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Jan 3, 2008

Blue Sky Workshop Updated

If you get a chance, take a look at the new Blue Sky Workshop main site. I got frustrated with the Wiki I was using, so I redesigned the site using HTML, CSS, and a little Javascript. (I'll write more about that as I get the design where I want it.) But I think it looks MUCH better.

Tools like wikis and blog software are all basically content managment systems. They are tools designed to make it easier for you to write and publish content and not worry much about managing the content. If you have ever written a pure HTML site, you know what kind of pain in the rear end it is to manage things likes headers and footers, links, and change generally.

So why did I switch. There are several things that frustrate me about the wiki I was using, the old self written CMS I used before, and some of the previous blogging tools I used like Wordpress.

  • Once, you get beyond the trivial, it becomes very difficult to customize the system. For example, you have to install a plugin to display code or an RSS feed. This leads to my second point.
  • Often, you have to know way more about the backend of content management tool than you want to. When the next software update comes out for your tool, will that plugin get updated also? Will it work with the new version? Will I have to hack the PHP, Perl, Ruby, etc.. on the backend to make it work? This is not how I want to spend my time.
  • Components are not independently pluggable. So if I want to plug in a 3rd party forum/discussion tool I can't. I have to use the commenting tool that is built into the system or install a plug in. All the tools are specific to that tools world and will not play with software from the outside.
  • Content is not stored in a standardized fashion. Instead of storing the content in HTML, or better yet XHTML, the content is in some tool specific format. Thus making reuse difficult. Or the use of other tools to create the content with impossible

In the end I find myself coming back to, "why don't I just do this in XHTML?" But then there are all those headers, footer, and links to deal with. Yuck!

Well over the break, I came up with some simple Javascript techniques to templatize each of my web pages. So that problem is solved. Now I'm working on how can I break content into discrete units that are stand alone, but yet can relate to each other. And some tools to automate the creation of the Javascript code for templates, linking individual pages together, and meta data to describe what is contained in a content chunk.

We'll see where it goes.

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