Rob Bender
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Publisher

When I started work at E-Commerce Solutions, they pre-generated their website catalogs from a database using a custom tool written in ASP/VBScript called the Publisher. The tool used HTML templates containing custom markup tags and pulled data from a SQL Server database.

Unfortunately, the original Publisher was rather inflexible and a nightmare to maintain. To customize each site, aseparate copy of the software was made. The markup tags were simple but very limited. Recursion was impossible.

So I rewrote the application from scratch in the Python scripting language and created a new template markup language inspired by such systems as ColdFusion, Zope and JSP. The system was written in an object-oriented manner so that new tags with custom behavior could be easily created.

A sample template fragment would look like:

<ecs:category>
<h1><ecs:echo>{name}</ecs:echo></h1>
<ecs:store>
<li><ecs:echo><a href="{url}">{name}</a></ecs:echo></li>
</ecs:store>
</ecs:category>

This fragment would loop over every top-level category in the database, print its name, then loop over every store in the category and create a link for it.

To create a new tag, a developer would only have to subclass the Tag class and copy the Python file to the Tags folder. Other tags included If/Then, Include, Script (for embedding small Python scripts) and tags for generating advertisements.

Although I left the company in late 2000 and many of the other employees laid off shortly after, my new Publisher continues to be used by the company to generate such sites as Brandsforless.com and the Excite.com Marketplace.