I’m under my own gun for getting all of our articles ready for the December 5, 2005 planned release of our MCLI iForum– as alluded to earlier, this is going to be a 100% online publication replacing the print/web publication we’d been doing since 2001 (and an earlier version back to 1993).

To do this, I’ve been sweating hard with hammer and anvil on a WordPress publishing platform to pull this off. To set things up, I started by recasting the Spring 2005 last issue onto the new “iForum” site (the little i is a rip on “interactive”). What you can see now is this last issue (eventually all past issues will be moved over to make a nice searchable archive). Compare the old and new (well those are not all that different).

Some of the newer articles are there if you dig around, but that is an exercise left for the reader. Once all the articles are done, the front page will flip to the current issue.

What is new in the new version is a lot more media- we will have 4-6 audio interviews, a few streaming media clips, and some invitations to online discussion.

So what is non-blog like is that there is no main page with reverse chronological ordered posts. No diaries here. While I could have sort of gotten the look of an issue cover by creating a custom template and using a category, it seemed to provide more flexibility to create a WordPress Page as a front entry for an issue. This also means that I could use the Static-Front Page Plugin to make the main URL point to a WordPress page rather than list the last X posts.

The layout began life as the Technology Bytes one by Joni Mueller found at the WordPress Theme Browser, but it’s been moderately modified to fit my needs. I’ve had to ad several new templates (pages, category). I change the category and search results to display only the rss excerpts using the_excerpt_rss() and then links to the full archives.

One of the hurdles has been the people that like their print versions. I have the style sheets set up so there is a decent print style sheet that will strip out the header graphics, sidebar, and footers, and produce a decent readable version. I may see if I can Acrobat the whole issue into one mega PDF.

But the answer for those that relish the paper version- File > Print. Done.

A major problem for a while was how to set up article authoring since comment notifications go to the WordPress poster. I was not relishing creating new accounts for every named author. It would not work for our articles with multiple authors, either. The solution was to de-couple all template outputs tying the article to a WordPress author (technically I am authoring all of them). Then I installed the Subscribe to Comments plugin, so as new articles are added, I can manually add email addresses for anyone who should get notifications of comments to a “post” (article).

I had envisioned having it set up so I could give editing access to article authors who could pose drafts (giving them WordPress level 1) and maye giving our in house editors access with WP level 2 so they could edit any drafts. The tricky thing is to get all the pieces in line, I need to add up to 5 custom fields and assign categories. I would like to experiment down the road with giving authoring access. It would be nice if I could customize the acess privileges (e.g. create my own rights at level 3).

I am using the Recent Comments plugin to put comments on the sidebar. I did not like my internal artlcle links creating pingbacks, so I turned off the display of pingbacks (not something I like to do as it will remove external trackbacks, but maybe I can flip it back on later).

There is also the Related Posts plugin to help display similar articles, which is not so useful now with just a few articles

I have about 4 or 5 custom fields per post or special purpose. One is the authors name under the article titles- sometimes we have several and sometimes, for a project summary, there are no top byline authors. Another is for the footer credits (next to the little triangle). Yet one more is for optional footer URL links (links to a project web site). Another is for the “department”, or section of each issue ( we usually have one article on “The Arts” another on “Honors”) usually but not always toed to topical categories. The trickiest one is a field for “volume” which ties together all articles to their published “volume” number. Rather than containing the volume number itself, the field contains the ID for a WordPress category, where the category description contains the full text such as “Volume 9, Spring 2005”. This means on search results, I can pull the custom field, and then fetch the volume string:

Okay, this is pretty convoluted, but its working well so far. The other feature I needed was single ‘posts’ or articles to be able to list in the sidebar the articles in the same issue. I could have done this by creating categories for each issue, but could not list the link to the WordPress Page with the cover, and the ordering of the links would be time stamp dependent. So instead, I am using WordPress Links to create a different link category for each issue, and then listing in each, the links needed to build a table of contents.

The convoluted logic goes like:

Undone now that I need to add is a way to display RSS feeds for our article categories.

Well there is quite a bit more, but I have only a few days to get all the pieces together, and we have about half of our new articles. Again, it hits the e-streets December 5, 2005.