Helpful Links

What should I know about?

Updates through Facebook or Twitter:
cmsblog.ostwebdev.com/2011/01/07/facebook-and-twitter/

Keep track of your e-mail notification subscribers:
wiki.ostwebdev.com/index.php?title=Notification_(admin_panel)

REO/Shortsale Menu Link:
wiki.ostwebdev.com/index.php?title=REO/Shortsale_Link_(Feature)

Any new features?

cmsblog.ostwebdev.com/category/releases/

What is being worked on?

cmsblog.ostwebdev.com/category/upcoming-releases/

Photo Updates

The daily photo updates (part of the listing update process) has been rewritten due to the previous script running into some technical difficulty. This new script handles each image individually (instead of by bulk).

In the near future tracking will be added to photo updates that will be used in a system health report.

Service Notes – 1/27/2011

Web Service Resetting

There was an issue with the web service hanging at random times due to a memory leak. This was fixed by making the service reset itself whenever it ran out of resources (due to the leak), and while the hanging issue appears to have been resolved, an older issue has returned. After logging into the admin panel a user may be automatically logged out at any time due to the web service reseting itself.

I’m going to continue looking into this issue and try out some different options to get around this.

Notification Tracking

A code has been added to the links sent out in the daily e-mail notification (Realtor sites). This code is used to tell when a subscriber has viewed a listing. A column has been added to the notification history listings (accessed through the notification list in the admin panel). Even though this column is showing up now, this feature is still under development. There was a problem where the code wasn’t properly being tracked, so while it can be seen in Google Analytics, the history page doesn’t show a listing being viewed even though it has.

2011 Plans

Here is a run down of the different focus points for this year. I’ve divided them up into two main sections: Workshops and Tutorials, and Platform Migration. This is just a glimpse of each, I will have more information as time goes on.

Workshops and Tutorials

In order to to make the most out of the websites and promote new features, I will continue holding workshops, although not as aggressively as first planned. Instead, I will be publishing some tutorials (written and video) and other articles to get the information out there.

The next Workshop should be late February or March. I will post a notice when I have more details.

Logs & Tracking

There will also be a continued expansion of available logs, such as the notification history, and tracking features, like analytics. Google Analytics has a tool we can hook into to better utilize site traffic, as well as produce more in depth reports that allow us to make more sense of site traffic. In addition, there will be a site “health report” notification system that will send daily or weekly e-mails with key data.

Platform Migration

Currently the sites are being run using a coding language called ASP. This language is roughly 10 years old, which is almost ancient, considering how quickly things change in  the world of technology. The system is definitely showing its age, with the memory leak mentioned in the 2010 review post being one of those signs. At the time the sites/CMS was developed with this platform/language it was a feasible solution, but that was about five years ago, and many things have changed since then.

So while I’ve been maintaining/updating the current system, I have also been looking into where to go next. This has been a lengthy pursuit, as there are many different viable solutions out there, all with their own pros and cons. After testing these different options, I’ve decided to go in the direction of open source, taking advantage of preexisting systems that are backed by a community of developers.

What this means in short: The sites will be moved to a new, more flexible system that is easier to develop features on.

The key open source systems I’m looking into are WordPress and possibly jQuery Mobile.

WordPress

WordPress is a very flexible open source platform, backed by an extensive library of plugins and template themes. It was once geared primarily for blogging, but they have been expanding to cover general site management.

WordPress has a powerful admin panel that gives admins more control over their site while maintaining a user friendly interface. Side column widgets can easily be managed, links can be edited and menus can be setup.

My goal is to extend this platform as a base, and then migrate sites over. This move won’t change who is hosting your site, or remove any services. It will be a lengthy process, and I will have more updates on this as time goes on.

I would like to get some sites early on, so if anyone is interested in using this platform sooner then later, please let me know.

Mobile

With the move to WordPress, going mobile will be easier. I am assessing an open source product named jQuery Mobile to handle mobile websites. This will allow users to view listings on their smartphone, such as an Android, iPhone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile. They have a demo up at jquerymobile.com. There are other options out there, so there is more testing needed before settling on a product.

Mobile is like the Wild West of web technology these days, so compatibility is one major hurdle to overcome. If you view the jQuery mobile demo on a non-native (default) browser, it may not look or function as desired. There is an insane number of device+platform+browser combinations to possibly support, so only the more popular of these combinations will supported at first.

2010 In Review

2010 was  an exciting year for the web. There has been an increase in useful widgets, web services, and a good amount of progress of new browser features. Some of which I will share in the near future.

With a new year, I wanted to reflect on 2010 for the CMS and Realtor products. In another post I will go over the plan for 2011.

Focus for 2010 included continued adjustment from the  change of ownership from 2009, clean up of the existing system, and stabilizing some troublesome features, such as e-mail notification and overall web services.

Key Updates:

  • At the beginning of  2010 a REO/Short Sale link feature was added to allow sites to expose a menu link for easy access to REO/Short Sale properties.
  • Several updates were made to the e-mail notification system.
  • The notification list in the admin panel was updated to consolidate new and old notification contacts (previously there were two links), a notification history was added, and analytics was added, which shows up in Google Analytics.

Other Updates:

There were also some changes to allow for more customizable site design, such as custom CSS and redesigned “boxes” (content boxes that appear on the homepage).

Web Site Issues

There is an embarrassing issue that has popped up over the past few months,  causing some sites to hang now and then (affecting only the website, not other services, such as e-mail).  It has been tricky, and is most likely due to a memory leak (something that causes performance issues, but  not a security issue). The tricky part has been locating where the leak is, and I believe the major leaks have been resolved. The site performance is doing much better now, although admin logins are now experiencing timeouts due to the fix for the leak problem.

Facebook and Twitter

There are now two new ways to keep track of updates. Facebook and  Twitter. I will use these mediums to make announcements that will also be posted to cmsblog.ostwebdev.com. These will include  info on issues, routine updates and informational articles. There will also be a  “Wiki” for documentation and tutorials I will be publishing soon.

A goal this coming year is to keep a steady stream of information coming regarding the website product, and technology information. Website product info will be posted to cmsblog.ostwebdev.com, while more technical oriented content will be posted to ostwebdev.com.

More updates to come…

October Updates

As some may notice there was no August Updates post. While things have been busy these last couple month, most has been behind the scenes and hasn’t effected anything on any live sites.

Upcoming  Features/Improvements

The following are items planned to be implemented into the CMS these next two quarters. Each item contains a general description. There will a more detailed released on each item as time goes on.

Google Maps – Oct

An alternative method of searching for listings. It will appear in place of the normal search results page when the user click on the “Search by Map” button.  Listings will appear on a Google Map as a pin, and when the pin is clicked on additional information will display.

New Designs – Oct+

An extended selection of templates will be made available so sites are more customizable, and have a unique feel. Besides the new templates/layouts a override will be added for color schemes so all major elements on websites can be given a set color/style.

Admin Panel Improvements – Oct through Nov

  • Additional  fields for users to add keywords and other focus related information.
  • Revamped private listing management

Mobile Pages – Nov through Mar

This is basically the ability to view/search listings and use other tools from a mobile phone. Since mobile webpages are coded differently this will be a small project. With where technology is now, there will be many potential additions to this feature.

WYSIWYG Upgrades – Nov through Dec

An improved page editor will be in the works a little later this year.  Ultimately pages will have the ability to be edited from the page itself with some nifty HTML editor tools.

July CMS Updates

There have been a number of changes this month to decrease spam and improve search accuracy.

Improved IDX Search

  • More areas to search by
  • Optional short sale/foreclosure search filters (enabled through the admin panel)
  • More powerful address search
  • MLS Search

Contact Form

  • Changes made to decrease spam

DRE License

  • DRE License field added to admin panel
  • License number will display in templates next to address