Raccowrimo

Building datatables and parsing RSS feeds

This weekend, I pushed forward with the RACC rebuild I was thinking about when I sketched out couple rough layout thumbnails. Specifically, I focused on the MySQL datatable structure used to store the issues and posts once I parse them out of the Google Groups RSS feed.

On the current site, I handle only the news posts and issue posts as data. The limitation of this is that, if I had to treat an issue post of a series in a special way, such as using the title to find a cover image, I had to do that for every issue post in that series. Also, if I wanted to find all the issues in a series, I can to find all issue posts that had the same title and cross my fingers, as they were not actually related to each other.

In this rebuild, I am trying to save the parsed feed data in a smarter way. When possible, I am creating separate data for each imprint, author, and series before saving any indivudal issue or news post. This means that data is related to each other in a logical way and makes retrieving associated data much easier. I can now list all series tagged as LNH, all posts written by Saxon Brenton, or all issues for the Godling series, for example.

Even better, I need only update data in one place, and it will appear properly in all locations on the site. I only have to update the cover image for the ASH series in one data row, as opposed to currently where I would have to do it for each individual issue.

As a bonus, this set up also allows be to create pages for elements that I always wanted to, but would have been cumbersome before. For instance, I can now have a page for the High Concept Challenge tag, describing it's purpose and all the recent issues and news posts related to it. Or a page the briefly describes the ASH imprint and provide links to where a reader can get more information.

This will make the administrator editors I use to manually massage the data much more complicated, but I believe the work will be worth it. Better yet, this can lead to individual authors being able to log in and adjust their series' posts themselves, if it looks like there's enough interest in me opening up that functionality.

Once the data is being put into these new tables correctly and I have admin editors to fix any hiccups myself, then I'll start on the front-end screens. Stay tuned, racc-ateers!