MicroPasts Latest Tech Update
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So what has been new with MicroPasts? Well, quite a lot. We have successfully launched our crowd-sourcing platform last week, and lots of people are now transcribing object cards and using the photo-masking application to delineate the outline of Bronze Age tools. From a technical perspective, we needed to take care of two main issues before launching: the first one was, naturally, to finalise the customisation of the crowd-sourcing platform; and second, to design a landing page at MicroPasts.org.
To start with the latter, the platform on which we chose to host the main MicroPasts website is WordPress. WordPress is a free and open source content management system which has been around for over a decade and has millions of users. You don’t have to be web savvy to install and use this platform for your website – especially since it offers some very useful documentation. After installing its software on the hosting server, you can start modifying your site’s appearance and fill it up with content as you like. But before that, you need to choose a Theme – which is basically a bunch of templates that allow you to change the design and functionality of your site. You can customise your Theme of choice using CSS, PHP and HTML if you really want to.
We chose a responsive Bootstrap theme for MicroPasts.org. But what does that mean? A responsive web design means that your website would be easily navigated (as well as look great) on a wide range of devices, i.e. desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. That is, in addition to your aiming for an optimal viewing in different resolutions and browsers. And what is a Bootstrap theme? Bootstrap is a package of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and HTML templates that can help you managed the look and feel of your website. One of the many advantages of Bootstrap is that it provides a layout grid system that you can use to manage the layout of your content. It also comes with a full set of Glyphicons – useful icons that you can incorporate into your code. You can go with these, or check out Font Awesome, which also provides a wide range of high quality, completely free icons, which are also fully compatible with Bootstrap. These icons are not graphic elements – as the name suggests, they are actually fonts, which can be manipulated using CSS.
In tandem with creating our main MicroPasts site, we had to finalise our crowdsourcing platform. The code for this platform was forked from a site called CrowdCrafting – a portal for crowdsourcing applications built using the PyBossa software. To ‘fork’ a project means to make a copy of all its files and code so you could customise it for your own needs (or contribute to the original project). This can be done freely only with open source projects, and a very convenient environment to do this is GitHub. GitHub is a platform that hosts software development projects, where a team of several people could work on the same project at the same time. GitHub is completely free and claims to include over 10 million project repositories! So, especially in the last few weeks, we’ve been raising issues (i.e. things that need to be taken care of), fixing bugs and doing lots of tweaking until we felt ready to open up the crowd-sourcing platform to the public.
This is proving to be a huge success for far – people are not only engaged with the different applications, but are also active on our community forum, asking questions and giving some very useful feedback. Next on our to-do list is to launch our Crowd-funding platform – so stay tuned for some more tech updates!