What elements does SPIP manage?

Originally developed to manage the uZine 2 website, SPIP is naturally intended to manage webzine-type sites; basically those with a hierarchy of sections containing articles. The system also handles forums and news items (for example, press reviews).

Let us look in more detail at the various elements managed by SPIP, which will also help us to clarify the vocabulary used.

1. The section hierarchy

A section is a space intended to contain articles, news items, etc. Nothing simpler. You could also call it a folder (as on your computer; your documents are arranged in folders).

Sections can be created inside other sections, thus forming a hierarchy. A section is either inside another section, or it is at the top level and therefore constitutes an entrance point to the site (we refer to these as top level sections, or sectors). The arrangement of sections inside one another forms the structure of your site and it is around this structure that the various elements of your site (syndicated articles, news items, sites, etc.) will be arranged.

Below, sections 1 and 2 are sectors. Logically, these sections define the largest topical themes of the site.

Simple really. Above, sections 11, 12 and 13 are in section 1. Sections 221 and 222 are in section 22, which itself is in section 2.

The logical path which leads to a section is named hierarchy. Thus, the hierarchy of section 221 is: section 2, then section 22.

The hierarchical structure is very simple to manage. It is just necessary to indicate in which section each section is located by using a simple drop-down menu.

The diagram above shows how a section is moved. When a section is moved, all the sub-sections which it contains "follow" it to its new location. For example, if we move section 22 into section 12, sections 221 and 222 follow it (section 22 could have just as easily been placed at the root of the site, or inside section 23 for example). On the other hand, the system prohibits you from placing section 22 inside section 221: if it didn’t you would obtain a loop which the system could not manage.

At this point we should highlight SPIP’s only major limitation. SPIP only manages one structure, and it is the hierarchical structure which we have just described. In particular:
-  it is not possible for a section to belong to two different sections (for example, on a movie site, one could not create a single section for "Orson Welles" under the section "Producers" and the section "Actors"); it also prohibits the creation of intersected hierarchies;
-  SPIP cannot handle loop structures (recursive structures).

These limitations are not due to technical difficulties: Our requirement was to preserve ease of use, and in particular the simplicity of the user interface (to create an interface for such a hierarchy is easy because it is frequently used elsewhere; on the other hand, to simultaneously manage several levels of hierarchy or loop structures poses large ergonomic problems).

Individual forum can be attached to each section (see below).

Let us finish this chapter on sections by explaining the concept of active sections. When working on a site, it often happens that sections are empty, or that they only contain unpublished articles (either in preparation or not yet approved). Let us imagine for example that section 221 does not contain any published articles; it is obvious that, if a site visitor arrived at this section, it would be a dead end, a section which would not provide any useful information. This is why we speak about active sections; on the public site only sections containing published articles (or sub-sections containing of published articles) are regarded as active, and thus displayed on the public site. The management of the active/inactive status of sections is entirely automatic; however the Webmaster must be aware that not all the sections created in SPIP’s private area inevitably appear on the public site.

2. Articles

The articles, these are even simpler; an article is contained in a section. This is managed very simply by a drop-down menu.

Note that a section which itself contains sub-sections can also contain articles.

The only subtlety of articles, is their status. An article’s status can be:
-  editing in progress: its author(s) may still be working on it, therefore it does not appear on the public site, and its access is limited on the private area;
-  submitted for evaluation: when the author decides that the article is finished, it is proposed to the editorial board (administrators and other authors) in order to decide if it may be published or not. The article is still not visible publicly, but all the participants in private area can see it and are welcome to comment on it in a private forum related to the article;
-  published online: the article is published on the public site;
-  dustbin: marked as deleted by an administrator and therefore no longer accessible.
-  rejected: the article is not published.

This is the only important concept to understand about articles; everything else is very simple, and is all managed by the web interface.

Limitation: an article can only be in only one section at a time (this is because of the user interface design problems mentioned above).

Each article can have a forum attached to it (see below).

3. News Items

These are "articles" of less significance than true articles, and they are not signed. On the other hand, it is very simple to associate a link in them towards an article or another website. The news items are thus ideal for online press review or other purposes.

News items are simpler to manage than articles:
-  they can only be attached to sectors (sections at the top level of the site) in our example they would correspond to section 1 and 2;
-  they are not signed and their publication is very simple with a reduced interface and a single click validation.

News items can have discussion forums attached (see below).

4. Discussion Forums

The discussion forums are automatically managed by SPIP. They are directly related to the editorial content of the site so you can open an independent forum for each article, each section and each news item.

By default, SPIP forums are moderated after publication (afterward moderation). This means that each user’s message is published immediately. On the other hand, the site administrators have an interface which enables them to read the messages posted in last week and, if necessary, to remove them.

The administrator of the site can decide to modify the behaviour of the forums. He can choose:
-  to completely remove forums from the site;
-  to moderate forums prior to publication (beforehand moderation): the contributions are only displayed once they have been validated by an administrator;
-  forums registration: the participants must register beforehand and receive (via an automatic email) a code allowing them to take part.

The removed messages are not deleted from the database. Instead they are put aside together with the poster’s IP address and the date and time of posting. This is an essential precaution in case of legal problems (or an insane spammer).

When the forums are active, it is possible to suppress their use on an article-by-article basis.

5. Authors

SPIP manages the authors of the site in two ways: as well as managing their details for article by-lines, (profile, email address, biography, etc.), it also manages their access to the private area. These two aspects are managed via the same interface which is restricted to administrators.

6. Syndicated sites

Automatic publication systems (SPIP, phpNuke, etc.) automatically create a standardized file in XML which indicates their latest publications.

SPIP makes it possible to recover such files via the network, and to include them in its own navigation. You can therefore include in your own site a list of recent publications from other sites. When these sites are updated, the updates appear automatically on your own site.

In SPIP, the syndicated sites are shown under sections in order to display the syndicated articles alongside your own articles on the same topic.

7. Petitions

It is possible to attach an email-validated petition to any article. In a few clicks it is possible to configure such a petition and invite users to "sign" the text.

The signing process is automatically validated by email (a mail is sent to the signatory, indicating a URL to visit in order to "validate" his signature). Thus one obtains more "reliable" petitions because each signature corresponds to a valid email address.

8. Keywords

It is possible to create keywords related to articles. For example, an article could be related to the keywords "France", "Policy", etc. The use of keywords makes it possible to navigate between various articles relating to the same topics; in particular, it makes it possible to circumvent the SPIP limitation that an article can only belong to one section.

Author Paul Knight Published : Updated : 26/10/12

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