Frontier, Radio, ODBC, and me

Stephen Tallent: Stephen Tallent's Radio Weblog

"I can see several situations where it would be quite nice to retrieve info from an Oracle or MS SqlServer database at publish time."

Waaay back in 1998 (you know, the stone ages), I was redesigning the CEISS web site. The site's pages were ASP pages so that certain parts of the layout could be dynamic. The ASP pages were actually generated dynamically from a Frontier's Content Management suite (which still lives on inside Radio... more on that soon from UserLand it appears). The source of the pages (and the templates, logic, etc) lived in Frontier's Object Database (ODB).

When the ASP pages were rendered on the NT Server running IIS, they didn't have access to the ODB, so we had to have the ASP pages connect to an ODBC datasource (an Access 97 database in this case) that contained the data.

The cool thing was, people didn't have to enter that data into the database. They entered the data into the Frontier source for the web page, and it was automatically pushed into the Access database through Stephen Tallent and Henri Asseily's ODBC extension for Frontier.

The Access database contained "see-also" information. Here's how it was entered, in the top section of the document which contained the "directives" (page settings):

#metaKeywords "jim, roepcke, webobjects, canada"

A filter script I wrote in the ODB would be called automatically by Frontier when a page was generated. That script parsed the #metaKeywords directive and pushed the keywords into the Access database, relating each keyword with the page's title and the page's URL on the web server.

The ASP page knew its URL, and could use that to find the keywords stored in the Access database accociated with itself, and display them in the page along with links to the "see-also" pages which would display the list of other pages that also had that same keyword.

This isn't really all that fancy, nowadays, but it was in 1997. It was pretty hard to convince a lot of the other developers at CEISS (including Alex) that Frontier's page generation system was worth the effort to learn and use. Once we iterated over a site design a dozen times and was able to regenerate the entire staging site with one click after editing the template, it was pretty clear to everyone that major time was being recouped.

I look forward to watching more people discover Frontier's page generation system (known as the "HTML suite" by old-timers, and "Website Framework" by slightly less-old-timers) through Radio UserLand.

Keep your eye on that essay-in-progress.

Written on March 5, 2002