Work session with Chuck Nash - software updates
As some of you know, MN usually has a "winter/spring" work session with Chuck Nash where we buy a block of programming time and have him work on various bugs, issues and requested enhancements. Because of all the new stuff happening around 4h4me made this year's work session a "fall" work session. Also, Chuck happened to be in MN this week visting his daughter, which saves us from having to pay any travel expenses, and yet we still get to work in person.
We did a bit of work in FairPlus! first. The changes included making the status of an item in the Posting screen more clear - now, posted items will be slightly shaded - non-posted items will not be shaded. Also on the posting screen there is now an option to place an entire group with one click - this will be helpful for classes where all the exhibitors get, for example, a Participation placing. There were a number of small fixes related to State Fair (the Dorm reports now lines up the "days" - and the Registration Reports will list only the Class name, which will make those reports more helpful).
Also on the list was a request to bring the member's e-mail address and parent/guardian data into FairPlus!, but due to prioritization and costs, this hasn't been done yet, though there's still a chance it might happen this year.
We then worked on ScoreCon a bit - changing how it handles Reasons class card and scoring. If you have a Judging Contest that you are responsible for scoring, ScoreCon is a great tool and available to any staff that would like to use it.
Most of the time of course was spent on 4HPlus! and 4h4me - primarily stuff that relates to the online capabilities. Alot of time was spent cleaning up a bunch of problems related to Inactivating or Deleting Clubs. Another big area of work was focused on how the [Archive] [Init Data Set] commands interact with 4h4me. This year, to date, you had to first do the Data Intialization steps, then do a Full County Upload. With the new version of 4HPlus!, if you make a change on the Init Data screen you will generate a simple 4h4me "command" (part of the WXDU (data upload) data. 4h4me then executes the particular command you requested (ie Remove all Projects, Increase Grade, etc., etc.).
Another big area of focus was the followup to a member who enrolls online, (and then the Parental Authorization Form arrives in your office.) First, in the previous version the "Application Date" was added to the Authorization form so that you could easily see when the form was submitted. However, this "broke" the approval process - but that's now fixed in the new version. Also (this is not yet done) but beginning next week, when you do a data upload to 4h4me, which includes a new member, 4h4me will send an e-mail (you get to write that e-mail message to say what you want) to the new member indicating that they need to log on to 4h4me and complete the "Annual Enrollment" tasks (select a club, Projects, submit Communications and Parent data, etc.). Staff (as per the County Info page) will get a cc' of this e-mail (this will help with members who don't have an e-mail address, or the e-mail doesn't get delivered).
As you know, we've also been struggling with how to deal with Members (or Leaders) who log in and update their info and "think" that they've re-enrolled, but they did not follow all the way through and click on the button to update their Current Year. We talked about having 4h4me function like 4HPlus! where if you simply add/remove a Project, update an address, etc. the Current Year gets updated. But, online, we can't be sure that just because a member updates their address, that they also looked at their Communications screen (the online re-enrollment process ensure that they do this) - or their Projects screen, etc. etc..
The suggested solution, which should be in place next week is that if a member or leader logs in to 4h4me, and their Current Year does not match the actual Current Year, they will get a popup message/warning that they need to complete ALL of the steps on the re-enrollment screen. I suspect that once this is in place, and a "clean sweep" check for re-enrolling members and leaders should happen - you can use 4HPlus! to send an e-mail to all members and leaders with a Current Year of 09, asking them to verify their re-enrollment, etc. We'll also have the Member Information Form to track re-enrollments by.
(At this point in time, there is no re-enrollment screen for Leaders, but that should also appear next week.)
Also, another problem we had was if a member went to look at their Member Information Sheet, but did not fill it out or submit the form, they could still return to the re-enrollment screen and get "credit" for having done their Member Information Form. Now, they have to click the [Submit] button to get "credit". There is also a new button on the member's Registration screen that functions in much the same way.
So - all in all, we continue to strive to make the process tighter and tighter, so that we get more and more reliability and integrity into the online process and data managed there.
Some of you have asked for instructions for counties not offering the online process. You have been waiting too long for those - I will get to them next.
Related to this year's instruction to NOT remove Projects. As it turns out, this good idea is causing some difficulties when combined with the other aspects of moving online. A few of you have asked if you can still remove all projects and proceed that way. That's possible and certainly a decision only you can make - it will largely depend on where you are at in the process and how much work this will create and/or save. I do apologize - in retrospect it would have been better to hold off at least until next year before implementing this decision. Let me know how things are working out, and any suggestions for when we get to considering this for next year.
Finally - a word about this blog.... PLEASE DO make comments - I look foward to them! However, note that the UThink blog does not automatically publish comments, even though I have set the parameters to make that happen. I did learn (thanks to Judy!) how to locate the held-up comments and publish them.
Thanks for hanging in there!!