The Year in eXtyles
Presenter: Liz Blake, Inera | An Atypon Company
Liz: Thank you, Jo.
Yes, as usual, I’m going to begin the meeting by telling you all what we’ve been up to for the past year. So as Jo mentioned, this is the third virtual XUG and the 18th annual XUG overall, for those of you who are new and have only come to virtual meetings, we did used to do this meeting in person for many years and we actually had originally planned to do that this year as well. And for a couple of different reasons, we decided to keep it virtual.
And we did actually reach out to many of you past XUG attendees to see what people’s feelings were about whether they preferred an in person or a virtual event. And it was mixed responses. And we do understand that people miss getting together in person, we do too. It is hard for me if I say something mildly amusing during this talk, not to hear or see laughter.
But there are also some pros, Debbie is clapping. There are also some pros to, to doing the event virtually. Of course, we do get more attendees when we do it virtually. My cat can appear out of nowhere when we do it virtually, and we’re able to provide recordings very easily for the entire meeting.
So pros and cons, we appreciate you still showing up for the virtual event. Will events be virtual or in person in the future? We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do next year. We will keep you posted. It’s likely that we will probably start doing a combination in the future, but we’ll certainly let you know and continue to solicit your feedback.
But the image on this slide is from the beach near my home in Maine. And if you, I know some people are already chiming in, in the chat with where they’re joining from, but if you haven’t, please do feel free to let people know in the chat where you are attending the meeting today.
So in terms of what we’ve been up to, Jenny reminded me last week that I should talk about this very major thing that we went through this year, which is that we became an entirely virtual business this year. Inera is actually 30 this year. So a major anniversary for the organization, and when it started was a little office in Newton, when I started. It was a little office in Newton above a delicious Vietnamese restaurant that we really loved and went to all the time and but could no longer, as the team grew, could no longer contain them. And we moved to a larger office in Belmont.
And then, as many of you know, or most of you know, we were acquired by Atypon, which is part of Wiley about three years ago. And Wiley already had an office in Medford, Massachusetts, which we were in the midst of moving to in March of 2020. Some of you may recall that some things happened in March of 2020, and I actually never even saw the Wiley offices. I’m told they were lovely, but unfortunately Wiley opted to close the Medford office in May of this year.
So this wasn’t a surprise to us when it happened, but it was a little bit of a scramble. We didn’t have that much time to get out of there. And our physical infrastructure, meaning our servers and the like, were moved to New Jersey. So that was a kind of a major challenge for us. But we are now a 100% virtual team, which of course everyone’s very used to at this point. But one thing that we kind of realized recently, which is interesting, is that at this point, fewer than half of this Inera staff are based in Boston. So, while it is still a hub for us, we’re pretty distributed at this point.
So eXtyles, why we’re all here, what’s been going on with eXtyles in 2022?
So for the past couple of years I’ve been doing these sort of stats. I like to go through the master release notes every year and see what the trends are. If there’s anything of particular note that I want to highlight during my XUG presentation about what has changed in the software. And as of mid-September, I did this last month, there were 129 new items in our master release notes since the previous XUG, 38% of those were general improvements in eXtyles, and 62% of those were specific to particular customer configurations and nine were bugs.
So what’s interesting to me, because I review my slides from previous years, every time I do this, is that these percentages are extremely consistent from year to year, but the absolute numbers are a lot lower this year in terms of the number of changes that we’ve made. And that, much like the office closing, was not a surprise to me either because– for a couple of reasons.
The first is that, when we started eXtyles was not only the primary product, but it was the sole product and that’s just not the case anymore. And so the development team’s work encompasses the kind of traditional adjustments you’d see in the release notes, but also holistic work on the entire product family including Edifix and eXtyles Arc. And as you know, these, all of these products share code and share functionality, but the development team is more distributed in terms of the types of work they’re doing. And the work in cloud solutions is something that Bill is going to talk about in more detail tomorrow. So stay tuned for that.
But the second reason why there’s fewer adjustments to eXtyles this year is that we really took a step back to look at our overall processes and infrastructure a little bit more thoroughly this year. The sort of way that we framed it is that eXtyles gets regular physicals and checkups and but this year it’s reached a point where we needed to do a maybe a more thorough examination of the software. When you have something that’s been around for 22 years, you have to be constantly evaluating it and refreshing it and in some cases, replacing things to ensure the viability of the software going forward. So we made a very conscious and deliberate decision this year to focus some of our resources more on ensuring that the technology will continue to thrive for many years to come.
So some of what that has involved has been reviewing the entire eXtyles architecture from top to bottom and also reviewing our deployment and delivery processes to ensure that those are optimized and as robust and efficient as possible for getting the software to you. We have been reviewing and have already made changes to a number of processes, including our automated testing mechanisms. So for those of you who may not be familiar, we do a lot of manual testing as Jo mentioned, every time you get an annual release of the software that’s being tested from end to end to make sure that it’s going to work for you when we release it to you.
But we also do a huge amount of automated testing every night. So every time a change is made to eXtyles, that goes into automated testing to make sure that a new feature hasn’t broken something else. And so that’s been under review, that’s a massive part of our infrastructure that we’re making some updates to. The eXtyles installation architecture, again, is also something that we’re making changes to.
And then just a little third item here that doesn’t affect most of you but probably affects some of you is hardware keys. Certain eXtyles products or installations require a hardware key, which is a USB dongle, to install and run eXtyles. They’re a bit of an inconvenience both for us and for the customer. And so I’m delighted to tell you that we will be phasing them out. So any of you who are using hardware keys and find them a little frustrating. I don’t have a timeline on this, but we decided to commit to it because we all want to phase them out and modernize that installation process for those organizations that are currently using them.
And in the midst of all this, of trying to ensure that we’re modernizing our infrastructure, we were integrating, we have been integrating with our parent company, this is an ongoing process and has accelerated somewhat this year and we want to of course do this while ensuring that there’s no interruption in the reliability of the service that we provide to you. So it’s a challenge and it has been a significant focus for us this year.
Well, having said that, there are a handful of eXtyles improvements that I did want to highlight, reviewing the release notes. As always, there were updates to the journal database, so this is the database that lives inside eXtyles that we maintain and curate. Over 2200 new titles were added to that database this year. There were, I noted there were a couple of improvements to handling of nested tables, which can be very thorny at activation cleanup. So hopefully you’ll see some improvement around that behavior if you get nested tables in your content.
And then just in general, I saw a lot of improvements around recognition of document elements. So the improvements to the automated recognition of different ways authors can refer to or include these elements in their content to ensure that eXtyles is going to continue to do the right thing in an automated fashion. For instance unnumbered objects, access dates in references, resubmission dates, which is part of the article history block. Things like subtleties in the casing of complex author names in references and in author lists. So again, have been built into eXtyles from the beginning, but we do just continue to refine them. There’s nuances. We see different things from our customers as content comes in and authors maybe adjust the way that they’re referring to things and we want to make sure that we’re still catching all of those and improving the automation.
Some highlights having to do with how eXtyles operates within the broader scholarly publishing ecosystem. We added support for BITS 2.1 this year and Debbie Lapeyre, who is clapping, will be giving her overview of what’s new in JATS, BITS and STS a little later today, so stay tuned for that. And one of the things that Bruce wanted me to mention is that BITS 2.1 includes some specific improvements that were requested by eXtyles customers. So it’s not merely an improvement to eXtyles, it’s an improvement to a standard that’s used across the industry. You guys are helping improve these standards and these tag sets and we want to encourage you to continue to do that. We’ve expanded support for identification of dataset citations and I think I also saw some improvements around support for pre-print citations.
We always want to stay up to date with what recommendations are for from organizations like JATS4R or PubMed. So we have included some updates to the eXtyles export module and the deposit modules to support new JATS4R recommendations as well as new PubMed requirements. And then there have also, for those of you who are using this tool, there have also been improvements to the ORCID merge behavior behavior for that module.
On the Edifix side of things. So for those of you who maybe aren’t familiar, Edifix is our web service. It’s the same reference processing functionality for bibliographic references as in eXtyles, but it’s available as a web service and we do have some customers who use both. And the API is used by organizations that implement Edifix or integrate Edifix into other systems and platforms. And the API, new API was released in January, version 2.0 with lots and lots of improvements and new features. And there is a link to the Edifix blog in these slides if you’re interested and if in general you’re interested in Edifix, just please tug on one of our virtual sleeves at some point during this meeting or follow up with us after the meeting if you’d like to learn more about this tool.
Okay, so eXtyles is a plugin to Word and therefore, Office is a major part of what we do. And so I just wanted to highlight a few things having to do with eXtyles and Microsoft Office in particular that we’re working on or that came up this year. So the first one is eXtyles support for 64-bit Office. If you’ve come to this meeting, if you came last year, you know that we were talking about this last year as well. This is part of the overall infrastructure initiative that we’ve been working on. Up until this point, eXtyles has only supported 32-bit Office and 32-bit Word. And as time has gone on, that has become more challenging for organizations who are now by default going to 64-bit Office. So we’ve been working on support for 64-bit Office for some time.
The good news is that it’s going to position us to be much faster in the future with updates, but the bad news is that it has taken us much longer than we originally anticipated to complete this work. So I’m happy to report that I now can give you a date, a firm date, for when we will start rolling this out. So we’ll begin a phased rollout of eXtyles for 64-bit Office on November 30th. So we’ll be phased, we will release to customers in stages, but some of you will start getting this in about a month. And just to be aware, the way that we’ve decided to do this is going forward. eXtyles will auto-detect which version of Office, whether it’s 32 bit or 64 bit, at installation. So that removes some of the burden from you of knowing or having to request a specific installer from us. We will instead release and it will just do the right thing based on what your IT environment is. And so that will hopefully simplify things for everyone, for you and for us, in terms of maintaining the installer.
Having said that, we will eventually phase out support for 32-bit Office, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, at least a year, possibly longer. And we will provide ample notice. Based on what we’re seeing and hearing, I think by the time we do that, pretty much everyone will be on it. But we will keep you informed and if you have any concerns about that, please do let us know.
This is another Office-related item that just because it’s been sort of a hot topic among Inerans for the past couple of weeks, I thought it might be worth bringing up today because some of you may have noticed this recently, which is some changes to Word comments. Microsoft recently introduced into Office 365 “modern comments,” which is a change to the way Word comments work to allow for more extensive threaded conversations and I think maybe more interactivity and functionality within the commenting to make them more collaborative. But as Bruce pointed out when we were discussing this, every time Microsoft makes a change to the way comments work, it tends to break something for us. And we are investigating this more deeply.
But the first and most immediate thing that we noted was that it has removed the ability to use Word character eXtyles in comment text. So the character, so this, the screenshot that you see in the slide is not one of the new modern comments but one of the old ones and all of that color is Word character styles that are not only color-coding the elements of a reference but are also applying a named style to them to semantically tag them. And this is particularly useful for, it’s a key feature of eXtyles’ reference correction that makes things really easy when there’s a big difference between what’s in the Word document and what PubMed returns for example, will return a completely copy-edited and tagged version of PubMed’s version of the reference and say, we think you should look at this. We’re not going to automatically make the change, but if you’re happy with it, you can just copy it, paste it into your Word file and you’re done.
Like I said, we’re continuing to investigate this, we’ll let you know if we learn anything new. But for now, the best workaround for this because you’re going to get this edited comment back without the color, is to just paste the text in, strip the tags at the beginning and the end of the reference, and rerun bibliographic reference processing, and then the color will reappear. So it’s not ideal, it’s an extra step, but it is a workaround. We have reached out to Microsoft about this, but we’re not holding our breath on them getting back to us. We will see, maybe we’ll get lucky on this one. But in the meantime, like I said, we’re going to do some more testing and there’ll be a technical bulletin or an FAQ or both to come with more information about this.
Okay, so that’s sort of a little bit of a deeper dive into some of the things that have been going on with eXtyles.
And now I want to talk a little bit about Wiley Partner Solutions with some of which some of you may have heard about. This was announced last week in conjunction with the Frankfurt Book Fair. As you know, we are part of Wiley now and we are also part of Partner Solutions, so what is Partner Solutions? So this is a new division within Wiley Research and it is operating completely separately from the research publishing division. So some of you may already be aware that Wiley has acquired a fair number of businesses over the past couple of years and most of whom now fall under the umbrella of this Partner Solutions division. And it is comprised of trusted brands and experts who are working collaboratively to help publishers solve key challenges. We are part of Partner Solutions along with Atypon, eJournalPress, J&J Editorial, Knowledge Unlatched, and Madgex.
So these are organizations that many of, if not most of which may already be familiar to you and you may already be working with some of these organizations. And by the way, while Partner Solutions was a new announcement to the public last week, it is not new to us. We have been working as part of Partner Solutions for some time prior to the the public announcement. So what does this mean for you, eXtyles customer? In terms of your use of eXtyles or your relationship with the team, it doesn’t mean anything. There’s going to not going to be any change to your use of the software or your relationship with us. Ideally this means that you are going to benefit from the fact that we now are positioned within a broader network of solution and service providers, experts in publishing workflows. There are a lot of opportunities for collaboration, there are a lot of opportunities for innovation here. And ideally also I think down the line, this means you’ll have access to a wider range of resources and events beyond events like this one.
So just to give some concrete examples of how this has worked out thus far. One collaboration that we want to highlight is our work with J&J Editorial. So for those of you who may not be familiar with them, many of you probably already are, they are an organization that provides editorial, production and consulting services, and they were acquired by Wiley about a year ago and we just hit the ground running with them right away to get to know their team for them to get to know our team and to see if there were opportunities for us to work together. And not only were there immediate opportunities for us to work together, but opportunities for us to provide creative joint solutions also arose very quickly. So it’s been pretty satisfying for how organic that relation- organically that relationship has developed. And J&J is going to speak more today about this partnership.
But just to give you one idea of a direction that we’re working or we’re moving in is that this is a really good collaboration for organizations who recognize that there are many benefits to implementing eXtyles into their publishing workflow, but for one reason or another don’t want to run the software themselves. So that’s one collaboration that we’ve spent quite a bit of time on over the past year.
Other collaborations, we’ve been part of Atypon for three years. They just recently had their community meeting, which is analogous to XUG for Literatum customers, and they also highlighted some joint customer projects including their and our work with AAAS. So AAAS migrated to Literatum fairly recently and as anyone who’s gone through that kind of migration knows that’s a big, big project and a big change. And the fact that AAAS, the XML that AAAS had was generated by eXtyles and the eXtyles team and the Atypon team worked together really did facilitate the process for them. It made the process to identify or communicate any adjustments to the markup that were new platform requirements. It was simplified by the fact that all of these teams already had a relationship with each other.
And then eJournal Press also, which I know many of you work with, they are part of the Partner Solutions team as well now. And we have been working with them on a couple projects to facilitate workflow efficiencies for shared customers. And we’re also exploring opportunities for technology integration with both EJP and JPS. So I think there are a lot of exciting opportunities for these groups, a lot of whom we already knew and worked with in less formal ways even before Partner Solutions was developed. And so it’s been a very interesting year for that.
Okay, so I said there’d be no change to your use of eXtyles or to your relationship with us. This is true. However, I want to give everyone a heads up that there may be a couple of things, not your relationship with us or your use of eXtyles, but a couple of things that may change over the next year. I won’t be surprised if we have “new” email addresses, and I have new in quotes here because in fact the Inera team has had three email addresses for three years now because we’re part of Atypon, which is part of Wiley. So we have multiple business identities, and it really has become a somewhat unsustainable administrative situation for us. So I included yet another picture of the ocean here to kind of describe how placid and sparkling I will feel when I have one calendar instead of three. And that is, I think a goal that we’re all working towards.
So do not be alarmed, because this isn’t just about us and our comfort, it’s also about you and ultimately us consolidating our business identities is going to ensure reliable and efficient communication with us and happier team members as well. So that’s just, and there’s no timeline for this that I’m aware of, but I think that that’s likely to come. And then speaking of communication, I do want to highlight a couple of other things that are new and different.
Sylvia and Jo who are our primary communicators as the heading up marketing activities for Inera have officially moved into broader roles within the Partner Solutions marketing team. So congratulations to them, well deserved. And still working with Inera because we’re part of Partner Solutions, but working with a broader team of colleagues and customers. Those of you who are Atypon customers probably already know that they’ve been working on all of the Atypon community events and online meetings and also any blog or newsletter communications you’ve been getting from Atypon have Sylvia’s magic touch on them as well. And so they will, along with me, help keep you in the loop on any initiatives and events, again within the broader community that we think might be relevant to eXtyles customers.
And then just also there may be some cosmetic changes to some of the marketing materials from Inera, things like the website and the newsletter I suspect just for brand cohesion there may be some adjustments to them, but again, no timeline on this and I don’t think you should expect anything major. So that’s just an overview of what we’ve been doing in terms of the new Partner Solutions initiative. Inera is a very collaborative organization and always has been. So this has actually been a very natural development for us and has brought a lot of interesting opportunities to our doorsteps, so it’s been fun.
So thank you very much for your time and stay tuned for lots more interesting talks today and if anyone has any questions for me or for the broader team about anything that I covered thus far, I’m happy to address them.
Jo: I’m going to jump in for the Q&A portion here. We did have one question that came in during your presentation by Ron at FASS. Should we continue to look for and correct nested tables before feeding files to Arc? Don’t worry Liz, you don’t have to answer this because Robin was very quick to answer that question in the chat already. I just wanted to let people know in case.
Liz: What was the answer?
Jo: That you should continue to look for and correct nested tables. Oh wait, of course.
Liz: Robin, feel free to jump in.
Jo: Yeah, so if there’s a table.
Liz: Go ahead.
Robin: Shall I describe it, Jo?
Robin: Particularly what we’ve changed is sometimes you would see, because authors don’t know how to make a table bigger or smaller, they would nest a table inside an empty table. So they would have a box around the outside and then a table on the inside. Our old code was totally oblivious to that and would always detable, or convert to tab-separated text, the inner table. So even if the outer table contained nothing and the inner table contained all the content, we would basically destroy this table structure by turning it tab-separated text. Now it’s intelligent enough to actually have a look and see if there’s anything in the outer table and if there’s nothing or just some paragraph marks or something like that, we will detable that table on the outside and leave the inner table as it is.
Liz: Oh cool.
Robin: So that’s-
Liz: And that’s just Arc, or that’s for desktop as well?
Robin: Yeah, that’s across the board.
Liz: That’s good.
Jo: So that was the only question that came in through the chat during your presentation. You are allowed to unmute so if anyone has a question, feel free to raise your hand and unmute. Speak now.
Liz: I’m now seeing everyone, I’m now seeing everyone for the first time since I’ve had this slide up.
Liz: So hi everyone, very nice to see you.
Monica: I have one quick question. So just to clarify–
Liz: Hi Monica.
Monica: Hi, so you mentioned that the support for 64-bit will be released on November 30th. We already have a new build and I just want to confirm that that support won’t be integrated with a new build. It’ll be somehow distributed magically in another way.
Liz: Maybe I’ll let Jenny chime in. What I know is that we’re going to do it in a phased way, Monica. So we already have targeted certain customers that will get the first round of releases and then we will go to the next round and so forth. But in terms of meaning you recently got a release, is that what you’re saying?
Liz: And what will we do for people who have recently gotten a release but might want the 64-bit sooner rather than later?
Monica: Yeah, we don’t necessarily need it sooner, but we do have our IT department build the distribution of the new build. So I don’t want to have to like build it, get a new build and then have them build it again, so.
Jenny: Sure, absolutely. Hi Monica, how are you?
Monica: How are you?
Jenny: Good, good thanks. So we have already started to create a list of sort of urgent releases. So those of you who have reached out to us and said this is a real problem and we need a 64-bit solution sooner rather than later. And so those after November 30th we’ll be sending out and it will be delivered as a new installer. So this is something that you’ll get as a new eXtyles build and then for everyone else who’s like, yeah we’re fine, kind of how we’re working right now, it would be nice but it’s not urgent. We’re planning on making the new installer available during your annual update rollout. So whenever you usually get an annual update is when your next update would include support for 64-bit. So unless we hear from you, and we’ll send more information, we’re going to be doing some rollout planning in the next few weeks. So hopefully all of this will be demystified in terms of when you can expect to receive it. But I mean absolutely reach out to us at support at any point if you know that this is a pain point for you and you need to be on sort of a more urgent release schedule.
Monica: Okay, thank you.
Jenny: Yeah, you’re welcome.
Liz: Any other questions?
Jo: While people think of their questions, for anyone who’s not in the chat, Sylvia’s added a few links to learn more about Partner Solutions and the Edifix 2.0 blog post during Liz’s message. So those links while in Liz’s slides are also in the chat.
Liz: And so I can’t see the chat when I’m talking, but I do see that there was some conversation about the modern comments. Have people seen that in the wild already? Yes, Jenny’s nodding, okay.
Jenny: I mean I have and my list of complaints is a bit longer than what you showed.
Liz: Right, I know, I know. Yeah.
Bruce: It’s worth reinforcing a comment that Robin made that if you don’t like modern comments in general with Office 365, you can turn them off and revert to the old-style comments. However, that does not bring back support for character styles. Microsoft was very clear in a blog post that they cut out a lot of features from comments when they went to modern comments. They want to hear from people about what features they consider essential. So if you consider that feature essential as we do, we will, I believe Jenny is part of that, part of that post would make all of our customers on modern comment.
Liz: Oh yeah.
Bruce: Include the link so that you can ping Microsoft and say, hey, please fix this.
Jenny: I mean I don’t feel so bad about that but yeah, we could do that.
Bruce: That would be great, thank you.
Jo: Monica, comment in the chat.
Liz: So is it helpf– Monica, did you know that you could turn them off? You did.
Monica: Yeah, that was one of the first things that I researched because people, the thing that was, I think the worst about it is, I mean I guess it’s a mixed bag, but the way the updates are, it’s very mysterious, and some people got them, but I didn’t get them for a really long time. So it was really strange how it was rolled out by our IT department. The updates we had like it just kind of was like bubbled up and then I figured out how to turn them off. But then they do say in the instructions for how to turn ’em off, that this, the ability to turn them off will not be permanent. That at some point you’ll be stuck with them.
Liz: Right, yeah.
Bruce: For any of you who do have friends in your IT department, if those friends know people at Microsoft or have any kind of contact with Microsoft, please have them relay the word. I think modern comments are going to be a huge goose egg for Microsoft and they need to hear that from as many people as possible.
Liz: I mean, I laugh a little ’cause it does seem like it might be futile, but it’s not necessarily futile. I mean, Microsoft has walked back things in the past that were unpopular or that didn’t work particularly well. So it’s possible.
Robin: And it’s not just character styles, there’s quite a lot of formatting you can’t put in there as well, just regular face markup.
Liz: So you can do bold and italic and so forth.
Robin: And that’s about it, yeah.
Liz: Anything else?
Jo: Allegra makes great-
Liz: Allegra’s feeling powerful.
Jo: “All things are possible with sufficient social media pressure,” that is very true.
Bruce: Does that mean we can get Microsoft to bring back Clippy? Anyone remember Clippy?
Jenny: Okay, so what are we, 48 minutes in and we had our first Clippy name drop. So good job everyone.
Robin: Yeah, where’s that Bingo card?
Jenny: Yeah, right?
Jo: I know.
Liz: Speaking of 30th anniversaries of things, Clippy.