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June 22, 2007

This blog isn’t what it used to be. In a good sense. Hopefully. It is now running on a hand-made blogging engine I call Flannel (the name actually comes from a CMS I wrote that runs for example this site), temporarily still using the RapidWeaver template.

There were quite a few reasons I wanted to do this and here are the most important ones:

  • RW was really becoming a drag as a blogging tool. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a terrific piece of software, one that I’ve recommended to many people and happily used for over a year myself, but it was just becoming increasingly tedious to use it. The whole concept of generating static files and uploading them holds so many disadvantages that I just didn’t want to deal with anymore. It also didn’t help that their last 0.1 update cost $25.

  • I could just do it. My thesis (which btw still isn’t 100% done yet) generated quite a bit of rather reusable code and a simple bloging tool seemed like a nice chance to test it out. Everything except the Markdown and XML-RPC libraries has been written by myself and the lower level codebase is virtually identical to my thesis’.

  • Comments. This goes back to the whole RW issue. The biggest satisfaction of blogging comes from reading other people’s ideas or knowing that something you’ve disovered helped someone else solve a problem. The whole Haloscan thing didn’t really work all that well. The most annoying thing about them was getting comments for older posts and not being able to tell which post the person is commenting on.

OK, but most importantly, the specs of the new system:

  • XML-RPC backend. This means being able to blog from anywhere. I’m writing this using MarsEdit which I kinda like but whose tendency to encode all HTML entities is kinda bumming me out. Also tried BlogMate which sounds really good on paper but hasn’t really worked yet.

Update: Turns out there’s nothing wrong with ME, but rather the XML-RPC library might need some fixing or replacing…

  • Multiple categories per post. Finally!

  • Real comment support. Commenters can also use Markdown. Linking to comments and trackback URLs are in the TODO. ;) Just the fact that comments don’t spring open in a popup should be a step in the right direction.

  • Markdown support. I was totally into Textile for the longest time until I decided to try Markdown and have now settled with this. The markdown PHP library is actually 3x shorter than Textile’s, doesn’t seem to produce any runtime errors or warnings and there’s also the brilliant html2text script which helped me migrate all my static HTML to Markdown.

  • Full control. I can now add any feature I can think of. :)

  • Nice URLs. Clearly not a biggie but it was so easy to do and gives the site a nice consistent feel.

I’ve put up the source code for the importer script which could easily be modified to work with any server-side blogging tool.

This is all very new and I’m totally sure I’ll run into some turbulence along the way, but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun. ;)