Elgg as Alumni Web Site, Part 3

I have previously written about efforts to design an alumni web site for Maru-a-Pula school around Elgg. At the time, I thought it would be a long time before Catlin Gabel School was ready to open a web site to mostly unmoderated alumni contributions. Then, our development office took on a new hire — a recent graduate — who informed us that alumni have already been asking the school for social networking support (MySpace, Facebook, eVite) for reunion classes! This has suddenly opened the door to using Elgg here at Catlin Gabel. So, I present to you, Catlin Gabel Alumni Online (a work in progress)!

Catlin Gabel Alumni Online

The big difference between the Maru-a-Pula and Catlin Gabel alumni sites is that the latter site must be fully integrated with LDAP and Raiser’s Edge. LDAP is needed so that current faculty, staff, and seniors may have full access to the alumni conversations. Contact with former teachers is of high interest to alumni. I activated the Elgg LDAP authentication module (it’s built in with recent distributions) and added a little of my own code to autogenerate a new user account for each new successful LDAP login.

Raiser’s Edge integration is necessary in order to keep the database restricted to alumni and show information the school currently has in its alumni database in each user’s online profile. To achieve the first goal, I quickly validate the name and email information that Elgg requests of new users against Raiser’s Edge before allowing new user registration. For the second, I plan to pull RE information whenever it is newer than the information in Elgg. When new profile information is submitted in Elgg, I will generate an email to the alumni office so that they may make individual changes and/or make the data available for download and import into Raiser’s Edge.

We are excited about the potential for alumni users to engage in reunion conversationss through this tool and then continue individual updates and group conversations ongoing. Now if only my old high school were to make such a tool available for my reunion!

10 comments

  1. David Zeidman says:

    Nice work Richard! It looks like you have made a great job of integrating Raiser’s Edge with your website. This is not always an easy task and I am impressed. Did you use SQL or were you using Blackbaud’s API modules for Raisers Edge? Look forward to hearing about how your later integration goes.

    Good luck

    David

    David Zeidman
    Zeidman Development
    http://www.zeidman.info

  2. rkassissieh says:

    SQL. That way, I don’t have to pay for an additional Blackbaud service. Since manual review of incoming data is usually required anyway, it makes sense for an organization of our size to either have an individual manually enter small changes received through the web site or manage the import process directly.

  3. Mark says:

    So does that mean you automatically reflect "live" data from RE but when the alum change their info on your web site you have to import that manually into RE?

    Sounds like you’ve gone part way to reproducing NetCommunity. Sounds really interesting, and I bet your licence costs are less than Blackbaud’s 🙂

    Mark

  4. rkassissieh says:

    Yes, that’s right. I have tried using an import routine instead, but in practice is makes more sense to have a real person review the data closely before importing it anyway. It’s not quite as elegant as NetCommunity’s import functions, but my alumni user interface is far better.

  5. Peter Gulka says:

    That is sexy… You gotta show this off at the opfficially unioffical RE forums.

    http://reusers.server-plane… There are a ton of people there who would eat this stuff up.

    I am starting down the road of trying to come up with some way of letting a Blackberry pull from our RE database to create a portable rolodex for our school’s executive. It is still in this "drift-off-staring-into-space" phase 🙁

    Pete 🙂

  6. rkassissieh says:

    Thanks, Peter. I will check out the forums. Good luck with the Blackberry project. We import a dump from Active Directory instead.

  7. Charlie Nelson says:

    Hi Richard,
    My organization is looking into purchasing RE and an accompanying web solution (such as NetCommunity) that can talk to the RE DB. It sounds like you have managed to reproduce some of this functionality. I have been searching the internet trying to find out if that is possible and how difficult it is. What do you think would be the possibility of coding myself several pages (donation, update your info) that talk to the DB? When somebody makes a transaction on the website that requires data to be imported into RE (such as a donation), isn’t it possible to insert this into RE somewhere such that it is in a temporary "holding place" until it is reviewed and approved by human eyes? My understanding is that this is how NetCommunity works. I would really appreciate any insight. Good job on your project!

  8. Usha Ram says:

    Hi Richard
    I am working on integrating a Razor’s Edge application and Financial application with my own portal
    Iam trying to do this through the database.If you could share any pointers that would be extremely helpful

  9. rkassissieh says:

    Definitely get the Read-only Database Access module (RODBA), which includes a Help module that shows all of the table and field definitions and relationships. That helps a ton in writing manual SQL queries against the RE database. Set up a SQL user that has only the necessary read-only privileges as a security precaution. If your MSSQL is rusty, take a refresher course, as you’ll need a moderate level of skill in that area to make this work (though if I did it, so can you!). Use outer joins in your SQL statements to avoid missing records due to incomplete information. I hope this is helpful, and good luck!

  10. David says:

    Can you please share how you integrate ldap with elgg and what you modified for it to generate new accounts. That would be very useful for elgg users like me