I have an online fiction site (under a pseudonym, sorry) which I plan to do a complete makeover for.
I am flirting with the idea of making the site completely non-interactive. My original plan was to run it using a content management system (wordpress or something like that). I was going to write my stories in XML with xincludes and use an XSL script to output them into HTML chunks (one per story). Then I was going to use wordpress to host the comments. The more I thought about it, though, the more a bother wordpress seemed.
I like the fact you can put your data in a database and add plugins and have comments. But that also meant fiercely guarding your data against php script kiddies. Ten years from now, which presentation method will be used? They update wordpress every two months with security updates. Just the thought of doing that for 10+ years seems like such a bother. WordPress seems impressive and cool now, but 20 years from now, who’s going to remember it (and who’s going to be providing updates)? 20 years from now, the most important thing will NOT be wordpress updates but the ability to access Mysql.
But HTML is safe. You just ftp it and there you go. No fancy web editor, no Ajaxy stuff, no trackbacks. The main problem with naked html is having template changes propagate to the site as a whole. But if you do your scripts right, that is not going to be an enormous problem. The hosting service has a web form for readers to send feedback which I retype manually onto a reader’s comment page. This sounds like a lot of work, but really it’s not. Once every two months I had a dozen more comments to my comment page, and that’s done. Sure, it would be nice for readers to have the immediate gratification of seeing their comments posted in real time. But it’s not as if I receive 1000 comments a month; on the other hand, my blogs receive thousands of spam per month. I don’t like having to wade through that. Sure, some kinds of storytelling projects benefit from immediate participation and interactivity (Let the digital Maoists worry about that).
Oh, yes, RSS. That’s kind of cool too. But if you make clean html already (and I certainly do), you can configure one using Feed43 (or a similar service). Just construct a query using Feed43 to create RSS out of one of your pages. Heck, I’m sure you could easily construct an XSL query to produce the same thing. Gosh, isn’t XSL wonderful (if only I could master it!!)
The only thing left to do is to improve the crappy web design.