This week, we got to start playing with Omeka. It reminded me a lot of our Drupal unit. The themes and plugins seemed very similarly structured. A little searching dug up this post in which an Omeka developer commented that the code bases are structured very differently, but from an initial user perspective, it had a similar front-end feel.
I think that approachable feel is really important. For example, although we didn’t look at Joomla or WordPress in this class, making the experience easy and visually appealing is part of why those tools are so successful. One thing I’ve noticed in comparing the different platforms in this class is that things that are visually appealing and approachable on the back end tend to be so on the front end when implemented, too. Okay, that wasn’t the greatest sentence in the world, but hopefully you’ll get what I mean: something like Drupal that has a really slick, intuitive, and approachable interface just tends to power better sites than something old and clunky-feeling like DSpace.
Since this week’s blog assignment is open-ended, I decided to look into something I was curious about: how DSpace’s Manakin themes compare to Drupal’s themes.
Here’s an example of some very attractive DSpace themes utilizing the xmlui interface: http://staff.lib.muohio.edu/~tzocea/files/dspace/
However, unlike with Drupal, there seems to be much more of a “roll your own” emphasis on this from the web developer’s perspective. Yes, there are some themes on GitHub and some how-tos that one can Google, but there isn’t that same plug-and-play experience you get with Drupal, where someone can change the theme without really getting into any of that back-end stuff.
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.
Last semester, I took IRLS 588, XML and the Semantic Web. This week’s assignment was a good refresher for me. A number of the resources we were assigned for this class had been part of that one (including the reading on attributes vs. elements, the w3cschools tutorials, and so on). Side note: I know that the latter gets ragged on a lot due to not actually being affiliated with the W3C standards (see http://w3fools.com/ for a good overview of the controversy), but at least in those XML tutorials, especially the XSLT ones, the ability to do in-browser edits is really really nice and helpful. Someone should make a competitive website that does it better, right? I’m hoping Codecademy will get there eventually.
So after doing a general review (I didn’t do anything super fancy, since the assignment was just a plain document, no stylesheet or namespace etc.), I decided to spend some time reviewing the hardest part of that class, for me at least: namespaces. I think that some of the other stuff covered (to a smaller extent in this class, and to a greater extent in that one), like XPath and XSLT, was easier for me because it was similar to other stuff I’d worked with before. XPath was very similar to doing SQL queries, and doing CSS with XSLT was something that I was embarrassingly familiar with from the days of Myspace. However, nothing ever really prepared me for, say, importing the dc namespace, and wrapping my head around which elements and attributes to use and not to use and how. I was a little disappointed to find that the video tutorials on UACBT didn’t really help advance my understanding of this tricky topic. Of course, there’s only so much you can cover in a quick intro course, and I’m sure those videos would have been a godsend last semester!
Still no practice machine to update on the status of, sadly. My VM and ssh skills certainly got a good workout this unit anyway!
Since I’ve already had some experience using HTML and CSS, and I just took an XML class last semester so I’m feeling pretty confident that I understood this week’s readings after skimming, I decided to spend some quality time with the HTML5 tutorial from our readings. Then I did some Googling to find a good responsive design template to use. I didn’t do anything super fancy — I changed a few colors, changed the blog posts in the template to links with brief descriptions, as per the assignment, and because there was an image requirement, I of course used my favorite avatar from Plants Vs. Zombies. Here is the result. I should probably get around to making a real website and portfolio for myself, one of these days. Looking at the ePortfolio system is definitely a good reminder of the importance, these days, of having some kind of professional web presence. You know. When I have that “free time” thing other people are always talking about having.
I’m going to try to set up my practice system next. I’m a little nervous about it, because I haven’t even turned the generously-donated ancient computer *on*. But hey, worst case scenario, I’ll just make another instance of Ubuntu Server VM and call it a day.