First Mover Disadvantage

Standards compliant library websites over at pulls together a few pleas from the sometimes-excellent Web4Lib email list.

This is one of those situations where MPOW definitely has a First Mover Disadvantage. In a lot of ways, we were cutting edge before it was cutting edge to be cutting edge, and now we pay the price. The standards weren't around, and certainly weren't attended to by anyone, when an awful lot of our content and systems were produced. So now I'm left with a gigundous website, the vast majority of which is horrible underneath, systems that produce crappy/faulty HTML, nothing that has any sort of REST or SOAP interface…it's a mess. And a mess that's so big it's terrifying to think about cleaning it all up, not to mention all the individual files.

Hmmmm…I wonder how many there are?

find . -name \*html | wc


20234 21352 840277

For those of you keeping score, that's 20,2034 separate files that end in .html on our server. Oops. Even when I throw out the obvious doesn't-need-to-be-CMS'd (statistics, reserves documenent, cache files, newsletters, etc.) it's stil over 11,000 files.

I'd love to put it all into a CMS. But that's a lot of cutting and pasting and cleaning up, even if we had a small army of people to do it, which we don't. Not all of the files are still used, either, but figuring out which ones are legacy, which ones are supposed to be accessible, which are actually used…it's easier than the conversion, but sooner or later there needs to be people making decisions. People whose job is not to sit around trying to figure out which of the pages set up by their predecessor in 1997 still need to be online.

Don't try to tell me that I can just look at the access stats. Do you really think a librarian is going to get rid of something just because it hasn't been accessed in the last year?????

And making people responsible for their own documents doesn't help, because if they knew how to produce compliant output we wouldn't be in this spot to begin with.

Someday, when we all live in a land where you can eat the rainbows and everyone owns their own pony, the big vendors will provide systems that produce good, compliant output. And I'll still be sitting on ten thousand documents that barely render correctly.

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