The Original Bulletin Board – a Basic Web Service

The Original Bulletin Board – a Basic Web Service

{module [135]}In the years before the current, Joomla-based website came to be, the FHA website was a static site built with Microsoft Front Page, a 1990s component of Microsoft Office. The site was 100% HTML with limited “active” content provided by what were called Microsoft Front Page Extensions (FPE) to basic web server functions.

One of these FPEs would accept a block of text and other information like date and author information and insert it at the beginning of a file. The file was (or could have been) called bulletinboard.html. To make this work, the user typed the information she wanted to appear in the Bulletin Board, and added her name. The system was clever enough to figure out the date. Then the user clicked the “Submit” button, the information was sent to be “prepended” to the bulletinboard.html file by FPE.

When one wanted to display the bulletin board, one simply asked the browser, which in turn asked the server, to send back to the browser the whole file. The browser waited for the file, and when it was delivered, the browser displayed it, and that was the original Bulletin Board. Easy-peasy.

Of course it after a few dozen posts were in the file became clear that the file was taking longer and longer to arrive from the server to the browser. So letting posts accumulate in the file was not a sustainable option. It was decided (by whom or what is lost to antiquity) to cull out the oldest posts and leave only the latest 50 or so in the file. The culled postings were discarded, as there was nothing else useful that could be done with them.

This Bulletin Board (we’ll call it the oldBB for brevity) was so popular among the user community that when the time came to update the website, the single most important thing the community insisted be carried from the old site was the Bulletin Board. Other community discussion support software was (and is) available today, and the FHA Board even tried to interest the community in one of these, calling it the “Fearrington Forum”. The community stood firm, some 70% uniting behind the Bulletin Board’s unstructured chronological format, and the rest favoring the Fearrington Forum. So the new Bulletin Board was implemented on the new website’s Inauguration Day, January 1, 2010.

Some observations

We saw above two problems with the oldBB:

  1. It needed human intervention to manually remove all but the most recent 50 posts, and

  2. The information in the removed posts was lost, so not available for future reference.

These deficiencies had been noticed in the early Summer of 2008 by the author, who decided to try and preserve the content of the oldBB, and periodically copied the whole oldBB into a database table on his own website, for his own reference.

In the next sections we’ll try to list the technologies used in implementing the Bulletin Board, and show their roles and how they work together.