Thursday, 26 June 2008
We're always being warned off some sort of food. This is bad for you and so is that. Don't even think about the other!
There's always some sort of nasty chemical or ingredient that is had for you: artificial colours, flavourings and hydrogenated fats for a start.
So what has this got to do with websites? Well for a start if you use a ready-built script off the shelf, there could be stuff lurking about in it that you do not know about.
Before I go all crazy with my analogies, let me give you some insight into why the post came about. I'm currently building a affiliate blog script. Wordpress didn't offer me everything I wanted (although it did offer me things I didn't need). I needed some other scripts so I took a look at a few, which is where I discovered this information.
Food & Scripts: You can't always be sure what's in it
I came across a well known piece of software which loaded a "powered by" icon from their webserver. This means that they can collect usage data. That in itself isn't that big a deal but it is if they are collecting visitor information, which is quite possible. All you need is a PHP page that collects full IP and browser data in exchange for serving an image. That's 5 minutes work.
The other side of this is that they could then theoretically log usernames and passwords along with your master credentials. I'm not saying it did but could you run that risk? What happens if they did collect it for research purposes and their website has hacked?
The point here is that when you install a script you haven't built yourself, consider that *some* may contain unsavoury things like this. It's worth pointing out that the majority of well documented scripts don't do this - just watch out for 'powered by' images!
Food & Scripts: Make It Yourself And It's Healthier
By making a script yourself you are only including features and functionality that you need. Wordpress, for example, is 1.2MB zipped at present. My affiliate blog script is 102KB. I'm not saying mine is better as it's not finished (it might be then!), I'm just pointing out that my script is lightweight, concise and ideal for what I need. I'm sure it runs less queries than WP too, when all the relevant mods are enabled.
Food & Scripts: Change The Recipe To Suit You
If you followed a recipe to make a turkey burger (is this another Christmas themed post?!), the net result is an extremely healthy turkey burger compared to that you could buy in the shops. But just because a recipe tells you to use just turkey doesn't mean you should. How about adding cranberry sauce into the meat mixture before cooking?
What you end up with is something different to anything else you could buy from the shops. You end up with something designed especially for your tastes. It's the same with coding.
By building something from scratch, you can tailor it exactly to your needs. The thing with mass produced scripts is that they are designed to accommodate the needs of just about everybody. Wordpress powers sites like The Long, Long Honeymoon and Noisy Noisy Man right through to the FT and CNN as reported by Patrick and Threadwatch respectively. Those are all vastly different styles of blogging used for different purposes. Yes they are all blogs but they are different. Each of those users has different needs.
Ultimately, you can customise scripts like Wordpress with add-ons and widgets but the core underbelly of the script is wildly complex. There could be gems you have overlooked or there could be a distinct lack of functionality required by your application.
Food & Scripts: Make Your Own Mind Up
When it comes to food, you'll make you own mind up. If you want to eat ABC rather than XYZ, rock on! The same can be said about scripts. I've used open source scripts for years and they have done me well thus far. But I've outgrown the functionality for the scripts I used and have had no other option than to build a fresh script.
I'm now of the opinion that it is easier to build a script than to hack away at a pre-built one. That's my own personal perspective on the matter. But so you know, the scripts I now use are Price Tapestry and Nucleus. All the rest are custom built.
Just be careful which scripts you choose to use and try and make sure you and your user's data is safe.
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I agree; I tend to avoid most things that are "Powered by". My main scripts atm are Price Tapestry and Wordpress. Things like WordPress are brilliant for people like me who can't cook or don't have the time to cook (following the analogy there!).
Written on Thursday 26 June 2008 at 18:14:07 GMT (Permalink)
Can't cook, won't cook?!
Written on Thursday 26 June 2008 at 19:01:44 GMT (Permalink)
Long time lurker but first time commenter! :)
I agree that sometimes it's better to roll your own (sushi, perhaps, to continue the food analogy?!) but is it worth your time? Would it not be better to be building the site content, which is more likely to be monetiseable, rather than coding up the back-end? (Assuming that you're not going to sell the back-end systems.)
I'm a coder by trade but I'd prefer to use code that other people have written if it gets a job done faster. No point in re-inventing the wheel and all that. Obviously you'd have to check it for malicious intent as you said!
Written on Thursday 26 June 2008 at 20:34:50 GMT (Permalink)
@Marc - Thank you for your comment. Welcome aboard.
I like the argument you suggest (i.e. is it better to spend more time on the content rather than the coding).
I would have to say this depends entirely on the complexity of the project. The blog script I've building is designed to suit my every need as an affiliate. I can build in every functionality I want or need.
If all I required was a couple of simple web pages then perhaps spending this time is not worthwhile.
The main point, however, is that you have to consider the long term path you want your site to take. If you use a third party script to save time now, are you going to have to spend even more time further down the road in customising it or changing it entirely to a new solution?
When I first started out, ready made scripts were ideal. As I said above, I still use a couple. However I've developed a sixth sense - an instinct to what is worth spending time on and what is not. And a phrase is especially true in this industry is "you get out what you put in". Sometimes you have to put in extra time now to enable more time later to add content.
This affiliate marketing lark is a long hard slog but once you find that magic formula that works for you, you're on a roll. Within that formula you will develop an instinct for how best to build a site: custom coding or ready made scripting.
PS) All this talk of food is making me hungry!Perhaps not for sushi though (never tried it and not sure I would!).
Written on Friday 27 June 2008 at 09:12:57 GMT (Permalink)
Yes, I agree that whatever works for you is best and sometimes there's too much code bloat in other people's applications.
And you should try sushi sometime. It's not as bad as you think it'll be! ;)
Written on Friday 27 June 2008 at 11:23:19 GMT (Permalink)
Thank you to all previous commenters.
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