About This Site
What you see today represents the second iteration and fourth home of this website. It was first located at ais.net in May of 1995 before moving to wwa.com that August and settling in June of 1996 at wcat.com. Portions of HTML in use there as late as September 2004 were unchanged from the first uploaded file.
This new design is based on Intranet work done for WREX-TV and its parent, Qunicy Newspapers, Inc. from 2001 to 2003. It was a basic framework that allowed each subsidiary to create its own homepage for employees to quickly access local resources. Database driven and written entirely in Perl, each location could generate sites with unique logos, fonts, and color schemes -- and it could be set up with no knowledge of HTML. Simple and low-bandwidth, it was tailored for minimal WAN bandwidth and cross-platform compatibility at all screen resolutions used at the time. Centrally administrated, sites could be added and removed by corporate MIS as necessary. It included database "hooks" and control information to work with a suite of server-based tools to internally collect, manage, and publish data. The system was designed with the goal of integrating a newly-acquired property with the same news and master control software into the reporting structure in less than five minutes with only the knowledge of two IP addresses on the new LAN.
The next step was to make the website not only modular but essentially self-updating. This is made possible by a core of Perl code that integrates available content at each page load rather than hard-coding it. Each section can be updated independently, and new sections can be added simply by uploading them to the site -- no change to the structural markup is necessary. Modules can be in the form of HTML files or Perl scripts, allowing each section to be as simple or complex as necessary. Dynamic content is handled by three independent programs. The first, journal, refreshes the embedded LiveJournal twice a day. The second, links, rebuilds the Links page once a day from a bookmark folder on another computer, automatically adding and removing links based on changes to the bookmarks and checking the validity of all links once a week. The third, pongs, updates the IRC pong (or tagline) file, also on a daily basis. The programs provide Email notification of any errors in the process, and update content only when data is available for set-it-and-forget-it convenience.
Article-based content is handled by the content.pl module, which is the database-driven portion of the site. A separate administrator page, heavily influenced by the QNI Intranet design, is used to manage content. Entries can be added, removed, and modified with ease, without ever modifying the underlying HTML. The database implements a three-level hierarchy of arbitrary organization, which will allow the article groupings to change and grow with the site. The actual content, which can be of any filetype, is uploaded directly through the admin interface to eliminate the need for a FTP client to upload new articles. The result is a site that is highly extensible and almost effortless to maintain.
The site's highway motif is based on an unused theme and layout developed for the 1994 Marengo Community High School Yearbook, concept sketches of which date back to October 1992. The designs were inspired by Tom Cochrane's hit song "Life is a Highway" taken in context of major highway reconstruction in the town of Marengo, Illinois at that time. The signs used here adopt the style currently used by the Iowa Department of Transportation which feature cutout route markers with black borders on state and federal shields. Highway IA-286, incidentally, was decommissioned by the Iowa DOT on July 1, 2003. It ran from Glidden to Lanesboro.
Copyright © 2006, 2009 Wildcat Multimedia, v09-09