some thoughts from Dozer
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What is the future of blogging?

There’s no doubt web logging (blogging) is here to stay. Look at the evolution of computers, in the 80′s it was spreadsheets, in the 90′s it was email and in the 00′s its going to be blogging. There always needs to be something new to bring the masses into supporting the global economy. Bloggers will need computers, hard drives, digital cameras, a whole host of assorted software and broadband access to the internet. If you’re not a blogger, hold on to your pants, chances are you will be one soon!

I had heard the term ‘blog’ for the first time in connection with Howard Deans’ presidential campaign about 6 months before I put up the informational site. OK, this was a site to post general information and record thoughts about this whole building gig – notes to myself more than anyone else. After finishing the site, first it was featured in and then shortly after it was in the Bangkok Post IT section featured as site of the week. It is mutating into a kind of ‘community’, and I could see the value to myself and others.

At first, when the feedbacks started coming in, I was manually adding pages and appending text. Then manually (using MS Frontpage) updating the homepage to link over to new material. I shortly realized that this was no fun at all! One possible solution: just let the bugger die off. Once the feedbacks starting coming in, there would just be no way to continue it on without blogging software (blogware). Webmasters of dynamic sites need to be able to sit down and add and publish articles without thinking about page layout or HTML. It needs to be write, click and go — the web site automatically is updated, and the articles are safely stored away in a database. Not only that, there needs to be on-line comment collection available automatically also.

How about choosing blogware? First off there is the totally technophobic ‘hosted somewhere else’ tools like blogger and typepad. This may work for some – if you just want to start writing, don’t need to integrate into an existing site, are happy with the layouts and features offered and don’t mind having the data on a central server somewhere.

Then there are an array of good software available, most of it open source freeware. Good research was done at which was of great benefit. The author has prepared a chart comparing the various options of blogware products. Then there is opensourcecms which allows you to ‘try out’ the various blogware packages before you buy.

My host had three blogware packages preconfigured and ready to install; nucleus, pmachine free and wordpress. These were preconfigured and ready for easy install, but any package could be used – except Movable Type. There was some problem with MT and spam – so the host just banned the entire package. After playing with the various packages for a while, I had a gut feel that MT would be pretty easy to use and modify, and I also liked the look and feel of some of the sites that were powered by MT, such as Although it might have been worth the license fee (MT is not freeware) – it certainly wasn’t worth changing hosting companies. I installed and tried each of the three free options. I tried wordpress a couple of times – and finally ended up using it.

WordPress is a good package. There is an active development community on the forum side. If you post a question you will get a pretty good answer, shortly. But these open source communities have kind of a ‘loose technoid’ atmosphere around them. The new version of WP does allow for the use of plugins, but often desired features must be ‘hacked’ in. These hacks are pretty well documented, but it can be a little much for technophobes. If all you want to do is post information, there is a quick install and you are up and running. However, if you want to have in-line photos, you’ll need to hunt around the forum and find a hack or plug-in. On this site I did a bit of tweaking, and after a little learning curve feel like I can: post database article content on any page of my site, put photos in-line in any post, exclude posts based on category and change the look and feel of the site. These were all pretty much hacks available at the wordpress site, but even so there was a learning curve involved. Some understanding of PHP (a web programming language) and CSS (cascading style sheets) was required to get things the way I wanted them.

When you start playing with hacks and customizing a site, you are going to have questions. There are no books out there on most types of blogware (one exception being MT, which does have many books available at WP has a informational site (Wiki) which it itself describes as a ‘free-form nascent documentation effort’. The information here is not yet complete and in some cases not yet fully implemented. A developers life blood becomes the forum. I think I posted about 20 questions in the first few days I was setting up WP. The development community is very interested in promoting and supporting the product. You get the feeling of ‘high energy’ from the forum. Other developers are quick to help with problems and give generally good responses to questions. Many answers and solutions can be found at this forum just by searching.

A discussion regarding backticks or back quotes (´) follows here. I’ll tell you the point of this discussion up front: this isn’t a blogware for technophobes .

I kept hosing up my posts in the forum since I didn’t know what a backtick was. It stated clearly above the comments box, post code segments within ´backticks´. I was reading it as back slash “\”, so I tried a double pair of slashes eg. “\\”. I posted a message asking why the code (the code segment that I had a question on) was getting messed up when I posted. A rather curt reply came back to ‘read the instructions – it is right above the post area that you need to post code segments between backticks’. Then I googled it and came up with a definitions of backticks which showed them as (´´). So I then, wrongly concluded that I should post the code between backtick pairs, like this: ´´place code here ´´, but this didn’t work. It is so obvious now, but I point out this example because it is so obvious. It is like when you ask travel directions in a totally strange place, sometimes the responders assume you’re from there and give instructions that assume you know the area, and can’t possibly get you where you’re going. This is what is called learning curve. (The backtick or back quote is a character that is commonly used in Unix programming, and is ascii code 96, ie. “´”).

Still on the backticks, when I went to post this, the text was getting messed up. Backticks make text look like this and do not actually show in the post, so to actually print a backtick the option I went with was to use this text ´ which is a character entity reference. Back slashes were even worse – as they were completely stripped out of the post. I did a search on the forum and came up with a hit on ‘How to turn off “backslash eating”‘and indeed there is a hack for this. In the meantime I just use this ‘\’ when I want to print a backslash.

Another little problem I just solved on this post was getting the drop shadow around text hack working correctly. It was messing up all the text after the drop shadow. I looked around on the internet, found a reference for doing the drop shadow, listed out the HTML source and discovered I could fix the problem with this code: <br style="clear:both;" /><br /> after the drop shadow.

These are just some little nit picky examples which demonstrate the point: it really isn’t plug and play yet .

From looking around at the current offerings of blogware available one thing is clear – we aren’t at the future, yet.

That is my recent dabble into blogware, and being a complete beginner I feel I have a outsiders perspective on where it is heading. WYSIWYG editors, such as MS Frontpage 2003, will become the 900 pound gorilla. MS Frontpage 2003 as added MS sharepoint service which, when used in combination with a sharepoint server allow for ‘dynamic web parts’. The significance: being able to post up everything on a WYSIWYG editor on your laptop and then post it. You won’t need to be on-line and using some block mode front end. For now, MS Frontpage is not really a contender. To get sharepoint hosting is quite expensive at this point – up to 10 times the normal hosting cost. Also, the ‘web parts’ is a new addition and is still not that feature rich. But keep an eye on the gorilla.

In the near future, Joe User blogger will use an WYSIWYG editor and create all his posts on his own computer formatted exactly the way he wants them. He won’t need to know anything about HTML or PHP or installing hacks. He probably won’t know what a backtick is. He’ll be able to integrate photos and other materials easily into posts and will be able to customize the look and feel of his site as he sees fit. Will it be an open source solution or the 900 pound gorilla? Who knows. One thing is clear, this isn’t the future, yet.

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