other means, e.g. e-mail?
I just documented another site glitch in the Administrator's message area (when a thread is split off into a new topic, all the photos in the first posting of the new topic are lost. (This seems somewhat reminiscent of what happened when the forum went to this new software - the photos in the first posting in most threads were lost.) Anyway, it would be greatly appreciated if it could be fixed, and even better if the photos could be restored if possible.
How does one contact Blazej to report site problems? That is, does he look in at this site regularly, or should he be contacted by some other means, e.g. e-mail?