Ensign - Time to Re-Evaluated the Process

FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Each day, a new Ensign is created, stories assembled and edited, new material prepared and then the page posted for you to see. At first (three and half years ago) I was pretty worried that I would have something for you each and every day but as time has gone on, I have discovered that the stories come along and sometimes they are good and other times they just fill up space.


But up front and foremost we have to consider if the project is meeting the intended goals. When Ensign was begun in May of 1998 the main need was to have content, pictures and stories about this part of the world that we could see and others could check on, in a way I suppose to validate our existence here on the Web. I felt that people need to know about this part of Saskatchewan and what life is like here and I think that Ensign is holding its own in that regard and as I look back on the archives I think we are there for people to see and read.

The second goal of Ensign was to make the content visual, interesting and innovative. It was in December of last year that we began placing a picture at the bottom of every day's publication and then archiving those images so that they can be retreived. Last night I went over this past year in daily pictures and discovered that the bottom of the page picture of the day does the job of documenting this part of the world in fullfilling objective number one. The extreme variety of the pictures from the mundane to the exotic seems appropriate and this is one feature that needs to be continued.

One of the innovations this past summer was to used several pictures within a single frame, sometimes using flash and other times just using QuickTime. The flash images seem to work well but are a bigger download but the short coming of QuickTime is that so many PC users do not have this great plug-in in their computer and are relying upon the garbage that passes for technology (aka - Microsoft) and do not see these presentations.

Another feature that has become fairly frequently used since summer has come about from two very different sources. While at a wedding in Prince Albert a software developer from Edmonton commented that he was surprised at the little use of sound in web content. That really got me thinking and when I did a few examples and discovered that many people made good use of these sound presentations I decided that it was well worth the effort. We will continue to produce a few of these in a regular basis.

The use of video has been even more a problem simply because of the massive volume of material that has to be moved to created a movie with sound. However, we need to keep working on this technique and continue to extend the envelope as this offers more information that simple text and pictures on a screen.


What I have been talking about here are the innovations, the new things we have been doing on Ensign. Right from the very beginning we used QuickTime VR presentations and have continued to do so with almost one a week. This past week we broke new ground by using this technology to present a map and I am proud of this accomplishment even though the resulting map was almost two megabytes.


The most difficult hurdle in creating Ensign as a viable and valuable publication is balance. Pictures alone are great and tell their own stories but we need to challenge both those of us who work on the project and you the reader. With out the constraints of advertising we have been able to tackle controversy and deal with important issues. Mario deSantis has plugged away day after day creating thought provoking and informative articles that are serious and sometimes very troubling. These heavy topics are balancing off the light and simple picture stories but sometimes we just don't get it right and leave you with more doom and gloom then you need.

Gerald Crawford's weekly Greenwater report is a great breath of fresh air every week and when he includes pictures it is twice the impact.

To add to the mix I have toyed with the idea of including the odd piece of fiction every so often and with this I have some problems. The stuff I do that goes the way of fiction tends to be troubling, I can tell a story but in fiction I tend to spray moods around as with the piece a few days ago called "Night Hiker." I would like to hear from you about this kind of content this would help a lot.

It was three years ago today that we began including a weather observation at the start of each day and a year ago today we began including the bottom of the page picture of the day. Little by little Ensign grows and changes just as when you look back at our early days and see the primative art work things continue to move forward and the iamges continue to be the primary messaging system on this site.


But the most important component to a project like this are the people who every day or so take time to look over the stories and pictures. We value every bit of feedback like gold and appreciate hearing from you so keep in touch.