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Sat, 15 May 2004
Community owned weblogging tools
I've been trying to figure out what I think about the whole Movable Type situation, since Julie's blog is running on it.

For the record, I think that SixApart should be free to charge money for their product, and to price it as they see fit. That's how business works. SixApart is't a charity, and the rest of us have no business forcing them to be one if they don't want to be one.

Being an open source guy, I figured that the obvious angle to tackle was the open source one. So I thought about blogging, blogging as freedom of expression and what I perceive to be a good match between my personal goals/definition of blogging and open source software development. I read Mark Pilgrim's post about WordPress, and software freedom and open source. But as I thought about it some more, and tried to write a post about it, something didn't quite settle with me. Mark's post talked quite a bit about freedom, not being locked in and so forth, all the usual Free/Open Source stuff. But when I looked at the outcry over MT 3.0, I saw (among other things) that parts of the blogging community felt that their relationship with the Trotts/SixApart had been broken by the new licensing. I had wanted to write about the need for open source blogging software, of which there is plenty. However, I don't think that just being open source will be enough, or that matching or exceeding the feature set of MT 3.0 will be enough. My read on what made MT very special was that a sizable portion of the blogging community loved it, and felt that in some way MT was "their" package. Which of course, isn't true. It was (and is) SixApart's package. But I sensed in the outcry over MT 3.0 a yearning (at least in some parts of the blogging community) for a package that people "could call their own".

I think that some people believe that WordPress is that package, because the GPL will protect them from term changes such as SixApart's. Realistically, I expect to see more packages change terms as the blogging world expands. I don't think that just having a GPL'ed package is enoughl. The developers may still ignore the users. The developers may get tired and walk away. There are all kinds of problems that won't get fixed just because WordPress is under the GPL (or any other open source license). What WordPress (or any other suitable open source contender -- anytime you read WordPress here, insert your favorite open source contender) needs is a community. Normally, (from an Apache perspective) I'd say that WordPress needs to develop/enhance/diversify/grow its community. And that's probably true. But if the blogging community wants to have a blogging package "to call its own", then just switching blogs over to WordPress won't be enough. Folks should roll up their sleeves and get involved. I hear lots of people in the blogosphere talking about community. In real world communities like the Amish communities, when disasters happen, people chip in to help. When a barn burns down, people come together to put up a new one. It seems to me that some people view what happened with MT 3.0 as the blogging community's equivalent of a barn burning down.

So here's the punch line: If you are considering moving your blog to WordPress or some other open source blogging package as a result of what happened this week, don't drop in, switch your blog over, and drop out. Take your time, look around, and see if there's a way that you can help.

[23:29] | [computers/internet/weblogs] | # | TB | F | G | 8 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
Extensible Programming
Greg Wilson has written an article called Extensible Programming for the 21st Century. I think that there are some interesting ideas in the paper, suc as the notion of making the language toolchain a pluggable pipeline or framework. Preserving the intermediate results of components in the toolchain turns out to be very useful for building better development environments, as Smalltalk and Eclipse have shown.

I also think that separating the semantic representation of the program from the "user interface" (syntax) is another interesting idea, something that came up again recently via this repost of Moon's thoughts on sexprs. There's another less know bunch of research in this area, done by the folks at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland called hyper-programming, although more recent papers refer to the approach as hypercode. This goes even further trying to accomplish model-view separation for programming languages.

I don't, however, think that serializing all this data as XML is going to prove to be a very workable solution.

[00:12] | [computers/programming] | # | TB | F | G | 1 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

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