Choosing a blogging platform

I started thinking about this again after my post
about how I write my posts.

I got a comment from a
reader
who blogs on a platform (jekyll) that’s set up so that everyone
posts directly from their editor.

I actually started blogging on blosxom, which
is a really nice simple program. If all you want is to post your
own thoughts in a blog sort of format, I would recommend it.

However, if you want to add features, you will soon run into
problems like this,
from a pyblosxom (a close relative of blosxom) user:

I’ve just spent the whole night setting up blog comments. PyBlosxom doesn’t make it painless, sadly, more like the opposite.

First: don’t be scared by the list of comment-related plugins on the PyBlosxom site. There’s only one important plugin: comments. All others depend on it and enhance its functionality. The last three or four times I was about to add comments to my blog I got scared at step one: evaluate the available plugins. Don’t repeat my mistake!

Second, follow the instructions carefully. There’s no shortcut.

Third, fix what’s broken. Be prepared to debug the source
code. print >> sys.stderr, "message" is your friend.

Fourth, fiddle with the look (CSS and HTML).

It was when I wanted to add comments that I switched to wordpress. I figured that if you want other people
to do the testing for you, you need to sign up with a widely used
program, so that there will be lots of other people running it.

It has worked out pretty well. When I’ve run into problems,
I’ve pretty often been able to find a solution just by googling
the problem, and someone else had hit it before me and written up
the solution.

Monoculture

Of course, there’s a dark side to using the most commonly used
anything, which has been called the monoculture
problem.

If someone wants to do the work to crack a site for their own
nefarious purposes, they aren’t going to do it on some little
python program that’s used by a small fraction of the people who
wish they could post directly from emacs to their blogs. They’re
going to crack wordpress. This is the same reason why Mac and
Linux people worry a lot less about viruses and other malware than Windows people.

My blog has in fact been hijacked
several times, and when it happens, I always think of going back
to something simpler and less common.

My current solution to at least some of the hijacking problems
is to not use the wordpress uploading facilities. I’ve often
found they don’t “just work”, and to make them work, I’ve
sometimes done undesirable things that have compromised the site
security.

What’s supposed to happen is that you tell wordpress while
you’re writing a post that there’s a file you want to upload,
e.g. a picture. Then it uploads the file somewhere it knows
about, and there’s some simple syntax you can use for including it
in that post, and a slightly more complicated syntax for showing
it with a different post.

What actually happens when I do it is that is tells me I can’t
upload, and then when I finally do get it uploaded, I can’t
remember the syntax for including it. And if I have to upload 5
pictures (for instance, for the garden posts), I have to go
through this for each one of them.

So what I do instead these days is just upload the pictures
into a directory on my site (not under wordpress) and refer to
them by their normal URL’s. This would be a bit more typing if I
did it all for each picture, but since I’m in emacs, I just type
the URL once, and modify the filename for the next picture.

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