Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New New Testament Gateway Prototype

Over the last few months, I have been doing some serious thinking about the future of the New Testament Gateway. I have outlined what I see as shortcomings in the past, so I won't repeat them here. I am now ready to float a solution. This solution involves using Blogger as my CMS (Content Management System), which has several advantages over the static HTML pages that have made up the New Testament Gateway for the last (almost) decade. In particular, it allows me to add other contributors to the site who can straightforwardly edit and update pages. But it also makes it much easier for me to maintain the site, and adds additional functionality like RSS feeds throughout, commenting facility and so on.

In an earlier post, I said that I was looking to add some wiki functionality to the site. Several people balked at this because it might potentially take away from the strength and identity of the site. I have listened to those comments and think that my current solution enables me to have the best of both worlds, to remain as director of the site and yet to add several experts in particular places.

I spent a lot of time exploring different ways that I might rework the New Testament Gateway, and I am grateful for the help of a group of people that I consulted about it (Zeth Green, Jonathan Robie, Danny Zacharias, Brandon Wason and Rick Brannan; also, separately, Stephen Carlson). Although, in the end, the decision to experiment with blogger has been my own decision, discussing the site with others was very helpful in clarifying what it was that I wanted to do.

Although I am using Blogger as my CMS for the prototype, most users will not realize. The look will be familiar; I have adapted the template I use for this blog but have integrated some elements from the current New Testament Gateway. Those familiar with the New Testament Gateway should find it easy to navigate. So far, I am just testing the site with the Greek New Testament Gateway, and that is the only part of the old site that I have ported over to the new format:

Greek New Testament Gateway (test)

Therefore the new version is contained within the links at the top of each page; the links in the side bar still take one to the old versions of the site.

Some brief notes:

(1) I have not yet edited any of the content. As soon as I am happy with the prototype, I will begin editing content, and inviting others to help. At this stage, we are just looking at design and function.

(2) Ultimately, the main URLs of the site will remain in tact, so NTGateway.com will still take one to the main page of the site (which will be redesigned, but more on that anon), NTGateway.com/greek will take one to the Greek New Testament Gateway and so on. The third layer of links, e.g. NTGateway.com/greek/fonts.htm, will, however, change because of the way that I am using blogger.

(3) As part of the redesign, I will be retiring certain parts of the old site. This will include the Bookshelves, and one or two other parts of the site that have fallen into disrepair. I will keep the related site, All-in-One Biblical Resources search, on-line but will not be integrating links to it in the new version, since it's now long in the tooth and technology has overtaken what it was doing well back in 2000 or so.

(4) One useful thing to come out of the consultations was that it became clear that while I have a clear idea of what "The New Testament Gateway" proper is, I have not always communicated that very well. Let me clarify that I think of The New Testament Gateway as the annotated directory of internet resources that are listed on the main page at NTGateway.com. The All-in-One Biblical Resources Search was a sister site, and the NTGateway Weblog is a companion blog. There are other materials hosted at NTGateway.com that are just that, materials hosted in that domain, but not part of the gateway.

I would be very grateful for your feedback. If this test version works OK, I will begin to re-jig the entire site.


Joe Weaks said...

I think I understand how you've implemented blogger... and a clever idea. Other CMS do have better support for static pages. The new release of version 4.0 of Moveable Type would be worth a look.

Doug Chaplin said...

As far as I can see, you have a label per page on the test site. But ideally, since some of the resources you link to (particularly across the whole of the site eventually) could easily as inidividual resources, carry more than one label. No doubt if you had far more time, it would be possible to aim for the fuller solution, of giving every resource its own label(s), and allowing the CMS to build pages on the fly. I'm not sure what the limitations of blogger versus more complex CMS like Drupal and Joomla (or even Wordpress) are for that. But the strength of the CMS is that you don't need to maintain pages at all. You simply add, index, update and remove entries appropriately and the CMS takes care of the pages. You could also add static pages for certain things if you wanted. I like the idea, but am not entirely sure how much added value this implementaion gives it, or how much of your time it would save in the long run.

Jeremy said...

In addition to Movable Type, you may want to consider WordPress as an option (over Blogger). Static pages as well as a blog can be created -- with team contributors.

Mark Goodacre said...

Joe and Jeremy: thanks for your suggestions. I am very tempted by your suggestions and have spent some time looking at how to do things with Word Press and Moveable Type today. It looks to me like there is significantly more flexibility on both than I have with Blogger. The only thing that might keep me with Blogger is the sheer convenience of being able to open all my blogs from one dashboard (NT Gateway, Duke Religion and Personal Blogs). I'll report back when I have done a bit more research.

Doug: yes, I thought long and hard about that and even tried to get it to work. My dream was that if I tagged every resource, we could get labels effectively to generate the different pages -- that was exactly what I wanted. However, the sheer amount of work to be done in the initial tagging of hundreds and hundreds of resources made this a no-go, I'm afraid.

Joe Weaks said...

Doug is right... if you were starting from scratch, the way to do this sort of site is using an Open Source CMS, I'd choose Drupal. Last year I developed our church site using Joomla. Once everything is in, maintenance is incredibly efficient. INCREDIBLY.
But, you're not starting from scratch, so the initial work may be too much.