Tag Archives: Flare topics

Web Services Can Be Used in Dynamic and Static Content

Dynamic content and web services complement each other. Flare topics generated from HTML5 targets can use JavaScript to call a web service to show dynamic content based on what is returned from the web service.

An advantage of dynamic content is it is always up-to-date. Disadvantages include slower loading times due to extra scripting and inaccessible content when the web service server is down or busy.

A dynamic approach works well if the web service can be called from the open Internet, preferably without credentials. But what if a web service is behind a firewall or requires a name and password?

Well there are advantages to static content. Static content loads faster. There is also a single location. If the single location is accessible, the content is accessible. There are fewer dependencies.

A previous post described the creation of Flare topics and TOCs using a VB.NET client and Linq to XML. All that is left is to make the web service call in the client and to use the results in the XML programming interface.

This comes in handy when the primary access point to content in a silo is a web service. A similar approach can be taken when the content silo is a database. Just replace web service call with query.

There is really no great leap if you are already creating topics with a client that supports an XML programming interface and web service calls. What kind of web service returned information would you like to see appear in Flare generated content? What platform would you use?

 

Flare to MediaWiki to Flare (part 4, Starting to Map MediaWiki Markup to Flare Topic XML)

Parsing the wiki markup for MediaWiki wikis is a challenge. There is not a markup spec to which to build a parser. But parsers exist. There would be no Wikipedia without one.

The original plan for this blog series was to use an existing libary to parse wikitext. That may still be the solution. But to convert one markup to another, a good map comes in handy. Here is the simplest version of the map: MediaWiki wikitext > Flare topic XML. But the nuts and bolts are much more complicated.

There is a wiki page on the MediaWiki.org website which discusses the possibility of a spec: Markup spec. The conclusion I draw from reading that page is that the rules for wikitext on a MediaWiki wiki is defined by the parser for a MediaWiki site. In other words, if you want your wiki markup to work, determine the parser behavior.

Writing markup to suit the needs of a parser isn’t especially shocking. Web developers constantly tweak their HTML to accommodate the whims of web browser makers. At least with this markup, there is really only one parser about which to be concerned, the MediaWiki parser. How does that parser behave?

The Markup spec page describes the parser’s actions. Notably, the outline describes a preprocessor, a parser, and a save parser with different behaviors. This is a potential model for different parsing behaviors in the round trip. A section of the page describes parts of the markup language. For example, content within equals signs (=…=) is a first level heading. That will probably be mapped to <h1>…</h1>, possibly with an attribute to indicate the heading is derived from wikitext: <h1 class=”MediaWikiFirstLevelHeading”>…</h1>. Then again, one could just treat all h1 tags the same. We’ll see as we get deeper into the mapping.

To avoid rework, decisions about how to convey metadata in the wikitext to metadata in the Flare topic XML should be made at this point. If conveying metadata is to rely on markup, conveying metadata is a part of the mapping process. An alternative is to store that information in a separate repository, like a database. But maintaining the information in the Flare topic seems like a more convenient option at this point.

For the next post, I’ll build a table with three columns: one for the wikitext tokens, one for the Flare topic XML tags, and one to explain the mapping behavior. That process will go on for a few posts until the mapping is satisfactory.