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Happy Birthday Communiqué
2008, Q2 (September 25, 2008)
By Rick Sapir, Chapter Webmaster
Birthday cake with candle.
Happy Birthday Communiqué!


Last year, the Carolina Communiqué moved to a wiki-based, online newsletter1. Some of the goals behind the switch were:
  • Give readers a choice between reading online or printing (either a complete issue or selected articles only)
  • Increase the visibility of the newsletter through RSS feeds, linking, and social bookmarking
  • Provide the ability to easily navigate each issue and the full archives
  • Simplify the production process for both authors and editors.
Our wiki-based site allowed us to successfully address these goals... and more!

By the Numbers

When we switched to an all-online version of the Carolina Communiqué, we added the ability to better track and understand our readership. By implementing Google Analytics (http://www.google.com/analytics) we are able to better determine who our readers are, where they're coming from, and what they're reading.

Some of the basics..
  • With the publication of this edition, we now have more than 450 articles online, going back to 1995. This represents almost 2 MB of information — fully accessible and searchable! It is interesting to read some of these older articles and see how much has changed (such as this article from 1996 that discusses Internet search — but no mention of Google!) or hasn't (such as this 2003 article that explores how STC's transformation could affect local chapters).
  • We have been (slowly) wikifing some of the articles that were previously available only as part of a PDF page. This makes the article's text fully searchable, and allows readers to view and print specific articles within an edition (without having to print the entire PDF). Here is the original article, from 2001, introducing the first, web-based edition of the Carolina Communiqué.
    More than 12 years of articles are now online — fully searchable.
  • Since June 2007, the Communiqué has been visited by almost 8,000 visitors and more than 37,000 page "hits" — averaging nearly 450 per day. The average visitor reads 3 articles and spends nearly 3 minutes on the site.
  • More than half of all readers arrive from a search engine query. Of the rest, nearly one-third are referred by links from the TC Eserver Library (http://tc.eserver.org/).
  • We now have 14 wiki authors — Carolina Communiqué contributors who have written and edited their articles online. Author adoption continues to grow with more than half of all articles written completely online.


We've been contacted by several other chapters, wanting to know "how we did it." Feedback from our readers has been overwhelmingly positive. One reader even commented the online format made it easier to read.

The feature articles contain a "Rate this article" poll at the end of the article. This is a great way for authors to know how their article was received and allows readers to provide direct feedback. More than 30 articles have been "rated" so far with over 90 votes "cast."

APEX 2008 Winner
The newsletter editors have also been quick to praise the new format, noting that that production process has been vastly streamlined. We can even make changes and tweaks after publishing an article!

And most recently, the Carolina Communiqué won an Award of Excellence in the Newsletters: Web & Online category of the 2008 APEX Awards for Publication Excellence.

New features

As we turn one year older, we've decided to make a few changes to help the Carolina Communiqué continue to grow and be usable to our readership. With the publication of this edition, we introduced the some new features:
  • Revamped menus (dynamic PHP)
    By using the open-source PHP Layer Menu System (http://phplayersmenu.sourceforge.net/) we're able to "expand" the main menu and offer direct links to the most popular destinations — without using more screen real estate. Visitors can now access key pages of the site, from any other page.
    The new main menu, featuring a dynamic fly-out menu

  • WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)
    The single-most formidable barrier to wiki adoption has been the lack of a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. The latest version of TikiWiki (the CMS that powers this website) includes a wiki WYSIWYG editor and we've enabled for authors.
    WYSIWYG editor
    The toolbars from the new WYSIWYG wiki editor

    In fact, we've created a sandbox (test area) where you can play with the editor: Sandbox

  • Tagging (tag clouds)
    "Tags" are keywords (metadata) associated with an article2. These tags are presented in a "tag cloud" that provides visual cues as to which tags are most commonly used to identify the articles. The more popular a tag, the larger it appears in the cloud. If you've used sites like Flickr or del.icio.us, then you're already familiar with tag clouds. For the Communiqué , authors and editors can tag any article with these keywords. The tag cloud provides a dynamic way to find articles for a specific topic, an alternative to searching.
    Tag cloud
    Sample tag cloud

    We've only just begun tagging the articles (starting with this edition and moving backwards through the archive), so the cloud is not yet a true representation of all the content on this site.

    The tag list that appears at the top of "tagged" articles gives an overview of the article (and links to other articles that have the same tags).
    Tag list
    Sample tag list.

  • Sending links
    In addition to the social networking bookmarks that appear at the bottom of each article, we've added a new, Send link to a friend button (Send link ) at the top of each page. Use this to send a Communiqué article link to your friends.

You can watch a video tour of this site and these newly added features.

Flash movie, click to watch.
[http://www.stc-carolina.org/stc_extra/flash/communique_welcome.htm desc|Click] to watch the movie.

Future Plans

So what's next? I'm not sure... let us know what you like (or don't like) with the ever-evolving Communiqué!

Rick can be reached at webmaster at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.

  1. Read about the switch in Why We Switched to a Web-Only Newsletter (Again).
  2. For more information on tag clouds, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_%28metadata%29.

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