Chad Perrin: SOB

30 June 2007

weblog attention, motivation, and underlying meaning

Filed under: Cognition,Metalog — apotheon @ 08:00

As Sterling pointed out today, Quasi Fictional featured me today. Quasi Fictional is an interesting cross-section of the motivations of weblog authors across a wide range of interest areas. The posts in this series are profiles of the subjects’ reasons for writing their weblogs that are written by the subjects themselves, which of course leads to some (often predictable) trends in the sort of description of weblogging activities presented for each person.

While it can be an entertaining diversion to speculate about what people are downplaying, talking up, and misrepresenting due to a certain amount of self-blindness (myself included) when they talk about themselves, the first question that occurs to me is “How are we chosen for a profile at Quasi Fictional?” Obviously (or, at least, it’s obvious if you’ve looked around Quasi Fictional a bit), Diogenes (the Quasi Fictional author/editor) takes submissions openly, but also obviously (since I received an invitation) some people are specifically asked to contribute — and it’s the reasons for these invitations that interest me. When the invitation to write a profile for contribution came to me so hot on the heels of my receipt of the Thinking Blogger Award, of course there was a moment where I considered that the editor of Quasi Fictional might be following the progress of the Thinking Blogger Award. I suspect, however, that there’s some other mechanism behind the choice. I might ask Diogenes personally, but really, that requires opening an email client. Who has that kind of time (he asked facetiously)?

I admit to a bit of laziness. When asked to contribute a piece about myself to Quasi Fictional’s Fine Art of Blogging series of profiles, I was asked to post it here at SOB and submit it in a Microsoft Word document. I pointed out, in a response, that I do not have (nor want) Microsoft Office installed on a computer here (and the fact that I use FreeBSD as my primary OS is part of the reason for that), and have already posted on the subject in the past. I directed Diogenese to my post the introvert blogger, which I thought was somewhat more interesting than my previous weblog whys/wherefores. Apparently, that was sufficient for the needs of Quasi Fictional, because it is the text that now adorns a post there. That disclaimer out of the way, I hope you learn something about the parts of my personality that come to the fore when I’ve been drinking sake in celebration of my imminent birthday.

The day before one’s birthday, in the wee hours of the morning, hammered on good rice wine, is sure to produce something (relatively) interesting. At least, that seems to me the intuitive assumption to make. For timing and circumstances, that seems an excellent example of the sort of thing that could bring one’s baggage and subconscious issues to the surface. I wonder, to an outsider, what that SOB entry seemed to say about me — aside from the direct meaning of the statements made.

how microframeworks happen: three reasons I’m building one

Filed under: Geek,Liberty — apotheon @ 05:10

I’ve bitten off a big old chunk of side project, again. This time, I’m working on Copyfree, something of a cross between the Free Software Foundation’s What is Copyleft? essay and Free Software Definition, the OSI’s Open Source Definition and list of “approved” open source licenses, and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions page. There’s a bit of similarity to the OpenBSD Copyright Policy page thrown in there for good measure, too.

I threw together a quick placeholder page with some information about what Copyfree is all about, and let the people who were aware of the idea at its earliest stages of conception (before I even knew for sure there’d be a website or that I’d be using the term for anything) know that it was there. I did so with a single-page index file so that I wouldn’t be locked into a particular choice of back-end technology by incoming links, should someone discover it and start linking to it. If, for instance, I had started out using static XHTML pages with the .html filename extension with multiple pages on the site, and people started linking to the various pages, I would then — when I settled on a back-end technology, say for instance SSI+Perl/CGI with .shtml filename extensions — have the problem of either maintaining a redundant set of legacy static pages (or redirects) or breaking incoming links. The answer was simple: don’t create anything at first other than an index page, and only refer to it by the site root URL, because all that’s needed to access the one and only page is the domain name (copyfree.org).

I had a fire lit under me last night when Sterling linked to Copyfree (see the “people who use it” link) at Chip’s Quips. The content on the placeholder page at least doubled in volume, I set up a Subversion repository, I thought about the options for back-end technology in earnest, and started experimenting with writing the back end for the site. The latter two comma separated values in that sentence manifested as follows:

I started fiddling around with options. Right off the bat, I rejected the notion of a content management system — I have very specific needs for Copyfree that in no way fit into the approach of any CMS I’ve ever seen, to say nothing of the fact that I wanted the option for a more unique, customizable appearance to the site. I very briefly considered constructing the site with PHP, but really, I’m trying to stop mistreating myself like that. I briefly considered eRuby for PHP-like markup-embedded Ruby, and even more briefly considered Rails (as briefly as “Rails? Nah, that’d be overkill for this!”). I then “settled” on Perl/CGI, with SSI to embed script output in pages with URLs using the .shtml filename extension (and without “cgi-bin” in them). I decided that, doing this, the only smart way to do it was to use CGI.pm (aka the Perl::CGI module) to generate valid markup. Alas, I haven’t used CGI.pm in quite a while, and needed to refresh my knowledge of it. After puttering around, grousing inwardly about the ugly, bolted-on Frankenstein’s monster OOP syntax in Perl 5, I started to rethink that assessment of the use of CGI.pm as “smart”. (Granted, Perl’s OOP features blow PHP’s out of the water, but it’s not difficult to outdo that POOHP*.) I had already constructed an exact duplicate of the index page of the site using CGI.pm to generate markup, at this point, and was about to embed it in a sane URL using a simple SSI statement, and was pretty much over my initial enthusiasm for refamiliarizing myself with the module. At this point, there was only one other option open to me:

I could create my own microframework (and no, I don’t mean the .NET Micro Framework) as I go. Sure, it’s sorta “reinventing the wheel”, because there are tons of frameworks out there already — but most of them are kinda huge, and would require as much familiarity with their inner workings as CGI.pm even if I wanted to use them. Worse yet, most of them aren’t readily available in a form that fits into a shared hosting account’s restrictions, and of those that are, one is CGI.pm and another is basically just a collection of core PHP functions with a few unified function-collections. There’s that PHP microframework I already created a while ago (and keep changing every time I use it), but again, I don’t want to punish myself like that this time around.

End result: I came back to eRuby. That’s what I’m working on now, though I may end up discarding that for SSI+Ruby/CGI (but without the woefully out-of-date Ruby CGI module) by the time the Ruby-based microframework is complete enough to actually migrate the live site to it. Either way, I’m building formatting functions and planning the data model. I’m building a microframework in Ruby.

So, to sum it all up, this microframework is happening for the following reasons:

  1. PHP is hurty (for anything more complex than duplicating SSI functionality).
  2. Ruby is fun (and provides excellent OOP capabilities).
  3. I’m too damned lazy to refamiliarize myself with CGI.pm this week.

It’s even possible that this microframework will one day have a tidy enough codebase to bother offering it as a publicly available alternative to PHP for (extremely) simple website development — all under a Copyfree license, of course.

Frankly, I’ll pretty much consider it subject to the terms of a Copyfree license anyway, except that I’m unlikely to share it as a whole with the world unless and until it’s no longer an embarrassment to display. License terms only really come into play when someone can actually see the licensed work, after all.

Just for the heck of it, I’ll share a single method that I’ve already written (it’ll probably need tweaking for edge-cases, but it works for now):

def fixfullstops(passage)
  passage.gsub(/  /, '  ')
end

There are about half a dozen others, and there have been about half a dozen that I’ve written and thrown away, in the course of a couple hours’ worth of playing around. I wrote that particular method right after I decided to stop screwing about, and start taking a more systematic approach to planning the development effort, but before I actually started employing a more systematic approach. Whee, fun.

(note: you may find some of the acronyms/abbreviations on this page instructive)

(edit: * POOHP is a term first publicly coined in a guest blog post by Sterling of Chip’s Quips, and first privately coined by him before that in IMs.)

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License