January 18, 2002 - Volume 1, Issue #6
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About Fat Guys Building Boats

This website is dedicated to the notion that no time is so valuable that it cannot stand to be wasted. Indeed, every portion of this web site is guaranteed to be a waste of both your time and mine. If at the end of your browsing, you sit back and say to yourself, "Damn. You know, I could have spent the last few minutes working on that cure for cancer I've been mulling over," then I've accomplished what I set out to do.

A big fat waste of time? I wouldn't have it any other way.

Comments? Post them on the Reader Rants page, and share them with the world.

Kevin Walsh

Editor in Chief, Fat Guys Building Boats

A Note on How This Website is Constructed

Anyone who has attempted to create a website with lots of content that is also reasonably easy to update has inevitably reached the point where you ask yourself if it isn't possible that there is a better way. Well, there is. If you don't have the in-house talent, you can:

  • Hire a hugely expensive consulting firm to implement an entirely custom data-driven content management system
  • Hire a hugely expensive consulting firm to implement an off-the-shelf data-driven content management system.
  • Get some in-house talent.
  • Fortunately, I am lucky enough to be my own in-house talent, and a member of a hugely expensive consulting firm to boot. So I wrote my own.

    Each page of this site starts with a template file that describes the top and side menus. For each unique page, the content is derived from XML data and XSL stylesheets. Originally, the pages were generated from XML data when the user selected the page for viewing, however, there are a lot of differences between browsers on XML support, not to mention varying degrees of conformance with HTML standards, and there were complaints that pages couldn't be read.

    I therefore decided that every page would be static HTML, compatible with a lowest-common-denominator browser capability. I still use XML/XSL to derive pages, which makes updating the site vastly simpler, but I generate static HTML on my personal computer and then post the resulting pages to this server. This has worked out rather well, although it's nowhere near as cool as dynamically generated pages.

    With respect to tools, for layout and publishing to Tripod, I use Microsoft Front Page, for XML/XSL and scripting and debugging work, I use Microsoft Visual Studio.NET Release Candidate 1 (2001 PDC bits). For graphics creation I use Microsoft PictureIt! For custom management tools, I use Microsoft C#, part of the new Visual Studio.NET languages.

    All in all, from idea to publishing the site took about five days, mostly consumed with conceptualization and deciding upon layout options. I spent lots of time looking at other sites to mine for ideas for look and feel, then playing with various layout and color scheme approaches. Once that was done, the actual nuts and bolts of building the site and the management tools were relatively small, since I knew what I wanted to do.

    Just goes to show you, planning is everything.

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