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PostPosted: Fri 11 Sep 2009 09:29 
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Memo to BCRA Trustees mailing list, BCRA Community mailing list
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BCRA web site - operation as a wiki


For a while now I have been considering some changes to the way the BCRA web site is organised, and I had concluded that there were advantages to operating at least parts of it as a wiki. Since the BCA web server now has the facility to run wikis I have asked David Cooke to set up an experimental site.

A BCA wiki is already in operation, covering certain specialised areas of BCA operations and the UK caving forum has a wiki project in place too. Additionally I use wikis at work as part of the management of large EU-wide projects and Im coming round to the idea that for data management within BCRA they are an ideal enabling structure.

Rather than ask and then wait for Council to debate the merits, come to a conclusion and report back to me, I think this is one example where discussion would benefit from taking place in the BCRA discussion forum that I set up for this purpose a while ago. Consequently, I shall assume that, as web site editor, I have ex officio permission to pursue this project but with the proviso that any doubts, suggestions, questions will be raised in this forum.

As I said, I have been considering this for some time. Recent helpful discussions with Trevor Faulkner and Jenny Potts have prompted me into action at this point.


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 Post subject: BCRA info as a WIKI
PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep 2009 18:48 
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If this means we have easier access to some material then it would be good. Currently some things are a little buried on the website, just because it carries so much material. What are you thinking of putting into the wiki? The past Ghar Parau files would be one possible and maybe the CSTRI grant applications could go there.

Dave Checkley


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 Post subject: Re: BCRA info as a WIKI
PostPosted: Mon 14 Sep 2009 14:15 
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David Checkley wrote:
If this means we have easier access to some material then it would be good. Currently some things are a little buried on the website, just because it carries so much material. What are you thinking of putting into the wiki? The past Ghar Parau files would be one possible and maybe the CSTRI grant applications could go there.


Editing a web site like BCRA's is difficult because the information can be difficult to extract from people and, when it is supplied it is often not in the right style (since a web site has a house style, just like a printed publication; and there are quality standards etc). I need to find a way to get around these difficulties.

One possibility is to persuade people to add their own content, which can then presented, in a different type of publication, in a more appropriate style. (The related idea of getting people to actually produce their own "BCRA-style" web pages is a non-starter. This is how the BCA web site works and I think it leads to some deficiencies).

One example of people adding their own content is BCRA's diary of events, where I have stopped producing web pages; suggesting, instead that event organisers simply post "notes" to this forum, and I will link to them from the BCRA home page. This was the case with the Science Symposium this year. As it happens, Trevor's posting to this forum needed a few tweaks (I think I added some URLs) which I was able to do since I have editing privileges for this forum. Immediately, the concept of a wiki begins to emerges: people post material and other people (or a limited set of people) can edit it.

So, this News Forum is, essentially, a pre-cursor to implementing a full-blown wiki. My idea is that the entire BCRA web site is re-formatted into a wiki, where a limited set of people will have editing privileges (or everyone can edit, but changes must be approved). It wont all happen at once, but one page that could be experimented with, early on, is BCRA's publications stock control. Anyone who holds BCRA stock and disposes it would be able to go online and alter the list of stock. (Actually, it is slightly more complicated than that, because I want to link the stock list up to the online shop that Im developing).

You asked if GPF and CSTRI documents can be included, but that is actually a different issue. There's nothing to stop that happening right now - I can allocate you a "corner" of the BCRA site, with your own FTP password and you can upload whatever you like; create your own directory structure and so on. And Id expect GPF to be able to do the same on their web site. It does not require a wiki to do that. Even the linking to the documents and indexing them doesnt need a wiki, it just needs a formal approach to creating a set of directories and sub-directories. A wiki front-end might make it easier, but if a formal structure isnt there to begin with, a wiki isnt going to magically make it work.

So, document storage "as such", might not really benefit very much from a wiki - the "human factor" of actually organising the data is the more significant point. But where a wiki does come into its own is for allowing people to contribute to "knowledge". For example, updating facts on the BCRA pages, updating stock levels and so on. Importantly, I think a "private" wiki would be useful for BCRA Council. You could get to grips with the "manual of procedures" and could file a lot of facts that BCRA Council ought to know about but which at present exists only in the minds of one or two individuals - not always on Council. If Im elected secretary this autumn, it is one of the tasks I shall be giving some serious attention to.

One last comment: you say that currently some things are a little buried on the website. If there is anything that you have had particular difficulty in finding, do let me know, and I'll see if I can arrange the site a bit better. The Index across the top of each page was one attempt to do this; and there is also the search engine of course (link on the top right of every page).


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