Monthly Archives: August 2013

Is Generic Theory a Valid Tool at Cataloguing Websites?
Date Created: August 24, 2013  Date Modified: August 24, 2013

This was a fieldwork topic, but I went WAY over the word count and after abridging the text it lost any coherency. Since it wasnt going to be assessed I thought I’d paste it here to account for the few months worth of no new content.

Is Generic Theory a Valid Tool at Cataloguing Websites?

Burnette and Marshal, in defining web genres in Web Theory: An Introduction[1], fail to address the the importance of the underlying technology that structures the content; the Content Management System (“CMS”). By identifying a websites CMS, you can identify its intended function, and by defining a site’s function you can select the appropriate CMS.

Brunette and Marshall ask us to look at the example of the Personal website[2]. At the time when the article was written, events like Yahoo’s shutdown of Geocities[3], the rise (then fall) of MySpace, and the continued adoption of social media users were yet to greatly diminished the market in personal websites; The sole survivor to move against this trend are blogs, the “blog” gave the personal website a CMS.

Blogsites, though not all run the same underlying technology, (WordPress being the most popular[4]), all operate with a similar methodology. Due to the similarities all blogging platforms have, end users still have little difficulty distinguishing a blog from a commercial website due to the presentation of the data in a familiar way, by posts rather than pages; Or as “…a personal homepage in a diary format”[5]. Even taking into the consideration there are nearly two-thousand individual “themes” or designs available or WordPress[6], an experienced web-eye can know the underlying CMS just by the presentation of data.

Burnette and Marshall fail to mention the “wiki”; Wikipedia popularised the concept of a user-generated encyclopedia, and the underlying technology MediaWiki[7], has since been adopted by various other sites–from competing encyclopedias to collaborative web documentation for other CMS[8]. Collaborative authoring had been around before the wiki, but it was the MediaWiki software that created the genre.

One web genre Burnette and Marshal break down further is the Commercial Site, which they have divided into: The “Company/Corporate” website, the “Commercial Trading” site and the “Institutional” Site[9]. If we look at the underlying technology that these types of sites utilise, we can better qualify them than, if we were merely assessing them on a superficial user-end, aesthetic, or content providing basis.

Brunette and Marshal lump together in the Institutional sites sub-category, not just “Government Departments…” but also “…universities, schools, charities and non-for-profit organisations”[10]. The reality is these different organisations have very different needs when it comes to web infrastructure. In the example of Universities, the Learning Management System (“LMS”), a form of CMS, is an integral online application for the day-to-day operations of a university. The LMS functionality could not easily be replicated with any off-the shelf CMS product, and hence why a separate application is needed to carry out the online requirements of a tertiary institution. No mention of this type, or genre of Content Management System is present in Brunette & Marshall’s article, or any mention at all of CMS software.

Burnette and Marshall signify a difference between an eCommerce “Commercial Trading Site” site and that of a government agency “Institutional Site”[11]; Government agencies can have a very broad function to the public, and there are cases where government sites offer eCommerce or web shop functionality. Prior to the recent split of the Department of Environment and Conservation, the domain in addition to providing similar content hosting functions of other government domains, also had an eCommerce elmment where camp ground bookings could be made and paid for online[12]. This eCommerce application was entierly seperate from the consumer level CMS that the main website was powered by (Joomla)[13].

A recurring technology utilised by websites of government departments, and larger corporations is the Microsoft product: Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (Sharepoint). This software in itself is not technically a web CMS (or EDMS as its often marketed as), but more of a collaborative document portal where online publishing can be performed from within the existing Microsoft Office suite. An example of a Government Website running Sharepoint is the Department of Housing Website[14], not only can public servants, with little to no training on the web have the ability to publish from their familiar office suite, the Sharepoint software includes functionality for wiki’s and corporate blogs.

Content is what drives the web, it’s what brings users to sites; How your content is displayed has to suit the content being served. Developers realised this and created different applications to serve the various types of content in the most functional user-friendly way. If we analyse the choice of CMS adopted by a website, then we already know what genre the site belongs to, without the need to employ any subjective qualities–like look, feel or branding.


[1] Burnette, R., & Marshall Web Theory: An Introduction – 2003, Page 90
[2] Ibid, Page 94-95
[3] Yahoo Quietly Pulls The Plug On Geocities – April 23rd, 2009
[4] WordPress is Powering 14.7 Percent of Top Global Websites
[5] O’Reilly, T O’Reilly Network: What is Web 2.0 – 2005
[8] The community collaborative documentation of the populr consumer web CMS, Joomla, wuse MediaWiki to power its documentation subdomain
[9] Burnette, R., & Marshall 2003 Page 94
[10] Ibid, Page 94
[11] Ibid, Page 94
[12] “On 1 July 2013 the Department of Environment and Conservation separated to become two agencies. This campgrounds website is now administered by the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) although “for an interim period the domain name will remain as and references to ‘DEC’ and ‘the Department of Environment and Conservation’ will continue to appear.”
[13] “ The Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Department of Environment Regulation commenced operations on 1 July 2013 following the separation of the former Department of Environment and Conservation.”

I’m actually glad I didnt submit it

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