Out of the box, onto the Web: Page 2

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However, while initial users such as Polsky compare Gatsby to Cold Fusion, Daniel Denning, director of marketing at Gatsby, describes the Gatsby Database Explorer as a new class of product that is most comparable to one part of the Fusion suite, the "NetObjects TeamFusion content contributor." This is a Java applet that allows users to contribute formatted or simple text to internal data objects that have previously been created in the company's TeamFusion client. "Cold Fusion and ASP [active server page] are scripting technologies that allow you to build custom pages," Denning says. Gatsby lets users maintain the content that fuels custom, database-driven pages, he says.

An intranet product

Webmaster Erick Polsky was able to go from design to deployment of the Strategic Resource Solutions' intranet in two weeks using Gatsby.
Named after the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby, Gatsby Database Explorer creates a front end for editing and viewing the content of Microsoft Access tables and queries. Webmasters don't need to build or maintain forms or reports, and databases can be viewed, searched, and edited over the Internet or through intranets.

The Gatsby interface adapts to changes made to the database by users. The software automatically builds an interface based on specific database privileges, so new code doesn't have to be written every time a new table is added, a field is renamed, or a relationship is modified, Polsky says.

Gatsby positions its technology as an intranet product, partly because the limited interface lacks the splash most companies want on their external sites. For instance, Polsky had to turn down requests from an SRS sales manager who wanted the names of top salespeople listed on an intranet page to blink and be in purple. The Gatsby interface provides only global customization of sites, rather then customization of individual pages.

While the software lacks the power necessary for enterprise deployments, it may be the answer for smaller firms or departmental-style intranets that use Microsoft Access databases, officials say.

"Gatsby could be used by a small business with 10 or 15 concurrent users all entering information into a database," says consultant Hadfield. "If you put Gatsby on top of Access 2000, you could probably go with an even higher number of concurrent users because the database engine in 2000 is better."

A license for the professional edition of Gatsby Database Explorer 2.0, which allows a firm to Web-enable an unlimited number of databases and users, sells for $1,295. A license for one database on one Web site costs $395. In comparison, one license for NetObjects' Fusion 4.0 has an estimated street price of $300; Drumbeat 2000 is $399; and Allaire's Cold Fusion 4.0 starts at $395.

"Erick is the prototypical Gatsby user--someone who needs to put up an intranet with a limited budget, limited time, and no skills to program in Visual Basic to create and maintain Microsoft Access forms," says Denning.

True to this description, Polsky was able to go from design to deployment of the SRS intranet in two weeks using Gatsby. The simplicity of the software allows him to permit individual departments to edit their own content without knowing HTML. If users have questions, they usually find the answers in two Gatsby FYI sites that Polsky posted on the intranet, freeing him from adding intranet help-desk duties to his already jammed schedule.

Polsky says anyone "who's somewhat computer literate" can use the Gatsby software. "I have never received a support call about the interfaces Gatsby dynamically created," he says.

Better ways to share information

Polsky joined SRS during a stream of acquisitions and department reorganizations, which required the firm to look for a more streamlined way to share information with its ever-expanding work force. Initially, the IT department considered using the public folders in Microsoft Exchange to dispense information.

The thought was to allow all users to post important internal public files to the Exchange public folders. Then employees could surf the hierarchy to find the files they wanted. "However, since there was no control over who posted and what was posted, the tree grew, and finding desired data became impossible," Polsky says. "A few months passed and no body was deleting their obsolete files." Soon different individuals posted multiple revisions of the same document to different locations.

"In no time at all, duplicated data was in various subdirectories and the owners of files would quit the company, leaving out-of-date information that could still be accessed," says Polsky, who reports to the head of marketing/corporate communications at SRS.

SRS company officials realized they needed a better way to control how data became available throughout the company. "Otherwise, you end up with mounds of garbage," Polsky says.

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