This isn't another cookie-recipe approach to planning a successful Web site. Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, by MIT veteran Philip Greenspun, is both broadly conceptual and deeply technical, and it assumes that the reader is willing to think seriously about the challenge of building a content site, a community site, or an e-commerce store before plunging in.
Although heavily Unix-oriented, it does not set out to proselytize a product, or even suggest that there is only one way to solve certain technical challenges. Rather, it encourages the reader to think about Web content and functionality as something designed to help visitors answer questions or do something useful. This may sound nebulous, but his observations about why Web sites go bad are illustrated with many well-chosen examples.
The core of the book is quite technical. Three long sections on publishing, community, and e-commerce architectures are illustrated by the author's data models and working open-source systems, so someone with C, SQL, and a good understanding of Internet Protocol (IP) under his or her belt will get the most out of the discussion. Such technical readers will find numerous Web addresses and other citations for further technical information. The author also invites readers to use his code if appropriate.
Although there is a lot of technical meat here, Greenspun dispenses with a dry, technical tone. Throughout, he manages to speak to the reader in a way that is always interesting and frequently bemused or ironic. The overall effect is that of a wry professor who knows his stuff, has thought about the problems, and isn't about to engage in commercial puffery. --Kathleen Caster
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful Book, Feb 13, 2023
Philip Greenspun is the creator of photo.net and a very entertaining author as well. This a great book for beginners to get an overview of web publishing, online communities, and databases. Some of the specifics of the book are a little dated but the concepts are not. I often refer back to this book for ideas and inspiration. The online version of this book is free, but the print edition has great glossy pages and is packed with gratuitous, full-color pictures from Philip's image library.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Collected (but a bit jumbled) wisdom of a web pundit, Sep 9, 2023
This book covers such a wide range of subjects - HTML, web design, SQL, server configuration, e-commerce, accepting credit cards, scalability, futurology, search engines, choosing a database, the nature of buying software, system admin and loads more, all in great depth - that it's almost impossible to characterize the contents. It's also packed full of beautiful, but completely unrelated, photographs; all taken by the author!
Philip Greenspun runs a successful web consultancy with several very busy sites, and seems to have tried to distill all that he has learned into one book. A lot of what he says is very wise, and although I disagree with some of his technology choices, he has thought everything through in great detail. There are quite a few sections which I will re-read and study for my own projects, but many others I will never bother with again. The book's main drawback is its size, which makes it hard to cherry-pick just the bits you need.
If you are looking for ways to use the latest technology to make a web site look cool, this is not the book for you. If you are building or running a site or business with lots of users, and you want to keep them and avoid going crazy in the process, you need this book. And the photos really are good.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Still the book to recommend, Nov 2, 2022
It's interesting how a lot of readers complain about the book being all about Phil's ego and Arsdigita,(the company he created that is now part of redhat). It seems those people didn't understand much of the book or found the subject disappointingly tougher than they thought... Yes, web publishing requires more intelligence and thoughfullness some would like to believe. And this book makes you realise that, whether 1998 or 2002.
Most web sites that are data driven these days still use the same principles explained in this book. Most don't use the ACS but the whole idea behind the ACS is one that comes from a sincere desire to facilitate the creation of dynamic (data driven) web sites.
One can tell Greenspun is more than a technologist, but a humanist as well. This would explain the appearance of the book some like to critisize. Certainly Greenspun ego is present, but what can you expect from someone who's got a vast array of knowledge and wisdom to share. Definitely a book any intelligent person will love.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know what it takes to create web services. Also, this book is the perfect reference for teaching a class on website development, in a manner that gives students a broad perspective before they delve into the inevitable geek stuff: web application programming, data models, and SQL queries. I've used this book at work to educate some of my cooworkers who were programmers or designers, and to give clients instructive lectures on the subject.
4 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
Not bad, but woefully outdated, Oct 8, 2023
Let's face it folks, this book was already outdated when it came out in 1999 and today it's even worse. The book *does* provide a good high-level discussion of how this stuff works (like you'd expect from an MIT prof), highly recommended for the utter novice. For everyone else, I'd pass until we see an updated version with less Microsoft bashing and even less demagoguery. But if you want a good history lesson, go for it!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Still one of the best books on database backed websites, Jul 30, 2023
I first read this book online back several years ago and the knowledge I gained helped me immensely in my professional career in enterprise database sites. While Philip has strong opinions, he is often right on the mark in my experience and he puts his money where his mouth is by publishing his material online for free. His ACS toolkit spun off into the OpenACS toolkit which uses the free open source PostgreSQL database as well as Oracle and is use by many organizations. The extensive documentation and free open source code makes it easy to implement the kind of sites this book talks about. Given the poor quality of many websites in 2002, full of "cool" features which rarely work, Philips insite into the nature of website development still hold true. I highly recommend this book and if you don't want to pay for it, try his online version ...and then pick up the hardcopy for the coffeetable!