Tag, You're It!

When we created the Sun BluePrints Online web site almost a decade ago, web authoring was a very different enterprise. Cathleen, our multi-purpose program manager/webmaster edited "raw" HTML; I'll bet using vi. The set up was pretty straightforward: there was the main landing page, and a couple of ancillary pages, including a "Browse by Date" and a "Browse by Subject" page. The browse-by-date page was (and still is) relatively straightforward: we just kept adding new article entries to the top. The browse-by-subject page was more problematic, because we created an arbitrary list of subjects, created sections for each subject on one page, then pasted the entry for a new article in each relevant section. This meant, of course, that we were replicating a block of text multiple times, with all of the usual "referential integrity" problems that resulted if you wanted to change anything. Even worse, adding a new subject was an arduous (and error-prone) manual process, forcing us to "re-index" everything by hand.

 

Things got out of hand a couple of years ago when that HTML file exceeded the 1mb limit. Not only was it extremely slow to edit, because of its size, but editing was very error prone. I knew at the time that the state-of-the-art had advanced to largely automate these kinds of things, but our problem was that we were stuck back in the stone age of web authoring. I "solved" the problem by removing the browse-by-subject file altogether; I've consistently received about one email a month from readers asking me to put it back in.

 

With our new Wiki format, the solution is very easy. Every article (so far, I'm going back only to 2004) has its own landing page that not only allows comments, but tags. I've created a starting set of tags and gone through and updated each of these pages. Incidentally, anyone with edit privileges on those pages—which is granted to anyone who creates a login account—can add to and edit those tags. So, if you see something missing or wrong, you can fix it. Communities really are cool...

 

Now for the really cool part: given tags, creating a list is one line of Wiki markup: {contentbylabel:<tag>|key=BluePrints|maxResults=99}.


Now that we have this set up, I'm very interested in what the tags should be. I'm hoping we build enough of a community so that I will start getting recommendations. 

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