HASTAC at Duke University
HASTAC, based at Duke University, selected Message Agency to implement a redeisgn of its content-rich online community focused on new media and its impact on thinking and learning. With over 6,000 nodes, almost 5,000 comments, over 8,000 user accounts and 20,000 monthly visits, the site provides a primary hub for academics, new media entrepreneurs, and Internet enthusiasts to interact, exchange ideas, and form partnerships that extend into the world offline.
The engagement included redesigning and developing a site originally built in Drupal but not implemented in a flexible or extensible fashion. Updates, new features, and theming changes were difficult to rollout, limiting the site's potential to attract and engage new users and build on the community's tremendous energy. Message Agency's task was to deliver a visual and interaction design that created more connections across related content, allowed users to form groups to interact or join exisiting groups, and enabled them to discover content easily through a structured taxonomy and organic node relationships. We were also tasked with technical challenges such as transforming and migrating existing, denormalized data to the new site.
Our approach was to customize an instance of Drupal Commons, a distribution of Drupal released by Acquia, that allowed us to focus on interaction design rather than the fundamentals of group management for the redesign. Users can form and participate in groups, post content, promote blog posts, discover content by topic or through groups, gain user experience points and badges, and maintain contact with one another through the site's messaging system.