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Re: [webdesign-396] Working Blog Aggregater ready for comments.

From: Nate K.
Sent on: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 2:24 PM
Greetings Everyone!
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  
and expand?

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 freelance...?)

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  
cleveland area
- 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 Ruby.

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  
JavaScript. To others, this is a foreign language that is tough to  
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 have  
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 for  
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  
specific project.

Online venues: why just create links, why not integrate with these  
services where possible?

What if we posted all of our events to, 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 and 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 like  
to get some brainstorming going and get us really thinking about our  
goals and purposes......someth­ing to get the mind moving.

'The Mean Guy'
Nate Klaiber

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
> purposes.
> 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.clevelandwebsta­ 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
> Saturday.
> Here's the link, comments and ideas welcome:
> http://www.clevel...­]
> As always kind regards,
> Joseph James Frantz
> --
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