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Behind the scenes of the technical side of GKM, we are always working on a variety of projects to further the ministry, and wanted to give an update on some of the latest happenings to keep you all in the loop. On the technical side of GKM, we are always working toward improvements of what already exists, refining the user experience, and providing more ways to discover the content available on GKM. This is a constant, ongoing process, and doesn't include all of the new content and features that we still want to add to GKM, but we are making good headway on a few of these projects, and so that's what we'll go over today.
We want to be transparent with all of you about what we're working toward, and how we're getting there, so I'll include some technical details in this post as part of that. This is not meant to confuse anyone that isn't "tech savvy" - but we also don't want to shy away from it simply due to fear of being confusing. I'll do my best to simplify terminology while still being concise. And with that, let's get started!
When we first rebuilt the GKM website back in 2012, we were moving away from a system that was falling apart as we were transferring data away from it. We chose to build on a platform called Concrete5, and decided to do so for a few reasons. It was quick to set up, it was secure, and it was easy to use for front-end editing. This was great for the time crunch we were on, and it was a massive upgrade from the previous system.
Eventually, Concrete5 had a massive overhaul that forced us to rebuild in a new version - manually transferring content 1 page at a time. In tandem with this, we decided to overhaul the website design since we had to migrate the content anyway. This has worked for the past couple years, and ultimately Concrete5 has served us well over the last decade for GKM, but quite frankly, we eventually hit the point where we outgrew the system, and it instead started getting in our way. The things that the system simplified ended up becoming roadblocks as we delved deeper into heavy customization for GKM.
That being said, we are once again rebuilding the foundation of GKM on a new platform known as ProcessWire - one that is aimed toward making our job as developers easier, without getting in the way. Due to our experience with rebuilding GKM in the past, we have been able to write content importers this time to mass-migrate the content on GKM to the new platform, meaning we don't need to transfer content 1 page at a time, which has reduced the development time tremendously.
This new platform will allow us to better organize the content on GKM, and make it much easier to add new content in the future, as well as features that we have been wanting to implement for a long time. Along with that, it's more secure, and faster than the previous platform, which is very important to us for our reader base. This leads us into the rest of this post
Searching For Content
One of the most common user reports that we get is regarding the searchability of the content on GKM. There are over 10,000 pages on this website by now, from Blog Posts, to Books, Translated Books, Tracts, FFI Newsletters, the list goes on, and it's only going to keep growing. The built-in search for Concrete5 has gotten the job done occasionally thus far, and DuckDuckGo as a fallback has helped to pick up some of the slack, but when you have a site of this magnitude, search needs to be solid.
We have vetted out several options for search on the next version of GKM, and in our search we wanted to make sure that the system could hold the sheer amount of content, allow us to thoroughly categorize and refine the data, and produce fast search results for users. We have settled on a system called Algolia, which not only has the quality behind it, but also boasts incredibly fast search speeds (as fast as 0.1 seconds for results in certain cases).
When implementing a new search system, it needs to "learn" the content to an extent. The system will continue to be refined by parameters that we tweak, but also by frequency of searches by our reader base. This is a good thing, but it does mean that particularly in the beginning there may be a period of time where it isn't producing the most relevant results. We're still in the development and testing phase for Algolia, so we'll keep you up to date as we show the new search system around, and introduce it to the GKM website - I have no doubt they'll become good friends soon enough!
We implemented a system years ago called Elastic Email to handle email notifications of new blog posts. Since then, I couldn't tell you the number of support tickets we have received of people randomly getting removed from the system, or spontaneously not receiving emails anymore. There never appeared to be any pattern, or any permanent solution. To this end, we've started looking at a couple of new options for email that look promising, but we're still vetting out which one will work best.
In the meantime, we'll continue to bandage the one that we currently have. As a blanket statement, if any of you find that you are no longer receiving emails from GKM, rest assured we have not removed you from the list, it's most likely a glitch. Start by trying to sign up for notifications again, as this may solve the issue, otherwise you can always send us a ticket at https://gkmsupport.freshdesk.com and we'll help out however we can.
The Bible School
As many of you know, the Burning Bush International Bible Institute has been a project that has seen many versions over the years, all of which have not remained. As of last year, we began working on a new direction for the school based on internal discussions of the project as a whole, and since then God has put it on pause again. As with everything with the ministry, we ask for His leading in all we do - from software to implement, to features to build, and the school is no exception. We have some content built for the new version of the school already, and we are happy with the direction it's going, but it's clear that God has timing in this as with all things, and He has told us to focus on other aspects of GKM for the time being.
We are a small team that works on GKM, so while we have so much planned in terms of the vision for GKM, unfortunately we can only build so much at a time. We are excited for the direction that God is taking the school, and we'll keep you updated when new developments emerge!
There are countless things that we continue to work on in GKM - from the technical side of maintaining a strong foundation for the website, and simplifying our job as developers, to continuing to refine the existing content on the website. Here are a few quick examples of projects we have in the pipeline:
We plan on eventually adding "Topics" to GKM. This will involve going through every book, every book chapter, tract, and other relevant teaching pages, and applying topics to them, allowing you as the reader to click on a single topic and find all content on the site related to that topic. This is an incredibly arduous task, and will be part of an ongoing process, but will be invaluable to all users especially new users as it grows and matures. This, combined with utilizing new search features, and eventually incorporating related content, will assist those who wish to truly dive deep into study on GKM in a very powerful way.
Up until now, User Accounts have not been available on GKM. There have been no need for them since we don't have any features for them. We plan to eventually incorporate user accounts, along with a variety of tools available for those accounts, such as saving pages to a personal categorized list, highlighting sections of content for future reference, study notes, etc. This is on the back burner since there are other priorities, and there are existing solutions that you can use in the meantime, such as extensions for a browser.
With this new version of the website, we're revisiting the site design once again. Every time we update the design of the GKM Website, we have multiple goals in mind:
The modern day methods of site design are always changing and being updated, so redesigns will continue to happen when the need arises. Rest assured, whenever we redesign any portion of the site (whether visual redesign, or the structure of the content), we make an effort to always maintain backwards compatibility through the use of URL redirects, which means any bookmarks that you currently have to existing pages should always be maintained. That being said, given the scale of the website, there are times where certain links are missed, so please let us know on the Support Desk if you ever find a broken link.
There are many more projects and features that we have on the drawing board for GKM, but we don't want to announce any details yet until we've had a chance to at least start prototyping them. These range from continued site upgrades / features, to external ministry projects, and whatever else God leads us toward.
In all that we do on GKM, our goal is to make the content accessible, searchable, and readily available to the reader base. It's our passion, and a constant ongoing process that continues to get refined. Thank you all so much for your continued support over the years! We will keep you updated to any significant changes on the site as we continue to build.
and the rest of the GKM Admin Team