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David Clover

 

    Allowing users to update personal profiles

    David Clover  9 September 2013 11:13:00
    For many years - since 2004 in fact - we have been showing 'personal' pro-forma details in the context of departmental websites using a back-end Domino database. But up to now, updating those details has only been possible with an IBM Notes client, and that's been restricted to those people responsible for content updating in various departments.

    Now that is about to change for the Faculty with the imminent release of a web-based interface at http://mct.open.ac.uk/you - this will allow a user to login and then see and edit their own personal details directly.

    The information is stored in our tried and trusted IBM Domino database (which we call 'MaCuNames' - it drives a number of Faculty 'people' information systems) but the entry about a person can now be extracted and displayed on any web page served from the campus using a server-side XML request with a specifically tailored URL. Campus users can see such an extract for my own details and possibly their own by altering the URL slightly - David Clover

    This means that we can make a server-side request from our Drupal environment to populate a page like my own in the new Faculty website, and we will also be able to populate any other site that can make a similar server-side call to present the same data in whatever context is needed. We have designed it so that it is backwards compatible with older websites which use IBM Domino as the presentation engine without any changes.

    As far as editing the personal content is concerned, we provide three 'slots' for users to populate. These are 'Biography', 'Research' and 'Teaching'. If a particular 'slot' is not filled in, the related tab won't appear on the presented public web page. In my own example case I have completed all three, but in the case of others, for example my colleague Blaine Price in the Computing and Communications Department only the 'Research' tab is visible. The other tabs - 'News' and 'Publications' will appear if the person represented has any news items or research publications recorded against their name. 'News' relates to our own 'News' module (also an IBM Domino back end source with a web-editing front end) and our 'Open Research Online' database operated by the Open University library. It's also possible to email the person via a web form- which ensures that spam harvesters can't scan the page for an email address. The web form is protected with a 'Captcha' module. We've also included links to other 'Social' aspects for the user -including Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds from blogs, personal web areas and so on.

    Some of the information relating to a person is imported daily from the University's HR system, and some is held only in the Faculty. Users can modify the details directly where they are held in the back-end IBM Domino database, but where the information is imported from elsewhere, we provide outward links to the University's HR web-editing sites where they can modify their own data for overnight automated import to our own environment. We have also provided an option whereby people can opt not to have their details selected for websites at all if they want to remain anonymous.

    There are plans afoot to provide a University-wide service for holding 'people profile' data but it's not likely to be ready for some time. When it is, we expect to be able to import from it to our own system (or indeed export from our system to it as the case may be) to provide a standard and coherent statement visible wherever it is needed on a website. Examples of the input screens are shown below.

    Image:Allowing users to update personal profilesImage:Allowing users to update personal profiles

    Image:Allowing users to update personal profilesImage:Allowing users to update personal profiles

    Image:Allowing users to update personal profilesImage:Allowing users to update personal profiles  

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