Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Can Microsoft Expression help webmasters duplicate the features of blogs on "flat sites"? It's "what", not "how".


I’ve mentioned before that I’m thinking about restructuring a lot of my web materials after getting Microsoft Expression, placing a lot of book and movie reviews (now in blogs) in some new web structure. One concern that I had was how manage the issue of user comments (with captcha and spam screening) and perhaps user forums. Another was whether there is something like cross labeling commonly used in Wordpress and Bloggers.

You won’t find this topic discussed in books on Expression Web. Sso far, the only book I found at Barnes and Noble was Jim Chesire’s Microsoft Expression Web 3.0 in Depth from Que (2010). I see a “for Dummies” book at Amazon. I also see a SAMS book and a “Step by Step” book from Microsoft Press. They’re all a bit pricey.

There’s a great posting on this topic on the Microsoft Expression forums by “Scott” (Paladyn?) at this link. The writer (look toward the bottom of the link) points out a problem in the conceptual thinking behind the question. In systems analysis, we sometimes have to ask “what” before “how” as to satisfying requirements. Yes, we have to make this clear with users and behave like sales persons sometimes. Comments and forums are expensive in terms of resources required, so they should be deployed in appropriate circumstances, not everywhere if you want inexpensive, very fast loading pages just with information.

Comments belong on blog entries or news items. Generally, publishing services (Blogger and Wordpress) and ISP’s offer full-service ability to manage comments with their own server site programming (it’s not something easily done with HTML and JavaScript, etc). The “what” of the problem is that comments are appropriate on dated items, noting an event. Yes, the release of a movie is an event. But items in a static library (of movie and book reviews) generally don’t deserve comment facilities; instead they deserve email comment forms, with the intention that the webmaster will post the comments himself if appropriate.

Of course, that means that to some extent you may be tied into your ISP and its resources, so you want to make sure it is stable and offers good technical support.

As for the wonderful categories feature of Wordpress (and labels in Bloggers) could be approximated with inverted lists of hyperlinks, set up as conventional tables in HTML, with an effect similar to what you see in Java docs. Or you could put the inverted list into an asp.net set up and essentially concatenate everything, but you have to know in advance what you want to concatenate.

Of course, Wordpress can be used to simulate a "static" site with a blog, because the categories facility is so powerful in the way it concatenates. (Wordpress is "just" using MySQL behind the scenes to do all the concatenations, which otherwise you would have to code yourself (all those subqueries) in java or php). Here's a good reference on Wordpress hosting (link). It seems more flexible than Blogger, which seems to require you use the Templates a certain way to get all the features.

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