Squirrel Notes is an email newsletter about CMS and other content technologies. It publishes twice each month.

This issue was published on Friday, March 16, 2018.

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Non-sequiturs from the world of content management.

RDF as a Distributed CMS. A few years ago, I read Programming the Semantic Web and it blew my mind. More recently, I read Linked Data and Metadata Basics for Web Content. Consequently, I've been struck by this idea: Resource Description Framework (RDF) and linked data in general could potentially turn the entire web into a distributed CMS.

That might be overblown, but when you dig into the idea behind RDF and linked data, you realize that looking to only your own repository for content might be limiting. RDF allows URLs to represent structured content objects and the relationships between them. It's a big world out there, and a lot of systems expose structured data as de facto content APIs.

CMS Detection Tools. I get a lot of questions like "what CMS is [insert site here] using?" These are always fun to sleuth, and some are easier to figure out than others. There are a couple tools which might help:

  • BuiltWith which gives you information far beyond just the CMS

  • What CMS? which appears to limit itself to just the CMS

(I won't mention an attempt that Seth Gottlieb and I might have started to build our own system like this. In fact, I still own the domain cmfieldguide.org.)

If you know of any others, please reply to this email and let me know.

An Argument for Limited Templating. Terence Parr is a professor at USF and the author of the StringTemplate templating language. He wrote a paper entitled Enforcing Strict Model-View Separation in Template Engines (PDF link) in which he argues against templating anything in native programming languages.

The mantra of every experienced web application developer is the same: thou shalt separate business logic from display. Ironically, almost all template engines allow violation of this separation principle [...]

Many systems allow templating in their native language (WordPress, pre-8 Drupal, anything in .NET via Razor, etc). Parr's paper casts doubt on the advisability of this practice.

AOL's RAINMAN. I mentioned this system in a prior issue — this was the proprietary CMS that AOL was built on. I did some search and found an original user manual for it, dated August 1995. I skimmed it, and it seems like content creation was effected using a custom scripting language, rather than a UI. They had "Interactive RAINMAN," that sounds like a scripting window inside the AOL interface, or you could submit scripts via email. We've come so far.

The Challenges of Professional Services. I've been reminded that I've done a lot of writing in the last few years about the challenges in running a CMS services firm. If you do what I do, you'll relate to these. If you're a vendor or customer, it might be helpful to see what we deal with on our side of the relationship.

If you're about to embark on an implementation project using a firm like mine, the above posts would give you some helpful context.