The Rants, Raves, Gripes, and Prophecies of Paul R. Potts

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Fri, 23 Jul 2004 Linked In

Wow, I just did a Google search on my weblog's base URL and found out that, as far as Google knows, not a single web page links to my blog! That's inspiring, it really is. On teh intarweb, no one knows I'm not a dog. Bark, bark.

For some reasons the Wiki is not getting crawled by Google: for example, I can't get any hits from keywords on my page of reviews of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. The blog is, though; Google probably found it through our main home page, which appears as a link on various sites that archive mail and Usenet postings.

I have reconfigured my bloxsom script so that it now shows only seven stories on the default page. This prevents the default page from getting huge. This setting is unfortunately global, though, and even applies to more specific searches: so, for example, if you select the topic "geeky," you won't see my article on the Dylan programming language; you'll only see 7 of 12, with no "more..." link and no indication that there are more articles, unless you happen to notice that the number of articles on the page doesn't match the displayed count.

Strangely, in by-month view, all the articles for that month are shown, even if there are more than seven. So the limit doesn't apply here. I've got to dig into Bloxom again. I'll probably have to find another plug-in, one that will provide a "more articles..." link when browsing by subject. I've got five plug-ins already, including two which together are needed in order to allow me to update entries after posting them, without screwing up the sort order. Does everyone who uses Blosxom have to mess with it this much? If so, what does that say about its usability?

I appreciate Blosxom's simplicity and support for plug-ins, but sn't there a saying about making things as simple as possible, but no simpler? Or, in this case, as simple as it can be while still handling the most common use cases? Being able to always reach even the oldest posts when browsing by subject seems like a desirable use case to me... but what do I know? I'm just a dog.

P.S.: I installed the "moreentries" plugin. You have to modify templates to get it working. It also disables some of the other plugins, like "archives," unless you carefully reorder them. The author of the plugin has a few choice comments about the Blosxom experience here.

In the release notes for the plugin, the author writes: author writes "This is a big ugly hack. The only entrypoint that worked for this is the filter() hook; the problem is that when filter() is called, the sort() routine hasn't run (isn't even decided on yet!), and %files contains all posts, not just the ones matching the request. Even running as filter, it has to be the last plugin to run, so that any other filtering happens before we decide the 'numbering' of the posts."

P.P.S.: OK, so "morentries" was working. But then I found out that Blosxom doesn't support conditionals in the template: that means it is difficult to customize the text that shows up when there are more entries available using a previous or next control. So I tried the "interpolate fancy" plugin. It basically worked, but I ran into problems when trying to nest conditionals. So I tried Rael's own "interpolate conditional" plugin, which is simpler. It worked, but I had to give up on nested conditionals, and also limit my conditional so they didn't extend past a single line in length (this breaks Rael's plugin). So it is all working, but the solution to "how do I do that?" is in part "change what you want to do."

It seems that perhaps the chain-of-filters model simply can't always do everything one might need. I've found arbitrary dependencies, bugs and undocumented limitations at every turn: and these are very small pieces of code. It's a bit like Linux in the early days: Linux is free only if your time doesn't cost anything. And after you add rather simple functionality, it isn't such a simple little application any more.

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