Saturday, September 10, 2011

more on community / Naval Reactors History Database

I've continued with efforts to build community around the Naval Reactors History Database. As I think about this project, it has three major components: data, infrastructure, and community. I focused heavily on the infrastructure piece in the last nine months. I summarized my work with XTF and Amazon Web Services EC2 in a Code4Lib Northwest presentation this spring. But, in summary, the open source XTF digital content platform and AWS EC2 have enabled me to create a durable online presence at a low cost.

I've focused a lot on the community component in the last two months, with some positive results. This weekend, I've gotten Facebook commenting online, which was more challenging than I expected. The comments box appears in the footer section, along with the Facebook Like button. It was only in late June that I even thought about adding the Like button to the site, after hearing Eric Hellman's presentation at ALA Annual. I added the Like button to the site in late July and I've already been able to use it, along with some targeted display ads, to drive traffic to the NRHDB site and to learn more about the resource's users. I'm hopeful that the commenting will add another important dimension - enabling a public user dialogue within the site. As I've worked to build community, it's clear to me how important it is, and how difficult it is. I'm still thinking this through, but I do want to seriously engage other users in the Naval Reactors History Database. This may require me to modify the XTF interface to enable end users add comments relevant to specific database objects - images and documents. To start, there will be a unified comment stream for the site as a whole.

Also, I switched from the default Twitter widget to a Twitter Widget created through the vendor WidgetBox, for one narrow reason: an ability to customize to better customize the widget's look-and-feel. I am not a designer and, for that reason, I am using the XTF 3.0 look-and-feel with minimal customizations. The WidgetBox Twitter widget supports squared corners, which are part of the XTF default interface.

The final leg of the project's components, data, is going well; I will comment on this in more detail in a separate post.

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