Like every clichéd home-brew development story you've ever read, I was
holed up in a small, darkened room, surrounded by fast food cartons and 80s inspiration
in the form of books, magazines and vinyl albums, my eyes fixed on the flickering
PC screen. The final sofware ran to many thousands of lines of original code.
The new site look was developed alongside the code, inspired by the '80s album
designs for the music that pumped constantly into my unholy "design chamber".
And so, to cut a long story short, PageBuild ran the site. And as I'm writing this, its still doing it. Good old PageBuild. Every month it served up to a half million users. Constantly being developed in small steps ...Until, in late 2005, I started work on a brand new replacement, codenamed C21... Why? Because PageBuild was solid, reliable.. but extremely restrictive, naiive and not very well structured (after so many bolt-on revisions) or documented.
As I started to draw up my wish list, it became obvious that the future was in splitting up the running of the site into seperate engines -- each specialising in one area. Movie data, locations, product management and user interaction (update submissions etc). It also became increasing obvious that I had bitten off an enormous challenge!
I should mention at this point that there was a clear decision to be made regarding the use of industry standard tools and software to build these new engines. The freely available mySQL and other dynamic site technologies at no cost presented a temting series of shortcuts, but ultimately I decided that it was a good idea to stick with what I knew and write my own core technology. The reasons are many, but one big one is.. Security. This is probably a contraversial point, but I always felt that these software platforms were inherently vunerable because of the nature of their availability. Exploits are found and quickly propogated round the people who spend their time wrecking peoples sites (for no good reason than they feel like it) and you have big problems which you cannot solve yourself -or at all, until the developers fix the weakness. At any given time of day, I can check the logs of this site and someone will have been trying to compromise it in some way within the last minute. Such is life.
...Anyway, so C21 consists of several independent 'engines' to manage the different types of new information that will be present on the new site.
While the new system nods to the previous version of the site, everything is completely new and has been written from the ground up to give the best possible movies site. Virtually nothing whatsoever has been retained. And the scope of C21 has been daunting to say the least... Remember, we're not some corporation with teams of software developers -there's just me, the webmaster! Yet C21 requires technology that must face-off sites run by billion dollar companies. -It's the classic David and Goliath story... But it always has been...