For this week’s assignments, we spent some more time installing and configuring Drupal modules. One of our assignments was to choose our own module to install. I chose Print (http://drupal.org/project/print), which allows someone visiting your Drupal site some convenient buttons for saving content on a page (print, save as PDF, or email options). I thought this would be well-suited to a collection that’s writing-focused. However, a snag is that since I chose to upload files to my Drupal database, the actual site doesn’t really display the files — you have to download them. I guess in the real world, people would really want their writing files to be visible on the site itself, and might be more likely to copy/paste the text itself into the post in the content type, rather than attaching a file.
Installing it was a breeze — I just used wget to download the module in tarball format from Drupal’s FTP server, and then used the “tar” command and then the “mv” command to unpack it and sent it to my site’s folder on my VM. (Just an aside — isn’t wget kind of like magic? I often use it instead of GUI to download files on my Mac when something gets stuck halfway through a download or whatever.) It wasn’t very hard to configure — I just went ahead and allowed all three options.
This week has been a bit gentler-paced, which I appreciated! I enjoyed using Drupal to enter my initial items in my digital collection. I found it to be pretty similar to what I did last week. Although one of my classmates found it too “bloggy” for her collection, I actually find my particular collection (my personal writing files) to be well-suited to a blog format. Since I had just been using a (different) WordPress blog for (some) of those files in the past, categorizing them and deciding where different items fit on the taxonomy wasn’t too hard of a task. I could see it being more difficult with multiple users, though. On the other hand, the nice thing about Drupal is that even if users disagreed on, say, where certain content should be located on the site, it is possible to just have the same information show up in multiple places at once, and there’s only one version that can get edited and updated as needed. That seems to be a big problem with large sites — too many things are in multiple places, and when something gets changed in one place, whoever’s updating that content in that place might not even know about the other place.
The only thing that was a bit tedious was, again, because there’s a lot of information that seems redundant to me since it’s just my stuff (like putting my name as author over and over again). But as we’ve been learning in the management readings, doing the bare minimum of metadata on a collection makes it less interoperable with other collections, so there is a fair amount of data entry work. Another thing I really like about Drupal is that someone without any web design background can do this work: it is very successful in divorcing the form from the content. It also has mechanisms to allow review by someone who’s in charge of content before new content goes live, gets deleted, etc., which again are a bit redundant when it’s just me working with my own stuff, but is definitely a useful feature in the real world.
This week’s assignments were an interesting mix of theory regarding managing digital content, and practical readings and assignments focused on JHOVE (JSTOR/Harvard Object Validation Environment: pronounced “jove”), which is a framework for format validation, and Drupal, an open source content management system (CMS). I’d gotten to play with Drupal a little bit in the past, so it’s been interesting learning more about it, and although I knew absolutely nothing about JHOVE, I imagine I’ve used it unawares when I’ve searched, say, the JSTOR database.
One of our reading assignments was to skim the 2006 Library Hi Tech issue (Issue 1) focusing on CMS issues in the library world. The article that I chose to read in-depth and discuss on this here blog post was “Beyond HTML: Developing and re-imagining library web guides in a content management system” by Doug Goans, Guy Leach, and Teri M. Vogel.
I found this article especially pertinent to my volunteer project last semester, helping with the CCP’s website redesign. Previous incarnations of that website had suffered similar problems to the ones described by the authors, of each author of a particular page (especially the online exhibits) simply creating their own page, with its own unique (and more- or less- usable) fonts, color schemes, and pathways, rather than making sure that everything cohered to a style for the site as a whole. The CCP was eventually redesigned using Drupal, but reading about GSU’s choice to use a custom CMS based on ASP and MYSQL was very interesting to me, since their concerns with integration with Microsoft products, like IIS, would definitely be shared by the team who develops the website for my library system, the Pima County Public Library. Just because the open source solution worked for the CCP does not necessarily mean it would play nicely if PCPL decided to migrate to Drupal. (Although, and perhaps this is something that will be covered in future classes, I believe that Drupal 7 does integrate better into non-open-source environments than previous verisons did.)
In any case, it was clear that GSU’s decision to use a CMS led to greater consistency and usability across their site, as well as making the content editable by a variety of people who would not have had the skills necessary to manage the form.
Nope, I haven’t flunked out and had to repeat 672. Instead, my loyal readers will get to see my progress through the next class, 675. So here we are with another Unit 1, in which I will describe a small collection of digital objects, which I assume I will be devoting future blogs to different methods of cataloging and organizing. (Pretty excited to play with Drupal and Omeka!)
This was a surprisingly hard topic to choose. I mean, it’s not that I don’t own digital objects, or physical objects that I could use a digital surrogate to represent (e.g., taking pictures of my various shoes). No, I think my problem is more that I’m not much of a collector. I think there’s a gender dynamic where most guys generally tend to collect something, and identify as a collector, while most girls don’t. That’s not to say it’s a hard and fast rule, but in this case, I definitely fall into the latter category. Sure, I own stuff, but it’s not a collection that I feel passionate about…it’s just stuff. And it’s hard to say if whatever grabs my interest now will be something that works well over the course of the whole semester.
That said, what I ended up choosing to organize is a selection of personal writing. Yes, all the files will be the same kind (some form of text, not sure yet how I will format them), but at least they should be reasonably diverse in terms of tagging and metadata, since I write a lot of different kinds of things: papers for school, blogs for work, poems, short stories, essays, a personal blog, book reviews, etc. (Would including something from this blog be too meta?) My reasoning here is that they’re all objects that I care about, and they would represent something that I could see myself curating on a personal website, with an audience of readers. I could also see myself organizing a digital collection of writing in the future for a work-related project — perhaps if I were working on a library website, I could partner with a local writing group (NaNoWriMo?), or patrons who attend a creative writing program, to host a collection of writing from that library’s community.