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July 31, 2003

Changing Weblogging Tools Can Be a Royal Pain

One of the banes of a weblogger's existence is the lock-in you feel to the weblogging tool that you currently use. This is a serious issue for CTDATA. We have over 1,500 pages of content spread over three weblogs currently.

While we can quickly move the text of articles from two of our Slash-based weblogs to Movable Type, the URLs of the article pages would all be different when the site is regenerated. This would have the effect of breaking all of the external links to our weblogs, as well as most of the internal links on each site.

The reason we are talking about this openly is that this sort of problem can be avoided or at least minimized with careful up-front planning. When you start your weblog, make sure you think about the future value of your content, and what you will do to preserve that value if you ever have to change weblog tools or migrate from one server to another.

Mar Orlygsson has published two really useful articles that talk about this issue from the perspective of the Movable Type web publishing platform. His first, Movable Type's Non-permanent Permalinks, talks about the problems with the URLs that Movable Type chooses for individual archive entries by default.

He followed up that article a couple of weeks later with Howto: Future-proof URLs in Movable Type. This article discusses the idea of using the posting date as the key portion of the URLs for archived entries.

July 25, 2003

Article Says Movable Type Templates Can Substitute for Static Pages on a Web Site

One of the more interesting articles we stumbled across this week was published on a.wholelotofnothing.org, explaining how to use Movable Type templates as static pages on an MT-driven web site. According to the article:

The secret is simple: create new templates that hold your static content. Although templates were designed to feature output by the MT weblog content engine, there's no requirement for that, and this is a easy tweak of the system.

The article goes on to demonstrate how to build an "About" page for a web site in this fashion.

While it's a slight bit tedious to setup each static page in this way, you will gain the convenience of being able to update any page on your site directly within MT. You can continue creating as many pages as you need, such as a page for your resume, a page linking to your photo galleries, a contact page, a search page, and/or a links page.

This is a powerful idea and a slightly different approach than we have used here on CTDATA.com (which is, at the moment, not powered by Movable Type). We have made every content page on this site an article in our content management system. This means that all of the pages use the same page template. We will consider adopting the approach proposed in this article, when we migrate this site to Movable Type.

July 23, 2003

Why Most Successful Weblogs are Tightly Focused

Dave Aiello wrote, "Everyday I find more evidence that a single weblog cannot serve multiple purposes well. The latest indication of this is the huge traffic spikes that CTDATA.com has experienced around its stories that mention Lance Armstrong during the running of this year's Tour de France."

"At the time I started talking about Lance Armstrong on this web site, I had no idea how relentlessly people would seek information about him. I began to realize the strength of this phenomenon at the beginning of this year's pro cycling season, but, I kept posting information that I found interesting. This past week, the article Lance and Kristin Armstrong Working at Marriage Reconcilliation passed my resume and became the most requested article in the history of our website."

"The popularity of our Lance Armstrong articles actually has no bearing on the accessibility of other articles on this web site. It's still easy to find my resume via Google. The problem is that potential customers who access a site like CTDATA via a search engine might be confused as to the nature of this site."

"Is CTDATA.com a personal weblog? Is it a site about cycling, or the War on Terror, or politics? Not really. CTDATA.com is actually a corporate site, and CTDATA builds database-driven web sites and weblogs."

"This is the reason that I announced that CTDATA.com would be refocused on business topics and later said that I would start a new weblog called DaveAiello.com. I intend to put the postings of personal interest on my personal site, and reserve CTDATA.com for business purposes."

"There is little point in deleting the articles that already exist on CTDATA.com. One of the most valuable parts of running a weblog, after all, is its archived content. But, we can always refocus and fine tune the content mix of the site as our business focus changes. This is critically important in order to maintain the relevance of this site to its audience, and something I would strongly recommend to anyone who is running a weblog for business purposes."

July 9, 2003

Marketing Web Site Gives Five Reasons Why Businesses Should Run Weblogs

Dave Winer of Scripting News pointed out an article on MarketingProfs.com by Debbie Weill called 5 Key Questions (You’ve Been Dying) To Ask About Business Blogs. This is a good introductory article for businesses who are looking for justification to add a weblog component to a corporate site. Weill says:

... just maybe, blogs are the next killer app of online marketing. Technology evangelists like Chris Pirillo are saying that “email marketing is dead.” Killed by spam and clogged inboxes.

Will business blogs replace e-newsletters as the most powerful, cost-effective tool for communicating with customers? Should every company be adding a blog to its site—or replacing a static site with an ever changing Weblog?

She then goes on to ask and answer five good questions that any business person who does not yet understand weblogs would ask.

NY Times Says Some Businesses are Succeeding at Using Weblogs for Internal Communication

Art Iger of J.P. Morgan Chase pointed out a New York Times article that appeared in the Monday edition called Blogs in the Workplace. This article, written by William O'Shea talks about successes that certain companies have made using weblog technology as internal corporate communications vehicles. The article cites companies like Community Connect, Google, and Verizon as successful users of the technology.

The article talks about how companies that successfully implement internal weblogs use them to improve the flow of communication among employees. Here is an example:

At Community Connect, Mr. Tang's engineers use a service called LiveJournal to post updates about tasks like fixing server computers or configuring software. Hitting the upload button sends the text to a private site, viewable by the authors and their managers, including the date and time of the postings and, often, links to relevant Web pages.

O'Shea goes on to talk about tools such as LiveJournal, Userland Manila, and TeamPage that are a few of the possible choices for software with which to manage blogs.

July 2, 2003

Another Weblog Under Development at CTDATA

Dave Aiello wrote, "In March, I announced that we would narrow the focus of CTDATA.com in order to make it more helpful to current and future customers. Since then, I have intentionally held off on publishing stories that are of interest to me personally, but do not have much to do with CTDATA's business. I'd like to announce that I am planning to launch a new website, tentatively called DaveAiello.com, which will be the home of such stories in the future."

"The development of a personal weblog will allow me to experiment with blogging tools and techniques that have become popular recently, but aren't a good fit for CTDATA.com at the moment. I hope that such a site will ultimately help me to improve all of the sites that CTDATA manages or helps to manage."

"I don't know exactly when the new site will be launched, but, I'm confident it will happen sometime this Summer. So, stay tuned to CTDATA.com for further announcements."