For three years at UserLand, we've supported script writers developing and debugging newsroom scripts that work on a Mac local area net, picking up copy from editorial people and flowing it thru Quark XPress. At deadline, a script runs. It reads all the words, does a good job of laying out the publication and passes the result off to design people who get it ready for the presses. The business that developed around Frontier is workflow for editorial organizations.
Then comes the Internet and the worldwide web. Macintosh is a leading content development platform. The same publishing organizations want to flow their content out to the Web. Culture clash! Servers run Unix. It's a different world. Development and deployment is awkward. Do editorial people really need to learn HTML? How does the web work? Lots of new conventions. Very labor intensive. There must be a way to automate this. My competitors are getting webbed! How does it work? Can't writers just be writers?
That's what AutoWeb is all about. We took what we learned in automating print publishing and applied those lessons to the development, deployment and maintenence of structures of web pages.
Instead of flowing text to a printer, we flow it to the web. Same process, different result. Writers write. They're happy with their Macs. The scripts hide all the arcane-ness of Unix. Want to put a new article on the web? Write it with a text editor. Drop it in a folder. A few minutes later it's linked to your home page. It really can be that simple.
The sysop manages a structure of folders on a Macintosh network. Each article is a plain ASCII text file. It's fully compatible with any word processor or page layout program that can produce plain text. It's even better if the text tool can output HTML text. (Of course they're all doing this now.) Each department manager or editor gets an alias to a folder in this structure. They can edit or update any file, or add a new one. When the sysop's script runs, the structure of pages on the WWW is automatically updated.
This represents a breakthrough for the web. Before AutoWeb, most pages are very static, hard to update. Also, the copy tends to be dull. because there's a substantial technical barrier for people who write. AutoWeb demolishes the barrier -- implementing all the unfamilliar new culture and tedious work in scripts.