Mario Valle Web

Sharing info on the web

To start building a small Web presence I found useful to sketch a workflow. This flowchart has two advantages: first could help to overcomes the “white slate” writer block; and second it provides a useful entry point into the list of tools and references I provide.

The motivation

First step is to define and clarify what you want, which information you want to share and how you want to share it.

Step Description Sections
Motivation Find your motivation for building a web presence: vanity? Information sharing? Be known?
This and the following parts are very important to select the kind of presence to build: Web site, Blog, Wiki or other social sharing sites.
List material to share Images? LaTex documents? Word documents? Random ideas and rants?
Think about how you want to share them Consider if your material should be strictly under your control, if you prefer fast update over structure, if you want a cooperative space
Select the kind of web presence Freedom for posting whatever material you want, strict control, but more work to build the pages ⇒ Regular web site.
Need fast posting, mainly ideas and rants, some photo ⇒ Blog.
Cooperation on some kind of shared document, or fast posting without much formatting ⇒ Wiki.
Enjoy being part of a community, like to share specific items (like images or movies) ⇒ Social sharing sites.

The process

Now you have defined what you want from your web presence, what you want to share and show and why you want to setup a web presence. Now you select the specific process for the particular form of presence you think is the most appropriate for you: a regular Web page, a Blog, a Wiki or other social sharing sites.

You have selected a Blog

"Blog" is an abbreviated version of "weblog," which is a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A Blog is a frequently updated, personal website featuring diary-type commentary and links to articles or other Web sites. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects. To get an idea of what Blogs are, look at Tecnorati for a list of existing Blogs on the most diverse arguments.

Step Description Sections
Find the hosting First step is to find where to open your Blog. You have a choice of free blogs, commercial blogs or blog software to be integrated into your own site. It is better to start experimenting with a free blog, understand what it is and, if it is incredibly successful, move to a commercial one.
Customize your Blog Every Blog hosting has a method to customize the page appearance and the overall blog appearance. Do not forget to setup your contact details and to enable notification of comment addition to your postings.
Start posting Editors and management tools are provided by the Blog itself. Attachment of existing document is possible, but not so common. Instead images are well integrated.
Advertise If no one knows you have a Blog, you loose an important function of this shared diary.
Continue posting This is the hardest part of a blog. To be recognized the content should be updated every other day. This is not a problem if the Blog theme is one you are passionate with.

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You have selected a Wiki

A Wiki is an online collaboration model and tool that allows any user to edit some content of web pages through a simple browser. “Wiki wiki” means “rapidly” in the Hawaiian language. Normally this editing is based on a very simple text markup method that hides the real HTML syntax and complexity. For example you enter *word* to obtain word or [[][a link]] to obtain a link.

A good method to understand what a Wiki is, is to look at the original Wiki or to Wikipedia, the most famous Wiki of all.

Look at: Making the Case for a Wiki and The Personal Wiki pages to learn the advantages of this cooperation method. Also Amy Standen of Edutopia has written a thoughtful article about Wikis in education that is worthwhile reading. The IEEE Institute points to a book Managing Virtual Teams about remote collaboration based on Wikis.

If you are still not convinced, look at the WikiIndex for a list of existing Wikis on the most diverse arguments.

Step Description Sections
Find the hosting First step is to find where to put your Wiki. There are few free offers, because more often the Wiki functionality is already part of existing web sites.
Experiment Every Wiki has a SandBox entry where you can experiment with its features without destroying anything
Edit the first page Edit the first page of your Wiki stating its goal. From here you create new pages simply adding an internal link to them usually writing a word-phrase in CamelCase like: ThisIsTheFirstArgument that will be translated into ThisIsTheFirstArgument (just an example)
Advertise and manage membership Be careful in providing access to your Wiki. Anyway every page has revisions, so you can always recover content destroyed by some stupid troll.
Edit pages Edit pages from the browser. Attach existing documents and images. Amend or edit existing pages.
Customize your Wiki Every Wiki hosting has a method to customize the overall appearance. Do not forget to setup your contact details and to enable notification of changes.

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You have selected a regular Web site

In this case you are in full control of your site pages, layout and content. Those advantages should be balanced with the more work needed to maintain such sites.

Step Description Sections
Find the hosting Normally the space to setup a mini web site is provided by your university, your institute, your company… Commercial alternatives are offered by your ISP or by hosting companies. Commercial hosting sometime gives you more freedom about site content.
List material to share Images? LaTex documents? Word documents? Existing documents? A good starting point for a web page is to share some existing result of your work leaving at a minimum the new pages developed.
Prepare your page layout It is better to start from an already built page skeleton
Edit pages Editors and management tools. Normally you must learn HTML and CSS languages too.
Import documents How to convert existing documents for the web
Prepare images A text only site is incredibly boring
Manage your site Uploading web pages, documents and images. Check code validity.

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You have selected a social web site

The new wave of the Web (called Web 2.0) is characterized by socially produced knowledge. Those sites try to simplify the interaction and sharing of specific types of info (like photos or bibliographies)

Step Description Sections
Define the kind of site Define which kind of information you want to share and, as a consequence, the kind of site you want to join
Start sharing Do-ut-des otherwise this kind of web presence does not work.
Find creative usage modes Sharing photos is also a simple method to create a product gallery

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