The IEEE Professional Communication Society has redesigned its website to make it more interactive, allowing visitors to hold a discussion forum, write a blog, or view a podcast. The site was rolled out in October to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the society’s annual conference.
The site depends on Drupal, an open source content management system that is free for download, says society member Brian Still, an assistant professor of technical communication at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas.
“Drupal is not only a cost-effective way to deploy a website, but it also provides for interactivity and user input,” Still explains. “We wanted the site to be more of a community where users can access information and contribute to it, either by creating their own information, communicating in forums, or commenting on what they read.
”Most traditional sites rely on one person to update all the information, but Drupal relies on the WYSIWYG concept. Anyone can post a comment, without knowing any computer code. Instead, a “what you see is what you get” edit box pops up to let users easily post and edit comments and even preview their remarks before they go live, according to Still.
“We wanted to create a place where experts share their knowledge and others can interact with them, says Still. “Making the leap to open source is groundbreaking for an IEEE society. It’s cost-effective and enables us to engage our members and to manage our activities in ways that other societies are not currently doing.”
PODCASTS, TOO Still is particularly excited about the training podcasts being developed for engineers and those working in technology. The first one—“Six Steps for Effective Email”—has proven popular. Produced by technical communications consultant George Hayhoe, it has been saved or played roughly 300 times by visitors in less than a month, according to Still. Podcasts in the works will cover presentation tips, the relation between online education and the information economy, and international engineering communication practices in the information economy. Users can save podcasts to a cell phone or other portable device, and subscribe to them as part of an RSS feed.
Anyone can use the site now, but in the future only IEEE Professional Communication Society members will be able to access the training podcasts and the society’s newsletter.