To code or not to code…

I’m debating at the moment whether or not to try my hand at coming up with my own blogging system. I’ve had less than four hours of sleep so that might explain why I’d consider remaking the wheel when there are already so many good wheels already out there, but I’m still considering it. I’ve played with just about all of the blogging tools that are out there at one time or another and I’ve been using MovableType since sometime during its 1.x days mainly because the only options that offer more of what I’d like in a blogging system tend to cost money, but don’t offer enough of what I want to justify paying the money for them.

Part of the problem is the fact that I tend to be a wordy bastard and some of the discussions that take place in the entries I start end up being pretty wordy in their own right. I’ve said before that I’d love to see a blogging system that integrated with or offered more of the features of some of the popular message board scripts like phpBB or Invision Board that are out there. MT 3.0 is supposed to be coming out pretty soon and that’ll address some of the things I’m looking for such as a method for regular visitors to register an account with the site, but I’m not sure it’ll beef up the commenting system to any great degree. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing what the new version offers.

What started this itch was my discovery of a SDK for the Invision Board script that I currently use for our forums that aims to make it easier for people to develop their own web applications that use IB as the core of the backend with only a minimal knowledge of PHP and mySQL. In other words, I’d make use of the forums I’ve already installed and write small scripts that would pull the data I want presented as my “blog” out of it’s database into a custom layout while still allowing me to put aspects of the forums (such as a user login) on that same page. Suddenly the idea of using a message forum as a blogging tool seems not as distant an idea as it once did. Of course, IB already has a mini-portal built into it called IPDynamic Lite which could be used as a blogging system of sorts, but it lacks things such as pinging weblogs.com and blo.gs. I’ve been testing that with the core Jenkins Online page we maintain. Using the SDK, though, I could develop my own mini-portal that would still contain the pinging and trackback functionality that I love about MoveableType.

Some other MT users have managed to come up with methods of pseudo-merging MT and phpBB together that might be adaptable to IB as well, but the methods used seem a bit kludgey. Of course one of the main features about MovableType that I love about it is its ability to run multiple blogs from a single installation. I have no less than 7 different blogs running off of one instance of MT and one hosting account so even if I develop my own system of some sort I’ll probably leave MT installed for the others. It’s not that MT isn’t powerful or good, it’s pretty impressive for free software, but I’m just getting that programming itch once again and it’s been years since I’ve done any real programming. There’s a new blogging system out there called Blogware that has a LOT of the things I’d love to have in my blog, but they don’t sell the package to individual users. Instead, they sell it to folks who then re-sell it as hosted blogging similar to Six Apart’s Typepad service. I’ve already got myself established with my own hosting service and I like having access to the code to hack at it if I want to, though, so I’m not inclined to sign up to use Blogware anytime soon. One of the cooler aspects of it though is that it has a built-in review system for movies, books and so on. It’s just a slightly different version of a standard entry that has additional fields related to a review (such as a score), but seeing as I tend to do reviews of movies and such on SEB every now and then it’s a feature that appeals to me. Is it necessary? No, but I like having that option.

Lastly, other bloggers such as Greg from My Life As A Fischer have struck out on their own and developed their own blogging systems and have won Major Stud status as a result and I kinda wanna get in on that action. So depending on how bad this itch gets things may change around here. I’m trying to hold out long enough to see what MT 3.0 has to offer, but that Major Stud status sure is tempting.

7 thoughts on “To code or not to code…

  1. WordPress (formally known as b2) is a GPL’d PHP blogging tool - perhaps you could start with that and add the features you want?

    In any case, I’d be interested to see what you do with it. If you keep the code open, someone else could come along and help you develop it. Or youy could wait for Movable Type Pro.

  2. I’ve played with WordPress a little along with a couple of other branches of B2 and it’s not a bad tool, but still a bit far from what I’m looking for. If I were to break down and build my own tool and I base it off of established scripts then I’d definitely make it open source. If I manage to develop something from scratch I’d probably release it as open source if it was worth releasing.

  3. With you all the way. All the blogging tools that I have seen have forced me into handcrafting ropey html (that I can’t be bothered to fix). However I did start writing one a while ago and got bored with it so left it alone.

    Reading your blog is uncannily like being inmy head sometimes. Better blogging tools, morbid hatred of mechanics. You don’t happen to have a rampant aversion to metal touching metal do you?

  4. Go for it, Les.  It is an educational and inspirational venture.

    I did the same for my own website.  I started out with content back from the website I ran while in college—just vanila html with some server side includes for headers, footers, and menus.  I took that and started with Smarty.  Smarty turned out to be a big mistake, as it requires write permission and the place that hosts my website couldn’t do this safely from PHP scripts (still can’t, but it’ll be fixed soon).

    So I took all of that Smarty code and wrote my own CMS in straight PHP.  I use Emacs to create new entries, with a bit of Emacs Lisp to enable the entries, udpate my RSS feed, etc.  I just drop text files in the proper directory and have Emacs automatically edit a few other files for me.

    I integrated that with a manager for sectioned (not blog) content, image galleries, etc.  Work is ongoing and a lot of fun.

    And most importantly, you would not believe the amount of writing I’ve gotten done while putting off working on the code for the site. 

  5. Ugh, I didn’t know the smiley at the end of my post would result in the butt-ugly icon in the comment text.  Blech.  I won’t make that same mistake again.

  6. “Major Stud” hmm, maybe a Captain or Leutentant, but never thought of myself as Major
    Like Dast said, it’s definitely an educational (thinking ahead about forms and processing the data) and, for me, gratifying experience.
    I learned how finicky MySQL can be -it took me forever to get the archive listings sorted out and work the way I wanted (notice the archives list the long month name but the URLs show the numerical).
    php.net, mysql.com and phpbuilder.com became my very good friends.
    I’m still tweaking the code (read: cleaning up sloppy coding) as I learn more.
    I even have an MT-like entry form (URLs, bold, italic, popup windows, etc) that is Mozilla friendly.

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