March 24, 2001
7:23 PM   Subscribe

Is there a perfect weblogging software? Here's my wish list: a database back-end, static pages, searching, HTML, easy templating, syndication through RSS, and, most of all, the ability to back-date my entries. PHP-Nuke is amazing, but isn't quite right for what I want to do. I like Blogger, but I worry about its future; will new features ever be added? The talented Noah Grey isn't updating his elegant Greymatter except for bug fixes, so asking him for features wouldn't be cool. One possibility is a Perl script called Newspro: very, very flexible, with interesting add-ons.
posted by tranquileye (29 comments total)
I spent several days tidying up the HTML output from PHPNuke to make it usable with my design (a column on the side, fancy that!). Themes control several parts of it's output but not this. The HTML looks like something for Netscape 3 with nested table nested table nested table tags liberally thrown with cellspacing and padding...

argh.. need to go now. Consider yourself warned.
posted by holloway at 8:48 PM on March 24, 2001

One is most (y'know, like, most) pleased and impressed by those sites labelled "this page prepared by Notepad." HTML, Perl (or, y'know, like, awk), +sql as required (for cheaters, coldfusiom over oracle.)
posted by theother.jfuller at 8:57 PM on March 24, 2001

Same for me, regarding Nuke. Almost all of my start-up time with Nuke was spent in debugging and renovating HTML and also in placing just a single column on the side. It's still a horrifc mess (I use a heavily modified version 4.2) and if I ever upgrade to a new version I'll have to do it all over again. In fact, I made enough changes that I am considering starting my own Nuke distro.

Other problems with Nuke:

Not having many static pages is a biggy, if you want all levels and pages to be indexed by more search engines than just Google (which, as far as I know, is the only search engine that indexes dynamic content). There are a number of various hacks that will trick spiders and indexers into believing your site is made of directories rather than dynamic content, but they don't work on all systems and may also defeat themselves because certain indexers don't look past a certain number of directory levels. Dynamic queries that have been converted in this way sometimes appear 10 or 12 levels deep.

The development is run by basically one guy who does not play well with others, is averse to CVS, doesn't believe in incremental bug-fix versions and doesn't believe in betas. It's as if there's a world of people out there throwing bug fixes and quality code at him and he rejects the bulk of it.

However, Mandrake has recently taken some sort of financial interest in Nuke (and have made it a part of their Linux install disks), he has now openly expressed the possibility of using CVS and releasing incremental bug fixes and betas, he's renovating the version 5.0 code to be some sort of modern-HTML-compatible and he's begun to make it more modular so that people like me and Holloway who make drastic changes to the code won't have to suffer as much when we upgrade.

Other good things: PHP is lots more friendly than Perl to work with, if you're comparing all the Slash clones. PHP is easy to learn: I'm beginning to think it's my first programming language, and all I've done is muddle around trial-and-error style to get the results I'm after. The user community is world-wide and multi-lingual and very helpful. Most of the cool stuff on my site was installed with the help of the very people who wrote the code. Very accessible. Also, the PHP development community is *enormous* and the amount of code out there from other PHP products that can be integrated into a PHP site (particularly on the admin side and backend) is also huge.

Final analysis: take another good look at Nuke, and make sure to think about how you can modify Nuke to fit your layout, not the other way around. Your front page doesn't have to be all those damned small boxes and goofy topic icons.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:14 PM on March 24, 2001

Since most people have pretty limited permissions and access to the server their weblog account is on, this pretty much limits weblog creation and maintenance to such Perl CGI-based solutions as GreyMatter, NewsPro, and OpenJournal. Each of these systems has strengths and weaknesses and choosing one should be done only after closely evaluating your weblog needs. Do you need a commentary system? Do you need automated archiving? Do you need voting and polls?

If you have access to your own server, or your hosting provider gives you such capabilities as PHP, MySQL database creation and access, ASP, etc. the your options are greater. PHPNuke, Slashcode, Squishdot, eGrail, OpenCMS, and Zope are all examples of dynamic web site creation and management systems. Some run on top of Perl (but not as a CGI), others on top of PHP, and even others have their own built-in web servers, scripting languages, templating languages, and database connectivity. Again, choosing which one to use as the underlying foundation/engine for your web site largely depends on your needs. Zope, for example, has an entire Content Management Framework that allows for the building of highly-customized content management systems that better fit the exact requirements of your site. PHP also is very flexible in that you can do fairly rapid application development with it due to massive amounts of pre-written code that works 'out of the box' without a lot of code needing to be re-written to meet desired functionality.

There are other content management systems out there that may or may not meet your needs, but each needs to be evaluated carefully. Pay attention to security issues, platform requirements, server requirements, scripting environments, and whether or not the code/solutions will be supported in the future. Also, is the solution you choose a proprietary solution? What happens if that vendor goes under?

For most weblog editors, the best solution is to continue to use one of the free services like Blogger,, Pitas,, Radio Userland, or one of the Perl-based CGI solutions listed in the first paragraph. For the technically-challenged, I recommend that people stick with any one of the services/tools that makes your site maintenance easy either through a client-side application (Radio Userland) or a web application (Blogger, EditThisPage, Pitas).
posted by camworld at 9:22 PM on March 24, 2001

Based on the number of new PHP-Nuke sites I see appearing here, it sure seems popular. Another great feature of PHP-Nuke is that the RSS backend is always named backend.php.
posted by jeffbarr at 10:53 PM on March 24, 2001

Blatant self-plug (ok, it's not my baby, but I am part of the core team): PHPSlash. PHPNuke is a fork of an early version of PHPSlash. Since then, PHPSlash redesigned, basically from scratch --we had to, the code was a line-by-line translation of slaschode (yuck!)-- and it's now pretty good (although far from perfect).

It's probably still rough-around-the-edges for you (no users at this point) but it's built on a solid foundation (PHPLib and an OOP library for its own services) it's fully templated (you can spit out your own HTML) and you can pick-and-choose which services/modules to run. Plus, it's explicitly designed for virtual hosting (you just need one MySQL database that PHPSlash can share and a PHP-enabled server).

What does it look like? well, the old version (same codebase as PHPNuke) usually looks like this [warning: that's my site]) and the new can look like this [warning: also my site, a devel version, not live]. Hope you give it a shot...
posted by costas at 12:52 AM on March 25, 2001

Costas thanks for the update, I've heard about PHPSlash but never checked it out until now. I've done PHPnuke and pretty much agree with everything Mo said-- if you are prepared to work hard to get your site to look the way you want, or if you don't mind the essential PHPnuke layout, then you're fine. However if you don't have a ton of time or want to drastically change the output it's probably not a good solution. PHPSlash sounds interesting based on what I see on the site, and the fact that it's specifically set up for the personal site (virtual host, single SQL DB, etc).
posted by chaz at 1:37 AM on March 25, 2001

I was wondering about Content Management; has anyone encountered any software that can operate on a server and then FTP the output to another web server.

The problem is this: my organisation have no SSI, ASP, PHP, CGI etc. on their hosting account, but I do on my personal hosting account - is there any application that would allow me to setup a CMS for the organisation's site that would operate on my server and then ftp the files to their web server?

The only application that I've seen FTP files elsewhere is Blogger - any others?
posted by williamtry at 2:47 AM on March 25, 2001

Just to add to the list of journal/weblog scripts mentioned, there's also The Journaling Script, which not only works rather well but has a less confusing interface than some of the other scripts mentioned.
posted by valerie at 3:10 AM on March 25, 2001

A post at Nuke Addon indicates that there will be a bake-off between nine different content management systems. You may want to make a few recommendations or participate.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:48 AM on March 25, 2001

I've made the best experiences with NewsPro. It's really cool. At the moment my weblog works with Greymatter, very good too, but I'll turn to NewsPro soon.

For williamtry: Maybe weblogue is a solution for you.
posted by ronsens at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2001

willtry, Radio works with FTP, from your desktop.
posted by mathowie at 9:55 AM on March 25, 2001

Is anyone actually using Zope/CMF (I mean, anyone *here*)?

I'm leaning *strongly* in that direction for a cluster of 6 websites that I have to get going on here in a month or less... but the latest "roadmap" press release makes me nervous... Should I be? Do they really not know where they want to be going, still? Or will it all be ok?
posted by baylink at 11:33 AM on March 25, 2001

I run four weblogs on my companies Intranet. For many months we used Blogger, but the IT security people freaked when they found out that Blogger had access to our Intranet. So, I explored a number of options and settled on Newspro (recommended by Chris from Flazoom). Newspro is easy to customize and very quick to install.

I have it so tweaked now that I can literally start a new 'blog on our Intranet in less than five minutes.
posted by DragonBoy at 12:55 PM on March 25, 2001

I rather like Grant Williams' News Publisher. The current release version doesn't quite have all the features mentioned in this thread's original post, but the 2.0 beta does - with alot more [no templates though]. There is even a rather large list of sites that use the script for you to look thru.
posted by schlyer at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2001

There's also Thatware, Drupal, Typo3, binarycloud, OpenCMS, Tea, Cofax, Midguard, MasonHQ, and many many more. You can also use a system called Free-Conversant which is built on top of an older version of Frontier, but is not supported by Userland.
posted by camworld at 4:14 PM on March 25, 2001

Apparently PHP-Nuke does not contain a spell checker... Pithy comment, I know... Sorry.... ;)
posted by fooljay at 4:55 PM on March 25, 2001

The biggest problem with weblogs, as far as I can see, is that:

- there are a slew of them out there
- many of those are proprietary
- most are developed by just one person
- there is very little compatibility or interconnectedness
- the community features just aren't there in most cases

I work over at LiveJournal, where we have recently released all of our code as open source. We have a development community with 74 members, who actually organize, plan, develop, and execute all the work in one of our online communities.

I suspect that many of you view LiveJournal in a similar kind of way that you might view Diaryland, but that is a great oversimplification of what we do. We allow people to create free online journals, weblogs, and communities... we are working on S2, our next generation style system... we will also begin work soon on myLJ, which will allow people to create weblogs stored on their own servers with all of our built-in community features.

We have supported syndication for ages... basically, all of our users are syndicated through our friends lists. Infact, we are experimenting with syndicating other sites such as Advogato, Slashdot, etc., as well as cartoon strips, recording artists, etc. We are at about 85,000 users right now, doubling in size every 80 days or so. We are also completely member supported, with about $50,000 donated to support our colocation costs and server infrastructure in the past six months.

No, I'm not asking all of you to be assimilated, but what I would be interested in is working with anyone to establish a standard for both syndication and commenting, where your sites could be exposed to our users, who could ideally respond to your posts. We would also gladly welcome any developers interested in making LiveJournal more what you'd like to see and what you want it to be.

Drop me an email if you have any questions -
posted by markkraft at 5:09 PM on March 25, 2001

If you have access to PHP and a SQL database on your web server, it is probably simpler to roll your own than to try to find an existing package that will do what you need. A simple weblog engine only takes about 40-50 lines of code, and you get complete control over the look and behaviour of your site.

PHP is the easiest programming language since BASIC and there is a ton of documentation, support, and sample code available to help you get started if you feel like taking that direction.

posted by Mars Saxman at 5:58 PM on March 25, 2001

Hey markkraft, do you really get paid just to hang around discussion forums and wait for an opportunity to plug your product? I guess it beats the hell out of working for a living.
posted by jjg at 11:02 PM on March 25, 2001

Actually, no... I don't get paid a cent. Although I volunteer my time for LiveJournal, it is not my product. LiveJournal is open source software, so I guess that makes it anyones who wants it. As far as working for a living, I write about technology, full time. I also work for LiveJournal... practically fulltime. Then again, you probably would have known that if you bothered to do any research whatsoever about either LiveJournal or myself.

I'm sorry... I assumed that you might judge LiveJournal based on concepts like knowledge or merit rather than spewing forth ad hominem attacks against me. My mistake.

As a piece of software, I like and respect Blogger... it does what it does very well. I also have a lot of respect for many of the people who worked on it... However, I think you are all too willing to glorify Ev. for what he helped create without considering for a moment what he plans to do with it, and whether the Internet will really be better off because of it, or whether it will just create another incompatible, proprietary roadblock to progress.

I think the biggest promise of weblogs is their ability to be interconnected into a community that is greater than the sum of its parts... but I'll be damned if I think that the software behind it all should be proprietary, or if I think that the web will be better off with 20 incompatible "standards", the way the instant messaging marketplace is. I want to get rid of that particular Tower of Babel, thank you.

Judge Ev. by his own words... he was the one who said things like "I just had to drastically scale down the plan for immediate world domination." and, as he put it, wanting to "turn Blogger into a successful business. Not a hobby. Not a volunteer-run organization." Ev. is so motivated towards running a successful business that he is forgetting the cardinal rule... it's all about empowering users.

Hell, you even ignore people like Jack who used to work for Blogger, who said "I never felt like an employee of Pyra up until a few months ago, when ev made it clear that he would keep on going, trying to negotiate deals for the company, even if everyone else on the team left or was let go."

I think that Ev., in his desire to control that which he can not (the Internet), is being shortsighted. Blogger needs more developers, and opening the source is the best way to get them. Open source companies can make money too. That is one thing that encourages me about what I have heard about HereNow... they hired someone talented to work with open source software early on in the process.

I also think that Metafilter is a pretty good community... but, as members of Metafilter have indicated, both Blogger and Metafilter could learn a bit about being inclusive and empowering.

Ooops. We'd better not open that kettle of fish around here again...
posted by markkraft at 1:19 AM on March 26, 2001

Another option is phpWebsite. It's a fork off of an early nuke and they are working very hard to make it both easy to use/configure and very standards compliant as well. It's also one of the less demanding of these types of apps to set up and use.
posted by gdavis at 5:22 AM on March 26, 2001

I also think that Metafilter is a pretty good community... but, as members of Metafilter have indicated, both Blogger and Metafilter could learn a bit about being inclusive and empowering.

If you want to engage in a serious debate about the merits of opensourcing weblog software, take it to MetaTalk; it would make for an interesting discussion. (That's where this whole thread really belongs, actually.) If you just want to slag Blogger and Metatalk to make the organization that you represent look good, take it elsewhere; you're violating the stated MeFi guidelines. Thank you.
posted by snarkout at 7:21 AM on March 26, 2001

Mrrf. The second instance of "Metatalk" in that post should read "Metafilter", obviously. I blame Monday morning.
posted by snarkout at 7:34 AM on March 26, 2001

Hey, if you want to talk trash about Monday morning, you take it to MetaTalk, buddy!
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:22 AM on March 26, 2001

markkraft, you're ignoring that people use blogger and livejournal for different things, just as they use diaryland and blogger for different things. i have both a blog and a diaryland diary, and i use them for drastically different purposes with different aims in mind. i had a livejournal but hated the lack of control and i wasn't all that fond of the community aspects. yes, it's nice to have the commenting system built in, but i really didn't like the syndication and i didn't like a lot of the interface. i would actually hate to see blogger get down with livejournal. i like blogger for what it is.

besides which, in terms of ev's comments, i think the world domination one was pretty obviously a joke. as for the business model comment, i'm sorry, but this guy wants to make some money. god forbid, eh? he wants to make money doing what he loves, and i think he has every right to do that. you make blogger out to be a big multinational corporate evil when it's one guy. come on.

and in terms of world domination, as long as we're there, it sounds like you want to have everyone's stuff plug right into livejournal, which would sound kind of suspicious to me if i were trying to keep things going for my own business. if you want to equate this to the aol/msn thing that went on awhile back, i rooted for msn but totally understood why aol wouldn't want it to happen, and not out of any Evil Corporate Greed. it's not greed, it's staying in business. can't fault people for wanting to stay in business. yes, you can fault them for overwhelming greed, but i don't think that's what's at play here.

wow, me defending capitalism, whodathunk?
posted by pikachulolita at 3:05 PM on March 26, 2001

Is Blogger gone? Hmmm I was just beginning to use it, but the server's been down for at least 14-18 hours or so.
posted by crasspastor at 3:57 PM on March 26, 2001

Anyone know of a gpl/open source blogger clone project that could host multiple blogs? This may be the impetus I need to get off my rear and learn php and mysql. Ugh.
posted by mecran01 at 9:07 AM on March 29, 2001

markkraft returns to spam again...
posted by owillis at 9:48 AM on March 29, 2001

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