One of the major challenges we’re facing in pulling together 20 years of content for the nytheater indie archive is the fact that the technology we’ve used to build our websites has changed so radically from 1997 ’til now.
When I started Martin’s Guide to New York Theater (which turned into nytheatre.com after about six months), I coded all of the html pages by hand, using a text editor like WordPad. All the pages were static, meaning there was no programming contained in them–and no database backing them up. Everything was written up manually. We did the site that way for about six years (though we did start using Microsoft’s Front Page web page editor in the late ’90s).
The first automation we did was for the 2004 FringeNYC festival. I created an Access database to hold show data and wrote some programs in Visual Basic to merge reviews that were stored in Microsoft Word files with the Front Page web files. Klugy, but fancy. That was also the first time we started using CSS to style our web pages.
Over the next three years, we adopted Dreamweaver as our webpage editor of choice, and we expanded our Access database to include all of the information contained on nytheatre.com (and on the nytheatrecast website as well). The database was used to produce XML files which we then uploaded to our web server–these files served as the back-end of the website. The site itself was written using PHP.
The turning point for our technological platform came in 2009, when NYTE was one of three winners of the “Show Your Impact” contest sponsored by TechSoup and Microsoft. We received a large software grant from Microsoft, which enabled us to adopt some relatively pricey packages such as Visual Studio and SQL Server — both of which we have used ever since. In 2010 I rewrote nytheatre.com using ASP.NET and then about a year later I rewrote it again using ASP.NET MVC.
I know for a lot of folks the foregoing has been a big alphabet soup, but the takeaway is this: the 10,000+ reviews and other articles that will comprise our new archive were created using no fewer than six different technologies. Turning them into a single consistent one that can be understood by our search engine and content management system is a big challenge! (And an exciting one: I am truly jazzed to get to work on this.)