Middlebury

Library & ITS Wiki

Library & ITS Wiki

Web Sites

Contents

Static Web sites

Throughout the 1990s and early part of this decade, the primary way of delivering content via the web was by building what are known as 'static web pages and sites'. A static website is simply a directory on a Webserver that contains HTML documents along with images and other linked files. To change the site, the HTML documents would be modified with an HTML Editor and re-uploaded to the webserver, usually via FTP [1].

Web-Based Publishing Tools

While many static websites still exist, today most new content on the web is created using a variety of web-based applications that allow users to create and edit content within their browser rather than uploading content created via a desktop application. In addition to simplifying the content-creation process, these web-based tools also enable collaboration by multiple people, discussions and feedback mechanisms, integration with other systems, and a generally richer user-experience than a static website could hope to provide.

Web-based publishing tools are a rapidly-growing class of software. As the developers of these tools build the best ideas from other tools into their own software, the capabilities and features of any tool will likely overlap with those in other tools both in their category and outside of it. Because of this spectrum of abilities, many tools cannot be easily catargorized or fall into many categories. Here we will try to describe some of the general categories to aid decision as to what software to use for a given purpose.

Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems (CMS) generally evolved out of the need to better organize and build large websites. Some CMSes treat the 'page' as the basic unit of information, others use smaller chunks of micro-content as the basic unit of information and organize that micro-content onto pages.

CMS tools usually provide some sort of hierarchical navigation structure that can be used organize and browse the content of a site. In some CMS tools (Segue) the navigation structure is automatically generated from the content, in others (Joomla, MSCMS?) it can be custom-selected from a pool of pages.

CMS tools often support various content-modules that can allow for the automatic display of calendars, RSS feeds, or other dynamic content in addition to text.

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Learning Managment Systems

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are tools used in education for disseminating curricular materials and interacting with students. These systems will often support creation and editing of course materials, discussion boards, chat rooms, online testing, drilling, grading, and homework submission. LMSes often have modular designs to allow for the addition of various content or activity types.

Some LMS tools are highly 'activity' focused, while others are more 'content' focused.

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Blogs

The term ' Blog' (short for 'Weblog') refers to a type of online (web) journal (log). Blogs are usually made up of a series of individual entries that are ordered chronologically such that the most recent items show up at the top of the page. Blog entries are often written by a single person and the blog software usually provides a mechanism for readers to leave comments on each entry. The Blog itself may contain entries authored by a single person (a personal blog) or contain entries authored by many people (such as a news-magazine).

Blogging tools span a huge range of features and abilities, though they almost all feature chronologically-ordered entries with comments. Many CMS and LMS tools offer support for building blogs. Likewise, many software originally designed for blogging now also support CMS-like or Wiki-like features in addition to the basic blogging support; i.e hierarchically organized pages of non-time-dependent nature.

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Wikis

The term 'Wiki' is the Hawaiian-language term for 'quick'[2]. Wikis are a form of collaboratively-editable websites, the most famous of which is Wikipedia. While many CMS tools also allow for collaborative editing of content, Wikis excel at unrestricted and free-form creation. Wikis generally use a simplified markup format, known as Wiki-text and allow for links to pages and topics that do not yet exist. Rather than providing a detailed authorization system to limit who can modify what content, Wikis will instead allow anyone to make changes, but make it easy to roll-back vandalism. This allows wikis to more easily draw a large number of contributers than a more restrictive system, at the expense of control over user-actions.

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References

  1. FTP on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FTP
  2. Wikipedia entry on Wikis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki
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