Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Evolution of a Web site

What is it about white Mexican cheese dip that elicits so much passion from people? Now that Hercules, Xena, and The Lord of the Rings have all ended production, the most frequent topic in my email is Xenite.Org's White Cheese Dip site. This is also the single most popular URL on Xenite.Org, although larger content sections such as Xena Online Resources still get more traffic across all their pages.

My email backlog includes dozens of restaurant names and locations, personal anecdotes, and recipe variations. Most recently, a Wal-Mart employee wrote to tell us where people can look in their local Wal-Mart stores for the Kraft white American cheese.

I can't keep up with all the white cheese dip email. It's a static content site and updating the various pages is time-consuming. I wish I could just go in and add stuff as it comes by, but that takes more effort than I can muster. It's just an endless stream of comments, thank yous, requests for more information, information sharing, and occasional requests for links.

I could set up a forum, but there are already many cooking/recipe forums out there. And, frankly, I don't know enough about cooking to be very helpful. I've actually succeeded in burning water outside of research laboratories. Making the cheese dip would have been a true challenge if the recipe weren't so simple. All you have to do is grate some cheese, add some low-fat milk, and stir over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Well, Dixie and I have been discussing (on and off -- you know how we drift into tangents with our lives) ways of converting Xenite.Org to a content management system. Personally, I hate CMS-driven Web sites. They look ugly, they are usually difficult to use, and every time the software is updated it seems like you have to change 400 bazillion template files. It's always a major project whenever Dixie upgrades the VBulletin software we use at SF-FANDOM's science fiction and fantasy forums.

Nonetheless, I have so much content -- including older sites that were taken offline "temporarily" and never restored -- to maintain that Xenite becomes older and more dated with each passing day. Which isn't to say that I'm not constantly adding new content, updating old content, fixing links, etc. It's just a massive, massive undertaking and I no longer have time for it.

So the plan is to upgrade Xenite.Org's look to a CMS later this year. We're not sure when. The future is usually a wide-open book for us. I've got other projects in mind, lined up, scheduled, planned, promised, and waiting to be launched. There are IMPs around the world waiting for me to contact them about interviews I want to publish.

Well, anyway, keep the email coming. I know it's sometimes a year before I reply (and in many cases I probably never reply). When I created Xenite.Org I just wanted a place to consolidate four Web sites that I had created. The URLs were all on different domains and I just thought it would be cool to put them all in one place. And then I created some forums. And then I added some new sites. And then....

And now here we are, almost 10 years later, and Xenite looks nothing like what it once was. But sadly it's also not as active as it once was, in terms of how much content I push out. The more content you add to a domain, the longer it takes to add an equivalent percentage of new content.

Among the ideas that Dixie and I have kicked around are setting up a blogging community (Wow! There's an idea no one has tried before). Not just a random come sign up for free blogging community. Rather, it would be an invitation-only we'll promote your thoughts and essays blogging community. And I've got another Web site planned that should be interesting and entertaining for people.

But where am I going to find the time to get it all going? No idea, but I'll find it eventually. I had hoped to do some work on the Web while recovering from surgery that first week home from the hospital. That was a naive plan. Maybe if I had taken the Vicodin the surgeon prescribed, I'd have been able to sit at a computer all day. But then I'd now be looking at drug-induced fluff that would really be out of this world.

So, now that I'm finished ranting, I realized I could have used this time to add some comments to the White Cheese Dip site. Timing is everything.


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