The monthly programming calendar for KONZ Internet Radio in Manhattan, Kansas made and used by corps member Megan Andrews.
The VISTA will work to develop NorthShorePort.org, an online database of resources to help those in poverty in the North Shore Port area.
improve user friendliness
An example of a new feature would be a report that lists the services that are not available in a given city.
We hope to have our software apt-get installable on Debian/Ubuntu Learning the Debian package system is a prerequisite for this goal
To achieve even better user friendliness, we do lots of usability testing. We watch people use our software, change things they are struggling with and re-test.
Infrastructure includes unit tests, integration tests, documentation, little utility scripts (like “clean”)
Saul was the VISTA Leader for the 2004 - 2005 Program year and worked to manage, motivated, and connect all the Digital Arts Service Corps members out in the field. Saul also worked to redesign the DASC website and implement a better system for VISTAs to record and share their experiences online.
VISTAs have not had an easy time keeping in touch with each other, both during and after service. In some cases certain personal information wasn’t even kept on file, such as a home telephone number. I created a global addressbook last year and incorporated it into the redesigned VISTA website this year. Alumni and current VISTAs now have a simple facility on the Project website to share their information as well as access other VISTAs’ information. In enhancing VISTA alumni resources and communications the VISTA Leaders wrote a form letter to all past alumni announcing the creation of a new CTC VISTA alumni connections mailing list (January), which also served to connect alumni to the great CTC VISTA directory networking resource. We plan to use this addressbook to periodically send a newsletter to alumni and hold reunions.
Assistant Director Paul Hansen and I worked collaboratively to re-launch the VISTA website (http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/vista/), creating a mock-up on a development server before going live with the re-design. In addition to migrating the directory pages off the development server, I replaced the static roster listings (current VISTAs, alumni, all VISTAs, and organizations) with dynamic database- backed pages, laying the groundwork for a recruiting system in which potential supervisors can add and edit VISTA job descriptions directly on the website. (The rosters do not at present list who is a second- or third-year VISTA, and it does not indicate any special titles for people, like VISTA Leader, for example).
Developed enhanced VISTA resources. One of the biggest challenges any group of short-term workers faces is the loss of knowledge when the staff turns over. In an effort to combat the lack of knowledge retention between VISTA “classes,” Dan
Schackman and I erected a resource wiki on the Project website. A wiki is “a website that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also allows anyone to edit the content” (WikiPedia.org). The wiki technology is widely deployed across the Internet and was chosen for its ability to cater to both novice and advanced Internet users. Dan and I created a modest framework though which VISTAs and non-VISTAs alike can contribute to and maintain a database of resources exclusively targeted to CTC VISTAs. Dan and I fleshed it out with resources provided by VISTAs David Johnson and Michelle Rogers. I feel the wiki will serve as an effective tool enabling VISTAS to have greater participation
The Community Technology Review website (www.comtechreview.org) was beefed up and migrated from an obsolete web server to a server which hosts all other CPCS website properties (CPCS, VISTA, CBC, etc.). Of note are the new comment approval system and the PayPal order page. The comment page will ease the approval process for user-submitted comments, and the order page will streamline CTR hardcopy purchases which can now be handled with a credit card. I also trained Dan Schackman to use the administration interface and made some minor code changes for the Winter 2005 issue.
Finally, I became savvy with Final Cut Pro and edited a couple of small VISTA project videos for distribution on the web (http://www.cpcs.umb.edu/vista/video/). I massaged the swearing in footage for the 2004-05 crop of VISTAs originally shot on September 1 by former VISTA Leader James Fishwick, featuring US Representative Barney Frank and UMass/Boston Chancellor Keith Motley. A couple more projects have been added to the archives, including a Liz Cavano’s half-hour “What’s a VISTA” (2001) and Scott Hillier’s “CTC VISTAs: A Day in the Life” (2003).
The past few months haven’t been spent exclusively glued to a keyboard and monitor. I spoke at Faneuil Hall in October on AmeriCorps Opening Day, an ambassador of the CTC VISTA Project. A number of situations arose with a few VISTAs, some of whom I tried to help with varying degrees of success. For my part I served as a liaison with a VISTA in Minnesota, who ended up leaving the program after transferring from her first assignment and failing to make her second assignment work; I supported two VISTAs in Massachusetts, one in California, and one in North Carolina who had some conflicts with their supervisors and another experiencing some serious interpersonal conflicts with one of her co-workers. These situations have been very time and energy intensive, requiring frequent and detailed communication with VISTA support staff and the involved parties.
On a related front of Project responsibility, I assumed coordinating responsibilities for the monthly meetings among the Boston VISTAs, ensuring an agenda, chairperson, and minute-taker for every meeting as well as editing and posting the minutes
During the 05-06 project year, Saul’s supervisor said the following:
Saul has continued to lend his considerable technical skills to a number of projects– some to the benefit of the college others to the benefit of the Project. The addition of the reporting system to the Project’s ‘online application system’ has been an enormous help and was pulled-off pretty much without a hitch. Reports were submitted by participating organizations largely on-time! This was unheard of in the past and represents a huge leap forward in efficency. He continues to work on the application system. Currently he is revising it so that organizations can have and access more than one application– for multi-year projects. This revision is proceeding slowly however. In the role of VISTA Leader (and as the Leader of the other Leaders) Saul has performed well. Communication between the Leaders could be better (more frequent perhaps) but the improvement over previous years has been considerable largely due to his coordinating efforts which began well before the August 2005 PSO. Saul also plays a vital role as the person whom I bounce my ideas off of. As I often have bad ideas, the value of this cannot be underestimated.
Peter Bull began his term of service at LTC in September 2004, and served for one year as LTC’s Online Communities Developer. In this role he led the development of the DigitalBicycle, a collaborative project sponsored by LTC and other partners including the CTC VISTA project.
Peter oversaw and directly implemented numerous aspects of the “DigitalBicycle” project, primarily focusing on developing a Drupal-based centralized web community that leverages the power of the distributed network but provides for efficient and usable group collaboration. This included planning the framework and workflow of the site, the setup and administration of the server, development and implementation of the code that powers the system, and preparation for the future expansion of the project as it moves from a beta project to having a working user base. In addition to developing the core web system, Peter worked with outside volunteers to develop the specification for a desktop publishing application called “Sprocket” and managed its development by outside programmers. Furthermore, Peter has spec’d out and begun development on a Linux-based client-side system, “KickStand”, which handles the automatic seeding and downloading of specified material and is designed to be used by participating organizations.
The fact of the matter is that the CTC VISTA program is directly responsible for where we are today with this project, ready to build capacity for organizations around the country. To get to this point we needed the full-time attention of a highly skilled programmer interested in working in a community-service setting. Not only would we have not been able to recruit someone at this level for this position without the CTC VISTA program, but in our current, pre-income generating phase we never would have been able to hire them. I have long felt that one of the primary strengths of the CTC VISTA program is how it empowers both the organization and the individual volunteer. The individual gains the opportunity to engage full-time on a project that is primed for growth but for which they might never be hired in a normal full-time capacity. The organization gains the opportunity to devote energies that might not otherwise be budgetable and if successful, build its own capacity to a point that it is able to hire an individual to continue the work started under the VISTA project. We are happy to report that this is exactly what happened at LTC.
Though we had high expectations when we were developing our work plan last year and recruiting a VISTA to accomplish it, Peter exceeded our expectations in every regard. While some of this was due to his accomplished background and well-developed skill set, it is mainly due to the fact that Peter worked extraordinarily hard and was as committed to this project as anyone could possibly be. Peter took the idea of 24-hour service quite seriously, working long hours at LTC and often late nights at home. Though frequently traveling on behalf of LTC he has established systems allowing him to continue development anywhere with a network connection. Beyond that, he’s been known to write code by hand on a legal pad when other options are not available. Peter has proven himself as an excellent VISTA and we anticipate that he will do the same as a VISTA supervisor this next year. We are extremely appreciative of Peter’s hard work and of the CTC VISTA project for providing us with the opportunity to grow our capacity so greatly in the past year. The CTC VISTA project is truly our most valuable partner in the DigitalBicycle collaboration and we will work to recognize it as such online and in person.
SINGLE NETWORK-WIDE USERNAME (LDAP SERVER)
This project moved us from a system that involved either multiple passwords for a user to remember for our different services, or synchronizing files between machines. Under the new system, users have one password, there is only a single box housing all the user information, and data about users is easily associable with their account, allowing us to do organization-wide address books and the like.
BETTER EMAIL AND SPAM FILTERING (EMAIL SERVER)
After the LDAP Server, our email service was transferred off of the one box we were running all our services off of and moved to a much more powerful dedicated box. The new system involved keeping all the information about email accounts in the LDAP Server, the beginnings of a unified login page for all our services, and better Spam and virus filtering where Spam is quarantined online rather than sent to the user. Currently, our Spam filtering is about 99.18% efficient, with a false positive rate of 0.31%
Chris designed a handful of different Perl scripts to automate and / or facilitate the administration of our systems. These included a reworking of out account creation script to handle the new LDAP Server, various small backup and synchronization scripts, and scripts to make sure that current configuration files and the files in our backup were in sync.
CREATED BACKUP SYSTEM FOR SYSTEM CONFIGURATION
Although we had checklists for setting our many systems up in the case that they failed and needed to be rebuilt, the instructions were complicated, and were not always compete. With this project, we attempted to put all the important configuration files into a backup system so that if a machine died, the configuration files could be replaced without rewriting them from scratch.
FINDING AN OPEN SOURCE ALTERNATIVE TO MS EXCHANGE
Implementation has just stared. Exchange Server is a powerful group collaboration and organization tool, but it is not aimed at small non-profits. It is non-free software and has high costs. The goal of this project is to take one of the open source alternatives to Exchange and implement it for one of our clients. The system will allow our client to use the full powers of their MS Outlook email client.
BECOMING A DEBIAN LINUX DEVELOPER
Chris is getting certified as a Debian GNU/Linux developer. As a Debian developer, Chris can add software we wrote to the Debian software repository. The hundreds of thousands of people using Debian GNU/Linux can then easily install our software.
Marie improved software we wrote to allow United Teen Equality to track interactions with their teens. Our 8 production servers need security patches installed regularly. Marie did weekly and emergency updates in December, January and February. Marie is also creating a database of service learning classes and is gathering requirements for a larger system.
A wiki for LTSC’s affordable housing wifi system developed by corps member Melissa Niiya.