Making the Dynamic into the Static, and Why

Part of the domain is an online web-based bulletin board system; let’s call that the AE Public BB. It has been operating since about 2002 with the current software, the Perl-based IkonBoard system. IkonBoard has pretty much become a legacy system without much in the way of support or user development, but the instance I have has had various modifications that provide useful features. Back when we were having issues with putting too much load on our old server, the IkonBoard installation was the application that showed the fewest problems, though even it was affected.

The point of having a BBS is to get a good community of commenters, and this the AE BB has done, in large part due to its being the spillover discussion area from the Panda’s Thumb weblog.

Early on, my idea was that threads on the BBS would bring together interesting and useful knowledge about topics, which could then be hosted as resources in themselves. I even made a start then of hand-saving the HTML of some threads to put in the main AE domain space. But at the time the BBS was using a “dbm” style database, and my only access to it lay through the IkonBoard interface. Since then, I’ve switched the database to MySQL and programmed a couple of accessory pages for mining information from it.

IkonBoard, like many other BBS systems, uses an arcane URL structure to specify threads on the BBS. It also insists on inserting a session identifier into its URLs generated dynamically. All of those things tend to make search engine spiders either give up entirely, or for the backends to give little weight to pages that do manage to get indexed. While I’ve added a hack that presents search-engine-friendly URLs to search engines, it still seems like pages don’t get indexed, or at least don’t reliably show up in searches.

So, given the early intentions and the more recently acquired means of doing something about it, I’m pleased to unveil the Public Bulletin Board Archive, a page that presents the content of the AE Public BBS via links with meaningful names (they are taken directly from the topic titles). The procedure behind it will make it simple to update this archive periodically, and I’m intending that to be every month or two. There is a web-interface application in PHP that queries the MySQL database to find all topics that are cleared for public viewing. That application builds a page that has the HTML for a links page, and a set of commands for retrieving each topic as a single (sometimes very long) page from IkonBoard. Because IkonBoard generates each page, all the original links work, and the theme carries over. A user interacting with the pages will be shifted over to the IkonBoard BBS system and its dynamic, up-to-the-minute content.

So I think that this will serve the purpose of saving the sometimes useful, and more often entertaining, exchanges that take place on the BBS. There are definitely things there that should be remembered, and not be treated as evanescent and disposable interchange.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.