Informatics

Webmaster's requirements

As stated in the French version of this page, the first and foremost requirement of the informatics expert of the GAC-EPA is to be fluent in English. This is necessary not only to understand the programming, but also because all the documentation, the naming schemes and the comments inside the code are exclusively in English.  A rationale is given below.

There is also some fun! (see end of page)

Tasks

Equipment

Knowledge

Rationale

As with all organisations of volunteers, simplicity in operation is the most important pillar of success.  The webmaster's job is not a full-time occupation:  one forgets details quickly, so a minimalistic approach is the most robust.  I have tried to apply this underlying principle of utmost simplicity to everything the webmaster does.

A second principle is to make all electronic documents future-proof.  That means not using any proprietary formats (i.e. no "Word" or "Excel" documents, no videos in funny formats; images must be in jpeg and vector graphics in SVG, the rest is HTML or simple text where possible.)  This concern with a long-term operation is also the reason for trying to work as much as possible by function and not by person.

Last but not least, make information as accessible as possible:  content should be searchable (i.e. retype a table in HTML form rather than publishing an image of it)

Hence:

Problems

Keeping things under control in an environment where the group undergoes frequent changes is not free of problems.  Each year there are elections to the committee, and while the changes are not drastic, the new committee members have to be given access, be taught some of the tools, and maybe be helped in other ways.

Tools also change over time:  the SQL functions of php have changed, the old versions been deprecated, so that the forms to access the member data base have to be adapted.

Printed documents are not following the same rhetoric as web-based ones:  each bulletin not only has to be extracted from the code for the printed version, but some sentences have to be changed, or replaced by links.  Keeping links to external resources up to date is another task that is infrequent but important.

Fun

Is there fun in this job?  Yes:  for one thing, you will keep up your skills in programming and computing.  But there is a lot of creative work too:  designing the site, its appearance (interesting, when using CSS) and its operation.  There is satisfaction in building an operational system that people like and use.  Finally, the webmaster is a permanent expert, invited to all the GAC-EPA meetings, which are an interesting and timely source of information about the CERN Pension Fund and Health Insurance Scheme as well as other items.

So why do I want a successor?  After twenty years it is time to move on, and get a new person in.  I will still be there for questions, and I will certainly support the new person until he/she is completely autonomous.


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