Front Page Back End Issues

Not surprisingly, yesterday’s review of the Ridge Point Community Church website yielded some good comments. One that particularly caught my interest was made by Frank Ramage, the talented webmaster over at Burtonsville Baptist Church just a 20 to 30 minute drive from where I live. Frank hit an issue I bet is a sticky one for all of us when he wrote:

Like the three-column format… bet it requires considerable time to keep it fresh…

Wonder if Mike needed releases for the “talent” in the banners (e.g., church members/visitors)?

Can I hear an Amen from the choir? Now from the congregation?!

Yes my friends, brother Frank has brought to the forefront the ugly back-end issue of maintenance to the our discussion. An issue that even plagues me over at my beloved Redland Baptist. An issue that dogs all of us, no matter how well we can Perl together MT-plugins or render perfect tableless cross-browser CSS frontpages … maintaining that dynamic compelling content on your home page that keeps people visiting and pushes your site atop search engines is a royal pain in the ‘patootie.’

Personally? I’ve entertained the thought of allowing trained church staff to use client-based blogging tool such as w.bloggar to post to our MovableType-driven church web site. A thought that has yet to come to fruition because I’m too busy working a paying day job to install and train the staff on the software. That and I’ve been burned once too often by training someone who leaves … or loses interest.

That said, my youth minister is pretty good at posting his own content. Perhaps I could train him to train others? I dunno. One problem is that some of our printed matter is developed using Microsoft Publisher … a rather nasty piece of software that imports various documents just fine, but exports … well that’s another story for another long winey post. Another thought is to build a macro into MS-Word to post to the site using XML-RPC, but all my experiments with it ran afoul with unicode issues.

Recently, I’ve been thinking that perhaps what I need to do is convince the church staff that OpenOffice is the way to go, then build scripts that would post documents, spreadsheets and data into the system, again via XML-RPC … or even SOAP at this point … I just want a solution.

Honestly? The way it goes down now? If I see something in a bulletin or newsletter I want to put online, I have to contact the staff to cut-n-paste the text and email it to me … or handjam it.

Similarly, the calendar of events, I have to ask for a comma-delimited dump from their Outlook-based schedule … then run some nifty Perl to clean-up the inconsistencies and shove it into MySQL.

What about you? What are your back-end issues? Moreover, what have you put in place at your church to overcome them? I’d like to know.