Free-Conversant Support / Re: Newbie help
 Home   About Conversant   Free Sites   Hosting   Support   XML-RPC 


Subject Re: Newbie help
Posted 10/21/2000; 5:09 PM by Brian Carnell
In Response To Re: Newbie help (#1618)
Label None. Read 2282
<Previous Next> Thread: Forward chronological view Reverse chronological view Hierarchical outline view Edit Reply
David wrote:

"It's not really a specific thing. I'm a long-time Manila user and Frontier user too, so I hope I "get" web-based content management. I think perhaps it's a terminology thing. What is a Zone? How does it differ from a Conversation? Why would I want more than one Zone, or more than one Conversation? Where do Topics fit into this? How do each of these relate to more usual web concepts like discussion forums, folders and directories? Where is the core stuff for creating stories, managing site structure, etc?


1. The organization needs a web site that isn't shameful and that can be managed easily. Believe it or not, they don't even have FTP access to their own site. They have to e-mail content to some third party to put it up.

2. The organization's members are very geographically distributed, but there is a Special Interest Group (SIG) setup as well. I think they need a weblog style feature, discussions, topic areas, and generally the ability to manage stories and workflow via the web."

I've been meaning to write a longish review/explanation of Conversant but other things have interceded. I think some of the experiences I've had with Conversant might help you get your head around it (and believe me I asked quite a few point-blank questions myself initially because the system is different from anything out there that I've seen).

The Zones/Conversations terminology is confusing. For my purposes, I think of a Conversation as a distinct web site. I have a website about overpopulation -- everything connected to that site belongs to a single Conversation. I have a web site about animal rights. Everything about that web site belongs to another Conversation.

As for Zones, I think about them as containers for Conversations that share members. For example at the university department I work at, we have several different projects underway that have the same members but very different focuses. If they decided to use Conversant, they could create a department zone and then put the web sites for each project in separate Conversations.

Anyway, on to the more interesting stuff. I manage 7 sites with literally 2 to 3 thousand static pages between then, and about 100-150 pages added each month, and I'm pretty much managing everything by myself. The CMS features in Conversant are godsend.

At its core, everything in Conversant is treated as a discussion group message. When I write an article I post it to my site either by pasting it in the web browser window or e-mailing it to my site.

Once I've got my article as a discussion group message I can do any number of interesting things. When I bring up the message in my browser, there's a button at the bottom saying "Add this to the weblog". If I click it, it automatically adds the text of the message to the weblog which is on the front page of my site.

I also want everything as static pages. Underneath that button is a text box that says "Bind URL." All I do is type in the path of the folder and page title I want the static page to be, wait about a tenth of a second, and presto there it is.

There are a lot of stuff that happens in the above steps that makes the site very easy to manage. First, of course, both the static page and the weblog both automatically contain links to the discussion group view, so people can start talking about what I've just written without any further linking on my part.

Second, it automatically creates what Conversant calls a resource. Say the title of my essay was "Why I Love Conversant." Conversant automatically creates a special link so all I have to do is surround the message title with the | character, and it links to it automatically. This is incredibly useful and I use it in a lot of other ways.

For example, on my overpopulation site, I write a lot about new stories regarding the spread of AIDS, but I'd like to direct people with more interest on the topic back to my main page of info. about AIDS. All I do is just surround the first instance of the word "AIDS" with the | character and it takes care of that automatically. This makes it very easy to create a web site with lots of internal links.

The other thing I'd really like to say about Conversant is that its current advanced search features also make it an excellent system for tracking information on your web site. Here's the problem I always run into: I make a topics page for AIDS, but I get busy and even though I'm writing stories about AIDS I forget to update the topics page for a month or two and now I have to spend time figuring out which of the 60 to 80 stories I wrote in that time need to be added to the AIDS topic page (and then repeat with about 20-30 other pages). With the search features built into Conversant, it is very easy to find say every new story written by a group of authors that mentions AIDS written during any given time period.

Unlike Mark, I wouldn't say Conversant has necessarily lowered the amount of time I spend doing purely management things, but what is has done is increase probably by a factor of 10 the amount of things I get done when I spend an hour or two attending to site management issues. There's a lot of stuff I always wanted to do, like internal linking across topics, that I never did because it would have taken way too much time, but that I'm not doing regularly since Conversant makes it so simple.

Oops, one last thing -- the whole thing is very customizable in a way that ordinary humans can understand. I have a basic understanding of HTML and that's about it -- Javascript, etc., looks like a foreign language. But with just that basic understanding of HTML I can make pretty dramatic system wide changes to the look and feel of the site and the way Conversant reacts to user actions. That was the concern I really had with Zope -- I definitely know I couldn't install it and after reviewing docs, etc., I really doubt I could get comfortable enough with it to do a lot of serious changes by myself. With Conversant, as long as you've got people who know HTML (or can use a product like Dreamweaver, etc., that outputs HTML), even those of us who aren't computer programming Gods like Philippe is can create extremely customized solutions.

<Previous Next> Thread: Forward chronological view Reverse chronological view Hierarchical outline view Edit Reply


Re: Newbie help
10/21/2000 by Mark Morgan
Unlike Mark, I wouldn't say Conversant has necessarily lowered the amount of

RE: Newbie help
10/21/2000 by Philippe Martin
At 22:13 +0000 21/10/00, Brian Carnell wrote: >With Conversant, as long