Blogs - November 2011

Below are the blog entries for November 2011

Using InnoDB as the Storage Engine for MySQL in Cascade Server

By Adam Griffis
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 at 3:00pm

This is a technical post addressing instances using MySQL as their database vendor. Readers who are not administrators or administrators whose systems use SQL Server or Oracle should skip it.

If you’ve read the Database Configuration Guide for MySQL (and if you’re an admin, hopefully you have) you may have noticed this line: “IMPORTANT: Make sure that your database is configured to use the InnoDB storage engine.” Unfortunately, despite that insistent all-caps word “IMPORTANT”, it’s easy to miss a single line in a lengthy configuration guide, and installation is possible to complete even if this step is not taken. There is an issue on file to make the InnoDB storage engine a precondition for server start-up, so fixing your database engine should be done sooner rather than later. In the meantime, what is the InnoDB engine, and why should you make sure your database is set up to use it?

InnoDB has two important features that the other major storage engine for MySQL, MyIsam, does not: row-locking and referential constraints (also known as foreign keys). Row locking, in contrast to table locking, means that only accessed records in a table will be locked, preventing other users from viewing or editing them. For MyIsam, all records for a table are locked every time a single record in that table is accessed. This means that as long as Cascade is reading/writing to any given page, file, block, format or template for a user, no other user can be served any page, file, block, format or template. For Cascade instances with a low user count, the performance impacts will probably be small, but for instances with high concurrency, the performance effects can be significant.

The second, and arguably much more important, feature of InnoDB is that it allows referential constraints. Referential constraints allow database integrity to be maintained for rows from a given table that reference other rows, either within different database tables or the same table. When the referenced row is deleted, these constraints can automatically delete the referencing row, delete just the reference or stop the deletion entirely. This means that when a structured data block references a file for one of its asset choosers, when that file is deleted then the association will be automatically cleared out. If this does not happen, then the structured data block cannot be rendered.

Most references in Cascade don’t solely use constraints to enforce data integrity; there is usually procedural code which enforces the integrity and the constraint is merely a backup. However, there are currently over 300 referential constraints and occasionally bugs do mean that our code doesn’t enforce integrity. In these cases, referential constraints become necessary. This means that if your database is using MyIsam as a storage engine, then the longer this continues, the more potentially crippling database inconsistencies may pop up.

So how do we go about verifying that our database is using InnoDB for all of its tables? First, to verify that all existing tables are using InnoDB, run the following commands in the MySQL command line:

mysql> use cascade;
(where cascade is the name of your Cascade database)
Database changed
mysql> show table status;

You will see results that look something like this:

Screenshot of InnoDB Settings for MySQL in Cascade Server

For every row, make sure the value for the “Engine” column is InnoDB. 

The next step is to make sure that your mysql configuration file has the option “default-storage-engine=innodb” specified under the mysqld section. The MySQL configuration file is named my.cnf (or my.ini for Windows) and is located in the installation directory of MySQL.  

If you do find that any of your tables are not using InnoDB as its storage engine, please contact support. Custom scripts are required to fix data inconsistencies, change the storage engines and restore referential constraints. If you’d like to skip the hassle of managing your database entirely, please feel free to contact us regarding a hosted license.


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Why We're Thankful for Conferences

By Holly Wright
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 at 10:00am

Earlier this month, we wrapped up InterLab 2011, the last conference on our 2011 roadshow schedule. Kat Liendgens (who was recently promoted to CEO) gave a presentation on Content Strategy and Measuring Social Media ROI and handed out Pop Rocks--which are still cool, by the way! It was a great opportunity to see some of the clients we don’t normally get to see at the Higher Education conferences we attend each year, like Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. We also got to meet some of the amazing web professionals at other national labs and research centers. 

Previously this year, we also sponsored, spoke at and/or exhibited at several other conferences, including HighEdWeb, EDUCAUSE, eduWEB, PSEWeb and a few others. Reflecting back this week, we are thankful to have these conferences and our annual User Conference because we realize that there really is no substitute for in-person interaction. Nothing helps to build a relationship more than some old-fashioned face time.

What we’re wondering now is: what opportunities did we miss to see you this year?

2012 Conferences

In 2012, we want to make sure we have a strong presence at all the most important conferences that our clients find useful and engaging. As you probably know, Cascade CMS is a Web Content Management System specifically built for higher education and equally well-suited to the needs of research centers, state and local governments, technology companies, non-profits, and healthcare organizations.

We’re planning our schedule of conferences for 2012, and while we think we have a good pulse on the conference opportunities in 2012, we really want to know...

  • What conferences did you attend this year?
  • Which conferences are you planning to attend next year?
  • Where would you like to see our Cascade Server CMS booth and super-fun swag in the coming year?

Please feel free to tweet your suggestions to us (@hannon_hill), put them in the comments below or email them to info@hannonhill.com. We hope to see you in 2012 and give you something fun with our logo on it!


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DEBUG Logging in Cascade CMS

By Tim Reilly
Thursday, November 17th, 2011 at 9:00am

One of the improvements included in a recent patch release for Cascade Server (6.10.6) makes it easier for administrators to configure logging. Exciting, right?! Not really. By nature the feature isn’t flashy and won’t ever be seen by end users. In fact, some administrators may never find the need to use it. However, for administrators that do find themselves facing hard-to-diagnose problems in the system, this functionality can be a nice time saver.  

In previous versions, logging was configured via the interface seen below:
DEBUG Logging Screen

Simple...except for that fact that--unless you contact us asking for help--you have no idea what to enter in that text field. You’re not alone. Sometimes I don’t even know what to enter into that field and I have to go digging into the back-end code to find out. Obviously that is not a great option for our clients.

With the improved logging configuration you can now also enable logging by category as seen below:
DEBUG Logging Screen with Configure by Category Option

Now there is no need to know or memorize all of those long and nerdy sounding class names.  Instead, administrators can simply select a particular feature of the system to monitor and Cascade will automatically add the appropriate classes. By default, we’ve added some of the more common categories we see as being necessary and new categories will be added in the future as needed.

This little improvement will help make support interactions that require DEBUG logging much less painful for everyone. On that note, it may prevent a support interaction from ever being needed in the first place. Read more about the 6.10.6 DEBUG logging improvement in the Knowledge Base.


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Resources for Selecting a Higher Education Web CMS

By Eric Karaszewski
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at 10:30am

Researching, selecting and implementing a web content management system (CMS) has the potential to be a lengthy and difficult process for a higher education institution.

For important long-term purchasing decisions like this, it’s beneficial to have access to a plethora of unbiased resources that will help ensure that you’re going down the right path. This is essential because your CMS selection will have a tremendous effect on your web presence for the next several years. Since we’re a web content management system provider that’s spent the past 10 years helping higher education institutions throughout the CMS research process, we have knowledge of and access to a wide range of higher education web resources. With that said, we thought it’d be beneficial to compile those resources to help anyone involved with the process.

Here are some good resources that our clients and prospects have found useful.

Nearby or Similar Schools

What content management systems are colleges and universities in your area using? What CMS solutions are colleges and universities that are of similar size and structure using? Getting feedback from those types of schools will be helpful since they will likely have similar concerns and processes in place.  

Higher Ed Listservs

Utilize popular listservs such as the UWEBD (University Web Developers) listserv. Sign up for the UWEBD listserv here, and engage with schools all over the country that have been through a similar process before. Questions asked on this listserv often receive a handful of answers within 24-48 hours from university web developers across the country.

Forums and Industry Publications

You can also solicit similar information from forums and industry publications. Some of the popular industry publications include the following (quotes beside each site are the words they use to describe themselves):

  • doteduguru - “This blog is about the pursuit of internet marketing in higher education”
  • MeetContent - “To empower higher education institutions to create and sustain web content that works by providing a resource for sharing and learning”
  • BlogHighEd - “BlogHighEd is a higher ed blogger network. We are trying to unify a community of bloggers that talk about the “higher ed” niche. We aggregate blogs from many areas: webmasters, marketers, vendors, counselors, consultants, and more.”
  • HigherEdLive - “HigherEd Live is a weekly web show focused on the emerging role of social media and digital media marketing in higher education”
  • HigherEdExperts - “Higher Ed Experts is a leading online community offering professional development and continuing education opportunities to executives and professionals working in web marketing and communications in universities and colleges around the world.”
  • CollegeWebEditor - “Collegewebeditor.com is an independent, popular and influential blog about the Web, marketing, and PR in higher education.” 
  • Real Story Group - “We publish independent vendor evaluations that help you sort out suitable technology choices for your particular needs. Our research is known for its technical depth, readability, and absolute neutrality.” 
  • EduStyle - “eduStyle is a web design gallery dedicated to higher education websites and powered by higher education web design professionals. Users submit, review, and comment on sites they like (or don’t like).”
  • University Web Developers social network  - “This social network is for anyone involved with implementing and maintaining web sites in a University environment. As a companion to the UWEBD mailing list, this site provides a platform for higher education web professionals to connect and collaborate; as well as strengthen relationships with peers across the globe.” 

Every school has a different approach to the CMS process due to varying structure, hierarchy, policies, requirements, budget, the current state of the web at the college/university, and other factors. If someone recommends a CMS without having asked any questions about the aforementioned factors, it may be wise to seek help elsewhere

What else? What are some other resources that you’ve found helpful for the CMS research process? What are some other things to look out for? Please let us know in the comments section below.


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Sneak Preview of Upcoming Webinars

By Chris Armistead
Friday, November 11th, 2011 at 3:00pm

You may have noticed that we’ve been on a short webinar hiatus while we were on the road for what we now call “conference season” here at Hannon Hill. Well, not only are we about the rectify that situation, but we are getting back into webinar mode with a BANG!

Winston Churchill-Joell from Sarah Lawrence College is going to present a webinar on the popular topics of online catalogue management and faculty pages. Before every client webinar we bring you, we do a dry run with the presenters to ensure that everything will run smoothly and the content will be of the highest quality. After completing the dry run with Sarah Lawrence this week, I can assure you that this is a webinar you will not want to miss! Sarah Lawrence College will share their success in leveraging workflow and content re-use in Cascade CMS to enable the Dean's Office to manage the catalogue, and they will touch on Sarah Lawrence's upcoming plans to roll out access to the individual bio pages for faculty.

Sign Up

The webinar will take place this coming Tuesday, November 15th at 2 PM EST. Sign up for this free webinar today.

Upcoming Webinars

Now that the conference storm has passed, we have lined up webinars for the rest of the Tuesdays this year, except for holidays. There’ll be more details to come (as well as signup links), but here’s preview of what you can expect in the upcoming weeks:

Want to Host a Webinar or Suggest a Topic for Us to Cover?

If you have an idea for a webinar that you would like to host or even if you have an idea for a webinar that you would like to see us present, please fill out the form below.

We hope to see you on Tuesday!


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How to Use Google+ for Higher Ed

By Holly Wright
Thursday, November 10th, 2011 at 1:30pm

Since joining Hannon Hill, I’ve learned quickly that the Higher Education community is a very social, very tech savvy bunch. So, if you’re reading this post today, then you’ve almost definitely heard the news (from Tuesday) that Google+ has opened up its service for brands and companies to create pages. This has been long coming, and some say well overdue. We’re not sure if Google+ will be able to continue its signup momentum from when it first launched and garner the interaction level needed for it to stick around longer than Google Buzz, but there’s one thing we do know: With 40 million users, Google+ is definitely worth testing out.

Yesterday, we retweeted a link to a Google spreadsheet that Mike Petroff (@mikepetroff) of Emerson College started for colleges and universities to share their Google+ pages. Already, over 40 schools have entered their page URLs, and from what I’ve seen, these schools have readily adopted the platform. Most of these pages already have several photo albums, videos, blog posts, updates and over 100 followers, if not more. 

How to create a Google+ for your college or university

For those of you who have been checking it out and are just about ready to dive in, here are our tips for making the most of your page:

  1. Be strategic about how you set it up. At this time, each Google+ page can only be accessed by the individual who set it up. If you need multiple people to be able to contribute to the page, create it using a common email address and password that you can share with others in the organization.
  2. Share lots of photos and videos! The advantages of Google+ over other platforms are its ease of use in uploading rich content and its clean interface with very large images.
  3. As with other channels, be sure to use your page to provide value to your followers--don’t just tell them about the stuff going on at your college, but use it to share community events, local news and interesting articles from other sites as well.
  4. Share your page with your followers on other platforms, on your website and with your Google+ followers from your personal account. Google+ doesn’t allow pages to start following individuals who haven’t started following them first, so you’ll have to look outside Google+ to gain that initial interest.
  5. In this early stage, don’t be afraid to ask your followers to share updates that they think others will find interesting. This will help spread the word about your page to your extended network within Google+. Just don't abuse this tactic.

Need some examples?

Here are some pages we think have done a great job of this so far, but check out the spreadsheet above for more examples (and to add your page to the list):

We recently went live with our own Google+ page, and we’re starting to get the word out. Let us know what you think of our Hannon Hill - Cascade Server Google+ Page, follow us, share it, comment on our photos. We want to hear from you.

Finally, if you disagree with our take on Google+ for Higher Ed or have other suggestions for how to use pages, please put your comments below. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.


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Viewing Accessibility in a New Light

By Penny Kronz
Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 at 11:30am

While at HighEdWeb, I became very interested in the accessibility conversation that was happening around me. I managed to attend a couple of sessions during the conference by John Krzesicki of deque Systems, Inc. and Jon Gunderson of University of Illinois. These sessions were really informative and got me thinking a lot about how Cascade CMS could further enable our users to be up-to-date on the latest standards. Not just the 504, 508, and ADA standards but the new and resounding rules that are coming out of law suits, especially in Higher Education.

I think the most interesting observation for me was that accessibility used to be about ensuring the same level of access to health and safety information for people with disabilities as for those without. Now it is about making sure that those students are able to accomplish the same tasks, no matter how big or seemingly minute, as students without disabilities--whether it’s registering for a course, finding out when the next campus event is, or simply finding out the dining hall hours. Accessibility for the web has become a lot more about allowing the same access to ALL information not just some information. Accessibility is easy to pass over when you are someone who has never had to think about it. This past week, my conversations with people at HighEdWeb really got me thinking about accessibility in a way that I hadn't previously considered.

I am glad to say that Cascade Server CMS has had a native accessibility checker for a long time. We have enabled our business users to make sure their content is accessible before pushing it to their web server. I plan on utilizing the information that I have brought back from HighEdWeb to enable our company as a whole to be more aggressive with accessibility and to enable our users to be in the know as to the whys and hows of making their sites more accessible--for PCs and laptops, mobile devices, notebooks, iPads, and whatever new flashy devices pop up in store down the road tomorrow.

What does accessibility mean to you?  In what ways have you had to redefine your understanding of accessibility to meet the increasing standards?


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Daylight Savings Time and Cascade Server

By Joel Baxter
Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 at 3:30pm

We’ve had several clients ask us about whether Cascade Server will be affected by the U.S. change in Daylight Savings Time when we all set our clocks back an hour this Sunday at 2 am. We don't want you to lose any more sleep than you have to due to the time change, so this blog post will help you identify potential snags DST might cause and provide tips and resources to prevent them. 

Scheduled Publishing

Although Cascade Server itself isn’t affected by DST, a small component within it can be affected if you are using Scheduled Publishing. Specifically with Destinations, Publish Sets, and Sites that are publishing your content out every n hours, then this setting will not respect DST changes. For example, if set to publish every 12 hours starting at 1:00 am, it will publish at 1:00 am and 1:00 pm. However, during Daylight Savings Time it will be publishing at 2:00 am and 2:00 pm. The best resolution for this issue is to convert all of your hourly set Scheduled Publish Sets to use cron style scheduling.

Java and Oracle Updates

It’s also a good idea to have the latest version of Java installed, and check with your database vendors for any updates. Oracle (formerly Sun) has published online information on Daylight Savings Time and the Java Runtime Environment. We recommend you install J2SE 6.0 Update 29 or later and that you apply the most recent timezone data via Oracle's tzupdater tool.

Database Vendors

For database vendors, only Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Oracle 10g are affected by DST as they both need patches from their respective vendors. All other supported database vendors and versions should not be affected by DST changes. However, since these applications reference the system time, you should check with your operating system vendor for any applicable patches as well.

International Considerations

Please note the U.S. Congress changed Daylight Savings Time in 2007 to begin three weeks earlier and end a week later. Some countries are still evaluating whether they will adopt the new rules for themselves so we should anticipate more changes in the future regarding DST and time zone rules for countries that typically align with U.S. DST rules.

We hope this post will help ensure that you don't experience any troublesome issues because of DST other than having to adjust to a new sleep schedule.


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HighEdWeb 2011: Why (Quality) Content is King & Accessibility is Key

By Joel Dixon, Penny Kronz
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 at 10:30am

Last week, we were a sponsor for the HighEdWeb 2011 conference in Austin, TX. It was an opportunity to visit a great city and interact with some of the best, brightest and most interesting web professionals on the frontlines of higher education organizations worldwide. It’s always nice to talk to customers such as Scott Crevier at St. Norbert College who has several pictures with our entire team (as luck would have it, he also was the winner of a new Texas-sized cowboy hat).

We would like to thank all the new folks who spoke with us as well.   It would be nice to attribute the traffic to our splashy new booth and cool products, but the real star was our MindFlex game which enticed visitors to test their concentration powers in a “battle of the mind” with members of our team.  The headgear was a bit geeky, but the experience never ceased to be fun!  Congratulations to Laura Cleland from University of Toronto (shout-out to #allcanadian crew), who was the grand prize winner of the game itself.

“Keep Austin Weird” is an often heard and seen phrase around Austin. Tim Nekritz’s recap blog talks more about the particulars. But for me it’s the simplicity and effectiveness of the content that made the difference. This phrase wasn’t more impressive when I saw it on a huge billboard as opposed to a T-shirt. Or on a digital display as opposed to a poster.  I thought the content was awesome and it stuck--simple.

In many ways I think the entire HighEdWeb 2011 conference reinforced this point again and again. It’s the CONTENT that matters!  With that in mind, here’s a few takeaways...

(Quality) Content is King. An emphasis on content was everywhere and the nifty twitter data reporting by Mike Petroff showed that it was the 3rd most tweeted keyword during the conference (behind “web” and “austin”). There were far too many wonderful presentations to highlight but I have to tip my hat to Rick Allen (one-half of the dynamic meetcontent duo) for showing how to make quality content work with web analytics. Producing great content is always the goal but analytics can help with content audits (yes, less is more!), content effectiveness (valuable content should create some action by your site visitor) and content strategy (Bueller...Bueller...Bueller?).

Content Strategy still has a long way to go in Higher Education. Content is king but content strategy is the means for organizing and maximizing it. During our own corporate track session on Agile Marketing: Content Strategy & Effective Tools, less than 10% of attendees acknowledged having a content strategy at their organizations. Just recently, .eduGuru tweeted some teaser data from the currently open Higher Ed CMS Usage survey stating only 18% of respondents had a content reuse strategy in place. Content strategy provides context for your marketing goals, objectives & outcomes. Kate Johnson (University of Denver) did a wonderful job of addressing this topic during her presentation What Content Strategy Really Means for Higher Ed. The key is that content strategy informs your entire marketing strategy (not just web either): content creation, content publishing, your social media channels and your mobile initiative.

Mobile is all the rage but...  At least nine workshops had a focus on the impact and importance of a mobile presence for higher education web content. However, a mobile site is really just another channel for guess what? Quality Content. This intersection between content and mobile was well-covered during the presentation Roger Wolf & Doug Beck (both of University of Central Florida) led on mobilized content. They implored us that people really want good content--the mechanism is just the tool. And a statement that needs no explanation: “Content that is crap on a desktop will be crap on mobile.” Put your focus on creating quality content first. Then think about the technology.

Higher Ed needs to take Accessibility seriously or else! I know it is terrible to start this one with such an ominous tone, we all know that a lot of organizations are doing their best with ever tightening budgets and limited staff resources. But this was a really big takeaway. If you have a web presence, you need to take all members of your audience’s needs seriously. Without paying real attention to accessibility guidelines you may not only be unintentionally eliminating some of your prospective audience, but you may be opening your organization’s door to a lawsuit. It is great for people to be motivated to create their content and manage their own sites but as leaders in a constantly evolving field, we need to make sure that content is accessible to everyone. 

We look forward to covering some of these topics in more detail with later blog posts but would love to hear your thoughts on these or other takeaways from #heweb11. What did you think were the most important topics covered?


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