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Should I maintain the programming code on my own website?

A Question from my inbox:

Graham,

[snip]

I did lot of FORTRAN programming myself in 80's, but mostly as a tool for solving engineering problems. For about 15 months, I maintained a 27000 line raw FORTRAN code, written by 8 Ph.D. souls. In 1998, I created a passive website for myself (Bridge problems and solution), and in 2001, switched to postnuke CMS. Over time, I lost my skills in coding, and lost touch too. Thus, when comment spamming infested my website www.demicoma.com, I simply threw in the towel, and stopped site updation.

Perhaps, I rationalised by postulating that I could not do both the form and content based myself and that was why the site was languishing. Today, after the recession bit our engg. activity, I have more time on hand and was thinking whether that postulate was correct. Basically, the question is, should I, a bridge expert-author-commentator of international standing, maintain the bridge site as well!!

I ask you because you seem to have so many websites and you seem to be managing both the form and content rather effortlessly (pardon my use of the term - but I guess you know what I mean). Of course, the form and content are intertwined in a special way for your work, and it would not be so for anyone else. Leaving aside that aspect, could you please let me know your views on this issue?

thanks and regards,


And my answer:

Dear Xxxxxx,

Yes, I remember you and them well. And that was an enjoyable course to give.

Your question is a superb one (in fact - would you mind me sharing my answer to you with readers of my blog, as I think it has more general interest) - in summary asking "should I do my own non-flat website work, or look for other means". That permission has been granted - Thank you

I can't answer that question for you - but I can give you some ideas, and they come down to the very first line of this answer where I said "and that was an enjoyable course to give". If you have the ability (which clearly you have, even if you would need to (re)learn some techniques), if you have the time (which you're indicating you might have), and if you would have the commitment (which is made - in my personal case at least - by getting enjoyment out of it), then yes, why not take on your own coding / updating / behind the scenes work?

But I can't tell you - who I have met only for a short time - what you enjoy, nor do I know how much time you really have. I see it as the most enormous compliment to our team (sorry if it wasn't intended that way!) when you talk about us looking after the site 'effortlessly'. I'm very happy it looks like that; behind the scenes, we have a site that has grown over the years and is very (needlessly) complex - 'for historic reasons' being an excellent excuse.

Because we wrote most of the software, it's easy to add a tweak here and a tuning there. But it is also easy for us to leave ourselves vulnerable to holes that we accidentally code in; they're not as bad as having a hole in something like PostNuke, because who in the community of hackers is going to bother to spread the world about our little hole which runs on only a single host as opposed to a piece of software that's running in quite a lot of places. But there are parts of our software that we did not write ourselves - the Forum and the Blog as complete 'units' for example, and other modules for Google maps, for identifying IP addresses down to geographic locations (Maxmind), for handline RSS feeds (magpierss), for generating graphics (phplot) and others which I'm sure I've overlooked as I put this answer together. Yet in most (no - I'll correct that - in ALL) of those cases we have tailored the code provided and gone beyond what the author's intent probably was. As an example, with the Blog software which is Moveable Type we extract the content into our own archives and search and ranking system so that we can tell Google via a site map something about relative ratings.

I guess what I am saying is "if you are capable (very clearly you are), if you have the time (it sounds like you might), if you would enjoy it so that you did a good job (that's the question I throw back to you), then YES it would be a good idea." But don't rule out the use of code that people have written already, and don't underestimate the time and effort it would take to write and maintain for the foreseeable future. I write to you from Blue Ridge, Georgia today - but look at my blog for the last few days (http://www.wellho.net/horse) and you'll see entries about how to move and rename a page without loosing ranking, and how to track down and trace intermittently manifesting bugs, so I'm never off duty.

While I was answering, it struck me that our "PHP techniques" weekend might be exactly what you need - it's coming up in 2 months. It's described at: [link] That's a new blog entry - it's been on my list to write up more formally since I first mentioned it to a few people (and we already have a booking) - another illustration of what goes on behind the scenes.

I hope that the above has been helpful - and if it's right, so see you in May (and if not, please feel free, still, to ask me further questions, etc! Whatever your decision, I'm sure you'll do fine!

Graham
(written 2009-03-23)

 
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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