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
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
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
listings. It also allows us to manage our external services, such as our
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
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