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Building the 9rules Network: Episode 1

Written by Colin Devroe on January 15, 2006

I’ve been asked, more than a few times, to jot down the details of how I built 9rules.com. To do this properly, I’m forced to split this series up into a few “episodes”, so bear with me over the next few weeks while I go back in time, and start at the beginning.

The quick and dirty

Only a few short days after joining the 9rules team, Paul asked how we should consider taking submissions for our first round. After a short discussion, we all figured that doing a 24-hour “open-house” submission round would not only build buzz, but would give people some time to prepare their sites for our perusal.

But where do I put all of these submissions? We thought we’d net about 50 sites, so I really didn’t want to build something from scratch for such a small response. So, I quickly installed WordPress, and using a few puffs of smoke, and a mirror or two, I created a form that actually submitted itself to the comments of a hidden post. That’s right, the first round of the 9rules Network submissions were literally comments on a blog post. The main reason I did it this way was purely time, I was able to set that up in a matter of moments, and I didn’t have to build anything from scratch for what was supposed to be a mediocre response.

As many of you know, our first round of submissions caught us totally off guard when we received around 130 sites. When your expectations are blown away by more than double, it comes as a pleasant surprise.

Handling our first round members

So, at this point the challenge was handling the sites that we wanted to allow into the Network. Should I build an entire database for handling our members? Again, WordPress came to the rescue. What I ended up doing, was using WordPress to manage our member sites as blog posts. This allows Paul and Mike to add, edit, and delete members without needing to learn a new system. It also saves my own time by saving me from building an admin just for our members.

So how do I store our members in WordPress as blog posts? Pretty easily actually. WordPress inherently is an extensible data management system. Remove your blog from the equation, and really all WordPress is doing is storing data. So, what I did was setup a category, with many sub-categories in our WordPress installation that we keep our members categorized in. Then, on our blog, I simply block that major category from appearing.

I probably totally confused you. So here is a quick run down of how we handle things, from the perspective of TheUberGeeks.net. TUG falls under a few different categories (remember this was pre-keywords and pre-communities). So, under our top level category, we have several sub-categories. TUG, at the time, fell under Personal and Technology. This allowed for categorization prior to our new keyword system.

To tell our company blog not to display the categories we were using to store our members in, I simply added this code to our main index.php file $cat='1,3,4,15';. This tells WordPress to only load posts within those categories for our company blog.

For the first few months, our entire site was running off of WordPress-only, using the categorical structure within to categorize our member’s sites. This actually worked out very well for us in the long run, and I’m still using this system down to this day, with a few modifications, which I’ll get into on the next Episode.

Next Episode: Using WordPress’ custom fields to build an empire. Episode 2 is now available.