Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible.
— Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1970
Two of my least favorite words have always been “data entry.” To me, nothing
is more tedious than typing dull stuff into a database. So for years, I’ve done my
utmost to avoid databases of all shapes and sizes. The real irony, especially to
those who know me, is that I married a guy who creates databases for a living. So
after due consideration and years of influence from my significant other, I
grudgingly admitted that, “okay, databases are good for some things.” But I still don’t
want to be the one entering data because it’s
So for the last few days, what have I been cheerfully doing? Entering data!
Yes, I’ve been gleefully entering article data from the back issues of
Computor Companion into the database that is driving the new
Computor Companion web site
(www.computorcompanion.com). And I’m a database evangelist now.
Much to my disbelief, the database makes it so much easier to add
information to our web site, I can barely stand it. Here’s how it used to work. We lay out
this magazine in PageMaker. The main reason we use it instead of other desktop
publishing programs is because it has a decent HTML export function. (Just for
the record, some HTML exports are really
bad and produce garbage code.) After the issue went to press, I exported the articles and put them on the Logical
Expressions Web site. But I had to do a fair amount of “tweaking” and HTML coding
to get the articles to look right and integrate them into the rest of the site.
Now, with the new data-driven Computor Companion site, I still do
the PageMaker export, but one quick cut and paste later, an article is live on the
site. No tweaking or coding! Updating the site will take me maybe one quarter the
time it used to. In fact, the way it works is so cool, we’re putting up screen captures
of the “admin” side, so people can see how it all works behind the scenes.
The best part is how all this data can be viewed. Because the articles are
stored in a database, site visitors can get at them in many different ways: by author, by
issue, by department, by topic, and so on. Almost everything is a link, which
makes the information extremely accessible from many different angles. There’s also
keyword searching, local WebLines listings, a new e-zine, and helpful links for
those seeking additional assistance in computer-related matters.
Instead of just a list of issues, now all of the information on our site seems
three dimensional. It’s hard to describe, but great to experience. I hope you’ll
come check it out at www.computorcompanion.com. Please send me an e-mail and
tell us what you think about what we’ve done so far and what you’d like to see
to make the site even more useful to computer users in the Inland Northwest.