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Re: SEUL: Target for rough outline for SEUL website

On Sat, Oct 16, 1999 at 01:52:18PM +0000, Doug Loss wrote:
> I think the initial SEUL page (not seul-edu) should more obviously indicate
> that SEUL isn't a monolithic project but is more an "umbrella" of subsections that
> all have similar goals.  Perhaps it could use the "town" metaphor, with seul-edu
> represented by a school house, seul-pub by a TV station, the various HOWTOs and
> advocacy docs we have by a library, etc.  

I think that's taking the metaphor too far.  I'm afraid it will get in
the way of the usability of the site.  We should be careful -- there are
far too many unusable websites out there, and some of the most unusable
computer programs are the ones that take metaphors too far.  I just got
a fax program with this new modem, where it looks like a fax machine...
and the program is just horrible, like the terrible horrible that only
the programs that come with hardware can be horrible.

I don't think the town is an immediately obvious metaphor for the
categories -- there's a bit of fishing when trying to match buildings
against sections, and the reader won't be able to reverse the process
and predict the section based on the building.

But I don't like metaphor in programs or poetry, so maybe it would
work for other people :-P  Imagery... now I like imagery a lot.
Symbolism not at all... I guess those are the two sides to metaphor.

Hmm... thinking more on that, I think it's the matter of forcing people
into the metaphor.  When it's a navigational element it is very 
imposing.  You get it all at once and move on, or stumble about confused.
But imagery... that's a color scheme that gives a flavor, a photo that
is maybe a little related, sitting to the side of the object of interest.
You can get it or not get it, and that's up to you.

Mmm... but this is putting the wagon before the horse.  I think we should
focus on content.  Maybe mark things up semantically, then we can go back
and make a different look as we care, or even multiple simultaneous looks
for different audiences, or whatever.  But "Kontent is King", as I like
to say.  Well, actually I don't say that very often, but maybe if I was
into sayings I would.  Somebody must say that a lot... it sounds so
familiar.  The Kontent part is my own addition, though, which gives it
an especially tacky flare.  Oh my, I just went terribly tangential...

The seul-edu website doesn't have a whole lot of content yet, but I think
there are a few directions we have open to us.  The application database
is definitely one.  Some forums, or maybe web-to-mailing-list gateways...
I like the push nature of mailing lists, so I'd hate to rely too terribly
much on the web for communication, and I think a lot of other people
feel the same way (though others feel quite the contrary...)  Some
support options -- HOWTOs (maybe with extra annotation), case studies (!),
but also some live people.  Again, mailing lists are perfect here, but
the addition of some gateways to the web would be useful too.

We could also have generally useful resources.  One thing a lot of schools
could use is a good homepage for their browsers.  As in, the page that
comes up when they start the browser.  Something simple (long-to-render
homepages are a bad idea), with lots of resources and such, ready to be
customized for the school.

I made a little CGI wordsearch generator just recently, and that might
have a place on seul too...

Anyway, these aren't necessarily Linux-specific -- just about anything
that is centered on the web is fairly OS neutral -- but they are helpful,
and more importantly, could attract non-Linux people so that they explore
more.  And it's an offering... proselytizing too much *isn't* a good idea,
because it makes people feel like you're trying to do a number on them.
Something like Commander Copyleft vs. the Cruel Copyrighter isn't really
very effective.  Unless it was funny.

Underneith the specific goal of Linux in the schools, most everyone on
seul-edu wants to improve education in general, and computer education
in particular.  We share the belief that Linux is part of that.  So
are other things, and if anyone in the community has something else they
want to share, then seul-edu would be well served to help them share it.

> We could and should have a news
> section that's kept updated regularly, perhaps represented as a billboard.  The
> various sections will need to decide how to represent themselves internally, although
> I can be counted on to offer an off-the-cuff opinion on almost anything.  Not
> that that's particularly helpful.

I think we should have two news sections.  One for news in general -- that
is, anything related to computer education, or otherwise potentially
interesting to the seul-edu audience, and one for seul-edu specific news.
Like "News Items" and "What's New Here"... or whatever title.

Anyway, having more general news items makes it potentially a more 
interesting page.  And unless or until things pick up quite a bit,
a general news section can potentially have a lot more material to
attract repeat viewers.  I think it would be way to ambitious to make
seul-edu into some sort of portal, and probably not even a good idea
even if it were in our grasp, but news is a good medium between solely
locally-made content and being a page of pointers.

> The seul-edu site could be represented as the floorplan of a school, with
> various rooms representing student grade levels, curriculum areas, a teacher's lounge
> (our email archives, or whatever Ian wants to do with them), a supply room
> (Bob's and Stephen's software database), a shop room (our projects page), etc.  For
> those unfamiliar, in many US middle or junior high schools, there are special
> rooms for teaching woodworking, metalworking, and sometimes other technical or
> vocational skills.  These are the shop rooms.

I guess I feel the same about this as the town model, I'm afraid :-/

> There are many other ways in which our info could be laid out, but this could
> be visually appealing and easily understandable without being unbearably cute for
> some of our more serious-minded visitors.

I don't think there needs to be a compromise, really... I'm not sure what
the solution is, but I feel like there should be a layout that is attractive,
degrades to something usable on old or text browsers, doesn't distract,
creates a sense of place, and expresses a look that is professional, 
personal, and educational all together.

Of course I don't know what that is, and we certainly don't have to wait
for the perfect design to somehow appear before we start working.  But I
feel it's somehow there somewhere...

< Ian Bicking                 |  bickiia@earlham.edu                >
< drawer #419 Earlham College |  http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~bickiia >
< Richmond, IN 47374          |  (765) 973-2824                     >