Let’s get dynamic – Guam Web sites take it to the next level by use of dynamic content generation technologies

by Jason SalasTuesday, June 05, 2001

More and more, Guam's leading Web developers have begun to implement server-side scripting technology into their site design


This is the first in a two-part series examining the use of dynamic Web technologies on the island

It’s the very nature of technology to be progressive. It’s likewise a step forward for new tech to at some point become self-sufficient. The movie “The Matrix” predicted the end of a human-driven society as a point in time when computers became self-aware, and subsequently took over.

Throughout history, society has been on a quest for advancement. The wheel automated the means by which people moved around and did things. The vacuum tube eventually became the transistor, which eventually became the integrated circuit, which eventually became the microprocessor. Advances in robotics automated the assembly line process, and revolutionized automotive manufacturing. The same principle applies to modern, advanced Web design. (And, it’s the natural tendency of computer programmers to be lazy and not want to do any actual labor, outside of writing great code.)

More and more over the years, local site managers have scaled back from doing mere volume of sites, and have concentrated on the growth and features of a few sites, or a single site. Gone are the days when Webmasters would flaunt quantity over quality...now realizing that it’s better to design, implement and manage one really great site than 30 small ones with just pictures and e-mail links (and that ever-so-irritating, self-glorifying mainstay of lesser sites, the hit counter).

A new paradigm shift has taken Guam and several of its leading Web sites a progressive step forward, most notably in the last 9 months. The popular trend for Websites to mature and take their operations to the next level by employing dynamic content management – “dynamic” in the sense that information is generated on-the-fly as opposed to static, unchanging pages – has been in popular practice for years. We’re collectively getting better at this Web thing, and as more and more information about Guam goes up online, we’re getting better at managing it.

In the world of online information, content is king. For those organizations whose industry or operations mandate that they manage an extremely large amount frequently changing information, changing frequently this can be a daunting task.

When the Web was first envisioned, it was as a presentation mechanism for static documents to be displayed with content already placed upon them. This meant that for a site which features online news, for example, if a site producer has 500 stories to put online, he would have to create 500 individual files with a story on each. Thus, enter the realm of the dynamic site.

A site is “dynamic” in the sense that the site can be different every time someone loads the page, showing new, fresh, or customized content, based on the application of the features.

The true magic behind dynamic content is in the back-end. The main driver for sites like these is in the server-side interactivity which goes on behind the scenes. With static Web pages being a “client-side” medium (meaning that when you browse the Web to a site using static pages, your computer contacts their computer and says ‘this is the information I want...give it to me’, and the server responding, ‘OK, here you are,’ and simply passes the file onto you, without qualifying or validating the content too much.) Having the right mixture of server-side features on a site allow a site to become more self-sufficient and intelligent in its operations.

Here’s a look at some of the major dynamic content management platforms, and at some leading locally-produced sites that have upped the ante in terms of using the Web to present information.

Active Server Pages (ASP) is a Microsoft technology developed in 1996 for programmatically altering and controlling the makeup of pages, allowing them to become more “intelligent”. ASP is arguably the most widely-used server-side scripting platform on the market. Our very own site, KUAM.COM uses ASP to manage a back-end database which runs our News8 articles, Interactive Polls, and job listings. It also allows us to manage our external services, such as our mobile information channel, national newsfeeds, affiliate feeds to MSNBC.COM. ASP also provides much of the functionality on our intranet.

IT&E uses ASP on its wireless site, to manage its online shopping cart for PCS phone signup. And on BankofGuam.com, programmed ASP logic manages content, allows for Web-based administration, shows how many people are logged into the site, and most importantly runs its loan application program, which processes customer lending inquiries.

ColdFusion was developed by Allaire Corporation as an offshoot of XML, and is a large scale, robust platform for handling massive amounts of data with ease. It’s also fairly easy to learn. The Saipan Tribune Online Edition applies ColdFusion in its online newspaper site to present its articles. In essence, the page is built on-the-fly each time it is requested, ensuring you get the latest news.

PHP – a recursive acronym for “hypertext processor” (don’t try and figure this one out...I’ve tried many times and have gotten severe migraines because of it) – is an open-source development platform in the vein of the Linux operating system. Locally, real estate management site TodaysRealty.net uses PHP in combination with an Oracle database to dynamically display property and agent information. More recently, Web production shop Icon Corporation has revised its PikaGuam.com site with PHP logic, having articles and exhibits generated dynamically as a user requests the page.

Java Server Pages (JSP) is one of the most powerful platforms on market today. It gives the developer the ability to combine markup such as HTML and XML with robust Java code to produce data access pages, and manage them easily. The Superior Court of Guam uses JSP technology to produce the Guam Sex Offender Registry, a site which profiles known sex criminals on island. Since the site relies on its back-end database, it provides ease of management, as well as instantaneous, worldwide deployment. And being Java-based, the portability of the JSP platform adds to its flexbility, not being system specific.

Another large advantage of dynamic sites is the ease-of-management by which a site can be administered, namely in adding, modifying, and deleting content. In the case of Guamonsale.com, Kuentos Communications built a system which gives individual merchants the ability to manage their product listings and inventory levels, and have the changes be reflected immediately. This adds to the Kuentos developers also use the massive Guam Telephone Authority phone listing database in its GTA.GUAM.NET site, using the TcL/Tk language in addition to Perl scripts to present the information. Icon Corporation employed a similar strategy when designing CarsGuam.com for Triple J Motors, in displaying a listing of new and used cars for sale via the Web.

These sites rely on a combination of relational databases and advanced programming to do the behind-the-scene calculations of forming the pages according to specifications. In our own case, KUAM.COM is formatted in such as way as when a user requests the address www.kuam.com they get the absolute freshest copy of our pages, making sure they get the day’s latest headlines and stories.
 

Leading the charge

  Web site Owner Developer Dynamic Content
Technology Utilized
KUAM.COM KUAM KUAM ASP
TodaysRealty.net Today's Realty RGB Studios (Guam) PHP
Guam Sex Offender Registry Superior Court of Guam Superior Court of Guam JSP
Saipan Tribune Online Edition Saipan Tribune Pixelfish ColdFusion
BankOfGuam.com The Bank of Guam The Bank of Guam ASP
IT&E Wireless IT&E Talaya Internet Services ASP
Guamonsale.com Sentient Earth Kuentos Communications SOLID Embedded Engine, TcL/Tk
Guam Telephone Directory Guam Telephone Authority Kuentos Communications SOLID Embedded Engine, TcL/Tk
Pikaguam.com Icon Corporation Icon Corporation PHP
CarsGuam.com Icon Corporation Icon Corporation Perl
GuamMedicalSociety.com Guam Medical Society Plexus Informatique CGI


So what can you do to implement dynamic content on your own site? Just realize that this is a major step forward, and has requirements and mandates that are outside the scope of the normal Website.  Make sure to join us next for on Tech Talk where we’ll be profiling the major dynamic content management platforms mentioned above in KUAM.COM Labs, and we’ll put all of them to the test and see which one sits atop the dynamic content throne.

In the world of online information, content is king.
Our sponsors
The Bank of Guam - The People's Bank: visit us now for Pacific Express Online!

This is Guam's first site produced 100% with the .NET Framework,
developed and maintained by Guam's top Active Server Page developers.

Microsoft ASP.NET

Copyright © 2001-2002 by the ASP.NET User Group of Guam. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use | Privacy Statement