Putting the 'e' into Advocate with Online Content Management Systems
Sparked by a desire to upgrade its existing email-list system, Spokes Canterbury has embarked on a project to develop a new online website and content management system. Using a freely available "open source" web site framework called "Drupal," a new site has been created that allows a wider group of people to contribute cycling-relevant information, rather than the traditional "webmaster as gatekeeper" approach. Spokes members will be able to submit information on coming events, public submissions, ride photos, useful weblinks, discussions on topical items and more. Spokes will also be able to better manage its 900-strong membership by controlling access to different levels of information and allowing members to update their own personal details. The work has attracted the interest of CAN who are looking at developing a nationwide updated website and online community. As work has progressed, the exercise has raised awareness of other possible ways to use online systems such as this for advocacy, whether for cycling or other causes. For example, the technology allows for the use of maps to graphically indicate information such as problem locations. Issues requiring a response can be efficiently distributed to a wide audience and feedback collated. Information or submissions can be collaboratively compiled by a group of people through tools such as "wikis" or "blogs." Contributed material can be categorised by different user-defined attributes, allowing for easy searching of similar relevant items. Group membership and organisational data can be maintained centrally online by a collection of widely-dispersed authorised administrators. The list of possible capabilities grows continuously as open source developers contribute new "modules" created to benefit specific online communities back to the greater Drupal community for all to use. This presentation will summarise the work undertaken so far by Spokes and speculate on possible future initiatives in this brave new world of online advocacy.