‘Undo’ a query in Oracle

I just wanted to make note of a handy feature that Oracle has: the SELECT … AS OF query. I learned of this feature a couple of months ago when I did a panicked google search after accidentally deleting a lot of live data. I reeeeeeaaaaallllyyy didn’t want to have to call up IT and request a backup from them (not to mention explain to the client why their system was messed up). But with the SELECT…AS OF query, I could grab the data from 5 minutes before my ‘oh sh!t’ moment, re-insert it, and everything’s okay.

Here’s the syntax (so that I can come back and grab it again next time I need it!):

INSERT INTO table_name
TO_TIMESTAMP(‘2010-12-10 15:30:00’, ‘YYYY-MM-DD HH:MI:SS’));

(It seems like, at least on our servers, roughly 12 hours is the farthest back you can go. So if you realize your troubles a day later, you’re SOL.)


Launching the GVSU Alternate Homepage

GVSU Alternate Homepage

Yesterday, via Facebook and Twitter, we soft-launched the GVSU Alternate Homepage, a project we’ve been playing with for a few months. The alternate homepage, an idea cooked up by members of the web team, is intended to be a very simple, quick loading, one-stop web portal for internal audiences. Basically, we took a good hard look at what parts of the website are used the most by current students, faculty and staff, cut out all the rest, added some design magic, and this is what happened.

But why would you go and do a thing like that? What’s wrong with the existing homepage?

We don’t think there’s anything wrong with the regular homepage. We worked hard to get it to where it is, we’re very proud of it, and have no intentions to replace it anytime soon! However, the struggle of designing and managing a university homepage is that there are many audiences to consider and many usability hurdles to contend with. A university’s homepage needs to be an appealing, attractive, easy-to-navigate page for prospective students and their parents; it needs to provide current students, faculty, and staff with the links and resources they need; and it serves as a way to keep alumni, friends, and the community informed about what’s going on at the university.

We think our homepage does all of these things very well. However, we also know from experience that sometimes, life here at GVSU can get very hectic. Sometimes you just need to get somewhere on the website fast, without being distracted by the latest GVNow news item or updates from the events calendar.

So that’s why we developed the alternate homepage. Using it, you can get to the most popular places on our website with under 2 clicks and 1 page load. It has no frills. Just links and a pretty picture.

Speaking of the picture, it changes every day, just like the one on the GVSU homepage. Users can sign up to vote on which photos appear each day.

The soft launch: what we learned

Yesterday afternoon, we pushed the page live and did a soft-launch, simply saying, “What do you think of this alternative GVSU homepage? http://www.gvsu.edu/alt/” After a few minutes, the responses started rolling in. They ranged from positive:

“DUDES! That’s a sweet homepage. Very avant garde for higher ed.”

“WHAT IS THIS? GOOGLE? — But seriously, up the opacity by like 5% and it’d be pretty fantastic. I’d love to see this as the homepage.”

“I like it better.”

“*LIKE* Clean, easy to find elements, particularly Banner and athletics.”

“love the alternate homepage! Makes finding things a lot quicker.”

…to not so positive:

“Not a fan at all. To much waisted space and dose a poor job of advertising GVSU to new students.”

“It’s not informative enough. There is no section for prospective students either. If I were new,I wouldn’t know where to start to look”

“It doesn’t *feel* like a homepage. I feel like I’ve been taken to GVSU’s google search page. Home should match the rest of the site.”

“I don’t like it. I like the website it is now. I especially like the events being on the page of what’s going on around campus. I don’t think this would be a good option for incoming students.”

Several responses to our facebook page, in particular, displayed a surprising (and somewhat disheartening!) amount of outrage. What became immediately apparent is that, in our mysterious, concise launch, we had done a poor job of communicating the page’s target audience and its purpose. Users were jumping to the conclusion that we intended it as a replacement to the other homepage.

So, we quickly started re-tweeting and did some explaining:

And people were happier. After they realized what our intentions were, the crowd on Twitter had mostly positive feedback and a lot of people seemed thrilled with the idea. Facebook users, on the other hand, were still pretty lukewarm to the concept. (What are the implications there about the differences between the overall user base of the two sites? I’ll leave you to ponder that one.) Overall, the situation was a good reminder that with any new concept, especially something as unusual as this one, it’s important to be clear about our intentions. A little communication can go a long way towards happy users.

In just under 24 hours since we did our soft launch, it has had 1,700 views and 56 people have marked it as their preferred GVSU homepage. I look forward to more feedback as more people learn about the page and begin to use (or not use) it, and I think it will be interesting to see what we learn and how the page evolves as we continue to make it more useful and user-friendly.

Web Team CMS Site Updated!

Today I launched the updated Official GVSU Web Team site. The site features new team member bios and a page with details about some of our favorite projects.

Check it out!

Welcoming new students to the team

We are very excited to welcome three new students to the GVSU web team.

Kelly Granbacka (web designer) – www.kgranbacka.com
Vincenzo Pavano (web developer) – portfolio includes Rockford Public Schools, Earthkeeper Farm, and more.
Bryan VanDyke (web developer) – http://www.cis.gvsu.edu/~vandykeb/CS371/examples.html

Twitter Lists

You may or may not have heard about one of the newest Twitter features called Lists. We are quite excited about this feature over on the webteam as it will allow us to “move” the functionality that we are aiming for with the GVSU Social Media page to an actual Twitter function. We were already maintaining this list of different departments on campus that have official department Twitter accounts. This provided a one stop location to find all of the official accounts but there was no way to be alerted when changes to the list occurred. We thought about providing an RSS feed so followers could stay up to date with new accounts but this will actually be better in the long run. You have the ability to “follow” a list just as you have the ability to follow as specific person on Twitter. The difference being when we add people to the list, then you automatically get their updates because you are following our list. Pretty cool eh?

What do we have so far? We have two lists started and will continue to add to them as the GVSU community expands their Twitter presence.

  • The department list will contain all official accounts of GVSU departments on campus.
  • The student life list will contain all the various parts of the Office of Student Life as they have multiple avenues to promote student events on campus.

If you have a department on campus that is missing from either of these lists, please feel free to let me know via email (stoikeer at gvsu dot edu).

So what’s the catch? Well, Twitter has provided us with this great new feature BUT… right now basically the only place you can see the updates from (or follow) these lists is on the website. If you are using a client such as Seesmic, Twhirl, Twitterific, Tweetdeck or Tweetie (just to name a few) then you will not be able to see updates from the lists you follow until those products update to accommodate the new feature. Right now, Seesmic is the only one that has made the necessary update enabling you to see these updates.

So basically, stay tuned! We are working on our end and just have to wait for a few software companies to figure things out on their end.