Friday, October 31, 2014

Highlights from the HighEdWeb 2014 Conference - Daphne's Perspective

Oh, I miss thee. Your gigantic trees, your rolling hills and towering mountains, your soft never-ending rain. Oh - and the 700+ congregation of higher ed web professionals!

Morgan and I had the opportunity to attend this year's HighEdWeb conference in Portland, Oregon which was just last week. This is one of the best conferences in the country for those in our profession. Savvy speakers, seven different tracks, networking and collaboration sessions/events, workshops, and a WHOLE lot of enthusiasm.

HighEdWeb session with standing-room only
Popular session at #heweb14 (#mpd3) with Morgan and Daphne sitting on the floor! Courtesy +Lougan Bishop
Morgan and I split up for many of the sessions and I attended quite a few management and professional development ones in addition to some in marketing, accessibility/usability, and development/architecture. I have to say, some of the most interesting sessions were in the management/professional development track.

The best of conference winner is Dave Cameron's HUMAN at work presentation about how to deal with "all the things" at work, including tasks, people, stress, and information overload.

Give yourself the gift of fewer decisions. Free up the cognitive space to encourage creativity & productivity. - Danielle Stapleon
His five goals for being a productive human being are so simple yet brilliant.
  1. Be honest - with yourself and others, subjectively and objectively. Pay attention to your internalized priorities, be real with yourself when interpreting your own performance levels, and don't live in denial. But also measure and capture data, develop reports and analyze your progress - facts speak volumes. Admit to your mistakes with others and give the feedback you would want to hear yourself.

  2. Be unafraid - mistakes are just a part of life. Have confidence, and don't be intimidated by those rock stars! Let go of those irrational fears like change and gossip. And don't be overwhelmed by complexity - take it one step at a time.

  3. Be mindful and focused. Tools to help your workday are AWESOME but don't let them rule your life. We can easily get overwhelmed by email, tasks, calendars and meetings. Use email just for communicating to groups, documenting info, and sending files - don't let it be the boss of you. Turn your email push notifications off and commit to checking your email just twice a day. Review your outstanding tasks daily and prioritize, place them in a project management system like Asana (that is what Web Services uses!) Use your calendar to schedule work tasks and breaks, and consider things like "no-meeting Mondays." Speaking of meetings, don't sit on your phone during them and be sure to take notes and report/share with your team.

  4. Be active - walk and get up periodically. Build a work-out routine. Staying active helps your focus and energy throughout the day. Start your day with a "focus" activity such as a card game, puzzle, or drawing to get your brain going. Keep your workspace clean and organized and consider a more ergonomic desk set-up such as a standing desk. Listen to music with headphones while you are trying to concentrate.

  5. Be nice to your fellow humans! Be a proud member of your team. Support your co-workers, be social, take ownership of your role, and give them a heads-up when you can. Show up to work with a positive attitude - if you are having a bad day, just put on a smile and bear it. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
 Love the idea of No-Meeting Mondas & Fix-It Fridays. I need to be better w/developing dedicated work blocks in my schedule. -Nicole Lentine
    So in summary we have:
    Honest, Unafraid, Mindful, Active, Nice
    Graphic extracted from Dave Cameron's slide deck.

    Isn't that a nifty acronym?

    To view the whole slide deck, check out Dave Cameron's Tumblr. To view related tweets, look up #heweb14 and #mpd9 on Twitter.


    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    Ghosts in the Attic

    Is someone filling out an out-dated form they claim they found on your website?

    Have you tried to find something in the search box on the Tarleton website and found multiple links to old files? Or even worse, the older the file, the higher it was in the search results listing?

    What mysterious creatures lurk in your attic?

    Leaving old files on the Tarleton website, whether or not they are still linked on your pages, keeps them in the search results. The longer a file stays on the website, the more “legitimate” it seems to the search engines, which makes them display higher in the listing.

    Here are some things you can do to clean the attic:
    • Delete and unpublish all old files on your website. If they are still available, your constituents will be confused which files are the correct ones to use. Make it a habit to always delete files that are no longer in use.
    • Rename all re-usable content that can easily be replaced on your website. For example, if you have a tour schedule for your department, and it’s been linked to on multiple pages, you can name it something generic like "tourschedule.pdf" and just replace the content in that document each semester as needed. No dates required in the file name. No new files to upload. No re-linking across pages. Just click on the file inside Cascade, Edit, Browse to the new file on your computer, Submit, Publish, and done.
    If you cannot find an out-dated file in Cascade to delete, please contact Web Services and provide us with the web address to the old file, so we can exterminate your ghosts!


    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    "Meet the Staff" Series – Karole Schroeder, Web Designer/Developer

    Name: Karole Schroeder

    Titles: Web Designer/Developer and Accessibility Coordinator

    Length of time in Web Services at Tarleton: 7 years

    Length of time in web occupations: 15 years

    Top three areas of expertise: electronic and information resource accessibility, designing web information architecture, content strategy

    Topic interests: Same as above, along with technology trends and photography

    Favorite thing about my job: Fundamentally, I think we’d all like to have a job that makes us feel like kids having fun all the time. Change is a constant in this field, so we learn about new technology, new programming languagesnew everything. It’s like being given new toys to play with. I like being able to study and play with those toys, and implement them in ways that strategically enhance our web presence.

    A "Day in the Life":

    1. I check email before I start the day. I want to make sure everyone has been responded to that needs assistance. I hate procrastination with a fervor. After checking the previous day's email, the day varies depending on the jobs needed, since I wear so many hats in the office.
    2. I’ve been through so much accessibility training, I have a kind of “accessibility radar” no one else has in the office even after all the accessibility testing I’ve taught this office. There's so much changing and so much to cover! When my co-workers pass by my cubicle and see me tense up, they know I found something inaccessible, and they remind me there are only so many hours in the day. I have to prioritize levels of accessibility issues in order to juggle all my other duties. We get hundreds of emails every day, and we have thousands upon thousands of web pages. We definitely cannot correct it all at one time.
    3. When I get in the programming mode, my brain just starts going in multiple directions. I keep my projects organized in Asana to help me out and give my co-workers updates on the cool new stuff (back into excited child mode here) coming along – some of it inspired by their ideas. When I can’t figure something out, explaining it in Asana (even if not everyone is going to understand the technical aspects) helps me realize a piece of logic I was missing and fix the code.
    4. I test our website on multiple browsers and devices. My friends may be Android lovers or Apple lovers and so forth, but I play the unbiased role, learning and playing with multiple devices, because we aim to make our website accessible to as large an audience as possible, no matter your brand preference. I also test and review vendor software, widgets, and apps to make sure they comply with our web and accessibility standards. We want everything to work for everyone.
    5. I don’t have as much time to do it these days, but I love graphic design, and I love doing photography. When a project needs a higher level of design knowledge than we have trained our student interns on, I will assist in that portion of the project.
    6. Technology can be confusing, since it is constantly changing and the rules keep changing for making things work correctly, if not seamlessly. Standards are confusing on the surface and sometimes require extensive training to understand and interpret correctly. I try very hard to make it as human as possible, to connect people to the technical information with as much ease as I can write, draw, or say. Sometimes, it is an email informing someone of inaccessible content. Sometimes, it is a Cascade Server tip of the day. Sometimes I help people over the phone. Sometimes I remote into their computer and help them directly.
    7. If I haven’t seen it on the web, it’s likely something on one of the many higher education/vendor/web/accessibility email subscriptions where I will learn something new. And when I’m not going to conferences, there are plenty of free or cheap webinars available. In this occupation, we must keep up to respond to the demand as well as keep our university educated, determining if something new is a cure or someone is merely selling snake oil.
    8. Besides educating others, we need to understand where everyone else is at in order to create the right web page, application, or product to meet their needs. It’s hard to do that over email, so when we need to get to the heart of the matter – when everyone needs it to be crystal clear we meet face-to-face.
    9. This office tries to keep everyone on the same page. We have our strengths, and we typically work on projects that utilize those strengths, but sometimes we need to exchange work as well as make sure we aren’t stepping on anyone's toes trying to do different tasks on the same projects. And with each of us having varying strengths, we also need a lot of advice in the areas of our weaknesses.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    "Meet the Staff" Series - Daphne Hunt, Director

    Web Services would like to share with the community a bit about our team such as what we do, "a day in the life", and other interesting things about the make-up of our team members. Each Web Services member contributes something very important (and very different) to the overall team. To start off with, here is a little bit about myself! -Daphne

    Full name: Daphne Jo Hunt
    Daphne Hunt
    Title: Director of Web Services
    Length of time in Web Services at Tarleton: 8 years
    Top three areas of expertise: Web strategy, web team/project management, graphic design
    Topic Interests: Same as expertise, with additional interests in video production, photography, and web analytics
    Favorite thing about my job: Working with such a talented group of staff members each and every day!
    Favorite hobby: Making crafts! I have a craft room at home and have recently made hair bows, a fall wreath, and a "fairy garden" for my bird bath.

    A "Day in the Life":
    1. Check homepage for any out-of-date information and make sure important information gets posted. (Tarleton's homepage is my "baby" that I must keep nurtured.)
    2. Check and respond to emails throughout the day (which as you know can take a while here at Tarleton!)
    3. As the day rolls along, check in with all the members of my team to see how they are doing. Since we are all in the same office area, it doesn't take too long to figure out what's going on!
    4. Go to meetings. We love to collaborate and share information with other departments, so I do spend a lot of my time in meetings. Anywhere from 2-4 hours a day on average. I meet with Marketing & Communications, Information Technology Services, and many other teams on campus. I get to meet a lot of people in my position!
    5. Monitor my team's projects & tasks on Asana. We enter all of our projects and tasks to this system in order to keep track of and prioritize all of our outstanding projects and tasks. At any given time, my team can have over 100 pending tasks in the queue as a whole! We each get several tasks done each day so we are constantly making headway.
    6. Develop strategies for improving our web presence and for improving how we communicate changes to campus. Making policies and guidelines for the web is one thing, but communicating those things to campus is just as important. I also give guidance to my staff about how to communicate to our colleagues, because I believe strongly in transparency, respectfulness, timeliness, and reinforcement.
    7. Give feedback and advice on projects and tasks. I help to ensure we are still moving in the right direction and at an appropriate speed to get things done.
    8. Team meetings: We usually have an official team meeting one or two times a week to discuss major projects and other topics that have come up during the week. We also have several "unofficial" team meetings during the week as needed - if nothing else, to just be able to share a joke and keep everyone in high spirits on a stressful day!
    9. Design graphics such as homepage highlights and advertising banners. I love graphic design so I section off a sliver of my day to work on these types of tasks.