Case Study

Science Service: Science News for Kids

Customer

Science News (http://www.sciencenews.org) is an award-winning weekly news magazine covering the most important research in all fields of science. Published since 1922, the magazine now reaches about 160,000 subscribers and more than 1 million readers. Science Service, the non-profit that publishes the magazine, decided to create a companion Web site. Having been disappointed by their original contractor, Science Service asked TCG to continue the development of their content management system. This work was completed in 2001. Science News Online now attracts more than 18,000 visitors per day, including many students and teachers. In late 2002, the idea of Science News for Kids was born: a new Web site devoted to science news for children of ages 9 to 13. The goal was to offer timely items of interest to kids, accompanied by suggestions for hands-on activities, books, articles, Web resources, and other useful materials. The new Science News for Kids Web site would enhance the usefulness of Science News in the middle-school classroom and offer recreational reading and activities for students interested in science.

The Web site offers kids opportunities to comment on the subject matter, ask questions of scientists featured in articles, try out mathematical puzzles, and submit their own work for possible Web publication. The site also helps teachers find creative ways of using science news in their classrooms. Sections of the Science News for Kids Web site are devoted to particular interests, such as problem solving, science fiction composition, science fair profiles, games, teacher’s interests, and hands-on activities.

Challenge

Migrate a Windows-based custom-built content management system to a Linux/open source platform and adapt the old publishing system for new uses and functions, while ensuring the site launched on time and to budget. Reduce the licensing overhead and systems administration burden, and improve system performance, stability, and security.

Solution

The entire system was based on Windows technologies. We needed to move away from Windows, so we explored migration opportunities.
There were two:

  • Rewrite the whole system, using the requirements developed in 2001, for a non-Windows platform.
  • Migrate through an intermediary technology to a more open platform.

We took the second option and migrated the system’s Active Server Pages (ASP) to the Sun ONE ASP engine. This enabled us to break the system’s dependency on the Windows platform and pave the way for migration to newer technologies as the need arises. At the same time, the database was migrated from a Microsoft platform to an open source database.

Results

The use of Sun ONE ASP, Linux, and MySQL has realized significant overhead cost savings for Science Service. The site is now positioned to continue development on an open platform, affording Science Service more flexibility in terms of technologies and budget. The site is incredibly solid, realizing 100% uptime since its launch. “What we ended up with in the SNK publishing system,” says Ivars Peterson, Editor of Science News Online and Science News for Kids, “is far more sophisticated and complicated than the original SN system.” The original Science News Online site can now be migrated to the new platform, consolidating the code base and realizing further functional improvements and cost savings.