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Loosely Coupled weblog

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Weblog changes

Among my new year resolutions is to change to a new weblog publishing engine — and, indeed, to roll out a new look-and-feel to the entire Loosely Coupled website, based on structured XHTML code. This will remain a work-in-progress this month; and so you may notice one or two minor glitches on the site during the transition.

The most significant change today is barely visible on the page: a new permalink format for this weblog posting, the first of the new year. But it heralds a move to a single-posting-to-a-page archiving format, which will be a big help both for navigation and for searching by content. This small change also forces the pace to the extent that it sets a deadline for completing testing and roll-out of the basic functionality of the new publishing engine, in particular the weekly and monthly archiving, which will need to be operational by next week.

The move away from Blogger, which I've used to maintain this blog up until now, is due to several long-running frustrations. However the final determining factor was the elimination of the paid 'Blogger Pro' service, since as a commercial site, it really only makes sense to use paid services (which thus have a contractual obligation to maintain their stated service levels) rather than free ones.

Instead of adopting an alternative third-party service, my decision has been to introduce a home-grown publishing platform, which will allow us to store all our content in native XML and to publish it by transforming it into structured XHTML. I would much rather be using someone's off-the-shelf service to be doing this, but there's nothing available, and thus I find myself cast into the role of reluctant pioneer, testing the capabilities of PHP's XSLT processor, among other things.

One of the interesting discoveries in this journey has been to find so little guidance on the use of structured markup to manage and manipulate content. Jon Udell has written (and spoken) a lot about the potential of XML-powered searches of structured content. But there's just no best practice out there. Instead, web designers are still using <strong> tags to highlight leading paragraphs instead of doing simple things like tagging them class="lead", or using <cite> as a substitute for the <i> tag without doing sensible little things like adding class="book", class="article", class="post", so that they can then be searched and filtered, and even presented differently, as well as merely highlighted.

I should finish up now before this becomes too much of a private rant. Suffice it to say that I'm very excited about the potential to deliver some really strong 'content-as-a-service' on this site by implementing some simple PHP code running on a bulk-standard hosted server setup. To find out why I'm so excited, I guess you'll have to wait until I can demonstrate some of the results.

posted by Phil Wainewright 9:09 AM (GMT) | comments | link

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