By Michael Levenston
Setting Up Pages
On The World Wide Web
A Case Study
May 13, 1996
As Executive Director of City Farmer, based in Vancouver, I was responsible for preparing from scratch our Web publication Urban Agriculture Notes. The pages have been up on the Net since October 1994. Last month over 40,000 file were transmitted from our site, readers visited from 50 countries including Swaziland, Slovenia and Uruguay, and our Internet presence was noted in a front page story in The Globe and Mail. We are also listed in many books including the 1996 Canadian Internet Directory and Que's Mega Web Directory.
We are included in 1000 Best Sites on the Internet published by New Rider Books, have been 'linked' by well over 100 other Web sites and we get an average of ten E-mails a day from readers who want to know everything from where to buy worms in Columbia for composting blood waste to Israelis wanting to know about ranching in Australia.
The site has succeeded in helping us promote our work, gather information from around the world and get in touch with like-minded people. This article describes what has gone into creating and maintaining our site.
Why Do It?Before you begin this adventure you must have an idea of what you want to share with the world. City Farmer, a non-profit society, started in 1978, promotes Urban Agriculture and has collected valuable information that is difficult to find in libraries, bookstores or at other information outlets.
Once you know you have something to say you must get down to the technical nuts and bolts of getting your documents on-line.
Finding an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who is also a Web Server is first on the list. The University of British Columbia was our choice because they had already served us well for some months as a connection to the Internet. Local computer papers are full of ads describing similar services. Call a few and tell them what you plan to do and ask them what they charge.
Learning HTML for Web authoringOnce you have your account, it's time to learn how to write up your pages. You need an editing program and some knowledge of HyperText Markup Language (HTML).
For the Mac I use a program called BBEdit Lite with either BBEdit HTML Extensions or an alternative BBEdit HTML Tools. But any word processor or text editor can assist you in your coding tasks.
New programs to help you mark up your pages with HTML tags are uploaded to the Net almost every week so keep a lookout. Right now PageMill from Adobe is a popular WYSIWYG Web page layout program. I'm testing out Page Spinner and HTML Editor 1.1.4 having heard good things about them. Another extremely useful editor is Hot Dog which is available for a variety of platforms.
Lots of discussion about these programs and other Web publishing matters can be found on these very active Usenet newsgroups:
How do you learn HTML?When we began our site in 1994 there wasn't one book on publishing on the Web. Now there are dozens written on every aspect of the subject. Two new ones for example are:
- Teach Yourself Netscape 2 Web Publishing in a Week by Wes Tatters (Sams-Net)
- Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3 in a Week by Laura Lemay (Sams-Net)
There are at least 4 magazines on the subject:
There are also hundreds of documents on-line on the WWW that approach the subject from a variety of angles and these are free.
The easiest method of learning HTML authoring is to find someone who will sit with you and show you the secrets. This will save you hours and hours of "what do I do next?"
Putting Your Stuff in Your DirectoryOnce you have tagged the text, images, sounds, or movie clips in your editing program, these files are put in a folder.
From your desktop you have to get these files to the Web Server. For me that means from my home computer to UBC's machine. I do this by simply connecting to the Internet and using an FTP [File Transfer Protocol] program to reach the directory at UBC where my Web documents reside. Then it's just a matter of selecting the files from my desktop, clicking twice and watching them upload to the UBC server where they are ready for the world to see. Changes can be made using this method in a matter of seconds.
Your system administrator will get you started on all the correct procedures and then leave you to publish day and night. He will give you your home page address known as a URL. Ours is a "custom domain name" meaning we had to get it approved by Internic a central Internet naming office. We were charged $100 Per Year U.S. for the privilege and now no one else can use our name.
We've been publishing on-line for almost two years now. What does that mean in terms of time and effort?
Maintaining your pages can be a full time job. Experienced Webmasters are paid anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 per year. Web Monkey is one of the premier Web E-zine's.
I maintain our site from home before work, evenings and on the weekend. You have to love your work to do this. Writing, editing, gathering images, tagging and laying out new pages all take hours. E-mail can come in seven days a week and you don't want to leave it sitting for too long unanswered. Old links need to be updated. New software innovations have to be tested and promoting your site is a constant task... you want new readers to know you exist.
We are now placed as a link on an unknown number of sites in the world by people who want their readership to find us. For instance Ceres Online, a searchable database of Web sites relevant to agriculture, lists us a link. That helps increase our traffic.
Having custom domain status at UBC gives us access to fascinating statistics about those who visit our site. Every day we learn how many hits are made on every page we publish. We can also see what countries are looking in and even which server these readers are dialing from.
We get a tremendous amount of new material from our readers which in turn helps us become a better provider of information. We can easily refer queries via E-mail to specialists throughout the world.
The World Wide Web is changing as I write. To have a site on the Web today is exciting, lots of work and a great way to spend the years leading up to the millenium.