From the book lists at Adware Report:

All information current as of 01:24:42 Pacific Time, Monday, 21 March 2005.

Building Websites With The Community Starter Kit

   by Cristian Darie / Scott K. Allen

    Packt Publishing
    30 April, 2004


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Editorial description(s):

Book Description
A comprehensive guide to understanding, implementing and extending the powerful and freely available application from Microsoft.

·Learn .NET architecture through building real world examples
·Understand, implement and extend the Community Starter Kit
·Learn to create and customize your own website
·Develop the confidence to implement and extend the system
·This book is written for ASP.NET developers with a sound grasp of C#

This book is a complete and practical guide helping you to deliver content rich community driven web sites based on the freely available ASP.NET Community Starter Kit from Microsoft. It is aimed at experienced ASP.NET developers with the responsibility of delivering robust and feature rich web sites, fast and effectively.

Microsoft's ASP.NET Community Starter Kit (CSK) is a powerful, freely-available application that allows you to quickly create a fully-featured community-driven web site, complete with article and news management, downloads, forums, and user handling.

What you will learn from this book
· Install and configure the CSK
· Find your way around the CSK';s towering range of features
· Create and administer community web sites
· Become familiar with the common CSK ASP.NET controls
· Customize your CSK site
· Discover the secrets of the CSK core architecture
· Explore the inner workings of CSK modules
· Extend the CSK by creating new modules
· Customize existing modules with Web controls
· Add an RSS feed to share your content with others
· Deploy your CSK Web site

This book has been written for ASP.NET developers with a sound grasp of C# and access to Visual Studio .NET. This book uses the Visual Studio. NET version of the ASP.NET Community Starter Kit

Reader review(s):

Good Book - Tight Focus and Essential Information, July 11, 2004
The book is fairly short coming in at about 250 informative pages (excluding the tiny appendix and introduction). It is targeted at people that are familiar with ASP.NET and C# (code examples are from the CSVS version), but just beginning with the CSK. Fortunately it doesn't waste any time explaining basic ASP.NET or C# concepts and concentrates exclusively on just the CSK. This tight focus is very refreshing. The book uses the teach by example and step-by-step tutorial styles common in books targeted at beginners.

This book is a fantastic way to get up to speed with the CSK and learn what it does and how to start coding modifications to it. It is well organized and covers topics of interest to every CSK developer and administrator; but stops short of going into deep technical detail or architectural analysis which could leave more experienced developers wanting more.

The first 4 chapters are simply orientation covering what the CSK is, how to install it (a mercifully short chapter), and then a tour of each of the CSK's features, modules, and admin tools; and wraps up with an explanation of the skins and themes. This is basically the same stuff that the CSK's own documentation covers; but better written and more complete. A great set of information for someone completely new to the CSK.

The weakest chapter would have to be chapter 5; which is mostly devoted to writing custom themes and skins. While it does cover an example of creating a very simple theme, it really didn't go into enough depth. It skipped over working with the various control and template skins completely. But it is a great start on theme writing, and anyone that gets through chapter 5 should be able to figure most of the rest without serious additional effort.

The last 6 chapters are all programming, beginning with an examination of the CSK request and dynamic page creation (a line by line walk-through of the relevant code). Then an examination of the content module design. In chapter 8, 9, and 10 you actually get to write a new content module from scratch (a great chapter), then write some customization using the custom modules section type and adding new web boxes. and in chapter 10 you modify the core engine to support RSS 2.0 publishing (another great chapter).

The book wraps up with a detailed look at publishing and deploying CSK sites manually from development to production systems... which is one of the best chapters, and probably the most frequently discussed topic on the forums.

My major gripes with the book, aside from the weak chapter 5, would be that it didn't really discuss ANY of the CSK's serious flaws... and there are serious flaws. It kept a very positive tone about the CSK, which is good, but I thought developers could have learned a lot more if the CSK's mistakes were pointed out more often. It also should have discussed the database performance problem with the stock CSK and linked to the database performance fix.

It also didn't really do enough to point the reader at the user community created custom mods, fixes, and other online resources. It did link to some ASP.NET forum posts, and even to my own web site (thanks!); but it seemed to avoid linking to the most popular community sites or the GotCommunityNet project. I feel that the developer community is one of the strongest aspects of the CSK and that talking about the works, tools, and code available on the various community sites and forums could easily have filled a complete chapter all by itself.

Overall this is an excellent book, an easy 8 out of 10 rating in my opinion. The tight focus on just the CSK kept it on track without diverging into yet another generic "learn ASP.NET" book. The book also hits the target audience, developers just beginning to work with the CSK and the non-developer just wanting to know what the CSK is and what it can do. It does a lot to take information spread out all over the web and bring it all into a single book in a well organized manner.

Great piece of work!

Building Websites With The ASP NET Community Starter Kit, July 26, 2004
Before I give my opinions on this book, I would like to state that though I have a background in Web Application Development, I had never worked with Microsoft's ASP.NET Community Starter Kit so everything I was able to accomplish with the CSK was entirely due to reading this book.

With no prior CSK exposure, I was immediately impressed how methodically the authors introduced the reader to the subject. Required software, and basics for downloading, installation, and configuration were given in very concise instructions with plenty of screenshots to support the instructional dialogue. Easy to install, the CSK is a complete Website, and is one of a number of "Free" starter kits developed by Microsoft that you can update, and customize to suit you own Website needs, and can be used for either commercial/non-commercial Websites. It's quite impressive when you first see it, and frankly, hard to believe a Website so professional in appearance, and with so many complex features could be "Free." Everything is free, such as, the CSK, and MSDE2000 if you do not have access to SQL Server, but you do need to have Visual Studio .NET Professional, or higher in order to view the code-behind files. I downloaded the code examples that were generously made available, and found them to be an added teaching tool. Though CSK can be downloaded for C#, VB.NET, and J# languages, and each language version is equivalent, this book does use the C# language version. I think the authors might have short changed themselves a little with the statement that this book is for ASP.NET developers with a sound grasp of C# because I think this book can serve as a wonderful teaching resource for C#; especially because the book starts with a completed application, shows you all the functionality of CSK, then takes you behind the scenes to see the supporting code.

This is a slender book of only a little over 250+ pages, but I found it highly informative, full of concrete easy to follow instructional information, smooth reading, and illustrated throughout (in fact, almost every page) with screenshots to help support the learning process. The presentation of the material was very well thought out, and left me with the opinion that undoubtedly these authors are experts on Microsoft's Community Starter Kit. I never felt burden, or bored with trying to navigate thru this book or the CSK, and never felt forced to read endless page after page of information before the authors made a point. This book contains an invaluable source of information about the CSK, and I felt I learned at an extremely rapid pace. I will note that don't expect just to read this book through one time. If you are doing development work with the CSK, you will definitely be reading this book more than once; there is just too much information about the CSK to absorb one time through.

In the course of studying this book, I ventured out into some of the ASP.NET support forums found on the Internet, such as,, and looked for areas where the Community Starter Kit was being discussed. I also invite the readers of this review to do the same. Besides reading this book, I found some really good reasons why developers should purchase a book like this. The CSK is extremely complex. In reviewing the forums, I saw endless questions from developers who were having problems with the CSK. But, in reviewing all of the questions/problems, I couldn't help but feel that many of these developers were out there trying to build a CSK without first reading a comprehensive book that discusses in great detail the whole CSK architecture, as this book does. And, I should add, I could not find any other book on the market that covers the CSK architecture!

There is so much material in this book that I would like to comment on, but here's just some items I'd like to highlight:

Not only does the book cover everything from installation, navigation, customization, administration, but in the back of the book in Chapter 10, you learn how to add a "Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0 feed)" feature to the CSK because CSK does not come with the ability to expose content thru RSS. Having this RSS feed added sets up an alert system to let administrators know when new items are available because the news aggregator software periodically scan the RSS feed, retrieves the content, and sends an alert.

I was personally delighted to see Chapter 11 "Deployment." Obviously, after spending time working hard on building your own new community, you do want to know how to get it deployed properly. The authors left no guess work here as they give you concise details for not only deploying to an in-house SQL Server, but also help you with the challenges of deployment to a hosting provider.

Be sure to do all of your development work with the IE browser as it will duplicate all the configuration screens you see in this book; whereas, when I tried to use Netscape, there were differences in the screenshots.

In Appendix A: CSK Controls, you will find a comprehensive outline of all of the skin files listed, and categorized which is an extremely helpful reference. I couldn't help but count the number of skins listed: 101 Skin Files Listed. This is just another indication of how very complex the CSK really is.

Explained the complete core architecture of the CSK, and demonstrated in full details how to create your very own new community.

Teaches about all the major classes found in the CSK, and instructions on how to build your own CSK modules

Examines the CSK folder structure, and configuration files, such as, a complete breakdown, and discussion on Web.Config, and Global.asax

Explains about: middle-tier classes; database structure, and coverage on stored procedures in the database; how the CSK engine builds client pages.

Cristian Darie, one of the co-authors of "Building Websites with the ASP.NET Community Starter Kit" asked if I would review this book, and give an honest assessment of opinions I formed in reading this book. I should note that although I have never personally met Cristian Darie, I became interested in his work when I read his book "Beginning ASP.NET E-Commerce", and am also currently reading another one of his books entitled "Beginning ASP.NET 1.1 E-Commerce From Novice To Professional." What I enjoy so much about his books is his direct, and informative style of writing that shows a complete comprehension of the subjects he writes about. He has the ability to conceptualize, and articulate highly complex technical material into clear and concise sentences, and the best gift of all, he has the ability to "Teach."

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