Infopackets on Steroids, Part 3

Dennis Faas's picture

Whe w!

I've been so busy with the web site change-over that I wasn't able to compose a single newsletter last week. There's lots of new stuff to tell you about -- and it's a bit technical -- so bear with me! I'll do my best to explain it in simple English.

First of all -- did you notice something different about this newsletter?

The format of the newsletter has been completely overhauled and now contains new headers and user subscription information. The new format allows me to write only 1 version of the newsletter, and yet produce 2 separate versions for delivery in either HTML or text format. The ability to create 2 separate versions of the newsletter -- using a single template file -- is actually a super techy-term, called 'parsing'.

Generally speaking, the term 'parsing' refers to the manipulation or conversion of data contained in a file or computer memory. As a matter of fact, the newsletter is originally written in HTML format and then converted into text (if required) as it is being delivered to newsletter recipients. It was necessary to offer both formats of the newsletter to readers, because not all email programs support HTML.

Side note: HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. HTML defines the formatting of a web page (ie: graphic placement, font, color, size, etc). Web browsers -- such as Internet Explorer or Netscape -- are able to read HTML and reproduce the page on your display.

More about the new format and how it is parsed

Each newsletter now contains subscription information, such as: the user's email address, delivery format, and frequency. Obviously, this type of information (data) varies for each user that the newsletter is sent to, so it must be parsed as it is being delivered (ie: on the fly).

Here is a sample of how the newsletter is parsed and then delivered to a recipient:

  • The newsletter is written in HTML format and saved to a file.
  • The newsletter contains special fields of information, known as Tags.
  • The Tags &email, &newsletter_format, and &newsletter_frequency are read by the newsletter delivery program and are converted (parsed) into meaningful information, supplied by the subscriber database.
  • The newsletter delivery program then decides if the newsletter should be converted to text or HTML.
  • The newsletter is delivered in the specified format (including parsed Tags).
  • The process repeats: data is re-initialized and parsed for the next newsletter recipient in the list.

This entire process is completely automated by a program I wrote, which took me a week and a half to write.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet