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Computing, Libraries, Tennis, India & other interests of Vikas Kamat

Anatomy of a Blogging Engine

by Vikas Kamat
First Online: July 19, 2001
Page Last Updated: October 31, 2016

Update Feb 2003: A modified version of the software discussed below is now available for download. See the  SimplyBlog Software page for details.

 

Why I did not use Manila or Blogger

When I decided to add a BLOG What's This? to Kamat's Potpourri, using a readymade tool did seem logical. But after investigation, I chose to implement my own blogging engine complete with HTTP-RPC, browser hosted editing, and content management.  Here're the reasons why:

  • For one, no CMS tool was available when I wrote (1995) the Kamat Content CrowBot  where all our content is locked up.

  • For the same reason why rented software is not popular...

  • I did not want to learn yet another scripting language (I know awk, ksh, Perl, PHP, VBScript and JavaScript -- enough for a lifetime)

  • Too much inbreeding of links among Weblog and Blogger communities

Anatomy of the Kamat  Blogging Mechanism

Most importantly, I wanted the ability to update the blogs from anywhere. This meant that the blog had to be editable in a browser. It had to be protected -- so others cannot modify my writing. I considered hosting it on Linux with mySQL database  and talking to the Windows NT via http, where all our content is managed by the Kamat Content CrowBot, but went with Microsoft SQL Server for no particular reason.

Inside Kamat Blogging Engine
Schematic of the Kamat Blogging Engine

But Windows NT's  COM library is fragile, and the server performance is  weak compared to Unix (see Windows or Linux? -- Tips on how to choose a web hosting platform; compares Unix based plans with Windows based plans.), so I decided to static-render (see Amateur Webmaster: Static Rendering of Websites) the blogs and upload to Unix. Only the less used archives are dynamically served.

Thanks to the wonders of PHP, I had the option of running my scripts both on Unix or NT. In fact I am running identical copies of the script on both!

"What's the big deal about a blooging engine?" you might say. But wait until you find out how easy it is for me to write a weblog. Here is a sample:

What I write What it becomes

Try some samples(linkrot) for yourself!
Lord Shiva in Indian Art
This week we present Lord Shiva in Indian art.
Lord of the Himalayas
Pictorial exhibition of Lord Shiva in various forms of Indian art.
Shiva's wife Uma and son Ganesh are also popular deities in India.

The Kamat Content Crowbot understands predicates such as  LINK, ANNOTATE, MENTION and tons of other directives. It also has a Smart-Tagger that finds the most relevant link to an annotated word. It determines whether to link to a definition (Glossary), story, or a picture, and takes care of templating. The CrowBot derives its smartness via a rule-based system.

Features of Kamat Blogging Engine 

Separation of form and content 

The blog ingredients and blog presentation are completely separated following best practices of content management. The look and feel of the blog is controlled by style-sheets and templates. This allows for merging of blogs, easy change of look and feel, and porting. 

Partial to Complete URL Translation

I write Link orgasm, and the engine spits out /vikas/blog.php?BlogID=52&alias=/erotica/kamasutra/orgasm. This has turned out to be a very convenient shorthand for me. 

Replacements and Shortcuts

I have these pet typos that I make all the time, and I'm sure everyone does. Replacements is a brute-force replacement (opposed to shortcuts, where abbreviations are expanded) for text that I type. Replacement also works great when you move a folder, or want to perform a global replacement on all of my 2500 files.

 Shortcuts -- This is a feature provided by most content managed software. It's like a macro that replaces one string with another string at blogger's request. 

The only difference between replacements and shortcuts is that the former one is automatic, while the second one is requested by the writer. So if you define a replacement of Krishna as Krishna, all occurrences of Krishna, including part of Krishnanand would be replaced. To prevent it, you should rather create a shortcut to Krishna and reference it via Krishna

Custom Macros 

Custom macros are hard-coded logic for my writing convenience. Eg: If I want to refer to a picture, I just enter its number (the size, location, credits, caption etc is all inserted by CMS). There are many such macros I have written over years for Kamat Crowbot, most of which I was able to port into the blogging engine. 

BLOGSearch

I can't believe no one blogging tool vendor has implemented a full-text searching for blogs. Although the search logic is not sophisticated, you can search Kamat Blogs via keywords and logical operators. 

Future Blog Posting 

You can post to any day.  For instance, see my post for my 55th birthday.

The Good, Bad and the Future

Now that I went on my own, here's what I miss:

  • The opportunity to spread the word via inbreeding (Update Nov. 15, 2001 -- the new weblogs.com allows me to broadcast updates, which I have added.)

  • The ability to benefit from the work of first class template designers

Here's what I've learnt:

  • SOAP, WebServices, XML-RPC is all hype. There's nothing radical about them. They are just natural,  common sense technologies. If you have control over both ends of the conversation -- like I did in this case, you don't care for standards, but implement a solution that works best for you.

  • The browser of today is a very poor writing platform -- implementing a spell-check, WYSIWYG formatting tools is extremely difficult.

  • Server based content management is the way to go to foster teamwork, peer review, and iterative content development.

 

See Also:

Links to Sites Mentioned in the Story:

  • Blogger  -- the leading blogging tool

  • Radio UserLand -- another prominent blogging tool

  • PHP -- cross platform html embedded scripting language

Update: A Belorussian Translation of this article is at Анатомія блогаў рухавіка by Bohdan Zograf

 

 

 
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