|JezUK Ltd - Trundled down to London on Friday aftern ...|
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The central thrust of his book and of his talk is that to succeed, a website must build a purposeful community. He illustrates this with various websites of his own and of his company ArsDigita's clients. He talks a lot about the technology you would use to build your site with, which comes down to Solaris+Oracle+AOLServer+ArsDigita Community System (ACS). Sadly this is where his message can go astray for smaller websites. AOLServer and ACS are free and open source, but you need a reasonable amount of cash to sling around, to afford to have your own Solaris box and the necessary people to look after your Oracle installation.
If you're a smaller company, a one-man-band, or a cash-strapped charity, a $10/month web service account with CGI facilities and a MySQL database might be all you can afford. This kind of low end setup makes Philip's solution look somewhat out of reach. This isn't that surprising - he works at the well-kitted out MIT computing labs and his company deals in high-traffic websites for well-heeled companies. It's what he knows. (To be fair, he and his company do offer a number of excellent free services to other websites - polling, comments, uptime monitors, etc. They also do a lot of work for charities. The provide education and training for free when other companies typically charge thousands of dollars for. They gave out beer and pizza at the talk. They're ok, I reckon.)
Just because the technology's out of reach doesn't mean the idea of a purposeful community is invalid too though. It isn't, and is just as desirable for small websites as it is large ones. There is a very definite technological middle ground to be explored between the two extremes of no-tech flat HTML files on your Freeserve account and big-tech Solaris box of your own which isn't being examined as well as it might.