Conversant Released

Macrobyte Resources has formally released Conversant. I have been using Conversant to manage my web sites for two years now (through a hosted solution with Macrobyte) and the software is nothing short of phenomenal. Why?

1. Seamless integration with the web browsing, e-mail, and news clients.

With Conversant, all interaction with my site can be done through the web browser, but I can also use my e-mail client and my newsreader to read and post to the web site. This site, for example, is also an e-mail list — everything posted to the web site is mirrored on the e-mail list and vice-versa. Same thing with NNTP readers.

2. Powerful data manipulation tools.

Every post to a Conversant site is stored in a database, which is not uncommon, but the sorts of tools that Conversant offers to manipulate that data are uncommon. Conversant’s tools to categorize and organize information are powerful and easy to use so even a non-programmer like myself can use. For example, setting up this page that collects my various musings about computer storage, is a cinch. If you want to see how these features can really be exploited, see my Animal Rights FAQ which seamlessly categorizes and sorts over a thousand articles into a few hundred topical pages.

3. Conditional logic tools for customizing web site appearance.

Conversant includes a powerful conditional macro system that makes it possible to offer very different versions of a site based on a number of criteria.

For example, I use a conditional macro that shows a very different version of this site to search engines than human visitors receive. Users can be assigned to groups, with different groups shown or not shown features.

Conditional macros also be used to show different features depending on what type of pages is being served up. For example, I show different information on articles pages than I do on FAQ pages. Using conditional macros makes this simple to set up in templates.

For example, this is why you’ll see a Related Topics box on my PETA page, but not on the Voices for Animals page.

4. Summary

The main problem I was trying to solve two years ago was this: I had thousands of articles on a static web site that I wanted to be able to categorize and present logically on topical pages. As you can tell from my Animal Rights FAQ, Conversant more than delivered on that count.

But I also quickly learned that Conversant had the tools to a) shorten the amount of time I spent managing my web site vs. writing for it, while b) expanding the sort of things I could do and what I could offer to visitors.

Conversant has been a real life saver.

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