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Modern Signal Blog

News, tips, tricks and discussions related to web strategy, web design, and custom web application and database development.

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Blog Updates

I have made several updates to the blog functionality, so that this blog is beginning to look a bit more like a blog.

  • The blog index page now shows full posts.  It will show the last 5 posts.
  • There is a topic list on the blog index page, which shows all of the topics and the number of posts in each topic.  Clicking on a topic name will show a list of those topics only.
  • Behind the scenes, the author of a post automatically gets an email when a comments is added, unless it's identified as spam by Defensio.
  • I built a simple tool to review comments.  This allows you to identify spam that Defensio missed, and also to go through comments that Defensio marked as spam to make sure they are, in fact, spam.  If Defensio misidentified anything, it is reported back to Defensio so that Defensio can learn how to do better.  I have not dealt with enough volume in Defensio to have any idea how well it learns, but it's good to give it a chance.

There are still a number of things that it would be nice to do, for instance:

  • Implement pingbacks -- this uses a protocol developed by Wordpress to exchange links between blogs when one blog mentions another blog.  Seems like a nice system and a good way to improve the reach of a blog.
  • Allow users to subscribe to the comments on a page.  I think this would be important to foster communication in the comments.  Without this, someone who leaves a comment is unlikely to notice if anyone leaves a response to his comment.
  • Allow users to reply to specific comments.  I see a lot of blogs that don't have this feature, but I think it's a nice thing to have.  Makes it easier to follow who is responding to who if the number of comments gets high.
  • Provide a search box to search within the blog.  This would essentially be restricting a search to pages that are children of the blog index page, and so this would be a general feature not just applicable to blogs.

I'd be interested in any ideas anyone has about what features they'd like to see in a blog.  What do you think?

The Software Behind This Blog

Or should I say "blog"?  Currently, this "blog" is missing a lot of the features that people have come to expect from blogs. 

Right now all it really is is a page like any other page created in the Lighthouse CMS, but with comments.  It occurred to me that the page with comments is a very basic construct on the web today.  It's used not only by blogs, but by wikis, forums, and sites that publish articles of all sorts.  In all these cases, someone creates a page (for forums it's often called a topic) and then there is a way for anybody to add their 2 cents on the subject.  The way the page is presented in a blog is much different from the way it is presented in a wiki or a forum, of course.  In a wiki, the comments are generally separate from the main page, while in a forum, the comments are the meat of the page.  Blogs probably fall somewhere in between.

In any case, this is flexible construct and with the Lighthouse templating system I will be able to take the basic "Page w/ Comments" template and extend it to have more of the bloggy features people are used to.  Such as:

  • Should really show the date this was published and my name at the top.
  • Ping-backs, track-backs, etc.
  • One the index page, show not just the titles of the blog posts, but snippets.
  • Show a clickable list of topics and the number of articles in each topic.
  • Maybe a tag cloud, if they aren't already passe' :-)
  • The author and the commenters should be able to be alerted about new comments in email.

Most of these features shouldn't be hard to implement.  My aim would not be to implement every bloggy feature out there -- the likes of Wordpress are bound to always have more features -- but there are also some nice advantages to having this functionality built into Lighthouse rather than using a 3rd party blog tool.

  • You want a simple blog? Just create a new page with the blog template, and you're done.
  • You can create members-only blog content easily, and it's automatically integrated with the permission system of your site.

Oh, one thing I almost forgot to mention.  The comment form uses Defensio to filter out spam messages, so don't even think about it.

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