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Plugins the Right Way

Interesting short article the other day by John Udell. He talks a bit about plugin architectures and how he wishes the ones he was trying out (WordPress,Ruby on Rails) would easily allow him to use a language he’s comfortable in to write the extensions rather than forcing them to be written in the language native to the application (PHP,Ruby).

This is a problem I thought alot about during the planning of HelpSpot. As an IT system, HelpSpot as a PHP application, needs to play nice with everything from ASP to Cobol. There are a few key data integration points in HelpSpot that need to be very easy to integrate with existing systems in order to maximize the efficiency and productivity of the help desk. Rather than forcing everyone into using PHP and/or having us consult with them to do this work it seemed a better choice to come up with a very easy and abstracted architecture for getting at this distributed information.

Once HelpSpot launches I’ll have a more in depth posting on it, but basically the system can be setup through a simple web based admin page to make command line or http calls passing in the data HelpSpot wants to search on (names, ID’s, etc) and receiving back a very basic XML file which has no required elements, a few optional elements, and unlimited user defined elements. In most cases HelpSpot will be able to plug into existing back end systems with little new code written on our customers end. In addition, what little code may have to be written can be in any language so long as it can return a basic XML document.
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