I’m scurrying madly trying to ramp up a promise to have a Word Press publishing platform ready to release an online version of our mcli Forum. We have been doing a print and web version of this since 2001, and a previous ancestor since 1993.
The print version twice a year costs more than a few $k, and takes up a huge amount of staff time in the editing and layout process. Then the web version is another conversion on top of that. And we have no good data on what people do with them after they go out through our campus mail system and land in peoples old fashioned in boxes (the wooden cubby ones in department offices).
What we are proposing as gains for a completely online version are:
* save money and time
* shorten the editing process time and allow remote online editing
* have no limit to the amount of content
* add content we cannot put in print- more photos, full color images, audio interviews (ahem.. “podcasts”), videos
* add interactivity via comments and linked online surveys, etc
* full text search
* issue and category RSS feeds
I idled a away some time in October, so now I am in full crunch mode. I pretty much have the WordPress template done, and have hacked a bit with wrenching functionality from link categories, Pages, and topic categories, using a plugin to make a Word Press page (semi-static content) as the version of the cover/table of contents, and assign the current issue page as the home page; using about 4-5 custom fields tags per post (essentially what the old timers call “meta-data”) to make the content move around as needed with fewer manual edits. As of now, I have a WordPress version of our last Spring 2005 issue (old version)… oops, there a re a few more items to tidy up, so I cannot yet provide a sneak peak. The last thing is working out the right user levels needed to give remote authors access (they will be able to compose drafts only), editors (who will be able to do a few more things)
WordPress is q powerful platform on its own, but once you get deep into the template structure, money around with the functions and database access tools, well, you can almost do anything. I am hoping to use some of the include functions to have our project web site automatically tap into the WordPress content to pull project specific article references into the web sites.. this is more or less a form of syndication, but may offer more than we see right now.
One of the key insights came from our managers meeting, where my colleague Eric noted that in our print versions, a number of the project articles were really recaps of content already on our web site– background of faculty fellows or summaries of upcoming Honors events. This is fine for the print version and might be seen as a way to get people from print to the web site, But in a web only publication, there is no reason to have the same content in a different place– so it is nicely challenging us to ask for all articles and content -what makes this different then what we already put on web sites? what can we add in terms of interactivity to make it more engaging? What can we do online that we could not do in print?
And my favorite feature? We can correct a typo at anytime!