BLOG: Using the MSL tool set to support democratic systems: part 3 - Using Tags

Newspaper cartoon image

In this third and final article in the series, Gary McLachlan, Change and Represent Manager at University of Exeter Students' Guild explains how they use the MSL news and content tagging tools to manage content and support the Guild’s democratic systems.

The next use on our democratic systems is the new method used to display our student Council – where the tagging system again helps us by controlling content where we are indexing whether a particular News story relates to a person (elected Rep or Officer) a role description (for the Rep or Officer) an election link to the post (when an election is open) or a Specialist Council to which the elected Officer belongs – in this way we are able to enable cross-navigation for better ‘journeys’ through the information.

The news feeds in particular are useful in terms of journey-based (or story telling) navigation since each persons’ individual biography page (indexed as person/role) can then pull in the role description for that post, and any other indexed relevant information. The group pages for each Council are able to pull in the members of that Council; role description links and election links – and so on – the navigation built from a set of pages gives indefinite ‘journey-based’ navigation where students can look at a group, find a person, navigate easily to a role description, find another person (and so on.)

This flexible navigation prevents ‘dead-end’ journeys through the Representation system; and also allows us to have a single page for each Role Description which can be linked or indexed from Elections – meaning we don’t ever have to remember to update two identical role descriptions (Election based and Information-store) but can rely on the links always showing the correct master (single page) copy.

Added Value

On top of those methods, our separate but linked Change Agent system and Students’ Green Unit project-management systems are also integrated or capable of almost immediate integration by the simple method of using the existing news feed with a widget that pulls in project-based tags which we already use, and displaying things that relate to either active projects or for the Green Unit those Ideas and projects that carry the sustainability tag.

In this way what looks like highly individualised content relating to a single service can actually be conglomerated from several sources using consistent tagging methods – making a new page with existing content very easy to create extremely fast and with active relevant content from inception.

Recommendation

While we haven’t yet reached the limits of what we intend to use the interactive tagged News widgets to achieve, the uses we already have made have:

  • Made our work faster and more accurate
  • Give us the ability to create new dynamic content on the fly
  • Give us the ability to create ‘journey’ navigation with existing content without having to make major structural changes to our code or indexes.

If you don’t currently use the News system because you ‘don’t do news’ – give it a try anyway; with creative use of tags and widgets you can create very effective content-based navigation extremely easily, and work with a set of templates to make adding new pages to your site much easier and less prone to mistakes.

Frankly, our democracy wouldn’t work without the News system which MSL provides – it is the backbone of everything we do.

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