Developing mobile web publishing platform using XML, XSLT and Perl.

As I didn’t found any suitable ready made platforms to host our The Spoon community pages, I decided to write something myself rather than producing static WAP pages.

By doing some research, I found interesting Open Source code from project “weeblog” and started to modify it. Actually, as my needs where absolutely different there is not much their code left anymore.

But I still loved the concept to use only XML files as database and format those with XSL.

Compared to any PHP/MySQL or ASP/SQLServer platform, I have now produced much more scalable and simple solution.

 I never before had used Perl so it was something new for me to learn. The original author’s concept was to take a XML template and replace strings between tags.

However, I had some more complex needs so I tried XML Simple  few days without a success.

I wasn’t able to get parameters values to variables and other way. When I finally managed to save the file using XML Simple all my other tags where missing except those where I tried to assign value and those where still empty values in my file. So, I abandoned this module.

I tried to replace with “s/<tag>.?</tag>/<tag>.$newvalue.</tag>/sgi;” but somehow it didn’t work even documented so. Maybe some Perl guru can enlighten me how should I write it?

Finally wrote the code getting positions of tag start and end using index function, cut the content string using substr function and replaced the content this way.

As I used Free Hosting  their server was very slow and sometimes went down which slowed my development process.

Also I wasn’t able to see error messages besides general configuration error, so had need to figure myself out, what went wrong now. Removing code and putting it back was most effective method for it.

Making an error in XSL file was same kind of process. The page either does not show up or gives you general error that the Stylesheet is not well formed. Usually I just had forgotten end tags, so after my concentration to the code the error was found.

Anyway, within a month and supporting myself selling Big Issues again I was able to get the product ready.

I added the frameset as it shows then like in mobile screen rather than internet browser. However, it works only in IE and IE again does not format my RSS feed using XSL. Opera works fine but does not support frames again.

Safari Beta showed frame only vertically and did not format the RSS either.

I have still some small work to do on RSS file creation process as I can add much more functionality there until I’m happy with it to my needs. I added Google Mobile Search and Technorati Mobile Search support but found out that both of those products are still in Beta.

For a commercial release, it still needs:

  1. Some amount of CSS templates to choose;
  2. Installation and configuration pages and routines;
  3. License some J2ME Rich Text editor to publish new pages directly from mobile phone;

I still lack any money to setup Bango billing system for my The Spoon clips and new mobile phone to test Ikivo’s Media Player. 

It’s damn frustrating when same time selling Big Issues, I could sell tens of times more The Spoon clips earning actually same amount per customer.
I’m confident, that there will be much more The Spoon customers than there is Big Issue customers.