wiki:projects/membership-meeting/2012/reports/support

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2012 Membership Meeting Support Report

It has been an exciting, challenging and productive year for the support team. I want to offer deep appreciation to everyone who has participated in support work over the last year. This includes Jamie, dkg, Greg, Nat, Joseph, Jon, Brandon, Daniel S., Dana, Drew, Langston, Josue, Stephen, and Enrique. Without the continued efforts of this group of people this years successes would not have been possible and our failures would have been much worse.

Ticket Tracking

The last year has been the single busiest year for the support team with over 1600 support tickets opened and over 1700 tickets resolved. Ticket quantity increased for a number of reasons. First, we have expanded our use of the system to include accounting documentation (specifically membership accounts in danger of being disabled for unpaid dues) and a translation workflow. Second, after donating servers to the Occupy Movement, we increased our membership by 10% within two months and with the increased membership came additional needs, often from people new to website creation and/or maintenance. Finally, we have tried to be more explicit in documenting the creation of new virtual servers, of which there have been quite a few. Over the last year, we have increased our number of servers from 96 to 139, a 44% increase.

Server Maintenance and Monitoring

To manage the significant increase in our number of servers, we have built a new site dedicated specifically to organizing our servers http://servers.mayfirst.org . This site tracks all of our servers and the individual responsible for managing and updating each. We have also built new monitoring tools to track the disk space on each server as well the software update status. These things combined have allowed us to keep our systems as up to date and secure as possible in a way that distributes the labor across support team members.

Team Building and Collaboration

This is the first full year in which we've had consistent monthly face to face meetings of the support team. We currently meet every first Saturday of the month for 10 to 16 hours to work on various parts of our infrastructure. These meetings have proven to be quite fruitful, allowing us to pull in additional participants. Fifteen different people have attended face to face meetings this year, another support team record. The increased participation gave us the opportunity to figure out ways to include participants with fewer privileges, a historical struggle. By reducing the barrier to entry, we have garnered a significant increase in participation.

Email

A number of significant improvements have been made to our email infrastructure.

Roundcube

This summer we finalized our Roundcube installation, another free software web mail client, which has a much better interface than our classic Horde client. Members can now choose between Horde (https://webmail.mayfirst.org ) and Roundcube (https://roundcube.mayfirst.org for webmail, resolving a long standing member request.

mail.mayfirst.org

In addition to improving webmail, we centralized the domain needed to configure email accounts. Historically, members were required to enter their specific server name in order to configure a local email client. Now everyone shares the same mailing host domain name mail.mayfirst.org. This simplifies setting up email accounts and should prove much easier for members to navigate.

Social Networking

We have been working for some time on finding free software alternatives to popular proprietary social networking sites and tools. We believe we have found a legitimate alternative to those tools and now have a fully functional social networking site of our own at https://friends.mayfirst.org using the FLOSS tool friendica. Our hope is that this tool will assist us in building a network for our members in a non-proprietary fashion in which their data will not be controlled or owned by anyone. Based on extensive testing and use, https://friends.mayfirst.org is ready for widespread use by our membership.

In addition to friends, we have a fully functional mumble server up and running at mumble.mayfirst.org. This software allows audio conferencing for users who have installed the mumble software. This stable and widely used software is excellent for audio conferencing, though the software can be a bit challenging to configure.

Security

After the FBI stole one of riseup's servers from our server cabinet, we installed cameras on all of our server cabinets to increase our awareness about who might be gaining access. This has already led to the video capture of the FBI returning the server (MFPL's release, multiple versions from archive.org and even a non-MFPL remix on YouTube). While we do not expect any interference with our cabinets, the new security measures should at least keep us informed of any unwarranted or warranted as the case may be invasions.

Internationalization

In the efforts to build a bi-lingual May First/People Link, a number of efforts from the support team have been undertaken. We have internationalized both the control panel and the support system so that all primary menus read in both English and Spanish. Additionally, a translation macro was installed on the support system so that all wiki pages can display multiple languages in a breakout menu.

Challenges

SPAM

Spam caused some significant problems this year for some members. A number of email accounts got high-jacked due to members not using adequate security on their accounts. This lead to a number of cases in which servers were bogged down with email send/receive requests. In addition, a few sites left themselves vulnerable to spam posting in which up to 5 million pieces of spam content got posted. These sites generated some significant slowdowns for other members. While the support team handled these problems once they were known, these types of issues need a more robust approach than we currently have in place.

Server Monitoring

While we implemented additional monitoring this year, we also encountered a number of situations in which our monitoring needs improvement. In one such case, an entire server's email capabilities were off-line for over 48 hours. Due to our reliance on members reporting problems, we were unaware of this outage for a significant period of time. Unfortunately, no definitive secure approach to the type of monitoring we need has yet been decided upon. This is a challenge that must be adequately met in the coming year, and the support team is committed to it's implementation.

MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) limits

Another challenge encountered by the support team this year was a mysterious reduction in our MTU limits for servers in our xo colocation center. This problem impacts all servers in this location causing some sites not to load until a reduction in the server's configured limits. Even though we found a way around this problem, a definitive solution has yet to be discovered. We continue to research this issue but have yet to find any legitimate explanation for the problem.

Looking Forward

User Interface/Experience

One of the projects we began this year involves redesigning the member's control panel. Still in the early stages, our plan is to spend time in the upcoming year revamping the look and feel of the control panel to make it easier for members to navigate. This includes creating some wizard like functionality to target the most used control panel features.

Wordpress Web App

Due to the explosion of wordpress sites on our servers, we have committed to implementing a wordpress web app in the coming year. Some progress has already been made with this project with a model outlined for implementation. This should be completed within a few months.

Last modified 7 years ago Last modified on Oct 25, 2012, 3:57:33 PM