Monday, August 1, 2011

How I Got Started in ColdFusion

This is a repost of my one and only entry on my old Posterous blog site.  I'm moving over to Blogger because Twitter bought Posterous to grab talent, then announced that they were shutting down the Posterous service on April 30, 2013.  Hopefully Blogger won't follow the way of Google Reader.

Steve Bryant suggested making today "How I Got Started in ColdFusion" day. Since it seems everyone who is anyone in the ColdFusion community is blogging on this topic today, I figured I didn't have an excuse not to start a blog of my own. Google's Blogger service Posterous seemed the quickest way to get on the map, so I figured I'd give it a shot. So, without further ado, here is my humble contribution:

About a year before I started working for my present employer, they hired a consultant to develop an intranet geographic information system (GIS) application to share information about the agency's infrastructure. The idea was to provide an interactive map interface to show the land parcels (or properties) that were served and the sewer mains and structures that collected and transported the wastewater to the treatment plant. They chose to use AutoDesk Mapguide (for those of you who are familiar with MapGuide, it's the old version that ended with release 6.5, not the new MapGuide Enterprise a.k.a. AutoDesk Infrastructure Map Server). When MapGuide was purchased by the agency, it came bundled with Allaire ColdFusion (I think version 4.5 or so).

Fast forward a couple of years, and a pilot version of the intranet GIS system is up and running. I started as a CAD Technician, but had a little bit of GIS and database experience (OK, I confess... it was Microsoft Access, but that sorta counts, right?). I was asked to poke around and tweak a couple of minor things. I had no previous HTML experience, much less ColdFusion. But simple ColdFusion was very easy to pick up. I learned how to tweak existing SQL queries, how to output the results, and how to add new content. After a couple of years, a ton of help from the CFWACK books, much patience from those who haunt the House of Fusion CF-Talk discussion list, and blogs by Ray Camden, Ben Nadel, and countless others who spread the awesomeness that is ColdFusion, I was able to completely rewrite the entire application to join together twelve different data systems (a mixture of Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, and IBM AS/400 databases) with the map interface. I've since embraced the amazing jQuery JavaScript library, as well as the jQuery UI user interface library, and added AJAX functionality to the system.

We now have three ColdFusion-powered GIS applications. Along the way, we upgraded to MacroMedia ColdFusion 5.0, 6.0 MX, 6.1 and Adobe ColdFusion 7.0. We then detoured over to BlueDragon JX for a while, then came back to Adobe ColdFusion 9.0.

Our IT department deployed a CMS system several years ago. They are using CommonSpot, which runs guessed it...ColdFusion.

We're in the process of selecting a new GIS technology platform. Whatever it turns out to be, I hope our intranet GIS applications will still leverage all of the power and rapid development capability that ColdFusion brings to the table. Long live CF!


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