Co-op Summary – Spring Semester 2014

This is my Co-op Summary for Spring Semester 2014, my final semester at Cincinnati State.  At week 1, I identified several Learning Outcomes with my Co-op Supervisor to work towards during this semester.  One of the Learning Outcomes included utilizing my blog, http://www.kimphilpot.wordpress.com, to document my experiences in this co-op (CPDM 192) during the Spring 2014 semester.  I did maintain weekly or semi-weekly posts and included information and links to the topics I’ve researched or been exposed to this semester.  This semester also included my Capstone project, so several of my blog posts have referenced that project.  One of the coolest things that I have run across is using Google Charts API in my Capstone project.  I have one more blog post to write this week (Co-op 2 Highlights 15) and am planning to explore that topic a little deeper.  One big event that happened this semester was a major domain migration from one server to another.  This was huge for the IT team, and while I was not directly involved with helping with that, I did gain a big appreciation for what a huge task it was.

Another Learning Outcome included attending a webinar for the Birst product.  This is a reporting product and it seems like it can do a lot, but there’s also a big price tag associated with it.  The great thing about Google Charts API is that it’s available at no cost.  Infographic reporting, not just lists of data, on the data that we have in our MySQL database (the Vine) and our attendance (my Capstone project) seems like it could be valuable and I hope that there will be opportunities in the future to incorporate more reporting features.  Back in January, I also worked with the Director of Communications to build a WordPress website for a conference coming up in May.  This was great to walk through each step of the process and I have made updates to the pages several times in the last couple of months.

Again this semester, I was an active participant in the Database Architect meetings and provided feedback on various topics as appropriate.  This semester included a good quantity of website updates for our sister organization, http://www.healingcentercincinnati.org.  This included uploading Powerpoint and Word documents to our Amazon storage via Cloudberry, activating ‘closed due to weather’ images on the home page, and updating the web pages for an annual event that is happening at the end of May.

Overall, this semester was heavier on website updates, but lighter on other IT-related projects.  However, including my work on the Captsone project, which is directly related to our organization, seems to be an even tradeoff.  The Capstone project includes building a SQL database and tables to hold our weekend church attendance data, which is currently stored in an Excel spreadsheet.  Once the tables were organized and normalized, I imported some test data.  After building the scaffolding for the website in C# using the MVC 4 with Razor view, I developed a couple of stored procedures to call the data, allow for updates, entering new data, and deleting data.  This was not without a lot of help from the Capstone instructor.  I think he was stumped at times too.  There are probably one hundred additional things I could do to this project, but the big things that remain are adding enhancements to the reporting page and importing additional historical data.  The historical data is tricky because everything in the Excel spreadsheet is based on a Sunday date, even if it happened on a Wednesday or Friday or Saturday.  This requires a little more finagling of the data to make sure it is in the proper format before importing in to the table.

Because this is my last semester at Cincinnati State and I will be graduating on May 4, I have been actively looking for opportunities after graduation.  My goal, going in to this program almost two years ago, was to transition to a new career working with databases and building or maintaining websites.

Co-op 2 Highlights 4

I mentioned in my last post that I had participated in a webinar for Birst Visualizer and wanted to provide some more information.  Birst Visualizer is a reporting product that would connect to your data source (maybe a SQL or MySQL database, Teradata, Vertico, Oracle, and others) and provide a reporting feature that you could use to analyze business intelligence for your organization.

I was able to view this YouTube video giving a good demonstration on how to generate a report.  It seems very easy to work with, but…  They don’t seem to give a lot of information on how the connection is made between your data and their reporting system.  That would be a very interesting piece of information for me to find out.  I talked with a pre-sales person at Birst and they were not able to provide any pricing information to me, unless I was really interested in purchasing their product.

Reportico is another reporting platform that has been mentioned around the workplace.  This is a php open source platform, so it seems like it would meld well with our database (MySQL).  From Reportico’s website, their description is this:

Reportico is a comprehensive Open Source web reporting tool written purely in PHP. Reportico provides a web-based front end screen for designing and viewing reports stored in XML format. Reportico supports flexible criteria selection and reports may be presented in HTML, PDF, CSV, XML and JSON formats. Groups, graphs, expressions and drilldowns are also easily incorporated and reports may be embedded into existing web pages with a few lines of PHP. 

That sounds pretty much exactly what we might be looking for!  I may just download it and try experimenting with it, to see if it could meet some of our reporting needs.  This would be different from my Capstone project, as there are some specific constraints for that (must be C#, use CRUD, etc).  There’s lots to research, so I’ll keep updating as I learn more.

Co-op 2 Highlights 2

It was a busy week with several opportunities for website updates, including an update directly in the MySQL database (rather than through the content manager), an appointment with my Co-op Coordinator and our Director of IT, and a new website development opportunity for an upcoming conference that we’ll be hosting in May.  Additionally, I am working on completing the Learning Contract for this semester, which should be ready for submission tomorrow.

There is a webinar coming up this week featuring Birst called ‘Analytics for the Rest of Us:  Introducing Birst Visualizer.’  At my current workplace, we have long talked about developing better reporting tools to access and mine the data that sits in our MySQL database, so my hope is that Birst will provide a ‘breath of fresh air’ and help us to make a leap in reporting.  This could take us out of the ‘ice age’ of giant Excel spreadsheets with no graphic depictions of data to modern-day visuals showing attendance or other important metrics.  I will be writing more about that webinar later this week.