Meeting Notes for 30 January 2008

Present: Tom J, Bob., Liz, Mihael, Eric;
Absemt: Dan K, Mike W., Randy., Kris, Joao, Tom L.

Creating a form to harvest help desk ticket information

(see the FAQ item called: How do I report a cosmic e-Lab performance problem or bug?) on <>

Bob finds it frustrating to receive emails that just say "e-Lab is broken" when he could use some more precise information. He usually has a few back and forths before he gets the information he needs. Tom and Bob thought that if we had a form for submitting a help request and included some required as well as optional fields, it might alleviate some of this. For example, we could have a textarea in which they could paste the actual error message they are getting. We would be careful to only require the minimal needed.

Tom’s proposal: a “Helpdesk” link in Navbar that goes to a page with info about the FAQ and archives of the helpdesk listserv and hidden DIV with Form. Process it and have it go to a helpdesk listserv. He will need to request an i2u2 mail list, but administered by us.

Mihael said he could implement this in jsp.

Eric provided the following other implementations:

  • Discussion Forum Helpdesk (See – submitting a question by anyone having accounts; see
  • Bugzilla – people can add their own. Probably better to have formal bugs entered by experts.

There is the choice of having information going to an expert or a group of people. With email going to expert, then the expert gets alerted right away. With a forum, they might have to go to the web to check. However, the expert could use a subscription or reminder service to tell the him when something new has come in.

Helpdesk forum scales. It provides a social structure.

Bob thinks teachers may be reluctant because it takes more time.

Liz is concerned about teachers access to wikis and avoiding any roadblocks to asking for help.

Eric mentioned the issue of whether the questions should be anonymous or not.

Eric: Different levels – newbies and community.

Beginner – should be able to ask a question to somebody using form. We should not make asking for help involve a level of technology that overwhelms the user.

Point them to FAQ where they are told "If you do not see the answer here, fill in this form". Include field for email in the form so they can be responded to. Can look at it without being subscribed.

  • Listservs: Pros: easier to use; they can be read-only without subscription; Cons: harder to search.

  • Forum: Pro: easy to search; nice way to access all information and form a community, less burden on the expert because others can chime in. More like a scientist’s logbook. Con: harder to use; require login

Liz: Important to leverage on existing solutions.

Eric: Moodle might be better than BOINC. They are using it at Bard College where he is teaching.

Eric wants to test using a form, but instead of sending it to the listserv, have it go into helpdesk forum system. This would probably require cross-authentication and should not be available to the guest user.

Action Item: Tom and Bob: make form

Action Item: Eric: test to see if we can process forms and put them into the helpdesk system in BOINC.

Action Item: Mihael: help with cross-authentication.

Changing order of the FAQs (Bob)

Action Item: Liz will ask Mihael. Response: no order is requested in the query so it is just the order they come out of the database. This should probably go into Bugzilla.

Refactored Code – testing

Is the SWIFT fixed in refactored code? Mihael fixed the problem with handling argument list with SWIFT; Mihael is getting the same results on both.

Action Item: Bob and Tom will verify that this bug has been fixed.

Once they verify that it is o.k. on www12, Mihael will set up the beta site on www18 that will use the same data as the production server. Step 1: Stand-up machine and get the e-lab fellows and a few special users to bang on it.

How will we know if there are problems? Add some statistics. We have better logging so we should be able to tell. Excessive load vs. actual bugs will be hard to differentiate. Praise them for helping us!

Next invite people to bang on it thru news item. Encourage them to use it.

Consider asking a subset of Tom L’s students to bang on it. SWIFT still has issues.

Do we need to add some kind of indication that SWIFT execution is experimental so there is small risk in using it.

Tom’s suggestion to drop 1/3rd of the people onto a beta version cannot work because you cannot mix the refactored and production versions.

Tom and Bob would like to see the helpdesk form done quickly so fielding problem reports with refactored version might be easier for them.

Liz asked Mihael if he had been able to implement capturing the out of memory exception when there are too many shower candidates. See telecon – Jan. 9th

Response: Not yet. And this should be fairly easy to do. But it's not for v1. There will only be critical bug fixes for v1. And this isn't one of them.

This is now in bugzilla:

Problems with the Server / Proxy / Server going down.

RLS going down; Seemed to happen when we went to the proxy server workaround, but it does not have anything to do with it.

-- Main.LizQuigg - 30 Jan 2008
Topic revision: r9 - 2008-01-31, LizQuigg
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