Case Study: Using content management systems to get the most from the web

Bill Bumpus's picture

From OCTech E-mail Digest 2004, #8 ---- December 23, 2004
Published by
Organizers' Collaborative, Inc. (

Case Study: Using content management systems to get the most from the web

Steve Dondley, Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO

(special to OCtech)

In the
old days, circa 1994, web sites were built by hand.
Each and every HTML tag
was painstakingly typed into a file
and then manually uploaded to the web
server. Things got a
little bit better when HTML editor applications
Dreamweaver, FrontPage, and PageMill came along. They were
just word processors with some useful features built
in to make the task of
managing a web site much more, well,
manageable. Although the labor burden
was greatly lowered by
these HTML editors, to build a decent web site, you
needed quite a bit of knowledge about HTML and its
technologies. If you wanted any special features like an
calendar or other such programmable functions, you had
to go and hire a
high-priced consultant or programmer to
handle that for you.

however, that's beginning to change. More and more web
sites are moving
toward the next step in the evolution of web
site construction, the use of
computer programs called Content
Management Systems, or CMS, for short. CMS
systems do exactly
as the name says, they help you manage content (stuff you
on the web). While the idea of using a CMS to build and
maintain a
web site isn't exactly new, they are finally
becoming powerful, flexible, and
cheap enough to become a
practical solution for even some of the most
demanding web

The Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO ( in
Massachusetts is one organization that has turned to
software to help communicate its message to the community.
Based on
open source CMS software called Drupal
(, they have been able to create
a dynamic and
interactive web site to suit their needs. Drupal was
specifically for the purpose of creating community-driven
sites. The idea behind a community-driven web site is that
don't just read content on the site, they are invited
to help create some or
all of the content. The Pioneer Valley
AFL-CIO, accepts material from many
contributors that can
submit blog items, news, and other kinds of
directly to the site. User submissions can be screened
edited before they actually get published.

Another exciting
feature built into Drupal that the Pioneer
Valley AFL-CIO is using is its
ability to create its own news
feed and publish other news feeds. For
example, a union
affiliated with the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO, the UFCW
1459 (, also
uses Drupal. When a new story
is published to the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO's
site, it
automatically gets published to the UFCW Local 1459 site and
versa (see

This technology, called RSS, is a powerful way for web-based
to share and disseminate information.

The site has many other features
and benefits built into it,

* Easy addition of new
content. If you can surf the web and
fill out a form, you can add new
material to the site.
* You can give users permission to post comments and
directly below the content they see.
* Easy creation of
forums, event calendars, e-mail lists, and
other essential communication
* You can have restricted access to content of the site
only to those accounts given permission.
* A flexible
template system that makes it easy to change the
look and layout of the
content instantly.
* Additional functionality can be added through modules
can be downloaded from the Internet.

Drupal lets you easily
turn off the functions you don't want
and turn on only those that you need.
It is fast becoming one
of the most popular CMS out there. See for

If your organization is interested in investigating
the power
of CMS further, you can contact Steve Dondley of
Communications at
offers consulting and web hosting for Drupal sites.