Subject: Re: [webdesign-396] Working Blog Aggregater ready for comments.
Let me, for a minute, play the role of the devils advocate - or, just
the mean guy in the room - whichever you choose.
"We now have a basic plan for the initial website. Rather than waiting
until everything is perfect (CMS, Forum, Mysql Backend etc), we are
just going to push ahead with something simple."
What is our rush?
Why would we put something out now, that we would ultimately want to
change in the long run? Why double our efforts? Why not build what we
need from the ground
up, giving ourselves a solid foundation to build
We are a group of web professionals. We all come from a broad array of
different backgrounds. All of us are here to teach, learn, and engage.
Why not take this time to build something solid that we can all be
proud of, and that is a cohesive whole - something that truly defines
us. Yes, there are many technology options and open source packages
out there, but we are web professionals - why couldn't we build what
we need? If anything it can be a learning process to those who want to
know how to build a forum, or understand how one should function. Even
for those seeking out Open Source options, they would be better
educated when picking out their options, as they know what to look for
in a good forum (or other functional
piece of the website).
We have programmers, designers, interface designers, illustrators,
copywriters...and the list goes on. Why can't we collaborate as a
group and build something that defines us? I know not everyone has the
time to devote to something like this, but personally I feel blessed
to be a part of a group like this and would love to help in whatever
way I could.
What are our goals?
I don't think we ever established real goals with our own association
website. What is the purpose of our website going to be? Is our goal
to be a forum? Is our goal to be a chat room? Is our goal to be a
social networking site? Interconnected pieces of each?
We could have short term goals like:
- To promote web standards
- To learn
- To educate
- To engage
- To employ (some are looking to go
Maybe even some long term goals like:
- We become the central hub for cleveland and host events that would
help educate the community
- We become the strong voice of web standards/development in the
- World domination
Who is our audience?
Is this site simply a sounding board for our current members, or is it
also an invitation for others to get involved? Are we an elitist club,
or an open community of web professionals?
What is our message?
When someone comes to our site - what is our message going to be to
them? Is our site one that will answer the 'Who, what, when, where,
and why' to a visitor who has never heard of the Cleveland Web
Standards Association? What about our 'calls to action'? Join? Learn?
What are our needs?
Do we really need a full
blown CMS? Why? Couldn't we create something
that fits our needs specifically. Do we need WYSIWYG editors as
professionals in the field? Do we need smileys and emoticons all over
the place? Do we need to shoehorn our specific content into a CMS? I
am not against CMS's, I just think we could get away without some of
the bloat that most of them bring. Again, we are web professionals. We
know what we need and how to achieve it. This isn't about re-inventing
the wheel - it is about building to our needs, not forcing our needs
into someone else's application.
What are the building blocks?
When it comes down to it - it is about using the right tools for the
job, not just using technology for technologies sake - so lets thing
about the tools, and why we are using them.
We have the data heads and
MySQL seems to be the choice for a data
backend. An excellent choice, at that. Joseph, as a data head -
wouldn't you like to sit down, plan out an overall schema for our
website, and watch as it gets deployed to a front-end interface? No
offense, but any monkey could install a CMS or a Forum, why can't we
build one to suite our needs and goals? Why not let this be a learning
experience for those who are up-and-coming data heads who want to
learn from the ways of a professional?
PHP seems to be the language of choice, but are we opposed to other
options? I know there are some interested in Ruby and the Ruby on
Rails framework, is this an option? I would be satisfied with either,
PHP seems to be more widely used - so the majority of us would
probably encounter more PHP than
We have those who are extremely fluent in semantic HTML as well as CSS
- why not give them an opportunity to build, and to teach those who
are just starting their journey with HTML/CSS. Many people have
expressed they learn with hands-on experience. Implementing things
that are beneficial to use as developers, like Microformats, that are
topics of discussion in our group.
We have others still who love to make things happen with unobtrusive
grasp - why not build this together?
What comprises our content?
I think the forum is necessary as it gives us a place to continue our
discussion - but lets think about the interconnected pieces here. If
we didn't use Vanilla forum, and created our own - then we would
full control over our schema and the data behind it. There won't be
data islands, but one cohesive whole. We could have a content section
that re-caps presentations from our previous meetups. I, for one, and
thankful for David Mead posting the Microformats video for me to view
since I was unable to attend. So, we have an archive of our
discussions and the content discussed. From there, we could have a
link like 'discuss this in its own forum' type of thing, which then
creates the topic automatically and that data is connected to our
individual presentations. It eliminates the clutter of comments on the
main page - and allows us to dissect what we all just learned.
Do we need a blog aggregator as a main piece of content? There are
many aggregation services out there. There are
aggregators. CSS galleries for CSS galleries. Do we really need to
duplicate this with a main piece of content - or can it be integrated
in a much better fashion than the basic SimplePie (Again - giving us
control of our data and its connections, not creating data islands).
My main question is - does it need to be a main piece of content?
Would it really be used? I know the majority of us have feedreaders
anyway, would this be beneficial to our goals, purposes, and audiences
of our site? It may be - just a question I am posing.....
Member sites links: This could get unwieldy if we get larger - why not
let this stuff be managed with a user profile? Maybe every now and
then we have a 'featured profile' that gives someone a little more
exposure and talks about how they
are making the web standards
community stronger in cleveland - or highlighting their activity on a
Online venues: why just create links, why not integrate with these
services where possible?
What if we posted all of our events to upcoming.org, then pulled in
our events via their API to our website and stored them locally? Then,
when people post pictures to Flickr and tag them with an upcoming
machine tag, we can automatically pull in all of those photos as well.
So - for one meetup presentation we could have a central hub to view
the contents, actions to get involved in the discussion, and
multimedia such as videos and pictures for those who were unable to
attend. All of this to be organized by date (archive), tags, and
categories. For member sections, they
could approve their flickr
username and have their photos automatically pulled into their profile
according to machine tags that we could create. This eliminates the
task of having to get all of the photos together and only keeping them
on our website, and allows us to continue to use the tools we already
use. Our system simply knows what to look for and pulls things in
accordingly. This also has the added benefit of hitting a wider
audience at both upcoming.org and flickr.com. We would avoid
duplicating the content and efforts and let our website be a hub to
display just the things we need to display. These are just some of my
hair-brained ideas...but I want us to think about these options, so I
will stop there......
OK -so this is long enough. I have more to discuss, but I would
to get some brainstorming going and get us really thinking about our
goals and purposes......something to get the mind moving.
'The Mean Guy'
Quoting Joseph James Frantz <[address removed]>:
> Thanks again to Brendan for his helpful suggestions (to use simplepie)
> I've finally got a sample of an aggregater up for consideration. Right
> now I've used the blogs for both Brads, Brendan and Eric Wiley simply
> for testing purposes, hope their all cool with that. If not, I'll
> pull them when yall let me know.
> For the Brads, and Eric's blogs, we get just a snippet preview. For
> Brendan's we get the entire blog. This is something that I am
> guessing is set up in each blog, because simplepie is set with the
> default settings. In addition I used just their sample code,
including inline (ugh) CSS. Again though this is just for testing
> I've noticed a lot, that these aggregaters have names like
> planet.whatever. We could go with that kind of name, though since we
> are Cleveland area centric, I was thinking maybe
> city.clevelandwebstandards.org. Just one of my ideas, ultimately how
> we do this will be up to yall. Brendan pointed out we might want to
> not use subdomains for ranking purposes. So we'll all discuss that on
> Here's the link, comments and ideas welcome:
> As always kind regards,
> Joseph James Frantz
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