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debugging safeassign problems?

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jqj Posted: 21 Apr 2008 12:00 AM
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I ran into a debugging problem this weekend: a faculty member submitted a SafeAssign paper using direct submit on Friday. More than 60 hours later it has not yet generated an originality report. We've tried various things to debug (see below for gory details), leading me to believe that there may be a problem with SafeAssign and Word. My general problem is that I don't think Blackboard support is very well set up to help with problems like this, and so would like advice from other sysadmins on how to proceed. For instance:
- Are there tools for observing how many SafeAssign submissions are stuck? Note that a Blackboard administrator has no access to the list of safeassign submissions in individual faculty private queues.
- Are there even tools for checking on the health of the SafeAssign system? I suppose I could ping www.safeassign.com or write a program that generated an http query to that address on port 8443, but the interface is not documented.
- Are there any guidelines on how long it's expected to take, apart from the "a few minutes" that appears in the FAQ? Is there any data available from Blackboard that provides a distribution of the lengths of times documents take?
- Is there a help line or support blog that goes directly to the people who support www.safeassign.com without going first to India and our new outsourced Bb support? Is there a way to ask Blackboard's support to forward a question to the right people?
- Are there known problems with the SafeAssign handling of Word documents?

The gory details: this is a scholarly paper and a Word document. As noted above, the first try was to submit the file using Direct Submit in BB LS 7.3 on Friday, April 18. As of Monday, April 21 there is still no originality report, though the file does still appear in the individual's private queue. Repeating the direct submit (in my account) also results in a submission that apparently never generates an originality report. However, if I copy and paste the text of the document into the Direct Submit text window, the resulting document successfully generates an originality report after less than an hour (on the other hand, the originality report that is generated fails to find many examples of possible plagiarism that were found by googling sentences in the suspect document). Uploading a few other test .doc files from the same computers via direct submit also successfully generates originality reports. The file that fails is a Word 97-2003 format file, about 30 pages and 35 KB in length. File name contains only letters with a ".doc" extension. Inspecting using Word's document properties inspector reveals nothing unusual about the file.

I'm planning on trying a few more test cases and filing a trouble ticket with Blackboard on this, but I think there's a more systematic problem here with lack of available management data on the SafeAssign product that will be exacerbated by further development of Blackboard's "Beyond" initiative.
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