The new SEPIA website has launched, with many new features and a simplified navigation to help us achieve our primary purpose: to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
- The top level navigation of the previous website had over twenty top level options; the new website has seven. This helps the newcomer find what they need to get help.
- The website contains a new meeting interface, including new features and some changes: an improved search, a "Near Me" mode which shows the distances to meetings, and contact forms for all service committees.
- The region tree dropdown menu has changed, and is still being worked on. You can replicate this functionality by using search. For example, search for malvern to see all meetings in Malvern.
- Major improvements have been made to the content management system for the office staff to maintain the web content moving forward. Events and notices are now much easier to post.
- You can follow the issues and new features our volunteer web developers are working on here: Meeting Guide Issue Tracker
- Thank you for your patience, support, and understanding as we work through the transition.
More Details: Why Upgrade the Website?
The previous SEPIA website was becoming harder and harder to maintain. Several areas were identified that needed to be improved:
- The master meetings database was in an legacy format (Microsoft Access), and kept on a machine in the office under a desk. This is hardly the place for important data.
- There were no data integrity or type checks in the old database, leading to inconsistencies and certain meetings not getting updated.
- The data pipeline which was written to move data from this legacy database to the website frequently stopped working with notice.
- Our volunteer developers would manually check the data load process at 5:45am every morning, to ensure it was still working.
- The website relied on several plugins which were no longer being updated, creating potential security holes.
- The interface for updating events, meetings, and content on the website was extremely difficult for office staff to use.
- The website contained too many options for the ease of existing members, without making it simple for the newcomer.
The volunteer SEPIA web developers contribute to AA technology as an open-source world-wide effort. In conversations with the wider team, the new web meeting interface is being developed to solve several problems. Currently, there are two data paths that each AA intergroup has: one for the website, and one for the Meeting Guide app. The new web meeting interface is being designed to run on top of the same data feed that the Meeting Guide app uses. Here is an example of the new Meeting Guide App API. It contains the backend support for several new features which are actively being developed:
- End times for meetings (complete!)
- Multi-level region support in the API feed (coming soon)
- Group information for each meeting
- An optional photograph of each meeting location / entrance
- Separation of meeting notes and location notes ("Big Book Thursday" versus "Alano Club entrance is in the back")
Keeping both user-face interfaces (the web and the app) pulling from the same data source will eliminate problems that have occurred with meeting and location data being inconsistent between the two. Moving to the new website should allow those in the SEPIA office to spend more time working on our primary purpose, instead of fighting with technology!
We thank you for your patience during this process, as we know change is never easy. We will continue to roll out improvements as they are ready.