It seems reasonable when going over the toolchain I use that I should mention the foundation.
Now, this can be defined at one level or the other. This is a webbased service, so I will talk foundations with the Content Management System. We could go into server specifics, but for now, all I will say is that the server is an Apache web server based on Debian Linux. This is also Free Software, and anyone is free to get it and use it. The reason not to go into it here is that server hosting – often Debian-based – is available at an affordable rate, and it is only under certain conditions requiring more control that self-hosting will make sense financially.
So, Content Management System – CMS. WordPress.
The WordPress is one of the most used systems for weblogs – which is the original intention – but over time, it has come to support a lot of other functions through plugins, and essentially, a content management system generally allows you to store data for many purposes, you have but to style the design in such a way that it fits into your workflow.
The point of a Content Management System is to make the route between author and website shorter. While it is not as difficult to make a website – not much more complicated than writing a document in a text processor – for a long time, it required you to either write the code in an editor application and open the file in a web browser to see how it worked; to write the text, you would have to code your formatting – italics, bold, links, line breaks and the like – into the text as you wrote it. Afterwards, to publish, you had to upload it to a site on the internet. This does not exactly make for intuitive fast-overview text writing, and the barrier to entry was still quite high. What a content management system does is to keep track of the layout of the website, in order to let you concentrate on the content itself – text, images et cetera – and the CMS will bother about link colors, font sizes and such settings.
Note that the modular nature of WordPress also makes it possible to embed external materials like a Youtube or Vimeo video.
WordPress has been set up in a modular fashion, so when you download a WordPress package, unpack it and upload it to your own site for installation – like I have uploaded the WP files to eicet.org – it is only the most basic setup you get. It does work as a website, you can log into it, write pages and blogpost, and people can add comments to what you have written. The user interface you use to enter text will be tucked away, and people will only see your site.
The WordPress administration interface allows for a lot of additional setup. This installation has been modified to create human-readable links – so it isn’t a timestamp or a random textstring or article publication number being used. In this case, WordPress will see that the article title is “WordPress” and will attempt to generate a link with a similar name. In this case, it succeeds one-to-one, so the address is www.writtenandread.net/wordpress. It is also possible to modify who will be allowed to post responses to entries.
The interface also allows the user to install plugins. In some cases, it is a minor extension – like allowing you to hide some posts from the index, if they are only intended for certain members or using Akismet to check the responses to your posts for spam. Yes, the spammers have found WordPress as well, and odds are they will find your site, too. The plugin can also be more extensive, like posting a contact form, an activity calendar, a poll or image gallery on the site, or even turning your site into a social network with BuddyPress. Until recently, you had to download and install these plugins separately, but now they can be installed directly throught the interface of your installation. A command centre indeed.
The above goes for plugins changing functionality, but the truth is that it can also be cosmetic – by choosing a theme. Themes will change the visual appearance of the page. For this site, a fairly simple theme was chosen to keep the focus on the text, but the artistic potential is immense. Compare, for instance, with the WordPress-based New York Times Blogs or Miller Rosenfalck.
As you see, a Content Management System allows a person who is less technical to run an advanced website, and even the more technically inclined will often find a CMS easier to use on a day-to-day basis.
So, WordPress is the face of our institute and works as the platform for our publications.
Now that this is covered, we will be moving on to other, more specialised features.