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Web Development: PHP/mySQL/CSS
12/12/2006 PHP/mySQL/CSS: IraqSlogger.com

It's been quite an intense month or so around here lately, as I've been juggling several simultaneous projects. The highest-profile among them has been IraqSlogger, for which I was the developer (as part of the Cartwheel Creative team, who did a great job on design and project management). It's Eason Jordan's and Robert Young Pelton's new venture: a free 24-hour news service dedicated to the major issue of our time, Iraq. Think you're getting enough Iraq information from traditional media already? You're not--they have some pretty impressive stories, many of them exclusives from sources in Iraq. Check it out. They're updating constantly, around the clock.

In advance of doing this site, I significantly retooled the admin section of my CMS, making it a lot more flexible for building sites out. Structural changes to the database are reflected instantly across the admin interface, inspired in part by the MVC world. I changed the admin interface itself considerably, adding more user-friendly options for text input and HTML entry (not wysiwyg, though, as Safari doesn't handle those gracefully), image upload and tracking through the browser, and polishing some loose ends. I couldn't have built this site in this time without these changes, so I'm glad I did them beforehand.

What I ended up building was much more than a blog--it's an entire publishing workflow for several writers, with a tracking interface, article check-in/check-out, flexible sorting, previewing systems, and a lot of attention to the writer's experience. On the front end, there are some pretty cool features as well: RSS, intelligent archiving, flexible content in the sidebars, the ability for IraqSlogger staff to write posts via email, integration with Google search, flexible handling of embedded video, context-sensitive image display, the ability to traverse posts by category/subcategory, by topic, by related posts, by writer, and chronologically, and plenty of other features I'm not remembering at the moment. (Hey, I'm busy making even more enhancements to the site.)

There have been some interesting challenges with this project as well: browser-compatibility requests (including Mac IE 5, believe it or not) and therefore advanced browser detection, intricate requirements for content display, with posts having different layouts and content sets depending on their context, integration with pasting from MS Word (and hence handling special characters differently on the Web and in the RSS feed), and plenty more. All of this on a pretty tight development schedule. It's been quite a ride, so take a look. I have to say it's a damned good site.