A lack of glitz -- Answering the questions why we don't have much "glitz"
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Apple Computer, Inc.
Many people have accused this site of being boring and lacking serious "glitz." More specifically, they've suggested we do not exploit the various multimedia capabilities and HTML extensions available. This brief explanation explains exactly why we do not exploit "all that stuff."
When constructing the original site I searched for a home, the home was a UNIX box. Because I publish on Macintosh and then the files are FTPed to the UNIX box in Australia, setting up the glitz would've been very difficult, not to mention I wasn't about to dedicate that much time to the effort.
The project blossomed slowly at first them very quickly as word of mouth expanded our viewing audience. I started getting massive amounts of feedback and suggestions, many of which were implemented many of which I cannot implement easily.
To get so many mirrors for the Info Alley we distribute updates and the archives via private FTP servers. I do the HTML then send email to all the admins alerting them to an update, they download the update, decompress it, and flip a bunch of files to update the archive. We've servers on both MacOS and UNIX, which makes a big difference when you start using CGI-BINs.
The obvious problem is I'm publishing on Macintosh and not all servers are Macintosh. Second, I do not have shell access to all but 1 server, so I cannot sit and edit files to make them work and debug them for each server. That's our two largest problems and biggest reasons we've not used extensive image maps, animations, a search engine, and server-push.
While I've certainly played w/ these capabilities on my Macintosh server on my personal system, it wouldn't be fair to ask the busy admins to take even more time to setup such facilities. Honestly, our mirrors are so varied in terms of where they are (school, business, personal), who they are (fire walled, help desk, etc), and how (macos - webstar or machttp, unix - apache/netscape/etc) that setting up these type of glitz would be horrendously difficult. I'm not expert w/ PERL so I can't write in just PERL and have the admins post them, not to mention there's so many very good canned CGIs, why would I want to repeat the effort?
Additionally, I prefer strongly not to implement something on only certain mirrors. For example, I could have easily setup search engines on the UNIX or Macintosh servers, but not both (there's not cross-platform solution). A search engine is, by far, the most requested feature and might still happen (Urmm, ok, so it did happen. I'm a sucker for nostalgia, but check out the search engines anyways. [8-19-96]). However, suggestions like animated GIFs, Shockwave, and the such will likely never occur. A search engine is so popular as a request (app. 8-15 requests per week) that we might change our minds and go w/ different engines for Macintosh and UNIX, might. (Big surprise, we ended up doing this [8-19-96]:)
Finally, there's the issue of value. What value do these items add to the site? While animated GIFs and Shockwave are very very cool, they, frankly, do not add extra value. It is not a question of any of us being "frankly incompetent pretenders" as one person suggested. Far from it, we know very well what we're doing, but our time is limited. Setting up these facilities needs to be balanced by if they add something to the site. In my estimation they do not. That's why we've never added frames (which I could do w/o adding work for the admins).
This doesn't meant that if we find a way to do it in the future we won't. I'm absolutely not adverse to improving the site, much the contrary. If I can find the proper code to do it on MacOS (MacHTTP and WebStar) and UNIX (Various), I will, provided the admins will have to do very minimal work (move a file).
So, if anyone wants to give consul to me on how we can accomplish some of this glitz on a highly distributed, decentralized, hybrid system such as the one we're using, by all means email me (email below). Course, you'd then become one of the great volunteers who've made this project an extremely successful reality!
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Copyright Scott D. Sauer.
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