July 15, 2009, 5:28 PM — If you listen to National Public Radio, you're probably familiar with StoryCorps; they're the ones who produce those heartwarming stories from ordinary people that are occasionally broadcast. StoryCorps is an independently run nonprofit agency that is all about listening: it collects thousands of narratives from people across the U.S. and records and archives them for posterity.
A great way to get a sense of what StoryCorps is all about is to check out their Web site, which contains numerous sound clips. The site is slick and professional, and it may surprise you to learn that it's based on the open source WordPress blogging software, as customized by Dalton Rooney, the organization's Webmaster. Rooney is responsible for every aspect of the organization's Web presence, including the design, installation, configuration, and day-to-day management of all of StoryCorps' Web sites. Dalton has been working in Web development for five years and in IT for ten.
I spoke to Dalton via Gchat about the joys of shaping your own content management application (CMA).
ITworld: What was the state of StoryCorps' Website when you arrived on the scene?
Dalton Rooney: StoryCorps was using a very basic PHP- based content management system when I got here in 2005. It was not easy to use and there were a lot of bugs. I feel like I spent as much time fixing the CMS as editing content for the first six months I was here. We were a much smaller organization then, but it was already pretty clear that we needed a system that would allow less technical users to edit content.
ITW: Was that old CMS built in-house?
DR: Yeah, it was built by a consultant. There was no full-time Web manager here at that time. It was patched together from random bits of PHP code; I don't think it was ever intended to be a long-term solution.
ITW: Just for context -- at that time, what sort of stuff were you putting up on the site, and how often were you updating?
DR: We do a weekly radio broadcast, so that is posted simultaneously to the Web. We were also developing a lot of programs besides our broadcast, so we were creating a fair amount of content on the site. On the order of 5-10 new pages a week. With the CMS we had, I was the only one who could create new pages.
ITW: And I imagine it started eating up all your time.
DR: Well, it didn't help that I was only here part time. I was a full-time student, as well. I was starting to do work from home because I couldn't fit everything I needed to do into the hours I was here.