Wisconsin Geospatial News

Web delivery to replace paper Bulletin

As a reader of our newsletter, you are in for change. This will be the final printed issue of the Wisconsin Mapping Bulletin. Starting with the Fall 2003 issue you will find a new digital version on our web site, and you can choose to have us alert you via e-mail as each issue becomes available.

The digital Bulletin will be different than the paper version. While you will be able to print a table of contents and individual articles, we will harness the combined power of the web and databases to let you choose information tailored to your interests. As we move down this new road, you will be able to search across prior issues.

Times change

The SCO has published this newsletter continuously since 1975 and provided it free. However, two forces — one pushing and the other pulling — have converged to make our jump to web publishing a priority: money and the power of the Internet.

Faced with a budget reduction that is the result of the states well-known fiscal crisis, we didnt want to cut into staff or other key resources. The Bulletin became a point of discussion because it has been consuming a significant part of our "supplies" budget. Prior to the fiscal crisis, we had already been considering the pros and cons of shifting the Bulletin to full web delivery. (PDF versions have been available from our web site for six years). Printing and mailing costs have risen annually and we have never been able to afford color printing which has limited us.

The web gives us access to full color, and database technology makes it easy for us to adjust how we present articles through your web browser. We wont be trying to replicate the printed version on your computer screen; there will be no new PDFs after this issue. By eliminating custom layout, printing, and mailing, we can also put news into your hands more quickly. To help make the Bulletin more timely, we are planning to go to a 2-month publication cycle in 2004.

Sign up for e-mail publication alert

To take the place of the paper Bulletin announcing itself in your mailbox, we are offering a new e-mail alert service. Once you are on our e-mail list, well send you a brief message each time a new issue of the Bulletin is published. Go to our web site to access the simple sign-up procedure for this service.

You may recall in recent years that we asked our readers to consider consolidating subscriptions, such as for an office group. When you agreed to circulate a single copy of the Bulletin, we saved on printing and mailing costs. Now, by moving to the web for our delivery system, we can shift gears and encourage anyone and everyone who is interested to sign up for the e-mail announcement.

Should you print and retain copies?

Some of you have amassed a library of past issues and may hope to continue that sort of personal reference system. That wont be easy in our new digital format. You will be able to print out individual articles, and each will be clearly tagged with the issue to which they belong. However, the full set of articles for a single issue will consume a lot of paper if you print them all for inclusion in a binder.

Instead, we suggest that you rely on one of several indexing approaches. If you prefer to let the database tools on our end do the work, you can simply use the flexible searching functions we build to find articles on a particular subject. Or just skim the table of contents for each of a few issues.

On the other hand, you may want to maintain your own index to selected articles. Since each article will have its own URL, you could build a set of bookmarks through your web browsers tools. Or you could make your own index within a word processing document, a spreadsheet, or even a database, using your own set of keywords or annotations.

A niche within our web site

We are looking forward to the benefits of integrating the Bulletin into our web site. This will be a full integration, allowing us to link from our articles to other materials. We will also be able to link one newsletter article to another, making it easy for you to trace back to earlier articles that are parts of a story extending over a span of time.

You will also notice that some standard content of the newsletter is no longer there and instead we rely on an existing part of the website. The Calendar of Events is the best example in this vein.

Stories reporting on certain activities will become news reports that are published separately as they becomes available instead of waiting for the next Bulletin. This kind of content will be only a link away when reading the Bulletin but technically it wont be part of the newsletter. A good example here is reports on meetings of the Wisconsin Land Information Board which over time will become a linked set of chronological stories independent of the Bulletin.

Other content that we plan to shift from the Bulletin into separately maintained sections include Questions & Answers, map design tips, and historical highlights which may become a continuous time line of events.

More concise to fit the medium

Since it is difficult to fit text into a web-browser window as compactly as on a printed page, we will try to make most of our articles shorter than our current style. Because it will be easy for us to link to other stories for information and context, we may not find it too hard to reach that goal. A bi-monthly publication frequency should also help to keep some stories to a shorter length.

Testing is underway

We have been laying the groundwork for digital publication for several months now. Get ready for the debut with the Fall 2003 issue. We will be interested to hear your reactions to our efforts.

This switch to web publication would have happened in the next year or two anyway. The current fiscal climate made it a good choice right now.