World-Wide Web FAQ (Part 1)
This week's topic is the World-Wide Web in general, and the WOU website in specific. This is part one on this topic, since there's too much to cover in just one week.
So what is this "World-Wide Web" thing, anyway?
Basically, the web is the part of the Internet with is readable by your web browser. The Web is different from the Internet itself; think of the Internet as a system of roads, and the Web as the collection of all the stores, libraries, movie theaters, and so on that you can use those roads to get to. Any one of these destinations is an individual website.
Some of these websites are like big department stores; run by a single company and providing many different services. Others are like malls, were individuals and small businesses buy space under another company's roof to use for their own purposes. Others are like public bulletin boards where anybody can post whatever they want to say (generally subject to rules, of course.)Still others are like post offices, where you go just to get and send your mail. Describing all the types of websites in the world, not to mention all the other things the Internet is used for, would make this FAQ far longer than it needs to be; if there is interest, I'll talk more about it in another week's FAQ.
How would you describe the WOU website, then?
The WOU website is, well, a lot like a university campus. The server itself is like the buildings; paid for by the University as a whole and providing the basic infrastructure that makes everything else work. The University (through UCS and Public Relations) is responsible to keep the public areas of the website useful, presentable, and secure, just as (through the Physical Plant and Public Safety) it cares for and protects the public areas on campus.
Individual departments are responsible for their own websites that run on the WOU server, just as departments are responsible for the real-life activities that take place in their portion of the campus. You, as an individual student, faculty, or staff person, also have your own part of the website that you can decorate pretty much as you see fit, just as on campus you have your own dorm room or office.
I've been asked by my department or organization to start up or maintain their website on WOU's server. What do I do?
You contact the webmaster at email@example.com or 88795. This is actually me, but it helps keep things better organized if you use the webmaster email address for web-related requests. I will set you up with the proper access privileges and show you how to get to the proper folder on the website.
If you are a student, there is one additional step; we must verify that you actually have authorization to edit your organization's web site. After all, anyone could telephone and claim to be from your organization; if we just let them have access on their own say-so, anybody could get in and change your organization's web page. We require confirmation in the form of a call or email from your organization's faculty or staff advisor, so we know that you are who you say you are and that you should be given access to edit the site.
What if I just want to create a personal page?
You can do that. Every Windows user on campus has a P: drive (Mac users should contact Joe Crowe at firstname.lastname@example.org for help setting up their personal web drive.) Anything you put in that drive is publicly available on the web; the actual address depends on your username. For instance, if your username is jdoe, your website is available on the web at "http://www.wou.edu/~jdoe". If you put a file called "mypage.html" in that drive, its web address is "http://www.wou.edu/~jdoe/mypage.html".
Important note: Though you may still see these files in H:\public_html, please do not edit files in that folder, or copy new ones into it, or you may start getting "403 Forbidden" errors when trying to see those pages on the web. The P: drive ensures that your file permissions are properly set for viewing on the web.
So how do I get to the pages I need to work on?
You can edit your website easily from any computer on campus. Simply log in with your normal username and password, and look in the W: drive. (If you are on a Mac, we'll give you instructions to connect to the WOU-website shared drive.)In that drive you will see a number of folders, navigate through them to find the one you need. This will correspond to the web address of your site; the folder "W:\student\clubs" is the same as what your browser sees at "http://www.wou.edu/student/clubs". Of course, if you are just working with your personal page, all you have to do is go into your public_html folder.
Once you have found the proper folder, you may edit the web pages inside, or create new ones. Each file in the folder is a separate web page. You can use any web editing tool to work on these files; we recommend Macromedia Dreamweaver, which may be purchased through the UCS Help desk. We recommend against Microsoft FrontPage; for many of its features, it requires special extensions to be installed on the web server, but these extensions have security flaws and we will not install them on the WOU web server. We will do our best to provide support for any other web editing tool, though there are so many different ones out there.
What if I want to work on my site from off campus?
You must use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program. Not just any one will do, however; normal FTP programs transmit usernames and passwords in the clear, so we require the use of an FTP program that supports the SSH security protocol (Note that this is different from the SSL protocol commonly seen in web browsers.)
If this is all Greek to you and you don't know how to go about finding such a program; don't worry; UCS provides one for you. It is called FileZilla and is available to anyone free of charge; you can go to "http://www.wou.edu/sshclient" for instructions and download.
As of 2006 you can also use Remote Desktop; for instructions, as well as more on FTP, see the FTP and Remote Desktop FAQ .
OK, now I can edit those files, but what should I put in them?
Good question. If you are editing your own personal site in your public_html folder, you can put any legal content in there you want.(If you put any illegal content in your folder, you assume responsibility for any penalties that may occur.)
If you are editing a departmental or organizational site, however, there are some more limitations. Specifically, if you are creating or redesigning the site, it should use the new WOU website template. This isn't specifically a requirement, yet, but it soon will be, and as time permits we are working to convert the whole website to the new template.
If your site does not currently use the template, we encourage you to begin doing so; if you don't feel confident to do this, you can ask for help. The template is available at "http://www.wou.edu/sample" and instructions are included. Having some HTML knowledge will help you a lot.
For help with this or any other web design question, or to get training in Dreamweaver or HTML, please contact Scott Carter in the Technology Resource Center at email@example.com or 88848.
What is this "HTML" of which you speak?
HTML stands for "Hyper-Text Markup Language". It is the way you tell a web browser what a page is supposed to look like. HTML is basically a set of special codes known as "tags" that tell the browser to do things like italicize some text, display a clickable link to another page, show a picture file, and so forth. Though HTML has a huge and complex variety of features, the basics are actually very easy to learn.
Where do I go to learn more?
Next week's FAQ will continue this topic; I'll explain how you can get a password protected folder, get a web alias to make your site easier to find, put an announcement on the WOU home page, and more! If you have specific questions you'd like to see addressed, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University Computing Services 503-838-8154 | or e-mail: email@example.com