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Case Studies

CASE STUDY - Hoppenrath Publishing
Jan 31, 2008 - Kenneth W. Richards

Summary

The Problem

Hoppenrath Publishing came to us with a request for a publishing system written in Active Server Pages that would allow their clients to submit documents and media files to them via their web site. Their editors could review the work and make changes where necessary and then pass it on to quality control. Likewise, the quality control also could review and pass on documents to be approved for publishing.

All of this had to be done on a Windows platform without using any database or any COM+ objects. We didn't even have the benefit of using a set of standard components for doing upload via HTTP. This was a huge task that required some industrial strength script development on our part.

Technologies Used

As you can guess from the problem stated, all of the technology used with Active Server Pages. Instead of using a database, we had to use "flat files" meaning we had to store all data into data files on the local filesystem. Working with a third-party web host, we had them enable read and write permissions to a data folder so we could use ASP scripting to automate the creation and updating of data files.

We developed a common code library that would allow us to seamlessly integrate HTTP upload functionality with our common site library. This gets around a limitation in Active Server Pages that doesn't allow you to read from the Request or Response object after calling Request.BinaryRead.

We also utilized JavaScript to build advanced features such as a progress bar that would indicate the progress of the HTTP upload. For large files, the upload could take quite some time. We wanted to let the user know that the file transfer was proceeding okay and they just need to be patient.

The data files use a standard format which is basically a comma-separated value file. We utilized special text encoding to handle special characters embedded in the data. Extensive consistency checking is done when reading and writing a file to ensure that no data errors occur. Accessing the data files using ASP provides surprisingly good performance.

File Publishing System

The file publishing system was built so that a file is manipulated via the Web site just like a product would be managed on an assembly line. During the course of it's life, it passes through the following stages:

  • Client submits the file via the member login
  • Administrator assigns the file to an editor
  • Editor reviews the file from the editor inbox
  • Editor submits file to an editor outbox
  • Administrator assigns the file to a quality control agent
  • Quality Control reviews the file from their inbox
  • Quality Control submits file to their outbox
  • Administrator reviews and publishes the file
During the course of this processing, the file is moved at least four different times into various different boxes. This assures that the files are organized within the filesystem at every step of the process. It will help to reconstruct the file publishing system should anything bad ever happen to corrupt the data files.

Users can view a document or file by simply clicking on a link and downloading the file in their browser. Once it is loaded in their browser, they can save the file locally to make edits and review their changes. Once the file has finished processing, they simply upload their changes (via their web browser [http]) and submit the file for further processing.

As you can see from the process flow, their are no less than four different people involved in publishing a file. This means that we had to create four different member types, each with their own login and user management control. The administrator must have control over all login types and be able to control access and set passwords as needed.

Access Control

Using data files, we built an entire user account management system with permissions for accessing the site administration. The administrator could manage permissions, the users who have access to the intranet and they could update passwords or disable accounts whenever they like.

Among the four different member types, only administrators have very fine-grained security. It wasn't necessary to provide permission-based security for the clients, editors or quality control agents so we kept this system separate.

Image Gallery

Another advanced feature we added to the site is an image gallery that allows users to browse a library of images. They can view a "virtual contact sheet" showing a series of thumbnails with titles. If the user wants to get a "full size" view of the image they simply click the thumbnail image to open a new window.

The image gallery is integrated with the regular "site administration". Through the web site, administrators may manage the list of images and add or delete images from the gallery. They may update the title and description of images anytime they like. As soon as a change is made in the intranet, it is reflected on the public side immediately.

Conclusion

Most companies would never consider building a highly data-driven and dynamic site like this without any database or COM objects. Orvado stepped up to the challenge and delivered a knockout punch. We built a comprehensive file publishing system with additional advanced features at a minimal cost.

Our data file system provides all of the functionality that a database would with all the power and speed our client requires. A powerful site administration tool allows the administrators complete control over who has access to the site and how files are published in their system. They can even delegate lesser roles within the intranet by simply creating a new user with limited access to their system.

References

Hoppenrath Publishing
www.hoppub.com

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