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Get to Know the Avalon Team: Adam Hallett


In our series Get to Know the Avalon Team, we're providing a closer look at the individuals who are working each day to develop the Avalon Media System.

Adam Hallett

Adam ia a programmer for the Avalon Media System. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2008 with a degree in Anthropology, after which he taught English to children in Yeosu, Korea.  In the past he has worked with early stage startups in areas such as solar energy and customer loyalty, and also at a voter non-profit. 


Can you talk a bit about your role in the project?

I work with product owners and other developers to design, build, and test much of the functionality you see when you use Avalon. Quite a bit of this work involves improving the durability and resilience of the software under many different use cases. We use special testing software that runs through different scenarios and ensures that a user action follows the appropriate steps to update the system.


What is a typical work week like for you?

I usually end up working on a mix of new functionality, bug fixes, and reviewing changes made by other developers.  Some of my time is spent participating in conference calls and reading industry news and blogs.


What apps/software/gadgets can't you live without?

I don’t have many gadgets but I’m a big fan of outsourcing tedious tasks with applications such as Mint, Credit Karma, Dropbox, Google Calendar, and Gmail.


When you’re not working, what can you be found doing?

Recently my car has had some problems and it’s my new hobby to fix them.  A few weeks ago I built a smoke machine with an air compressor, baby oil, and a car battery to test for leaks.  I then used software to command the car’s computer to seal the system and monitor the pressure. Troubleshooting the recent generation of cars requires connecting mechanical knowledge with computers and algorithms.


Join us tomorrow via Adobe Connect


As we mentioned in a recent post, we are having a meeting this week in Bloomington with most of the formal partners and advisors on the IMLS National Leadership Grant that is helping to support development of the Avalon Media System, to discuss development priorities and future directions.


As part of this meeting, we are opening up our morning sessions on the first day of the meeting (tomorrow, Wednesday, October 2) to remote viewing/listening via Adobe Connect at

The schedule is as follows (all times are EDT / GMT-4 on Wednesday, October 2):

  • 9:00-9:45 - Introductions & mention of interests/questions
  • 9:45-10:30  - Project update and demo
  • 10:45-12:00 - Roadmap review & priorities discussion


We will not be able to support remote audio participation, but we would welcome your feedback and questions via the Chat window in Adobe Connect and via email to the avalon-discuss-l list.

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Sprint 35 - September 20, 2013


Who is at code release for Avalon 2.0?  We are! During our demo, the team decided that we had reached code release, which will allow the team to focus on updating methods for everyone to test out Avalon 2.0.  Bugs have been squashed, labeling has been updated and improved, and documentation is being written. A few of our bugs were fixed and pushed upstream to the Hydra Project--we are very pleased to contribute back to the community!


We are hoping to announce the release of Avalon 2.0 very soon so keep your eyes on Twitter, Facebook, and this blog to hear when and where you can check out Avalon 2.0!


Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • UI Improvements - Labeling (VoV 1970) - Nathan (0:00:00)
  • Role Tool Tips - (VoV 1972) - Nathan (0:00:28)
  • R2 Documentation (VoV 1878) – Nathan (0:01:21)
  • UI Improvements - My Collections page (VoV 1971) - Nathan (0:03:55)
  • Progress on getting to code freeze (VoV 1825)  – Chris/Adam/Phuong (0:07:22)
  • Progress on getting to Release (VoV 1826)  – Adam (0:21:21)
  • Review of stories – Team led by Steve (0:31:06)

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.

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Avalon Partners Meeting, October 2-4


Next week the Avalon team will be hosting our second Avalon Media System Partners Meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. Several team members are busy finalizing the meeting schedule and dealing with logistics, while others are finishing release 2.0 of the software--and others still are working on both. It's a busy yet exciting time!


As we planned the meeting, we thought of those burning questions that we are always seeking feedback on:

  1. What are the impediments to piloting Avalon at your institution?
  2. What is your intended timeframe for beginning an Avalon pilot?
  3. What media server platforms are important to your institution? 
  4. What level of file management would you expect Avalon to provide? (with masters, derivatives, access, etc)
  5. How does your institution provide access to university group information (course rosters, campus affiliation, etc)? What capabilities would you need from Avalon regarding group-based authorization?
  6. What do you need to measure about Avalon usage (for required statistics/reporting)?
  7. What system integrations are important to you?  Library systems, Authn/Authz, Media Systems, Learning Management Systems, other campus products.  
  8. What kind of installation approach are you looking for?
  9. What features and capabilities does Avalon need before your institution sets up a production instance of Avalon?
  10. Do you have any idea regarding the level of development support are you might able to contribute?  Any timeline?

While several are specific to those in the partner role, they're questions we are curious about across the board. If you would like to give feedback, we would love to hear it!


You can view the schedule, attendee list, and other information here:


If you can't attend, don't forget to follow @AvalonMediaSys on Twitter. We'll be tweeting with the hashtag #AvPartners13!

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Sprint 34 - September 6, 2013


Avalon 2.0 is much closer to seeing the light of day. We have a tried and true method for allowing migration of fixtures and people from 1.0 to the shiny new release 2.0.  Collection information used to be saved as a string but now Avalon 2.0 has a collection model allowing anything from 1.0 to be migrated to 2.0 with just one command!


Our punch list includes: final round of testing, some improvements to the interface, more documentation (is there ever enough?) and updating our installation methods. Fingers crossed that you will be seeing Avalon 2.0 very soon!


Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • Migration framework - (VoV 1872) and (VoV 1876) – Michael (0:00:00)
  • Progress on getting to code freeze (VoV 1825)  – Chris (0:02:39)
  • Directed to URL after login (VoV 1817)
  • Corrected poster image (VoV 1870)
  • Batch upload errors (VoV 1918)
  • Slow upload of files (VoV 1922)
  • Administrator can see "List all items" (VoV 1946)
  • Rails error when duplicating name (VoV 1951)
  • Silent failure of adding managers not in manager group (VoV 1955)
  • Centered expanded facets (VoV 1956)
  • Creating similarly named collections (VoV 1966)
  • Migration framework - (VoV 1872) and (VoV 1876) – Michael (0:15:55)
  • R2 Documentation (VoV 1878) – Julie H/Andrea (0:22:15)
  • Sensible UI Changes (VoV 1938) – Julie R/Mark (0:29:13)
  • Review of stories – Team led by Steve (0:37:24)

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.

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Sprint 33 - August 22, 2013


This sprint the team focused figuring out a method for migrating the content and roles/permissions from release 1.0 to release 2.0.  The team also spent quite a bit of energy on identifying bugs and fixing them.  Although we are not yet at code release we are much closer!


Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • Unit management documentation (VoV 1879) – Adam (0:00:00)
  • Path to Code Freeze/Review of bug fixes - Team (0:06:13)
  • Review of stories/Update on migration stories – Team led by Steve (0:34:31)

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.

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Get to Know the Avalon Team: Leah Lee


In our series "Get to Know the Avalon Team," we're providing a closer look at the individuals who are working each day to develop the Avalon Media System.

Leah Lee

Leah is a programmer for the Avalon Media System. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science in 2009. Since then, she has worked as a database administrator for Worm’s Way, Inc. and as a Systems Analyst/Programmer for IU International Services, developing for the Sunapsis International Office Module.


Can you talk a bit about your role in the project?

I am a new developer on the team, hoping to contribute as much as I can. I’ll be working with the rest of the development team to squash bugs and add functionality.


What is a typical work week like for you?

I work mostly on Avalon, but some of my time is spent maintaining IU’s Variations server.


What apps/software/gadgets can't you live without?

I like my Android smartphone because with it I can access a wealth of knowledge at any time. Sometimes, I don’t want to wait until I get home to find out some random piece of info... like the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow.   


When you’re not working, what can you be found doing? 

If I’m feeling lazy, I like playing video games, watching anime, reading manga, listening to music, and drawing. Since I naturally spend so much time on a computer or in front of a game console, I also try to do other things that don’t involve sitting like cooking, gardening, swimming or bicycling. I like DIY projects, especially since I have a house to upkeep, and some of them turn out really well (plumbing) and others, not so well (drywall).

Sprint 32 - August 9, 2013


Avalon version 2.0 has officially hit a feature freeze!

  • The software now has an "About" page that can be used to show the health of the various components. You can see what version you are running of all of the components to. 

  • Blurry, black thumbnails in your results are a thing of the past.  Thumbnails and poster images can be set before publishing each image. Batch uploading also allows for the offset to be set for the thumbnail and poster image too. 

  • This change to the batch uploading process lets a collection member set the section labels (this needed to be entered manually in Avalon 1.0).  

  • The roles that were introduced in the last two sprints have now been incorporated into batch uploads. Only collection members can batch upload now!

Next, the team will be working on testing and bug fixes before we move on to code freeze.  


If you're at Archives 2013 in New Orleans, Stefan will be presenting a poster on Thursday, August 15 and Friday, August 16. Be sure to stop by to pick up some Avalon swag. If you want to see a demo, tweet us @AvalonMediaSys!


Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • Monitoring Avalon (VoV 942) – Michael (0:00:00)
  • Specifying Thumbnails/Poster Images (VoV 1830) – Michael (0:07:44)
  • Unit management (VoV 1715) – Adam (0:17:30)
  •  Batch upload restricted by collection members (VoV 1769) - Adam (024:50)
  • Review of bug fixes - Team (0:37:42)
  • Review of Sprint Stories – Team led by Stu (0:51:10) 

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.

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Sprint 31 - July 26 Demo Recording


As Release 2.0 is nearing, the Avalon team has been working to include a few new features as well as refining the player. Upgrading to Hydra head 6.0 fixed a number of bugs that kept on popping up. The developers continued to work on incorporating features into the collection/unit workflow and now collections can be deleted and units can be browsed. We were able to do some testing and bug fixing on the mediaelement.js player which looks good and behaves in a more predictable manner. Avalon is maturing before our very eyes!


Watch the full recording of this week's demo.

  • Upgrade to Hydra head 6.0 (VoV 1765) - Michael (0:00:00)

  • Deleting collections (VoV 1649) - Michael (0:02:04)

  • Mediaelement.js player improvements and bug fixes (VoV 1797) - Phuong (0:10:10)

  • Browse/Limit items by Units (VoV 1716) - Chris (0:23:54)

  • Review of Sprint Stories – Team led by Stu (0:33:35)

You can also watch the demos for past Sprints or learn more about our development process.

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Understanding Avalon Roles and Permissions


The second release of Avalon will have collections-based roles and permissions. This post describes what we've designed in hopes of getting your comments. Does this make sense? Is it easy to see how you would map these to your organization?

Units, Collections and Items


First, some definitions.


A unit is a grouping of collections. Usually, a unit will map to an administrative unit.


A collection is a grouping of related items. 


An item is a bibliographic unit comprised of one or more audio or video files.


So it's a hierarchy--a strict hierarchy in that items can only belong to one collection, and a collection belongs to only one unit. If you need to make other kinds of groupings, such as for course reserves, special exhibits, or shared access restrictions, those will be accomplished through other mechanisms. The hierarchy defined above is for ownership and responsibility.


Both units and collections will show up in as facets for search and browse.

Roles and Permissions


We've designed the four roles below for the second release.



Administrators will be a select few who have responsibility for providing an Avalon-based service. The administrators assign people to the manager role and maintain the list of units. Administrators are the only ones who can see and modify items in any collection.



Managers are those within a given unit who have overall accountability for the collection building within Avalon. Managers get to create collections and assign editor and depositor roles for those collections. They set the default access controls for items added to the collection, and they also step in when a published item needs revising or deleting.



Editors have supervisory responsibility for the collection building--the ingest and description process. They can assign depositor roles, change the name or description of the collection, and can modify the access controls for individual items in the collection.



Depositors add media to the collection and describe it with metadata. They can publish items but not unpublish. They can only modify or delete unpublished items.


Permissions are also a hierarchy--an editor can do anything a depositor can do, and a manager can do anything editors and depositors do, and an administrator can do anything. Smaller organizations may not have a need for all four roles. But we hope that these four roles can be used to support even the largest, most complex institutions. 


An additional means of handling complexity would be to have multiple instances of Avalon running. If some collections are so self-contained that they don't need to share discovery services with other collections, running a separate instance may be the best way to handle the separation.


The chart below provides another view of the hierarchy of roles and their associated permissions.



Until we all start applying these roles, we won't know exactly what to recommend. Libraries tend to have few but large collections. Archives tend to have many more collections. How can we best organize our media collections to have them be both manageable and appropriately discoverable?


Questions? Suggestions? 


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