Separating data from presentation

Putting together an event presentation and maintenance system for an organization I found myself not sure whether to laugh or cry. Their current “calendar” consists of a spreadsheet formatted with individual cells representing days and event information.

Yes, they’ve turned a spreadsheet into a poster.

One of the first things I learned when I started working on web apps (back in the day that Lincoln Stein’s perl CGI module was king) was the importance of separating presentation (in those days HTML, later to include CSS) and code (JavaScript, PHP, Perl CGI).

It never occurred to me that anyone would miss the need to separate all of that from their data too.

Even the Microsoft Office way of doing things usually tries to encourage the separating of their presentation+code elements (Microsoft Word + the template du jour) from data (usually in an Excel spreadsheet, or if it’s a really “sophisticated” app, an Access database).

But here I was, pouring over an Excel spreadsheet formatted to look like a calendar, with the event data embedded in its cells based purely on their visual appeal.

If there’s one thing those of us who know better have almost a moral obligation to do , it is to work on enlightening our fellow primates on the importance, the undeniable labor saving utility of separating out data from presentation.

Civilization itself may depend on us.

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About phil

My name is Phil Lembo. In my day job I’m an enterprise IT architect for a leading distribution and services company. The rest of my time I try to maintain a semi-normal family life in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC. E-mail me at philipATlembobrothersDOTcom. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not those of my employers, past, present or future (except where I quote others, who will need to accept responsibility for their own rants).