Chapter 3
Application

In this section we describe the application chosen for this diploma thesis. It includes a listing of important criteria which lead to the decision of choosing this application. These do not solely apply to this web site, so many of the methods described will also have similar effects on other pages.

3.1 Bandnews.org

The application chosen for this diploma thesis is Bandnews.org (http://www.bandnews.org/). It is a portal and search engine for the latest band related news. News items are taken directly from the official source, i.e. the bands’ websites. Pieces of information are extracted automatically and repeatedly throughout the day to present the most recent news first. The news are collected by a spider1 , then easily made available on one page.



Figure 3.1: Screenshot of Bandnews.org
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This web site is very suitable for the thesis, as the following points apply:

These points make the site require “non-standard” caching techniques. A single page is rarely delivered twice which makes a simple caching solution nearly useless.

3.1.1 Technology

The application was built in a so called LAMP environment, an abbreviation for Linux, Apache (see Section 4.1), MySQL (see Section 4.3), and PHP (see Section 4.2).

News aggregation is done via a robot program that fetches news by downloading the news pages (specified as a “feed”) from the bands’ websites (which is done with the tool curl). Because the topic of this diploma thesis concentrates on caching strategies for the main site, the process of retrieving is not described in detail.

Bandnews.org is a project by Nader Cserny and the author, Alexander Kirk. The design, public relations, texts, etc. is done by Nader, the author is responsible for programming. The page was built from scratch starting in September 2004, no other software was integrated for the main site.

3.1.2 Page Structure

Figure 3.1 shows a screenshot of the main page (http://www.bandnews.org/). The page consists of single news items (the arbitrary number of 6 news items per page was chosen), this is the main content of the site. At the top of the page there is a language selector (German and English are provided) and a meta-navigation which stays the same on each page.

To the left there is the primary navigation: the search form, the band selector (a two-step drop down for selecting a band), a listing of genres (which highlights the current genre and shows sub-genres if there are any). A news language selector (which controls the language of news items to be displayed), a list of recently added bands and statistics can also be found on the left.

The right bar (internally called “side bar”) is part of the myBandnews navigation. Site news (e.g. artist of the week, new features) are also displayed there as well as a Top Ten list which shows the bands clicked most often.



Figure 3.2: Screenshot of myBandnews while selecting personal bands
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3.1.3 myBandnews

myBandnews (http://my.bandnews.org/) adds to the complexity of the site as it leads to different pages for each user. When logged in to myBandnews the user can select his/her favorite bands (see Figure 3.2, page §) his/her personal news page will consist of.

The news are also available as an RSS (Rich Site Summary, nowadays often called Really Simple Syndication) feed which can be used to receive news alerts quickly – there are many 3rd party tools (for the client) to check RSS feeds periodically for news and alert the user in such a case.

3.1.4 BandnewsCMS

Another interesting feature is the integrated CMS (Content Management System) which provides bands with an easy tool for creating, modifying and deleting their news. These news items are stored in the Bandnews.org database and are integrated with the bands’ homepages by using an iframe and their own style sheet. This is especially useful for bands who only have little budget for their web page and cannot afford their own CMS to make all members have the possibility to post news on their page.

One of the bands using this feature is “When the Music’s over” (http://www.whenthemusicsover.com/ resp. http://bandnews.org/homepage/When+The+Music’s+Over/).