Yet more cool stuff from the Blogger people. Unfortunately, like Blogger itself, it is totally server driven making it available anywhere but subject to severe slowdowns due to popularity. If you had a client tool for this then it would be much much faster but what kind of resistance are you going to encounter from the end users? Radio Userland doesn’t seem to be flying off the website and it offers all the popular Blogger stuff (including the features of NewsBlogger) but is its lack of popularity due to the fact that it has to be downloaded and installed or that it is too damn hard to use?
Feeling like crap today. Sandpapered throat, aches, usual &(*@. Anyway, enough of my whining.
I did manage to look at the JAXP 1.1 library from Sun last night and they have an example called SimpleTransform that simply combines an XML and XSL file dumping the result to a third file. I can just take the very simple code out of it for my weblogger. Likewise the FTP example that goes with NetComponents seems to work well for uploading a file but only if you don’t have a proxy and I can’t find anything about how to set the proxy settings in the documentation. I find it hard to believe that they don’t have support for proxies so I’m going to send them some email to see if I can get an answer and post my question on jGuru to see if anyone else answers it. If they give me an answer then I can make my first contribution to the jGuru FAQs.
Although I didn’t get the two things done over the weekend that I had hoped to (i.e. combine an XML and XSL file and FTP the result via Java) I did get several things accomplished. I learned a great deal more about Blogger and got my own weblog moved into its permanent home at JohnMunsch.com. I also started moving my wife’s site on paper ephemera into its home at EphemeraStudios.com. It’s beyond rough at the moment but eventually it should turn into a cool site where you can download digital versions (at printable resolutions) of paper ephemera.
Lastly, I realized that an old project of mine to build a multiplayer card table where people could play various collectable card games (CCGs) is actually quite a bit easier now with RMI and all the things I’ve learned about Java than it ever would have been with C++ or Visual Basic and DirectX on Windows. Plus the final result will actually run on a variety of platforms. While it’s neat to realize that some of the old stumbling blocks are actually reduced using Java I can’t allow myself to get distracted. I need to stick with the weblog project until I get at least some results out.
I’ve had a devil of a time finding a lot out about the next version of Java (SDK 1.4, codenamed Merlin). Here’s everything I’ve managed to dig up so far:
NetComponents a Java library for FTP, NNTP, and many more protocols. Looks pretty solid, guess I’ll find out if it really is :)
Still working on the weblogging idea and I think the best way to tackle it is as follows. Write some code that takes an XML representation of the news data that ZWNews uses now and combine it with an XSLT stylesheet to format the news items into HTML. After that is working then I need to be able to FTP the resulting file to a specific filename on a specified server. Once I’m at that point I’ll have the basics working for the back half of a weblogging tool and it will be time to start building the classes to manage the news items and the supporting methods for a user interface.
For the XSL part of the code I just recently finished an article I throught was really good (Rescuing XSLT from Niche Status) and I purchased a book on XSLT that looks quite good (XSLT: Working with XML and HTML).
Ultimately anybody who wants to succeed is going to have to offer features unavailable with the existing services (especially the most popular one, Blogger) and an easy method to convert their existing weblogs and templates so they can migrate to your tool without a lot of pain. In order to do that I’m going to use myself as a guinea pig and test out using an XML based template for Blogger so all of my log entries end up exported not as HTML but instead as XML. Then the generate page could be pulled as a URL from our weblog tool and all the news entries automatically imported. So basically the first two steps up above (XML + XSL and copying the result via FTP) is my goal for this weekend. We’ll see how far I get.
Competitor for ZWNews. Not crazy about the Perl technology but I’m going to glean what I can from looking it over.
I didn’t mention it but there are a whole set of links and items I intend to look at that may be relevant to building a next-gen weblog tool (beyond Blogger and Radio Userland which I mentioned before). In no particular order:
I hope to find more so that I can make this a definitive list of links to web based and software based weblogs and content management systems that might give me ideas or perhaps even dissuade me from pursuing this line of development.
Web logging is currently fascinating me. You see, I believe that there is a hidden connection between all of the following things and I need to figure out what it is:
RSS, AvantGo, ZWNews, OPML, weblogs, Java, XML-RPC
How can I connect some of these fun pieces to generate somthing useful to me and to others? My initial take of the pieces I’ve found is something like this.
Blogger is both neat and popular. However, the company that put it together is, for all intents and purposes, out of business. The servers will keep working for the forseeable future but there won’t be any significant improvements to the software because there are no engineers to work on it.
Radio Userland offers a downloadable software interface to do some similar things and many things that are more powerful than what Blogger can do, but it is far too complicated and user unfriendly.
ZWNews 5 is the software that I wrote over the course of a couple of years to create a weblog system that was web based and could be used by a collection of administrators at a particular website. It works well, it’s popular with those who have it installed but we’ve not managed to sell nearly as many licenses for it as I would like. However, developing it taught me a lot about building weblogging software and I think it’s about time to develop a new generation of it.