Bobby Sample is the man behind the internet curtain

By Sherlyn Waller

Once you take your seat, your eyes glance around the stage. The set is amazing.

Do you ever wonder who builds the set for the play? A theater set expresses good principles of design, use of space and appeal to the audience. And, this is exactly what a good website requires. Ever wonder who builds the “set” for the website?

It is Bobby Sample. He is a web programmer with College Application Services at GCC. His office is located in the High Tech II building on campus.

Sample works behind the scenes on the GCC website. In fact, he designed the WebScribe program used to build and organize the GCC website. WebScribe started in 2000. It is a homegrown content management system. “It consists of cold fusion scripts that pull website information from a database. Cold fusion is the language that it is written in,” says Sample. “A more general way to describe it is that is organizes a great many of our websites into a database where the server programs can pull the information and assemble the pages, the website, and the menus that people use to navigate those sites.”

WebScribe is one option for keeping a consistent look and feel to the GCC website as well as saving employees a great deal of time in organizing and formatting websites themselves. The program does not require one to have web design skills.

“What makes it different from most is because it was a customized program we were able to respond to specific needs and requests of GCC,” comments Sample. “A process that our department likes to call ‘feature creep’ because when you design something one way but new requests that didn’t exist in the original plan make you add things.” The learning curve is still smaller than learning how to create websites from scratch.

WebScribe provided a good 10 years for GCC. The next step is a new program called Drupal. WebScribe will continue throughout the transition until Drupal is implemented around fall 2012.

“Drupal has similar functions to WebScribe in that it is also a content management system,” says Sample. “But it is an open source software option that is very popular amongst institutions like our own.”

Drupal is highly regarded and popular because it is open source. That means developers all over the world are freely adding modules to it. This is the major advantage over a homegrown program because an entire community is working to update the product. Drupal has a broader list of features and brings many bells and whistles like online forums, discussion forums and photo galleries. It will also provide immediate feedback opportunities.

Sample says, “This is another learning curve but I think more user friendly than WebScribe and the challenge is setting it up.”

Set designers work to design the “look” for a play. Sample works to design the “look” for GCC’s website. In his spare time, Sample does a lot of set design for theater and has won a few awards.

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