Building a Multiconference Solution on Plone 5.2

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Building a Multiconference Solution on Plone 5.2
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In this talk, we explain the work Six Feet Up did for Sandia National Laboratories building a Multiconference Event Management System in Plone 5.2 and how the client requirements and planning informed the engineering and development of the Multiconference solution. Sandia National Laboratories conducts thousands of trainings and large-scale conferences annually world-wide. While they were already using Plone sites, they could greatly benefit from a repeatable solution that allowed users with little technical skill to create and host their own event websites. The Multiconference system allows end users to easily create pre-configured, yet customizable conference sub-sites housed within a parent Plone site. Within a sub-site, Conference organizers can manage attendee registration and approval as well build out the details of their event with built-in contents-types and automated processes to aid them. We will also discuss the collaborative process between the Plone developers and the end users to conceptualize an ideal solution for their use-cases, and provide details about the functionality developed to meet these needs.
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hello everyone welcome to track three uh day one talks at clone conference 2020. so the first talk that we're going to have here today is going to be by my co-worker annette lewis and a partner of six feet up uh janine donnelly who is from sandia and the two of them together are going to present to talk about a multi-conference solution that six feet up had put together for sandia and they will give you some more details on that and talk about how that was all built so and that may go ahead all right let me get my screen share up
all right hello plum conference 2020 so once again there i am annette i'm a developer at six feet up
uh and python developer i've been working with clone since 2013 in various forms and drifting into python it's always been a great fun experience and my co-presenter today
hi um i'm janine donnelly and i've been working with annette and they have been really instrumental in helping us come up with this multi-conference system so i work for sandia national labs and um i do training and event management so i've been doing that about 26 years yeah and so today we're going to be presenting on how we collaborated to build the multi-conference system that we came up with so first i'm going to let janine take it about the business case and how this really came to be
thank you um so sandia national laboratories uh we are a national laboratory that works with the department of energy
and um the group that i work with is international uh security programs so what we do there's three different components within that group and we do trainings and conferences worldwide we do them domestically as well as anywhere you can think of in the world we work with our partners there so um next slide in
so um in this recent fiscal year um we handled 230 global events with over 62 um 100 participants in 107 countries um and that's actually a slow year for us with covid we had to actually cancel a good portion of the year so this is actually down from what we normally do we're one department with eight people and and this is just what we support um for our department next slide
so what we do in that process for these events um we have to gather a bunch of information from our participants overseas as well as domestically which involves us doing registration so prior to using this system that was all being done via email so we would send forms back and forth people would have to fill them out sometimes they'd fill them out by hand sometimes they would type them sometimes you can't read the information information is wrong so we needed a system that was going to work better so we started using clone for registration probably i'd say seven to ten years ago it's it's been moved around from from certain people to other people so here we are so um now we're using registration everything comes through email we have spreadsheets and we don't have to do that manual updating anymore next slide
so what we really needed with the current system that we were using we wanted to update it so that we could increase our efficiencies reduce mistakes the email traffic as you can imagine is unbelievable when you have hundreds of participants per event so that's all coming through kind of clogs up your email and we wanted to be able to provide a a better look we're a national laboratory so we want to we want to have a professional look we want people to be able to register and be able to get their documents and and all of that um in a in a more professional manner
so now it is back to annette and she is going to explain right so we had somebody go down there and do a training and just listening to their situation we saw an opportunity to help them and like solve some of these problems and started working towards a prototype so for our starting point we actually started with the plum conf 2016 policy which is available like on github just to show them some of the features and some of the functionality and say this is the potential of what you could do to help organize your conferences in your events and we felt that they could really benefit from that so the first thing we did was come up
with a prototype based on that add-on and built it upon its functionality to adjust some of the specific tasks that we heard they were trying to accomplish so like one of the things that we did was add the conference content type and that would be a sub site so each event could be its own sub site and then pre-configured these sub sites with some folders and your speakers talk some of the content types a bit opinionated to help them get an organized site structure that could be consistent between the groups and then also made some registration templates based on the clients needs of forms that they would need for registering people so that they could have this already pre-built and ready and one of the big goals of course when coming up with the prototype was thinking if i was a conference organizer what did i wish we had and listening to them and saying this is what they wish they had and kind of coming together and making something that can automate repeatable tasks and leave time to manage other aspects of the event instead of having to just build a site over and over again
now i'm actually going to throw this back to janine again because once we got this prototype together we handed it over and then it was their time to evaluate it and actually see how it worked in the wild sorry i guess it would be helpful if i actually unmuted um i apologize so um we have approximately 20 sites on a new server that is now using this new system so um what we have found the system works great and actually we've added a lot of things um for usability for our users who don't really have a lot of experience you know using this kind of system so really our goal for my department our goal was to be able to provide a system that you would be able to use on your own like we set it up initially and then we hand it over to you and instead of having to keep coming to us you can do it yourself so everything is set up for the user to make it as easy as possible they don't have to know coding they don't have to know how to change things up they go in and they basically go through a list and they can pick their own image that they want for the top of their page they can turn on videos they can turn on a section that we call capabilities where they can talk about the things that their departments do they pick their own registration form we have a number of different kinds of trainings that require different information so based on that um we had to come up with different forms because we can't ask people for their personal information if we don't need it if i don't need your passport information i don't want to ask for that so we have different forms based on what kind of training courses we're doing that ask for specific information if you're coming on site there's different information for our u.s citizens there's different information if you're coming from a foreign country there's things that we need to do for you so they're able to pick what they need and it populates on its own which has really made that feature for them really awesome and they're able to use it they get emails from the system every time someone registers it will download to a spreadsheet so our initial push out has been really well received and what we're finding now is as people are using it they come back to us with you know different kinds of things that they need a little tweak here a little tweak there that increases the system and it makes it better for everyone so we're able to add those in and we're able to use it across the board regardless of what group you are the whole system gets pushed out to everyone which has been really um useful and helpful for everyone so we're still you know making changes which is great that was what we intended so back to you or not right so one of the really great benefits about hearing all of this feedback is that really makes it a collaborative process for us so after getting some feedback and we
have the test runs and as more people use it we get to sit down and think about how we can actually expand this system and make it work even better every time and keep going forward with that
so now we're getting to what we call the multi-conference core and now as more people started to hear about it more people started to want it different stakeholders and different groups became interested in this so we started working with different groups and having regular exchanges of ideas and we wanted to listen to the client we wanted to distill out key items to tackle and then also suggest features that we really felt could benefit them and then once again um on the team of people who are working on this project several of us have experienced planning conferences so we could really pull on that personal experience as well and add things to solve challenges that we have run into to make a smoother experience for the end users who are going to get this product also a huge benefit to us working with them has been that we've been demoing for groups and doing training for groups and as we allow someone to do a training one of the things you do as a trainer is just you listen to what people say you listen and you watch you see if they have any difficulties if there's anything that they're struggling with if they're anything that they're really excited about and kind of capture those questions and comments and then we want to review them to see if we can distill out more helpful features or documentation or anything to help them have an easier time and to enjoy using this product even more and then what was very interesting working with um sandia is um with working with multiple stakeholders that stakeholder was often representing an entire group and so they would bring us back feedback from an entire group so instead of working with one or two people we were working with a large pool of people so we had all kinds of different views and perspectives on how this could be used and then we could take that information bring it back to home base discuss it and figure out what works best and always keeping in mind we wanted to keep things flexible we wanted to make sure that they could still manage this very easily and we wanted to keep a lot of the through the web capabilities so that they didn't have to dive into code and their users could just make a site very quickly and of course with multiple stakeholders the one thing we always have to be conscious of is diverging features sometimes we get an idea that's really cool but it's going to affect the group especially since this system gets pulled out to the whole organization we wanted to make sure that we weren't just discussing with the stakeholders but if something diverged the stakeholders would get a meeting together and discuss with them and come on to a consensus on what would be the best way to tackle that feature so now let's actually go into a live
demo and just take a look at what the system actually looks like
other way so here i have
the multi-conference event management system and this is actually just the home page view of it and let's see right here i want to point out a couple of things that we have is this is just a home page that we have built in for them it's actually built in mosaic
and we built a set of tiles so that they
could make their own home page and everyone can have a site and kind of design the front end without us having to come in and customize everything so we gave them some options of colors and background colors and a very variety of different tiles that they can kind of piece together a look for their own page
but then once you're into this site the chief thing that we wanted to do was make sure the event management was easy so if you go to add new we've added a new conference event type content type
and you can set your title for your conference and we have a set of registration forms as janine mentioned different groups have different requirements and different needs so we actually are using a vocabulary here that detects what forms are in the root of the site and then we'll let you choose from any of those forms when you're creating your new event so i'm going to choose my bird conf registration form here you get a banner image because it's a subsite and it makes up your own little site layout so you can select an image let's use this guy and then we actually added in this time zone feature because as we talked to our clients more we realized not all of them were in the same places and not all of the events were home to the same time zone so this allows them to designate a time zone clearly on their event along with using the event behavior um that's already built into plum it's great when plone has a behavior that you can just stick onto a content type because you don't have to recreate that code again and then each event can have its own contact for email name and event stop and we actually feed that into this when we create it so that should be enough for me to create an event
and so now i've got my header image so i've got my own little subsite and it's opinionated so that we have the speakers talks classes and document folders already pre-made for you and then right here you can see my birth comp registration form was copied the template from the base site into this site and that allows them to create their own forms or customize their forms so that they can have one similar form before everything and then just move through the different sites where they need it also i have this about folder and in the main site i'll go back for a moment there's a
templates folder and we actually preload this with some predetermined content that's helpful for them and the events and the types of things they plan but anything in this templates folder will be copied into your child's site when you make it so
that way if you have specific information or payment details or lunch you can always just copy that template and the new site creator doesn't have to recreate it again and then once you do that you have your form you can fill that out but i'm actually going to flip over to my bird comp 2020 which i've actually
prepared ahead of time and some of the other things that you can do is we added an action to view attendees so that way you have attendee management
and right here i've already registered twice blue jay and tufted titmouse and what i can actually do is if i said i had like a private conference or i needed to manage the group of users you can go ahead into the registration form and actually
approve these users and i can go ahead and apply those changes and that way i can head back to this view attendees page i need to go to the main from the main
of the site
and now they're approved and i can sync this with my attendees group so you can actually manage content so if you had like a members folder or an intranet or something this would actually go ahead and sync these to that group automatically and now the
top level of the site i can see these
members in these groups so we really try to automate a lot of
this process to help them manage their things more easily and to help them predetermine well help them make a predetermined skeleton to keep them on brand so going out of my demo another thing
that we really try to do is make it easier for the user management not just from the conference admin level but from the site admin level and so we added the conference admins conference organizer role and this is a new role to kind of limit what these admins could do so that way they could add a conference admin who had the power to create a new event they had the ownership of their event once they created it so in that subsite they could act like an admin but they could still only see the rest of the website as if they were a normal visitor so they could only read pages that were public they couldn't edit content and that way they can control the security of these people moving through these sites so you didn't have to give them the entire site ability to be able to modify a site
i talked about the conference creation a little bit in the pre-configured sites
and one of the things that happens is we have a number of events that's happening behind the scenes so the sub site is a we're actually using lineage child sites um for each of the sub sites and one of the reasons we chose lineage in particular is lineage has a couple extra add-ons as well for a subsite for example there's the lineage theming add-on that allows you to apply an individual diazo theme so if they wanted to theme their site a little bit different they had that ability there we've also got a couple of event subscribers and that's what's putting together our content as far as copying those folders over and something that i think is really pretty cool um that we did is when you copy over the registration form the email address and the contact information that's there those mailers are actually configured to send mail to the conference contact so the users don't have to go into the registration forms and reset their mailers and do all of that when you edit or save that conference side for the first time the mailers for the form are set and it will contact the person who's set as the conference contact um another thing that we're using is that with the event behavior that means we can use the event aggregator and so if you go to the events page see if the conferences show up if you want them to or we can turn them off
now registration is one of the biggest things that we were focusing on when we
made this so the registration templates are made using easy form and we're using generic setup to import them back into the site and we picked that specifically over using like a python schema because it's imported as like an xml schema which means the users can edit that through the web very easily so they can go into the settings and they can modify things and they can customize the forms but we provide them the root so if that form suits them they can just use it as this if they want to modify it they can copy it and make a new form and then once again that becomes available when you create a new event as a format you can select we also allow them to as i said view that attendees registration list and send emails if they need to um there's some data save adapters that are put in to save some basic data that they might need for their day-to-day operations and then some of that um attendee approval attendee management part there which is not required but could be useful especially if they have a private conference that they want to just keep to themselves so
why the subsites in particular because yes we could probably make folders and just let each folder be its own place but we really liked the subsite because it gives each conference organizer the feel that they have their own website so instead of making a number of sites per year they can all be housed within the parent site but they can all have their own kind of look and feel but still be on brand and that's really great for consistency of the brand of that particular group or organization that makes sure especially in this that it's done in an improved and prescribed way that is required of the parent organization and also it allows the returning attendees to see consistency and have a familiar experience so if their return it's not a whole new thing every time they get a consistent experience especially if it's like a training event or something that's an annual event any kind of repeat event they get to feel a sense of familiarity when they come back and not have to learn a whole new system every time the nice thing i've also really enjoyed with the subsite is that you can delete them you can archive them you can copy and paste and reuse them if you wanted to and since it lives in the parent website it's easy to find it in the future and i know in some projects i've worked in in the past where you make lots and lots of websites it's really easy to lose track of how many sites you have out there whereas if all the events are made within the parents site you can look at the contents folder and you can see these are all the events we have here so you've got that running history that you can publish archive privatize use as a template you have that there it's easy to find and someone new inboarding onto the team could say oh this is where it all is i don't have to go track it down or find the paper trail and try and figure out where did this come from
now one of the things that we did and this has been a big part of us collaborating back and forth is with the conference landing page so some features that we've been building in aside from like those pre-configured folders which is to help us make a guide for the philosophy of how to make that website is we've gone ahead and we've added some constraints i'll actually go back here
so to help make it easier to organize and make sure that like information it comes into places that seems to make sense we've added folder constraints
so the speakers folder you can only add a person or a keynoter the talks folder you can only add a presentation classes is only training classes and i think documents is only files and that helps someone who might not be as familiar with building a website to follow some good organizational philosophies on how to organize a website and this also helps us with programming ahead of time and being able to say well speakers will be in the speakers folder in pretty much most cases so we can search in this folder if we need to build some type of feature that shows all the speakers or such now i haven't added speakers to the site
but we also added the ability to list speakers on the home
site so there's like a little button here we can say display the speakers list so if there's speakers in the site it'll display a speak list of speakers on the website and then we also have abilities to show an agenda on the main site based on the talks that you have and you would just use this collection and do a search for whatever exists and it'll make that agenda
and so that way without programming knowledge these conference admins can start to really customize some of the things that end up on their website without having to try and configure anything or having to come back to us so those are some presets that we put in for building out their um conference another thing that's really great about the templates folder in particular is that once again if there's any content that needs to be pre-approved so like if there's needs to be pre-approved banner images or pre-approved documentations or forms that templates gonna bring that over and then the conference admin who has the owner rights inside the folder will have the ability to use that content in their website or delete it if they really don't need it in that case uh one of the other really cool things that i've really liked that we've put in
is this vocabularies tab and this is a per site management of these details so that way each conference admin can say what type of talk duration so whether it's 30 minutes long talk short talk half day um training class durations and also like if there's any level types or audience types or all of that can be set right here and once this is set if i go and say i need to add a
so i'll add a presentation here
those values are what are going to show up in these forms so they can customize all of this right at that conference custom type and then all of that will show up available for them to use when building out their sites so for the look and feel and what we ended up doing here is that we have a base theme and a diazo per se so the base theme is going to take care of most of our look and that way they have a theme that's pretty nice and it looks great between all of the sites but then we have a diazo site diazo on each one theme that they can customize a little bit more if they really need to but then we also brought in a site settings control panel and that control panel in particular
going back to site settings has a bunch of content settings that helps them interact with the theme without having to go into the theme so here they can set the title of their site and then they can set some footer content that's going to show up in their site as well they have the ability to turn on and off the login link if they don't need that they can add a site logo their own site favicon and this is for the site level and then they can actually make some changes to their colors and such so if i i'm gonna pick something pretty tame here tame but should show up if i do that now i've got my purple header and so we've added some values that we going back and forth were some of the values that they would like to be able to customize and so that allows them to have this basic theme not have the coding knowledge and then be able to pick different colors different acts and colors and really start to make this look a little bit like their own site and their own brand without having to once again getting to code so it's always been a focus on flexibility ease management but especially when you're using something that's has a base template system we always want to make sure they have the ability to customize and feel like oh this is my site and this is my own individuality now going back into the front page which i talked about a little bit before that we talked about having a mosaic layout for the front page and we provided two options we actually have this add new front page view which is an opinionated front page and it just has a set of predetermined sections that they can fill out that would give them a nice front page and it looks very similar to this and i will open that up there we go
it's got different sections that they can fill out and they can enable or disable these
but then we felt after we did this section maybe someone might want to reorganize them or change the order or maybe they need two video sections and so to give them that kind of flex about flexibility flexibility um we
made several mosaic tiles that they
could use and so they can use from these different tiles to kind of give them different feels and in this case i used
the callout images to just do images and cute text titles
this is a rich text tile and this is our banner tile but i could also add forms so i can embed a form into the site i can add a iframe which is great if they need a map or need to embed a specific piece of content um we've got the video embed if they want to fed videos from vimeo or and that's using a lot of phones based features and just putting them into tiles that they can just click and select and drag and drop this case i'll try to call up boxes
which i will do a title and we actually allow them to use icons here so if they know i'm going to use linear home which is one of the icon names but they can determine from this list of linear icons the icon they would like to use and that icon will show up title box and only the first one is required in each frame so they can use one box and they can use up to four different boxes here
and let's drop that right there so that's my linear house and then we gave them these color formats and i'm actually going to use this dark accent background color
so now i've got that dark blue and that's just an example of some of the
customization we gave them but this once again throws back to our site settings because we actually allowed them in sight settings
to pick two colors the dark accent and the light accent so that blue is not really jiving with my purple so i think i want that to be darker so i'll save that and i'll head back to my homepage
and now it's going to match my color so that way they can really start to customize we've given some predetermined colors but they can pick colors to stay on their brand as well
there we go
so the biggest thing especially with this particular thing and especially when we can collaborate so closely and have so many meetings and so much feedback with our users and users and it's really awesome to be able to talk with not just the stakeholders but to be able to train and demo for some of the end users that are going to be creating sites is that i get to hear directly some of the things that they hope for and that also makes a challenge because we have to define that balance between standardization and flexibility especially since we're automating so many things and when you automate something you really kind of expect it to be named a certain way or in a certain place because you need to grab or talk to or find that so in this approach we've taken almost a modular approach where we've provided lots of different building blocks lots of different pieces that are predictable that they can customize to an extent but then we also have some of those flexibilities so once again like adding new forms we've made it so that we can just search for the forms and that's a flexible aspect or the extra folders in the templates folder so that's flexible but we've added the ground work for where those should be and where those need to be in the site so that we can find them and have all of our automated processes go against that so i think definitely coupled with the trainings and getting feedback and having the end user just talk back we've been able to build a pretty ideal solution that covers a variety of use cases for a number of teams and the number of users so back to janine
excuse me um so okay so um [Music] we've been using clone um as a registration site for probably 20 years now um over at sandia but mostly in our international um programs so in the last couple of years we've been able to kind of expand and get it out within the corporation so we're trying to expand and get it out corporately because we have so many groups outside of us who are trying to do conferences and trainings or have annual meetings that um are just kind of going out and setting things up in places that we're really not supposed to so what we're trying to do is keep everything in-house and kind of pull those groups in and give them a means to have something that they can go to that's quick and easy um that's already set up that meets all of our security requirements that um that we you know is behind our firewall and takes care of all of those things that they really need so we've kind of come a long way and and in some ways cobit has been good for us because it has given us the time and it's given us the funding that we needed to kind of take this to the next level that we've been trying to do for probably about five years so um for us it's been a little bit of a mixed blessing to kind of have the time to sit down and go through it um with our normal schedule we would have never been able to do this so um we cannot thank um annette and our team over at six feet up enough so annette i'm gonna hand it back to you yeah it's also it's been great to see this through because um i started with six feet up in march so i came like right into the middle of this project but it's amazing over the time how many different things we've done and once again like the fact that i even have my one of my stakeholders here to present with me i think really speaks to being able to collaborate so directly and so strongly and i know we might be doing some of the groundwork and the legwork and the physical work but i really feel that we we did build this product together and it's really awesome to see it going into the wild and this organization and seeing all the different people using it and all the use cases so i really appreciate the opportunity as well janine to be able to work on such a project and i'm pretty sure all of us at six feet up have been really excited to see this going out into the wild and look forward to listening and just seeing what else we can do to help you and make this process even easier for you in the future thank you i i just got some new changes today and that we'll
talk later [Laughter] i'll see you later i guess okay okay but yeah that's it so uh thank you for coming to our talk again um if you ever want to contact us we have our stuff up there our information but once again i'm annette at six feet up web developer and uh this is janine and uh yeah chrissy all right so stick here for just a minute because there were a couple questions that we had in slido uh first of all carl had a couple questions for janine asking do you have any feeling or numbers on how much time has been saved with the multi-conference system lab wide um wow um i can't really give you a good number on that but what i can say is in a fiscal year by myself i handle about 160 training events on my own with a minimum of 35 participants um not including trainers or interpreters and my big events are easily over 100 so i would say that i probably it's probably three to four um full-time employees that that we don't have to use that i'm able to handle those events on my own just by using this system so it's really saved us huge amounts of time and now that it's kind of spreading and we're getting more access our upper management is starting to use it for their meetings it's really kind of getting out there which is which is great so it does save us huge amounts of time we're even able to have participants send us their documents within the system so that it's not coming through our email so um it kind of goes through this way it's much more secure than when they send us unencrypted you know personal information so um i would say yeah at least three to four people that we don't have to have on staff um on a regular basis just based on this system and do you know how many departments are using it currently um right now um my department is the biggest user um like i said we have eight people in that department and um we have started spreading out to um other groups our executive protocol group they handle a large number of events so there's probably i would say five to six other groups right now and we're working on expanding that out corporately to to everyone to make it something that's available to them great thank you and there was one other
question there from alec asking how is the block transform order configured like from an add-on so i'm not sure if that question was specifically about mosaic me neither okay well alec how about so here's what we're gonna do next is in loudsform just beneath here you'll see a link to join a jitsi room it's going to say watch together and or talk to the speaker join click the join face to face button and you'll be able to ask annette and janelle any more questions that you have so i mean that's one question that we can talk about some more get more information there so go ahead and join that and i'll see you all at the next stop