SGA ups its online profile!

website_grab_cThe SGA’s website committee—that is: Michael Shirk, Kevin Kiernan, and Sammy Smith—has been hard at work developing a new website for the Society. Actually, the three of us have been working on content and ideas for the structure of the site. Most of the technological heavy lifting has been done for the SGA on a generous pro-bono basis, by JC Burns of jcbD. View the fruit of our labors at thesga.org.

Technical background

JC suggested we think about the website as the sum of three distinct components: content (that is, the stuff we SGA members generate: words, pictures, downloads), structure (how the parts of the website link together), and design (the colors, fonts, the template of the look of the site, aka the theme). Our goal is to maximize the time SGA volunteers can spend on content, and minimize the amount of time we have to allocate to design and structure—in a perfect world, anyway! JC created the design, and we worked with him, with input from the Board and Officers, to build the structure of the website—that is, how the individual chunks of content relate to the website as a whole.

The SGA website is now dynamically generated from a database—what web developers call a Content Management System (CMS), which gives us a simple and plain window for entering the content, and the software automatically formats the materials according to a standardized plan that is implemented separately (aka the “theme”). This software meets current web-design standards, and will serve the Society well as we move increasingly into the cloud. The term “the cloud” is a metaphor for the internet, so SGA is in the cloud now that we provide virtualized resources (e.g., stories from The Profile, photographs from our meetings) over the internet. Some people consider the cloud to be the ultimate form of globalization. Using the cloud allows the SGA to reduce capital expenditures, improve outreach (e.g., as ArchaeoBus activities expand), and add detail to the information we offer about archaeology in Georgia.

What’s on the website now

The new look of the website is mostly that—a new look to materials you have seen on the previous incarnation of our website, developed and maintained over many years by Mike Shirk—a tip o’ the hat for all your work over these many years, and a big thanks, Mike!

What the CMS gives us is a way for the materials on our website to be accessed dynamically–that is, when you call for it with your browser. For example, you can get to a particular article that Scott Jones wrote on beveled points and Edgefield scrapers via the listing for the Fall 2008 issue of The Profile, which is when it was published, but also by clicking on “Artifact information” under “Georgia archaeology resources.”

By the way, articles that are still timely from recent issues of The Profile are now posted as separate chunks of content, and older articles that report on archaeological research are also being posted to the website as time permits. The goal is for our SGA website to become a substantive resource for those researching both broad questions and detailed information about Georgia’s human past.

New features

You might enjoy several of the website’s new features. We have implemented a search option that is quite handy. Any word in any story can be searched for; this is a powerful new tool for searching the increased content we will make available on the website.

Regular visitors to thesga.org will discover the “Weekly Ponder.” Each Ponder, posted Friday mornings at 5 AM, will provide as fresh look at any topic pertinent to Georgia’s past and the practice of archaeology in Georgia. Ponders are brief stories, accompanied by a picture. Keep your eyes peeled for each new Ponder, and submit one yourself!

We’ve also incorporated a glossary, based on an article from the 2001 Early Georgia, “Resources at Risk,” which is a primer on Georgia archaeology.

You’ll also find a calendar of events that is robust and useful— please send in Chapter meeting notices and other activities, so they can be included!

Indeed, each Chapter has its own area of the website, although now the content is mostly from older issues of The Profile. Your submissions can change this!

Using a simple utility that generates maps based on latitude and longitude, you will find map information linked to applicable stories. This includes meetings! If you click on one of these maps, you will go to a navigable version on a Google Map page. It’s even easier and handier than it sounds!

We have added more goodies to the website-check it out yourself and see what you like! Please realize that this is not a finished or static website. What we now have will be augmented regularly, as SGA becomes increasingly “in the cloud.” (What a contrast to being “in the dirt,” where we archaeology types often dream about spending our time!)

The Board has voted to shift to distributing The Profile using the internet, for various reasons (see article here). We will still have quarterly “issues” of The Profile (meaning a collection of articles and reports, news and information), and, from now on you will find the articles from each new issue posted to our website. We will also post news between issues of The Profile.

Looking forward

Of the three components of our website, the design and structure are now pretty much nailed down (although they can be changed should that become appropriate). We already have added some of the content that forms the backbone of the website. We anticipate adding more content going forward, and also beefing up our older, archived materials as time and energy permit.

We also hope to incorporate new materials. As the ArchaeoBus programs are refined, we plan to add those materials on the website, and use the power of the CMS software to allow us to repurpose materials developed for educational outreach via ArchaeoBus programs for distribution via our website. We also hope to branch out in new directions—maybe we’ll soon have an SGA store!