Well, as we promised before, we are continuing to work on Accessibility fixes for the Homepage.  Version 1.1.1 and version 1.1.2 were rolled out today, containing a number of fixes that we weren’t able to get done in time for version 1.1.0.  For those who find these numbers strange, I say to you, don’t worry, this is standard software lingo.  If software waited for everything to be perfect, then nothing would be released, as evidenced by numerous fixes that are applied to your desktops, laptops, or newer versions of applications you may use.

How did we get to the versions, you ask?  A while ago, we asked ourselves the question, why isn’t the Homepage done in the same manner other software development is done?  After all, it is ultimately software.  There really wasn’t a good answer to not do it, and by doing this we ensure continued focus, not just on how pages look, but also on how pages sound, how pages flow, and how pages are read.

So back to 1.1.1 and 1.1.2.  In examining the home page, in partnership with the good people in Disability Access Services, we found that when putting the home page through a screen reader like JAWS and a Mac’s own VoiceOver software (Apple’s screen access technology), not all of it made sense.  We needed better announcements for sections, more descriptions around what something was or in some cases wasn’t.  As an example of the latter, we had the little dots for the feature stories with an alt tag (which is a descriptive tag of the item) of a space, which literally read “space” in going through VoiceOver.

Does this mean we are done?  By no means.  We will be looking at Accessibility on a continued basis, and welcome feedback.  While our group handles the programmatic side, there are some decisions that have to be weighted on the messaging side, and all of this has to happen in a method that we are able to meet the needs for those with accessibility needs, and not least of all, to ensure a better browsing experience for all.

What’s next for the Homepage?   Well, now we are getting into the details of planning 1.2.0, and examining possibilities, options, and those things that just must be done.  When?  1.2.0 is slated for a December release.

Stay connected.  I am.

– Jos Accapadi

We are pleased to announce the release of version 1.1.0 of the OSU Homepage.  Central Web Services and Web Communications in partnership with Disability
Access Services
have been hard at work on this release.  Originally slated for release on September 1st, there were some delays as the new features introduced some interesting bugs.

You may not notice it if you don’t look closely.

What you’ll see now:

1.  The OSU Foundation logo is now in what we call the “Top Hat”.  While it is a minor change, it is an important function, as Foundation donations help all of OSU, so please give where you can. We all appreciate it.  🙂

2.  Another important function that went into this release is the “sticky” nature of the main content area.  For those wondering what the main content area is, it is the area (including the menu) after the feature stories.  Menu pictured here.

main content area menuNow if you click on a menu, go to any of the links off the menu, and hit the back arrow, or back function of your browser, where before it would always take you back to Future Students, now it will remember where you were.  In order for this to function, cookies will have to be enabled for your browser.

As long as browser cookies are not cleared, it should remember for 30 days.  Why 30 days?  Well the initial reasoning is that if there are changes to the Future Students content area, we want everyone to know, so as ambassadors of Oregon State University, the word can be spread to everyone you know.  Now the 30 days isn’t an absolute, so we are interested in hearing from people if the 30 days needs to be longer, or even shorter.

3.  The next function we are introducing is the ability for Multimedia content in the Feature Stories.  You will now be able to play some video and audio content from the home page.  You will see a multimedia area that indicates the type of multimedia (video pictured here).  View Video Image

If you see that and click it, it will open a box and you can stream the video to your computer right there, without leaving the OSU Homepage.  Now if you don’t see any Multimedia link, it likely means that there isn’t video or audio tied to a feature story.

4.  Now what I consider as some of the most important changes, many of you won’t see.  We have put a stronger focus on Accessibility, working in conjunction with Disability Access Services to look at how accessible the homepage is for people with disabilities.  For those who don’t know much about this topic, I would encourage you to find out more.  We still have a list of additional fixes that are still being worked on for Accessibility.  The key here to note is that the focus on Accessibility is not just a one time event.  In the coming weeks, we will look to roll out more Accessibility fixes in version 1.1.1, and keep going in version 1.1.2 and further until we can get the Homepage among the best in the country for Accessibility.  With dynamic content and dynamic functionality, it is not always the easiest to accomplish.  Our goal is to look for those solutions that will help accomplish it.

So that’s it, there may be a few small bug fixes as well that you won’t have to worry about.

We’ll be next planning version 1.2.0 for release in December, where we will look to have additional features and functionality.

For those planning to be at University Day, we’ll be unveiling something new for OSU!  So come on by to University Day and visit both Web Communications and Media Services/Central Web Services.

Search v0.4 was released. In this release, we fixed a few bugs as well as a few features that incorporate some of the remaining out of the box Google Search Appliance features including:

Display a link to ‘more results from …’
Indent results if they are related to each other
Specify the format of the search results (pdf, text file, etc)
suggestion box close link

In addition to how the out of the box features function, we have also provided a method for doing an exact phrase search without having to put quotes around it or having to go to advanced search. Most of our user base, looking through the search reports, do not put quotes around items. Is this because they do not want to find an exact search, or just that the understanding that search by defaults tries to find all words in a page, not necessarily the exact phrase? We hope by providing this, it may make those who are in the latter group, the ability to easily perform an exact search with a click, rather than typing quotes.

Next steps for search are we will be working with Web Communications and University Advancement on some possible UI changes. The goal is to see how to make search more robust and feature rich, and the right UI for it. We’ll be looking to perform some focus groups to search to see what it is people are expecting, and as always, we welcome any feedback.

In addition to UI, we are looking to add more CWS features, such as the ability to see and filter results based on the list of domains we index. This allows individuals to also see what sites we actually are indexing, and if your sites are not there, to let us know. Some sites are excluded based on the number of results, as our license limit is only 1 million docs.  You can read our previous article about this.

Please check this page frequently.  Updates to code for integrating search for sites will be provided here.

OSU Search lets users search for your content across all of OSU. No matter where they type in their query, results from across OSU will be displayed for any visitors.

As of January 1st, 2010.  OSU has switched to using the Google Search Appliance.

How can you tell if you are using the old search?

Simple.  If your search results goes to search.oregonstate.edu/web in the url string, you are on the old search.  If you are using Drupal (see below), it means custom code was inserted and will need to be changed by you or whomever helped develop your site.  If you need assistance, contact CWS.

What does this mean to you?

If you are a site hosted by Central Web Services using OSU Drupal 5 or OSU Drupal 6 hosted solutions, the search switchover will be transparent and no action needs to be taken.  Please note, if you have installed drupal or other software solutions yourselves, and not using the centrally hosted CWS solution, you will be responsible for switching these over.

If you are maintaining static sites, whether hosted with CWS or not, with html code embedded for using the Nutch search engine (as referenced in the form with a url of search.oregonstate.edu/web) then you will need to replace the code with one of the two following options:


We have two methods for you to include a search box into your website. The first method and preferred method is using PHP or another programming language. The first method ensures that when we add new features to search boxes in the future, your website we’ll get the updates. The second method is only recommended if you have static html websites.

Using PHP (preferred)

To search all of OSU, paste the code below in your php file. If you are
using any other programming language, you basically have to create an array
and turn it into a json string. Then request the url over the web.

$options = array(
'url' => 'http://oregonstate.edu/cws'
$json = json_encode($options);
$url = 'http://search.oregonstate.edu/libs.php?q=osusearch_searchbox&o='.urlencode($json);
echo file_get_contents($url);

Using HTML

For sites using static HTML, please use the link below to contact us and we will help you set up a search box for your site.

If you have questions regarding this process, use the contact form and select Search to send us your question.

A maintenance release was pushed to production for Search, version 0.3.1.

For those who haven’t noticed the capabilities of search, look at the options, if a word is typed in, there may be some suggestions offered.  At the bottom is related searches, if you misspell a word, you may see a “Did you mean…”.  Also, domain search has been added to the Advanced Search.  Did you notice these changes?  We implemented all this in a front end, meaning we look at the features Google has, create an interface to the appliance, and then place things where we need to place it.  The front end also serves a dual purpose, if for future reasons, the backend, aka the Google Appliance is replaced, we simply rewrite the front end to work with the new back end.  More importantly, the front end allows us to do other certain aspects, like implement our feedback module.

Now with a front end, it also means we may have minor bugs, which is why we release the maintenance version for minor bugs.  It may simply be things like formatting, or some case we did not handle that the appliance handles.

We’ll be continuing to look at enhancing search, and integrate other aspects with it as we move ahead.  There has been minimal feedback to date, and without feedback, we cannot know how we can improve it.  So if you have a comment let us know.

Thanks!  Your Central Web Services Group

CWS Let Us Know Module
CWS Let Us Know Module

As part of the next search release, we now have a quick feedback module.  If you are looking for a particular search which you know is on a specific site, for example, on forestry.oregonstate.edu, and you do not find that, what do you do?  Well, let us know.

It is entirely possible that sites are not indexed into our search engine, so just send us a quick feedback with the url.  If you want to be contacted, provide us with contact information as well, or instead use our full help form.

If you want to let us know anything else about the layout or design, then just tell us more.  Enter the information and just click Send Feedback, and your feedback will come to us.  We try to be mind readers as best as possible, but there are particulars which we may not be able to pick up on.  If there is something we can do about your feedback, if it helps many students, faculty, and staff, we do want to look at how we could accomplish it.

Thank You, Your Central Web Services Team

finals2OSU Mobile has once again published generalized finals schedules on the mobile site, m.oregonstate.edu.   Current support is limited to iPhones/iPod touch, Android, PalmPre.  Some Blackberries with newer browsers will also contain most of the functionality.

Basics of the Finals Schedules menus:

  • Classes are listed by subjects, and then selecting that will show the class designations and sections of the class.
  • If a class has multiple sections, find your appropriate section.
  • From there, a person can see the class, date, time and room.
  • There are some classes that are group finals, and for room information, students would contact their instructor for this.
  • We’ve also provided the phone number for the Office of the Registrar, if there are questions around class times or rooms.
  • If a class has a building designated, there will be a small map.  If you click the small map, it takes a person to a larger map that can be zoomed in on most smart phones.

Thanks to the Office of the Registrar for their collaboration. If you notice any discrepancies, please let us know.


You’ve probably come here maybe because you clicked on the Keyword link from our search page, or you came across our blog, or from blogs.o.e.  But however you arrived here is secondary to the information that you want.

What is a Keyword, how do I get one?  The first part is easy, a Keyword is a prominent link that is top of results based on, well, keywords.  Google calls it Keymatch, but we are keeping our prior terminology of Keyword.  So for example, a keyword could be “academic calendar” which when you type in search, displays in a shaded area above the result set, that when you click the link takes you to the catalog for the academic calendar.

So how do you get one?  In our previous search engine, we would have to enter keywords into a database manually, and there was no policy on establishing keywords, and as the keywords grew and grew, the maintenance in ensuring links were fresh was too much of an overhead.

With the new Google Search Appliance, we are operating in a different mode, we have data to look at, and with good search engine optimization for your pages, organic results should be improved.

It was previously necessary for keywords for many users, but with a better organic result set, we can minimize the number of keywords we have to maintain.  With the ability now to see what are the top queries that both get and don’t get results, we can make some intelligent determination on what should be keywords.  For others, we do recommend that you optimize your page for search engines, and there is information about it on Google’s site.  The basics on it though if you don’t want to read all about it is, one, relevant content, and two, other sites to link to your site.

We’ll be looking at other approaches in the future to build upon the need for additional promotion, but for now, a data-driven approach is what we will be looking at for a fresh approach to searching by keywords.  So for now, we will not be taking user requests for keywords.  Stay tuned to this blog for changes.  In the future we hope to make the search reports accessible via a web interface that any user can visit.  If you have feedback, please contact us, or leave a comment here.

Advanced Search

With the release of the Advanced Search function, we have released Search as production.  Hmm, what does that mean?  Well, now if you go to the original search site, at search.oregonstate.edu, it is the new Google Search Appliance search.  So does that mean that’s it you ask?  Well, no.  There’s still more features coming, like Narrow Your Search and Keywords, which we’ll discuss more about in the near future.  For now, look at the advanced search.  If you really are looking to search, and you don’t find what you are looking for, don’t give up.  Try the advanced search feature, add more words, exclude words, pick a specific file format.  There are several file formats you can look to find.

Advanced Search

Now if you don’t find what you are looking for, it could be that the site you are looking to search might be new and not crawled yet, or it might not be hosted with us, so we are not aware it needs to be crawled.  In this case, all you have to do is just let us know what the site is, and we’ll look to crawl.  Read our other post on exceptions to get additional information as well on what we don’t crawl.

iPhoneicon Now on OSU Mobile, in v0.2 of our Alpha release, we have People live search.  Simply navigate to m.oregonstate.edu on your mobile phone, select people, and start typing in a name, email or phone number, and for select phones, results will begin to appear with the live search feature in v0.2.

People Lookup
People Lookup

You probably noticed just then that we said select phones, right?  Well, it’s true, the live search feature is only for phones capable of handling the dynamic querying.  For now, this means all the iPhone, Android, and Palm-pre users.  What about all of the people on Blackberry you ask?  Well, some functionality exists right now, but we’ll be working on Blackberry phone support in the near future.  For some Blackberry phones on newer versions, the live search may be functional, other Blackberry OS versions will just be able to get a normal search, where you type in the name and hit the enter key to get a result.  Because Blackberry phones handle aspects differently, there may be slight differences in feature capabilities.  For all other non-smart phones, we will also be looking at what the right strategy is to deliver information to these type of phones.  But don’t hesitate to let us know that you want to have some capabilities for your phone as well.  Leave us a comment here and tell us what you would like to see.

One of the other things added is a Library menu item to help make it easier to navigate to the Library’s mobile site.  So that’s it for v0.2 right now, for all you people on the go.

How to use the Live Search:  Start typing a name, first or last, email address, or phone number, and a set of results will be returned to you as you start typing.  The more you type, the narrower your list becomes.  For this release we only list the first 20 results, so the narrower your search, the better.

While we hope to have flushed out as many bugs as possible, it is always possible there may be one or two you will encounter.  If you notice any, please send us a note via our help ticket form.

This feature release brought to you by the people of Central Web Services in collaboration with Enterprise Computing, the Valley Library, Web Communications and others.