Hello everyone. The future state of the OpenDataKit.org web site has been on the radar of the Project Management Committee for a while, so we’re happy to see the responses on this topic so far, and the other interest expressed at the June convening and other channels.
What the PMC is proposing
We are hoping there’s enough interest in the community to set up a small “work team” of at least 3-5 people to help guide us toward a new web site strategy. Ideally, this group can be formed to take over management of the “work in progress” website described below, while enabling members of the broader community to help manage the website and make improvements through a peer-reviewed process.
The website is a great opportunity for non-coders to get involved in improving the ODK community through design and content updates! The PMC hopes that in our “post transition” world, as various transition and steering committees are being set up, those committees will provide clear direction & content ideas for the “website working group” to help implement.
We have ideas, but we need your help to make those ideas a reality!
A path forward for this idea
As part of its work toward the September 2017 transition deadline, UW-CSE prepared a temporary Drupal-powered website that could be considered as an “alpha” website, for continual improvements and changes powered by the collective ODK Community. The PMC discussed this temporary transitional site and agreed this site should be shared with you all to get your feedback on using it to start the ongoing process of website improvements.
This “alpha” site -- viewable at http://opendatakit-dev.cs.washington.edu -- helps us to achieve the following goals:
Helps UW meet its transition deadlines;
Brings the site up to date with basic information on the multiple improvement initiatives that are ongoing;
Moves the site to a more flexible platform that makes it easier for multiple people to propose and review content additions & changes; has lots of plugins for integrating with other technologies already in use by the ODK project (e.g., Discourse, GitHub)
Moves some content to the ODK Forum, such as help-for-hire, deployments, blog;
Addresses some pain-points related to releasing software binaries on the current website; and
Creates a work in progress starting point that community members can collaboratively begin to move forward with a peer-review process.
Why do this now?
Improvements to the web site have been on our TODO list for the “post UW transition” for some time, but other excellent ODK community improvement work has taken priority. As a result, collective focus on other ODK initiatives has left the current website a little out of date. Additionally, other ODK improvement initiatives that are in-progress, once finalized, could influence the design of ODK website.
Unfortunately, some of these new ODK initiatives are a multi-step processes that require other infrastructure to be in place first. Examples of new initiatives that may influence the content and design of the “new” website include:
- Decisions are still pending about the best way to host ODK binaries that will replace the existing downloads page.
- Discussions are underway about ODK branding. See Website re-design and branding and Who gets to use the ODK name? and Develop a new logo for examples.
- Nafundi is helping to coordinate a community effort to revise ODK 1.x tool suite documentation at http://docs.opendatakit.org/ and UW is working to revise and update the ODK 2.x tool suite documentation.
- The “help for hire” page, “deployments” page, and maybe the blog content, might be transferred to the ODK Forum.
Unlike the “one time transition” from Google Groups to Discourse, we view the new web site as a starting point -- a “work in progress” -- that can empower the entire community to create & share content to highlight our collective work on ODK.
There are many changes ongoing in the ODK community right now, and we believe it’s best to move the website forward to at least match current initiatives, while giving time for the community to come together under a new management structure. Once the various transition and steering committees are in place, those committees can decide what they’d like the final form of the website to be. (This is tentatively planned to happen in early 2018.)
A major advantage to Drupal is its workbench plugin, which allows for collaborative editing, reviewing, and approving of updates to already published webpages based on user permissions. "Editors" can create a revised draft of a page and submit their changes for review while "Moderators" can review those changes and publish them if they choose or send them back to draft status. The draft's changes are tracked, and multiple Editors and Moderators can collaboratively make changes back and forth until a publishable state is reached. This workflow better matches an open source model, such as GitHub’s pull request model, so current software contributors will be familiar with the process.
Drupal also has a fine grain user permission to limited access to appropriate sections of website content, instead of being forced to grant someone full access to the entire site. (It’s similar to the different permissions given to different repositories on ODK’s GitHub account). If people are interested, Drupal also has plugins to integrate with Discourse logins and other Discourse features to further integrate ODK’s community infrastructure. Or alternatively, it could integrate with GitHub logins.
In short, there are lots of great reasons to consider Drupal, all of which can help us now, and in the future as the ODK community grows.
The PMC is seeking feedback from all of you about moving to the “alpha” transitional website. It is possible that the new ODK leadership structure may want to suggest new changes to the website, but such changes, if at all, are likely to not happen soon (more information about the leadership transition will be announced soon!).
The ‘alpha’ website should not be viewed as a final choice of design or technology, simply a starting point to move things forward and bring things a bit more up to date. Once the various transition and steering committees are in place, those committees can decide what they’d like the final form of the website to be (hopefully in 2018.)
Ultimately, our hope is that this initial updated ‘alpha’ website will make it easier for collaboratively tracking changes and getting approval from other community members and will include updates to better support the community initiatives that already underway.
What do you think? Do you agree with this proposal? Do you have concerns? Please continue commenting here with your feedback.
Also are you interested in joining a 3 to 5 person website working group?