Difference between revisions of "ISCB-SC:Website:QA"

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A: In my opinion, they should become part of the SC main site. --[[User:Thomas Abeel|Thomas Abeel]]
A: In my opinion, they should become part of the SC main site. --[[User:Thomas Abeel|Thomas Abeel]]
A: Agreed. Otherwise we are going to propagate the problems with the current SC website to the RSGs, creating an even more complex problem. --[[User:nilsgehlenborg|Nils]]
===Q: Do we need conferencing service? Should it be on site? Why? Provide usage scenarios. ===
===Q: Do we need conferencing service? Should it be on site? Why? Provide usage scenarios. ===

Revision as of 15:25, 30 October 2007


How to use this document

This document is an appendix of ISCB-SC:Website.

All SC Leaders are recommended and members of the WCT are required to answer the questions on this Questions and Answers wiki page. Please feel free to submit new questions.

When making any changes, you should sign your contributions by typing three tildes --~~~. The reference of a comment is determined by the number of colons (':') in front of it. Place new text under old text.

Most questions and answers can be interpreted as user story names and descriptions respectively.

WCT should decide about the consensus on each question on this page and compile the requirements.

Questions could be sectioned just for convenience.


The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.

International Society For Computational Biology
Student Council of ISCB
SC Leader
Active member of ISCB SC
Web Coordination Team of the SC
Regional Student Group


Q: What is the main purpose of ISCB SC Portal?

A: The main purpose is provide up-to-date information to current and prospective members --Alexander

A: The Web is a reflection of who we are, what we do and why we do it. Its main purpose in my view is to be useful to the young researcher community in computational biology. We want to use it as a portal for educational, career and scientific opportunities --Manuel

A: The web is to integrate the young researchers in computational biology by exchanging informations, activities, experiance. --Teresa

A: Provide an active community for young researchers to share thoughts, information, experience. This is basically the same as the anwers above. --Thomas Abeel

Q: What is the main problem with current ISCB SC website?

A: The main problem is inconsistence. It is hard to find useful information, and the information that could be found is ambiguous. --Alexander

A: In my view the main problem is that it requires quite hardcore code to be able to add/change anything. Why not exploring making it like a blog? --Manuel

A: The current ISCB SC website is not updated. --Teresa


  • Information is outdated and not updated
  • Information is in multiple locations (wiki, site, campfire, mailinglists, etc. ), and they contradict each other
  • Website is static, i.e. you need to modify the HTML if you want to change something
  • Only few people can change the site because it is hardcoded
  • No active community (forum)
  • Very few useful resources on the website like job opportunities, courses, interesting papers, etc.

Thomas Abeel

Q: What would be your typical use of the ISCB SC Portal?

A: My typical use of portal would be:

  1. fetch the RSS feeds with worldwide and regional SC news
  2. participate in forums
  3. participate in online meetings
  4. contribute content to RSG



  • Interact with people in the community (using the forums, chatbox, ...)
  • Look for interesting conferences, courses, jobs
  • Get an overview of the activities of the SC

--Thomas Abeel

Q: Do you support centralized/unified RSG portal infrastructure?

A: With centralized/unified RSG portal it will be most probably easier to maintain conections between RSGs. --Teresa

A: I'm in favor of a tigh integration with the SC and centralized infrastructure. Basically we provide a location on our website so that the RGS can announce their activities and have a corner on the forums. --Thomas Abeel

Q: What is the relation between RSGs then, what they share and what they don't?

A: RSGs are "localised" mini-Student Councils. In my view they should be decentralised from the main ISCBSC website, of course controlling that they meet a minimum required standard --Manuel

A: If they are localized mini-SCs I think they should be centralized with the main ISCBSC website. That's the only way to make sure they archieve some minimum requirements. --Thomas Abeel

A: RSGs share all infrastructure, which I believe is the same as the infrastructure required for the SC website and thus should be tightly integrated into the SC website. This will reduce the maintenance effort and we can focus on content, which is the thing that really matters. --Nils

Q: How tight is the connection between RSGs and ISCB SC portal?

A: They become part of the ISCBSC portal. --Thomas Abeel

A: This is the way to go to prevent duplication of information. --Nils

Q: Which RSG do you represent? What is the main purpose of your RSG page/site/portal?

A: RSG site main purpose is to cover (communicate) local events and activities --Alexander

A: RSGs also need to present their current and past leadership and contact information. --Nils

Q: What is the main problem with your current RSG website?

A: Loose connection to ISCB SC site and other RSG sites is the main problem. --Alexander

A: In my view, the main problem is that we have not provided what we promised: the posibility of hosting the RSG infrastructure at the ISCBSC server. Most RSG are currently working as googlegroups and that's frankly quite unprofessional --Manuel

A: I do not manage any RSG websites, but I feel that they should be tighly integrated with the SC. They should look professional and not as Manuel notes, as some (inactive) google-group. Tight integration assures that at least a basic level of standard is observed. --Thomas Abeel

Q: If you are involved in RSG site development, please state your current plans for this site.


Q: Who should host ISCB SC portal?

A: Anybody is fine, as long as we can install our preferred CMS, so we need a recent version of PHP and MySQL. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Who should host all the RSG sites?

A: In my opinion, they should become part of the SC main site. --Thomas Abeel

A: Agreed. Otherwise we are going to propagate the problems with the current SC website to the RSGs, creating an even more complex problem. --Nils

Q: Do we need conferencing service? Should it be on site? Why? Provide usage scenarios.

A: I vote for a conferencing service on site. This could be implemented as a browser-based chat room with the possibility to save the log of the conversation. Having it on site meas that we do not need a separate (paid) service and separate accounts for it. When used not frequently some people would always have problems logging into 3rd party sites and would miss the conference. Basically it saves effort. --Alexander

A: I'm also in favor of a chat-based system that keeps logs as a conferencing system. The reason why: see the comments of Alexander --Thomas Abeel

Q: Do we need paper submission/review service? Should it be on site? Why?

A: This is an idea that was available on the list of projects on the wiki. I'm in favor of having such a system and it is not difficult to add to for example Drupal. However, in order to have a minimal list of things to do first, I would leave it out for starters. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Do we need web-based forum service on site? Why?

A: Yes, most definitely. This should be the most important part in building an active network of online contacts for young computational biologists --Thomas Abeel

Q: Do we need wiki service (collaborative edit) on-site? Why?

A: The idea of wiki is to have a post-moderation, this means everybody who is registered has write access to the page. This could conflict with fine-grain access control we want. --Alexander

A: No I don't think so, it may indeed be difficult to get the finegrained access control we want on a wiki. Besides, if we use a CMS, every SC-leader can be able to edit pages and keep it up to date. No need for a wiki. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Do we need project management service? Should it be on site? Why?

A: Yes, there are quite some projects and I think the site should be the central location for everything. We don't want people spending hours to find out where the information they need is (website, wiki, mailinglist, forum, campfire, skypelog, ...) --Thomas Abeel

Q: Do we need online education/courses/seminars service (like Moodle)? Should it be on site? Why?

A: In the far future it may be an idea. However, to keep things simple and to get the website online before 2010 I suggest we leave it out for starters. If it later arises that Moodle or something is needed, some CMS (e.g. Drupal) have modules to integrate Moodle into your site. That's a problem for in let's say two years. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Do we need video upload service, like youtube? Should it be on site? Why?

A: No, if we need video, we can upload to YouTube and put a playback window on our site. Simple as cake. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Which roles are essential for ISCBSC + RSG Portal development and maintenance?

A: What do you mean by roles? You mean user roles, access control roles?

  • admin (can add/remove/modify everything (content, layout, server config, ...), can participate in SC-leader forum)
  • webteam (can add/remove/modify any content, can participate in SC-leader forum)
  • sc-leader (can add/modify designated content, for example for a committee, can participate in SC-leader forum)
  • rsg-leader (can add/modify content for her/his own RSG), we need a role for each country that has an RSG
  • member (can add forum topics, modify own forum topics, submit new resources)
  • anonymous (can read all content)

--Thomas Abeel

Q: If hosted separately, which hosting service do you suggest for ISCB portal? (support your opinion)

A: I propose [1] . In my experience it proved as a reliable virtual private server hosting based on Virtuozzo technology. You get a virtual machine where an OS is preinstalled and you have root access. This enables your to install any virtual hosting control system, e.g. [2] that simplifies site management and install any software or services we wish. Including VoIP telephony and video/audio broadcasting. $15/month is worth the service. Besides, I have a personal virtual private server there, which is hardly 25% loaded, I can share is with StudentCouncil at no cost for SC, if it complies with our policy. If it does not, I can provide backup services to SC site with my host, e.g. DNS/MX backup --Alexander

A: I'm working with a local host from Belgium that is quite reliable and also offers hosting services based on Virtuozzo. You don't get root access to the virtual machine, but you get a VHC system installed. The service costs 18 euro/year (1.5 euro/month). [3]. --Thomas Abeel

Q: How are we going to make the new website useful to people who do not know the Student Council?


  • Community to interact with other young researchers
  • Resources, like nice introductory papers, good reviews, nice websites, ...
  • list of job opportunities
  • Courses
  • Overview of activities/conferences

--Thomas Abeel

Q: Who is going to collect all due information: organisation, leaders, contacts, etc?

A: It collecting all this information a big job? This can be done during the first weeks while the site is running, it will be dynamic so you can change it. --Thomas Abeel

Q: How are we going to integrate this information with RSGs?

A: Every RSG gets page where it can post announcements of activities, they get a forum, depending on whether the want it, they get a section for localized resources. And they also get a page with more static information like their board, workgroups, projects, etc. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Please state your availability and skills and how do you think you can contribute to Portal Redesign process?

A: I have several years experience as web-developer/team-leader/project-manager for a student council at Ghent University and as freelance webdeveloper. Currently I work mostly with Drupal, but in the past I've set up sites with Joomla. I can spend quite some time on the web site design and implementation. As stated elsewhere I made a sample site a few weeks ago to show some ideas. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Which Content Management System (CMS) do you know best?

A: I have plenty of experience with Joomla 1.0.x and Drupal 5.x. Recently I tried to install Joomla 1.5.x so I've seen that one as well. --Thomas Abeel

Q: For which reason would you choose Joomla?


Q: For which reason would you choose Drupal?


Q: Which other CMS should be considered and for what reasons?


Q: What are we going to do with the funds that were approved for the server for SC/RSG?

A: Use it to rent server space to put the web site on. --Thomas Abeel

Q: How would you define the target user groups and what feature in particular could interest them?


  • accidental visitor: what is this site about
  • bioinformatics student: how can I become a part of the society
  • bioinformatics professional: is there any information for professionals?
  • industry representative: promote your service by sponsoring events
  • ISCB member: login and check what are the benefits of being a member
  • ISCB leader: notification on current SC activities
  • ISCB BoD member: check for compliance with the ISCB strategic direction



  • accidental visitor: How the hell did I end up here? What is this about anyway?
  • bioinformatics student: How can I use this site, is there anything in it for me? Maybe some useful papers, a list of conferences, a forum to ask questions.
  • bioinformatics professional: How can I use this site, is there anything in it for me? Maybe some useful papers, a list of conferences, a forum to ask questions.
  • industry representative: How many people do they reach, is there anything in it for me? Maybe it is cheaper to sponser them and get publicity at ISMB than to buy a booth at ISMB.
  • ISCB(-SC) member: I already know what this site can do for me, I will happily contribute.
  • ISCB(-SC) leader: I already know what this site can do for me, I will happily contribute. I will also check the leader forums and help out with the current activities.
  • ISCB BoD member: check for compliance with the ISCB strategic direction

--Thomas Abeel

Q: Should we make a distinction between ISCB(-SC) members and non-members on the website?

A: I think not, I think both should be able to get the entire functionality of the website. ISCB membership benefits are mainly cheaper conferences, journals, etc. I think that providing the service of a young bioinformatics community should be open to all bioinformatics students. In any case I suggest to make the registration on the web site open to anybody who wishes to join. In the end most people get convinced to join the ISCB when they go to a conference or workshop and get 100 euros off when becoming a member. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Which content types/services (news, calendar, forum, video) that are ESSENTIAL could you list?

A: News, background information, calendar, forums, conference paper submission system, task managment (project management) and chatbox are essential. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Which content pages on ISCBSC site are ESSENTIAL (e.g. SC Structure, SC RSG list, SC constitution)

A: A place for the community to interact (forum), news about our upcoming events, overview of the RSG activities (calendar). SC structure and constitution are not that important for members, they want to be able to use the site and its resources. Those things should definitely be somewhere on the site, but I suggest to put them out of sight a bit. A few small links at the bottom of each page, like you often have disclaimers and privacy policy links. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Should the event calendars of RSGs be separate or merged into one global calendar?

A: It should be merged to make easier for people to join other RSGs events. --Teresa

A: I would also choose for one centralized calendar. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Should there be job postings service on site? Why?

A: Yes, this is one of the few services we can offer. And one of the most helpful I guess. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Who would be able to access job postings? Name target groups

A: Anybody! Once the site is running really well, we can maybe consider on limiting the access to members as an incentive to become member. But currently I would not limit the access to any part of the website, because we first need people to get familiar with the SC. Except maybe the Administration and SC-leader forums ;-). --Thomas Abeel

Q: Do we want SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? I.e. do we want to optimize the site for Google, Yahoo, MSN search, etc.?

A: I think we should consider this. I feel we want young bioinformaticians to find ISCB-SC and join us, righ? --Thomas Abeel

Merger/integration questions (ISCBSC+RSG portal with ISCB portal)

I've split these questions off from the main list of questions because I feel that they should be treated as a whole. And I have added some questions.
Only now I read I should not have rearranged the questions, sorry. --Thomas Abeel
it's OK. the questions were not sectioned. I propose to move CMS comparison questions to another page. --Alexander

Q: What is the motivation to merge the ISCB and ISCB-SC portals?

A: This was decided during the discussion with ISCB BoD, right? --Alexander

Q: Should ISCB SC Portal be an independent server?

A: No, ISCB SC Portal should become a part of ISCB portal. ISCB SC Portal can be developed now as a separate site and merged with the main portal later. --Alexander

A: It should merge ISCB portal. --Teresa

A: I'm in favor of a seperate site, because I think that the audience of the ISCB and ISCB-SC are quite different. If we do it well, we can offer quite some services to young researchers. This means that we should have full control over our website because we are basically a seperate entity with it's own activities, it's own community. While I think that in the end the two should be merged, I don't think that we should take that into account now. The average survival age of a web site is less than five years so I suggest to work on two seperate sites for now. We and ISCB can start thinking on a unified portal to be deployed in let's say 5 years.

As others have noted in the past month or so, the website is quite urgent. It may be an idea to stop dreaming about this one grand portal that has all information and get to work on our own little portal that suffices our needs. When that is done, we can start working towards the next goal, but I think we should take this one step at the time. --Thomas Abeel

Q: If ISCB SC is an independent server, how tight should it be bound to main ISCB portal?

A: As an independent server, ISCBSC site can be linked from ISCB site. Members should be able to login to ISCBSC using their ISCB login credentials. Services and information that are present on main ISCB site should not be duplicated on ISCBSC, but linked. --Alexander

A: I agree that we should not duplicate any content. But if you want to have cross site/server authentication things are going to become tricky. I suggest we have our own authentication, we do not duplicate ISCB content and we supply ample links to the ISCB web site. The following questions arose from the cross site/server authentication idea of Alexander. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Has the ISCB an LDAP server installed for us to use?

A: AFAIK, no. But if we want the integration, we need to figure out a technical solution. LDAP directory could be one of the possible solutions. The best would be to have Kamal available for questions, he did not respond to emails so far. --Alexander

Q: If NO on previous question: Is ISCB still going to deploy with Joomla?

A: It looks like that. But as I noted here, I have found no trace of analysis whether Joomla fits ISCB's requirements. Let us assume that ISCB will go with Joomla 1.5 --Alexander

Q: If YES on previous question: Has Joomla cross site authentications?

A: Yes, there are solutions for Gmail, LDAP and OpenID. --Alexander

Q: If YES on previous question: Has Joomla cross server authentications?

A: Yes, the cross-site authentication solutions Gmail, LDAP and OpenID are all cross-server. They do not need shared database access. Is this what you mean, Thomas? --Alexander

And those solutions are also cross-CMS so we can happily use Drupal (which fits are needs better) and still use the same credentials as the Joomla portal of ISCB. --Thomas Abeel

Q: If NO on previous question: Do you have any suggestions on how to make it work securely?

A: one note, we have troubles going further with this discussion without proper feedback from ISCB web team. --Alexander

Q: Has anybody experience with the things above?

A: Yes, with OpenID. It is rather simple to deploy and secure enough for our needs (i.e. ISCBSC portal). I have some experience with Novell Directory and LDAP, but this is not related to Joomla. --Alexander

Q: Should we wait for ISCB to deploy their new portal and join it? Or develop our own infrastructure?

A: We should develop our own infrastructure that could later be completely merged with new ISCB portal. Therefore, SC WCT should work in tight collaboration with ISCB web team --Alexander

A: Absolutely agree --Manuel

A: Time is important, so we shouldn't wait. --Teresa

A: I don't think we should wait. Design and develop our own corner of cyberspace and then maybe start thinking about the integration and merger. Time is of the essence so we should move forward on this. (See also questions at the end) --Thomas Abeel

Q: Who has experience migrating, merging or moving sites?

A: From my experience, moving sites is first of all migrating content. Link preservation could be a problem. As a solution I propose that we introduce permanent links (which we publish, print on paper or distribute). Permanent links are redirected links. E.g.: site/special_event_link redirects to site/?page1&name=event&id=special. Most CMSs provide tools to maintain redirects --Alexander

I agree, we should create fixed urls, so that if we eventually have to move, migrate, whatever, that we all links will still work. --Thomas Abeel

Q: Who has experience migrating, merging or moving CMS based sites?

A: I have some unpleasant experience. If the CMS has no special functionality for merging, and they usually don't, this is all manual work, and the work effort could be sometimes squared. Copy-pasting content from one site to another is quick and dirty. It works even if you merge two different kinds of CMSs, the common problems are different markups and broken links to pages and media.

So basically it doesn't matter what we choose for CMS. If we don't merge/integrate right now, it will be a lot of trouble anyway. I had the same experiences merging and moving several CMS based sites. --Thomas Abeel

Even if we finally decide NOT to merge with ISCB portal, we still have to migrate all the existing content to our new portal. To coordinate this content migration effort I set up a separate page: ISCB-SC:Website:Content. --Alexander