Incredibly, it appears the stars may be aligning for an opportunity to recreate our school Web site using Web logs as building blocks. Our current site is a mess, we have new blood in key positions, we need to reduce the load of the new Webmaster position, and we’re embarking on an intranet project as well. Seems like the perfect time to start over, and I think I’m on the verge of convincing them that Manila may be the answer.
We’ve had what I would call a very narrow pipe in terms of creating and posting content to our site. Everything funneled through one person who was ultimately responsible for all content. It’s a system that really inhibits content production in any meaningful form. But in the grand vision I’m laying out, that changes as production and publication is distributed throughout the school community using Web logs. I’ve got 75% of it worked out in my brain including the build in of RSS and new templates for various audiences. (Attention: consultants stay tuned.) I’ve shown the superintendent and others the Kern site, Delano, Basehor-Linwood High School, and others.
Ironically, Bill McCoy of School Blog or Not fame is back with some new ideas (most of which are way over my head, but he’s trying to help me get it.) While his new idea of using Outlook (or similar) e-mail messages and folders to feed content to a Web log (primarily for ease of use), I’m a bit more interested in his experience with building his school site with p-machine. He has some interesting observations on his site, including:
With 6 months of elementary school web site volunteering under my belt, I’m convinced that weblog software is fantastically useful in the school environment. Our school went from no web site (aka stale, dead web site) to a web site chock full of fresh content. BUT – and it’s a big but – the vast majority of that content passed through yours truly or another “techie” volunteer en route to the site. Sure, we’ve got a couple of other parents publishing content directly and a couple of staff tiptoeing in. But 3 months post our site launch, our very tech-savvy principal is still emailing in content submissions to a volunteer to put onto her own “principal’s corner” weblog. Why? I ask myself. I can’t blame our pMachine system: no one has complained that it’s hard to use or slow or whatever. Rick Ellis has built a gem of a system and I find the pMachine control panel web interface more usable than half the installed applications on my desktop. But, the reality is that busy people (unless they are CTOs with a penchant to learn new SW) simply don’t want to mess around with learning new stuff. They’ve barely figured out Outlook – not because they’re stupid, but because Outlook’s just a means to an end. And, Outlook does happen to have a fair few features to learn (several of which I’ve stumbled on only in the last few days of research into this topic). So asking someone who’s still learning the ins & outs of Outlook to pick up a whole new user interface is – I’ve reluctantly concluded – a very real barrier to adoption.
Now I don’t know how Bill sold his Web log as Web site concept, nor do I know how or if the teachers were trained. But these are some telling observations from an early adopter that it seems I may be about to follow. (Anyone else with any experience here please feel free to comment.)
At any rate, the next few days should be interesting as I start to flesh out my “vision” for the decision-makers. I am truly psyched and overwhelmed at what may lie ahead.
Instead of Manilla, which can be expensive, be sure you take a long hard look at http://www.drupal.org — my last two clients for Drupal sites have been disgruntled Manilla users looking for “something better” and they say they have found it in Drupal.
Bill’s comment about seemlessly integrating into their workspace is a good point; for that scenario, I’ve been advocating the use of MoveableType and their integrated Textile and Trackback features — Drupal is considering Textile, but there are deep design issues that are trivial in the MT model, but become awkward in the just-in-time publishing model of Drupal.
I wrote up a bit more detail on this; since you don’t have trackback enabled, you’ll have to click http://www.teledyn.com/mt/archives/000734.html