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Organizine! texty texts

December 31, 2000

Preface: this doesn't really fit well with the texty texts, but I'm not entirely sure where to put it right now. But umm, yeah, that Organizine thing launched. And stuff.

Organizine is a web application for creating and managing web sites. One might reasonably call it a "content management system," although that probably creates some unreasonable expectations.

I'm the first to admit that there aren't any "revolutionary" ideas or concepts in Organizine. It's not trying to reinvent the web, or do anything miraculous. It's a very practical tool to solve particular common problems some web site maintainers deal with.

The basic idea behind Organizine is to take the repetitive tasks that most people do when updating a web site, and automate them. This is certainly not a new concept.

A relatively common procedure some people use to update their sites is as follows:

  1. write content
  2. cut and paste content into an html "template" file
  3. fix other little things in the template, the date, next and previous links
  4. open up the archive page and add a relevant entry in the archive page
  5. open up an FTP client
  6. FTP up changed files

The thing is, only part one really requires human thought. The rest can just as effectively be automated and done by machine.

Organizine attempts to do this. It has a very simple templating system that allows you to separate your content from presentation through variable substitutions.

It's web based, which is nice because it means that you can update your site from any web browser.

The closest analogue to it that I know of is Diaryland, but Organizine is quite a bit more complex, I would say.

There are at least two major differences between Diaryland and Organizine that I think are important to note. The first is that Diaryland hosts the diary you create, where as Organizine FTP's it to your own server. Blogger was the first web application I ever used that did that, and I think it's a very powerful feature. It also, however, means that the user has to have their own server space, and understand things like FTP server settings and directory structure. This means Organizine is not a "my first web site" tool, which is fine since there are plenty of those out there.

The second major difference is that Organizine is a lot more customizable, particularly with the idea of "attributes." Attributes allow you to specify what information you want stored with your documents. For example, my first test site was about my extensive collection of dorky t-shirts, and I added "size" and "color" attributes. Then, in my templates, in addition to the already available tags such as %%doc.text%% for the main text and %%doc.title%% to include the title, I had %%doc.size%% and %%doc.color%% available as well.

Although this is a relatively simple thing, it allowed me to do almost all the things I wanted to do with my web sites of static content.

From a geekier perspective, this allows you to really easily define and store whatever metadata about your content you want, and access it easily.

Most of the users who participated in the beta test did not use attributes, as most of the common things could be done without ever worrying about it. The few "power" users that did use it seemed to agree it was a very useful feature.

When you create a new site in Organizine, one of the site "types" is called "zine." This automatically adds a "description" attribute to the site where it is intended that you enter a brief synopsis of the document when you create it. It also creates an RSS feed to syndicate the zine's stories in the format popularized by My Netscape.

The RSS feed uses the description attribute. This sort of thing is very easy to do and customize with Organizine.

Organizine includes an archiving feature, which allows you to flexibly create as many different lists of the documents you've created as you want.

Organizine makes it easier to allow people to collaborate on sites. You can allow other people to contribute to your site with Organizine, and they can easily just type away, push a button, and it's saved onto your site.

It's important to mention what Organizine is not.

Organizine is not an enterprise content management system. It is not Vignette Storyserver. If you are looking to manage huge amounts of content for your very large business and manage complicated worklow, Organizine is probably not the tool you are looking for. Organizine was designed for the small, independent content producer.

Organizine was not designed as a tool to maintain weblogs. Tools such as Pitas and Blogger are designed to update a single page at the paragraph or little chunk level. Organizine is designed to update a site at the page level.

Eventually, I hope Organizine can be leveraged for further experiments involving metadata and the "semantic web." While those ideas were always floating in my head, I always tried to keep usability and simplicity primary concerns. I set out to create a simple, useful, and reliable application, and I'm pretty happy with the results.

Basically, Organizine is a simple content management system I designed for me and my friends in an effort to make our lives easier. I hope that it will be useful to others as well.

Many thanks to everyone who helped to beta test Organizine, including but not limited to: Andy, Annie, Ben, Connie, Dakota, and Natalie, and Taylor.

Special thanks to Andrea, who was the first Organizine user to actually start using it for her site regularly, for her encouragement.

Many thanks to Bryan for his help with the interface.

copyright 2000 adam mathes