Web strategy big picture explanation
By Ed Mitchell 20th August 2013
We are doing some work on our technology strategy. It is part of the work we are doing for the ‘International Initiative Registration Service’ (IIRS) as that is a step on the journey to drupal 7, and a very different way of doing things to accommodate the changes in organisation design possible from the international growth of Transition.
This is work in progress – all thoughts are welcome
1. Where we are now: the colonial monolith
Culturally, (bluntly), the current Transition Network website is a colonial monolith. It is a great example of many of the services that make up a National Hub website, however, but in only one context. It is an Anglo-centric service not designed for multiple languages which would make work on translations reflect this ‘colonial’ aspect, which we are not keen to pursue. It would be small pockets of content in an English website which we feel is culturally unsuitable, and a more imaginative option is available to us.
Technically, our current platform, Drupal 6, can handle translation, and does have international hooks. However its successor, Drupal 7 is significantly better, and a far more suitable platform on which to handle translations. The location module in Drupal 6 is also known for its international weakness and it is now only in ‘maintenance’ mode – ie no further innovation work. The location module in Drupal 7, again, is far more advanced. We have been ‘managing’ this weakness for some time as it was not in the original system brief, and Drupal 7 was not ready when we begun our Drupal 6 build. Any further work we do on our Drupal 6 location module, therefore, is work on an evolutionary dead end; so we are not doing it.
2. How the IIRS work moves us to a Commonwealth model
In light of the technical and cultural points above, our plan is to do all internationalised work on a new Drupal 7 platform. Our focus is on the services rather than content at this point. This is because many national hubs have their own websites with their own content (which we feel is the suitable location for materials in the correct languages) and we are all handling translation of materials successfully.
We do not have, and are globally challenged by the lack of, an international initiatives directory. This is a core service which we have been managing for some years in English, and are aware that a barrier to its growth is language, and its ‘colonial’ position – sat in the middle of an English website.
We are building a prototype ‘International Initiatives Registration Service’ (IIRS). This will be a service that can exist on any National Hub website. We will build it so that it is un-coupled from, but connected to the Transition Network website. It will be translate-able, and administrate-able by the National Hub administrators in their own language. The Transition Network initiatives directory will still be the ‘master’ directory, which will be in English, which we see has parallels to the commonwealth model.
The power still lies at a core, the Transition Network website and ‘master’ directories. For example, decisions on how we define our information, what policies we adopt etc. are centralised in Transition Network. We see as a bottleneck to the long-term internationalisation requirement, hence why this stage is a stepping stone to our third, federated model suggestion.
3. How it could look in a more federated model
Having prototyped, trialled, and developed the IIRS, we will have developed a core ‘service’ of a Transition National Hub service which can be set up for any future country. It offers each country a reliable initiative directory while also fulfilling the need for an international directory to reflect an international movement.
This opens the gates to work on the other services that make up the core of a National Hub online service (e.g. Projects, News, Blogs, Resources etc.). These can be designed, developed, managed and hosted in a shared ‘platform’. This platform then becomes a technical resource for putting together National Hub websites, who can choose suitable services and translate them accordingly. As these all work inter-dependently, they provide their own country’s requirements and support the development of a global directory, which sits ‘above’ all of them (including The UK).
In this view, Transition Network’s site becomes one of the National Hub sites using this service. And decisions are taken by an international group of service developers and users. Which we see as a federated model.