Jun 19, 2008, 02:35 PM

Signing off


The Virginia Tech Web Development blog is shutting down, in favor of a new site we have launched for our enterprise CMS project: www.ensemble.cms.vt.edu.

This also is my last entry as Virginia Tech's director of web communications. I am leaving the university and moving to a small farm my family owns near Roanoke, Va., about 65 miles from Blacksburg. The commute was too far to consider staying at Tech, so I have accepted a new position at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke as its director of interactive media.

The silver lining: I will continue to work closely with my Tech colleagues as we prepare to open the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, located in Roanoke.

Thank you all for your support!

John Jackson

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Feb 12, 2008, 10:29 AM

Ensemble CMS launches!


Ensemble CMS launched successfully Jan. 25, and we're now in our third week using the system to manage vt.edu.

Our office couldn't be more pleased. Ensemble already has made our jobs easier with its scheduled publishing functionality. Doing manual updates over the weekend is a thing of the past. Now I just set a publish date for a content item, and forget it! (My apologies to the Ronco rotisserie guy.)

We've also completed a couple of Intro to Ensemble CMS training courses, and completed the first Using Ensemble CMS course. Both are offered through FDI.

So we're off to a solid start. Now the hard work begins of helping dozens of departments migrate their sites to the CMS, and already we've received more than a dozen requests.

To learn about the process, visit our Web Communications website.

John Jackson

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Jan 09, 2008, 05:18 PM

CMS training open for registration


After many months of development and hard work by our CMS launch team, University Relations this month will begin using the university's new Web content management system, Ensemble CMS, to administer and maintain our flagship website, http://www.vt.edu . This is the first of what will be dozens of university websites that will migrate to Ensemble CMS in 2008.

As part of the rollout, we are offering a series of CMS orientation and training courses this spring through the Faculty Development Institute. The first course, "Intro to Ensemble CMS," is offered for the first time January 17. I encourage you to visit http://www.fdi.vt.edu and follow the links for Spring Short Courses - - > Web Development to register for one of the “Introduction to Ensemble CMS” classes to learn more about the system. There are 25 spots available in each class, which is being offered eight times this semester.

We’re also offering a “Using Ensemble CMS” class four times this semester, which you are welcome to register for now as well.

John Jackson

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Dec 19, 2007, 11:30 AM

Symposium regrets; FDI courses


To those of you in the Virginia Tech web development community who were looking forward to the Web Development Symposium, I'm sure you are disappointed that we had to cancel the event earlier this month. I am just as disappointed, because we had a great agenda.

Unfortunately, I had a family emergency that took me out of the state for over a week, including the symposium date. At this point, we are not planning to reschedule the fall symposium. Rather, we are offering a series of CMS orientation classes through FDI beginning in January.

The FDI courses will incorporate most of the subject matter that had been planned for the symposium. Here are the course descriptions:

Introduction to Ensemble CMS

You’ve probably heard or read about Virginia Tech’s new, free enterprise Web Content Management System, called Ensemble CMS. And you’re interested in using it to manage your unit’s Web presence. If so, this course is for you. Participants will learn the basics of Web content management, gain an understanding of how Ensemble works, and become familiar with the step-by-step process of migrating a website to Ensemble.


  • 1/17/08 - Thursday - 3 to 5 - 3080 TORG
  • 1/31/08 - Thursday - 3 to 5 - 3080 TORG
  • 2/15/08 - Friday - 10 to noon - 3080 TORG
  • 2/28/08 - Thursday - 10 to noon - 3080 TORG
  • 3/20/08 - Thursday - 1 to 3 - 3060 TORG
  • 3/27/08 - Thursday - 10 to noon - 3060 TORG
  • 4/17/08 - Thursday - 10 to noon - 3060 TORG
  • 4/24/08 - Thursday - 3 to 5 - 3060 TORG


  1. Participants are actively involved in maintaining their unit’s Web presence.
  2. Participants need to find more efficient ways to create and maintain Web content.


  1. Provide an overview of Web content management and CMS software.
  2. Discuss how Ensemble can benefit the university and its employees.
  3. Outline the key concepts and technology behind Ensemble.
  4. Provide a demo of Ensemble and its basic functionality.
  5. Present the Ensemble CMS Migration Guide and the steps required to move your unit’s website to the CMS, either partially or completely.
  6. Outline training opportunities and other Ensemble support resources.
  7. Facilitate a general discussion about Ensemble.


  1. Participants will know what a CMS is and how it works.
  2. Participants will be familiar with Ensemble and its functionality.
  3. Participants will have the necessary knowledge to decide if Ensemble would be a good fit for their unit’s Web presence.
  4. Participants will know the process and steps necessary to migrate their unit’s website to Ensemble.
  5. Participants will be familiar with the standard designs available in Ensemble, and the process for implementing custom designs.
  6. Participants will know where to go for Ensemble support.

Using Ensemble CMS

Your unit has decided to use Ensemble CMS to manage its Web presence. The next step is to learn how to create and maintain content and Web pages with Ensemble. In this two-day, four-hour course, participants will progress from a review of university Web best practices, to an overview of Ensemble key concepts, to a series of hands-on production tasks using Ensemble. At the end of the task-oriented course, participants will be fully prepared to produce robust Web pages and other content using Ensemble.


  • 2/5/08 - Tuesday - 3 to 5 - 3080 TORG
    2/7/08 - Thursday - 10 to noon - 3080 TORG
  • 3/11/08 - Tuesday - 1 to 3 - 3060 TORG
    3/13/08 - Thursday - 1 to 3 - 3060 TORG
  • 4/1/08 - Tuesday - 10 to noon - 3060 TORG
    4/3/08 - Thursday - 10 to noon - 3060 TORG
  • 4/29/08 - Tuesday - 10 to noon - 3060 TORG
    5/1/08 - Thursday - 3 to 5 - 3060 TORG


  1. Participants are, or will be, actively engaged in creating, editing, and/or publishing content to their unit’s website.
  2. Participants either have attended “Introduction to Ensemble CMS,” or have learned about the basics of Ensemble through other means (one-on-one demo, Ensemble website [to launch soon], etc.)
  3. Participants have a working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop.


  1. Learn best practices for presenting content online, including writing for the Web, photo sizing and cropping, and Web usability basics.
  2. Discuss the concept of “de-coupled delivery” with Ensemble and how it facilitates the sharing of content across multiple university websites.
  3. Outline Ensemble key concepts, including communities, roles, and workflows.
  4. Give a demonstration of some basic Ensemble production tasks.
  5. Provide scenarios of how Ensemble can assist with website maintenance.
  6. Facilitate a series of Web production tasks using Ensemble, including the creation and/or uploading of images, articles, navigation, and other types of content.
  7. Give participants a final set of tasks at the end of the two-day course for them to complete individually using Ensemble.
  8. Outline Ensemble support resources across the university.


  1. Participants will understand best practices for presenting content online.
  2. Participants will be familiar with Ensemble key concepts.
  3. Participants will know how to create several types of content using Ensemble.
  4. Participants will know how to search for content within the Ensemble content database, and how to incorporate it within their own websites.
  5. Participants will know how to assemble Web pages using Ensemble.
  6. Participants will know how to create and manage navigation using Ensemble.
  7. Participants who complete the final set of tasks will earn a Certificate of Completion, which is a prerequisite to acquiring an Ensemble login.
  8. Participants will know where to go if they need further support.

We also will be having a spring web symposium, but likely later in the semester. By that time, a large number of people will have gone through our FDI courses, and we'll have several sites up and running on the CMS, so it will be a much richer symposium than what we had planned for earlier this month.

John Jackson

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Nov 19, 2007, 03:50 PM

Ensemble CMS “go live” week set


We are entering the home stretch of the CMS launch project, with "go live" set to occur the last week of November. A consultant from Percussion will be on site that week to assist us with final pre-launch tasks. Needless to say, we are really looking forward to going live.

Other recent activity:

  • Completed a three-day Train the Trainer workshop Nov. 16
  • Began assembling training materials for FDI courses that will begin in January
  • Created a CMS Specialist position; the person in this six-month position will develop and deliver training materials
  • Migrated most of the content for vt.edu to the CMS in preparation for "go live"

Wrapped up in the excitement of "go live" are preparations for the Dec. 6 Web Development Symposium. We have a great agenda, and I'm confident you'll walk away with a much better understanding of Ensemble CMS and the extensive support structure behind it:

Web Development Symposium
1-5 p.m., Alumni Assembly Hall, Inn at Virginia Tech

  • 1:00 - 1:30 - Overview of Ensemble CMS
  • 1:30 - 2:15 - Demo of Ensemble CMS
  • 2:15 - 2:25 - BREAK
  • 2:25 - 3:00 - Presentation of CMS Migration Guide
  • 3:00 - 3:20 - Ensemble CMS technical infrastructure
  • 3:20 - 3:30 - BREAK
  • 3:30 - 3:45 - CMS training opportunities
  • 3:45 - 4:00 - Other CMS resources
  • 4:00 - 5:00 - Open session Q&A

All 135 seats are filled, but there is a waiting list. Go to the FDI website to join the waiting list.

John Jackson

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The CMS project team is making steady progress in its development of Ensemble, the name we have given to Virginia Tech’s enterprise CMS, powered by Rhythmyx.  Several of us are actively producing content and creating Web pages.

During the development process, however, the team has encountered technical challenges that are typical of such a major enterprise project.  Those issues have delayed progress on migrating www.vt.edu and other pilot sites to Ensemble.

Because of those delays, we are postponing the Web Development Symposium and rescheduling it for Thursday, December 6, from 1-5 p.m.  We want to present a CMS that is in production and “fully baked” – neither of which will be the case by Nov. 1.  While we regret the postponement, we believe it will be to everyone’s benefit to allow the CMS project team to fine-tune Ensemble before its debut.

We realize some of you may not be able to attend on the new date, and for that I sincerely apologize. If you cannot attend on December 6, please go to www.fdi.vt.edu and cancel your enrollment in order to free a seat for those on the waiting list.

Our CMS development hurdles have done nothing to dull our excitement about Ensemble and the benefits it will bring to the university.  If anything, during this process we have discovered that Rhythmyx is even more robust than we realized.

Thank you for your ongoing patience as we develop a CMS solution that befits our great university.  I am very eager to share Ensemble with you all.

P.S.  Ensemble CMS courses are being planned through FDI for the spring semester to introduce the web community to the system and train those who want to use it. There also will be an application and review process announced at the symposium for those departments that are interested in using Ensemble CMS.

P.P.S.  Here’s the tentative agenda for Dec. 6:

  1. Overview of Ensemble CMS

  2. Ensemble CMS technical infrastructure

  3. Demo of Ensemble CMS

  4. Presentation of CMS Migration Guide

  5. CMS training opportunities

  6. Other CMS resources

  7. Open session Q&A

John Jackson

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Sep 21, 2007, 03:52 PM

Introducing ‘Ensemble’


Percussion Software consultants were on-site last week to complete the "foundation build" for our CMS, which will be called "Ensemble." The foundation build included several base components of the CMS such as content types, templates, layouts, managed navigation, and content publishing.

The CMS team chose the name Ensemble to reflect the collaborative nature of the university's CMS project. The word "ensemble" is defined as "all the parts of a thing taken together, so that each part is considered only in relation to the whole." Another definition: "A unit or group of complementary parts that contribute to a single effect."

That is the essence of Ensemble. It allows departments to share content, rather than duplicate effort. It allows us to store content in a single database, and publish it in a variety of designs and formats. It empowers all faculty and staff to participate in web publishing. It shortens production cycles.

Our CMS development team is busy building upon the foundation left by Percussion. The migration of the vt.edu website will begin next week, and our goal is to have the production instance of vt.edu actively using the CMS by Nov. 1.

That also happens to be the date of our Web Development Symposium at the Inn. The four-hour session will focus exclusively on Ensemble. Register now.

John Jackson

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Aug 30, 2007, 09:06 AM

Fall 2007 Web Development Symposium


University Relations is offering a symposium intended for anyone at Virginia Tech who works on university Web sites. Web developers and content contributors will find this symposium to be of particular interest.

This four-hour session will focus exclusively on the university’s new enterprise Web Content Management System. Our Web CMS – powered by Rhythmyx CMS, a product of Percussion Software – will allow users to create Web sites without needing to know how to write website code, and to apply workflows to quickly create, edit, approve, and publish content to the Web.

When: Thursday, Nov. 1, 1-5 p.m.
Where: Alumni Assembly Hall, The Inn at Virginia Tech

Topics to be covered include:

  • An overview of the CMS and its technical infrastructure
  • A live demonstration of the CMS
  • Presentation of the CMS Migration Guide
  • Training opportunities and the CMS certification program
  • Available CMS resources and consulting services

To aid in our planning, those interested in attending are encouraged to register prior to October 27th. Go to https://www.fdi.vt.edu/public/?term_pk1=4760#5017 to register.

John Jackson

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Aug 29, 2007, 10:12 AM

CMS Development Plan complete


Percussion delivered the Development Plan for deploying Rhythmyx CMS this week right on schedule. Their technical team has moved on to "foundation work" that will continue through next week. Foundation work includes building our defined content types, setting up communities and roles, creating templates, and transitioning our layouts and style sheets to Rhythmyx.

Percussion consultants then will return to Blacksburg the week of Sept. 10 to install everything locally. They will work side-by-side with our CMS administrators and developers to assist with implentation, provide mentoring, and ultimately complete a "hand off" of the CMS to Virginia Tech by week's end.

The fun begins after that. We'll spend following weeks doing further implementation work, testing, tweaking, testing -- you get the idea -- with a goal of using Rhythmyx to maintain http://www.vt.edu in production by Nov. 1 at the latest. We'll also begin intensive work on a CMS Migration Guide that will be a "how to" manual for transitioning department websites to Rhythmyx CMS, and we'll develop training courses -- including an orientation class -- that will be offered through the Faculty Development Institute beginning later this fall.

There is SO much more to share about Rhythmyx CMS to orientate the university community to its features, its functionality, and the many benefits it offers. As we become more intimately familiar with the system, I'll provide some educational blog entries to help you all learn more about Rhythmyx and begin to understand how you can use it to maintain your own websites.

John Jackson

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Aug 28, 2007, 04:28 PM

Template Update: v1.3 released


I’d like to begin by introducing you to our department’s new web developer, Steven White. Steven, a Virginia Tech alum and New City Media veteran who joined us about six weeks ago, replaces Elaine Oliver, who has moved to Scotland but continues to work with us as a freelancer. Elaine has been working very closely with Steven to transition web development duties and develop the latest version of Virginia Tech’s Web templates.

The latest version (1.3) of the official templates is now available for download from University Relations’ Web Communications website. These templates are available to anyone at the university who produces an official college, department, or center website.

The biggest feature of the new Web templates is the ability to work in Dreamweaver's Design View mode. Prior to this release, users were required to make changes and edits in Source View mode.

This will be the last major template update for some time, as we are implementing a “design freeze” in order to migrate existing templates and style sheets to the university’s new Web Content Management System. That project is well underway; we’ll be moving http://www.vt.edu and a few subdomain websites to the CMS this fall. The design freeze will not prevent minor revisions to the templates to adjust for any bugs we encounter.

If you should have any questions or troubles using the new templates or updating your existing files, please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail either Steven (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or Elaine (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)). Steven can be reached at 231-2522.

John Jackson

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