How Rate52.com got started

The pandemic motivated me to study all manner of data, looking to understand its economic consequences. Wanting to share this data, I tried to think how I might organize it. Since much of my research was in Massachusetts unemployment I noticed that much of the data I was collecting was defined by state. The first website name I looked up Rate52.com, was available. The Gods had spoken!

Although I’ve done very complex websites in Microsoft .NET, I wanted a site that didn’t depend on SQL databases or server libraries. I also wanted something inexpensive and fast that could also scale. The Internet, overrun by hackers, makes security an ever-evolving…pain in the a__! I had created a static site, Open15C.com using Excel VBA and it lets me sleep at night.

Another technology I wanted to incorporate for writing reports is Markdown. I recently discovered Typora which I’ll use to write my analysis.

For Rate52, I wanted to use a more powerful static-site generator like Jeykl or Hugo, but I couldn’t get comfortable using them. Further, my main content is loads of tables and charts, quickly created in Excel, so the shortest distance between them and a web page would be Excel. Sadly, Microsoft still doesn’t have an easy way to export clean HTML content. So once again, I’m using Excel/VBA to produce the web pages.

I plan to return to Hugo at some point, because many of the problems I’ve run into will now help me make more sense of it.

I should mention that the goals of this project is part technical exploration into static-site development and part hobby-horse economic analysis.

My VBA procedures work with, or inject content into other technologies, primarily Bootstrap, Pandoc, Typora, js TableSorter and Google js Tables. I create all the templates using Visual Code.

Here is an image of a sheet I have that produces the content. Each menu item is a section that will have a home page, TOC page and detail page. General, the TOC page is a table of all the States with some basic statistics. It will link to a detail page with the data for that State.

Whenever I take up a new subject, I’d create a folder and then set up a sheet to produce the content through my VBA routines and web-page technologies. Everything is optimized for the distribution of table and chart data.

Feel free to contact me at max@maxdatabook.com