Challenge

A national science laboratory contacted Six Feet Up seeking training in Plone for their developers. Through the training, it became clear that Six Feet Up could help in many other ways so as to improve and maintain the existing infrastructure.

One key project was to build a modular multi-conferencing system so that dozens of different research teams could easily manage their various events and conferences. It was very important for the client that every team had the ability to easily create, duplicate, and manage their event sites. Each site would allow participants to register for the event and display lists of speakers, meal preferences, calls for papers, etc.

Implementation Details

Rapid Prototyping


During the training, it came to light that the Plone 4 system the client had been using for years was no longer meeting their needs. Six Feet Up was asked to build a working prototype of a multi-conferencing system. Six Feet Up quickly put together a proof-of-concept based on the Plone 5.2 CMS, running on Python 3, with the Plone Conference and the Lineage add-ons. Additional configuration gave the system three event template presets for the three most common types of events the client hosts.


Architecting a Solution


The initial prototype satisfied the client and even caught the attention of other teams at the laboratory. Working closely with the initial contact, Six Feet Up's client and engineering teams took meetings with other executives and stakeholders. With this feedback, the team at Six Feet Up continued to improve upon the initial prototype, making further use of the add-on functionality in Plone 5.2 by creating custom add-ons made for the client. 


This solution built by Six Feet Up allows for any individual research team at the laboratory to quickly create a new Plone site. Then, through the add-ons menu, they can install the bespoke custom theme, add the conference functionality, and add the conference security policy. With the multi-conferencing add-ons installed, they can then create new events from the “Add New” menu in Plone. This makes creating, duplicating, and editing event sites is as simple as editing a blog post in Plone. 


These on-the-fly event sites feature a homepage and give organizers the option to add pages for video libraries, speaker list, class lists, course descriptions, speakers lists, etc. There are pre-defined templates for classes, conferences, and other commonly required presets. By directing attendees to these sites, organizers can get an up-to-date list of attendees, and request any additional information such as meal preferences, accommodations, etc. Furthermore, the conference policy allows for the secure handling of attendees' personal details and data.


Training and Documentation


Six Feet Up conducted a series of trainings with over a dozen attendees in which they got instruction and practice in the multi-conferencing system. Six Feet Up set up 14 test instances of the system running on Amazon Web Services and participants were walked through every facet of the system, from site creation, to event creation, to event launch. This training was conducted over one and a half days.


Six Feet Up also produced an extensive user manual for the system, which was the basis for the first training, and that users of the system can access at any time as an add-on to the system itself. This document covers every aspect of the solution with detailed instructions and graphics. With this document, the client can train new users of the system themselves moving forward. 

Results

Six Feet Up provided the client's team with a working multi-conferencing solution in Plone 5.2. This solution allows individual research teams to quickly create their own Plone site, with a bespoke theme, and with the multi-conferencing functionality. Once a team has its own site, it is easy for them to create, edit, copy, and manage events. 


While work on the system is ongoing, the work completed so far consists of a first official release. Two teams at the laboratory are already making use of the system in production, and additional teams are considering launching their own instances of the system. Feedback from users is being incorporated as feature requests for future releases of the solution. 

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