The tech that ticks

I am currently working with a small company to create an online store. When finished, I’ll point you in its direction–one of those very rare times when I’ve worked on a site that actually has a public interface I can point people to. Go, me. Go, company.

One decision we made right from the start: you don’t code from scratch when working with a common functionality such as a shopping cart/store front–you use existing code. Among all the many available packages we reviewed, we decided on using an open source PHP/MySQL solution, OsCommerce. One big difference, though, on using it straight out of the box is that I’m cleaning up the publicly accessed pages so they either use the Smarty Template engine, or simple and easy to use function calls that pull in the appropriate data. OsCommerce currently embedd barely wrapped functional calls to the database directly in the public pages, making them, frankly, a real mess for anyone but the most proficient PHP developer.

Once I create the non-business specific wrapper, regardless of what approach I use, this layer will go into the public domain, as a contribution to the open source community. Should be a satisfying effort.

There are other tools built on OsCommerce we could use; in fact, several. But they’re either commercial products with too restrictive licenses, or just about as messy in the public pages as OsCommerce (by ‘messy’ I don’t mean bad; I mean that there isn’t enough separation of the presentation from the process and the process from the data).

In other work, I also have the Rodent Regatta port from WP to MT and from HTML tables to CSS almost done, except for that damn problem with the vertical sizing of a contained element that is floated. I know about using clear:both in an element as the last element in the container, but I’m doing something wrong, it’s not working correctly.

Anyone spot what I’m doing wrong, or what I need to add?

Finally, I’m working with a couple of other people on a different site called the IT Kitchen (no relation to Doc Searls IT Garage–unless he wants to hook up, and he and the garage would be welcome). This site is going to host a two week interactive clinic focused specifically at non-techs, explaining as much about all of this as possible. Not everyone who programs is a professional; and not every non-geek weblogger wants to have others handle their CSS and basic site maintenance.

It’s going to be using a combination of technologies to ensure an interactive element, as well as provide a little something different. Everything will be Creative Commons or GPL licensed, and the static portion of the clinic will get wrapped into zipped files for copying when finished; the wiki and other interactive elements will, hopefully, continue to thrive on. Sort of a Wikipedia for webloggers.

(More on IT Kitchen later this weekend. )

I’m looking for volunteers, geek and non-geek, to help with this. Something like this is only going to work if its community driven. And If I don’t get enough volunteers, I’m going to continue quoting existential philosophers. Many more existential philosophers.

Speaking of existential, I’m finishing up my proposal for O’Reilly’s Emerging Tech Conference. I’m rather fond of it, but the success of the proposal is going to depend on who is judging the entries, and what their current focus is.

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