Dave Johnson on open web technologies, social software and Java
Ten years ago on this day, O'Reilly published an article that I wrote called Building an Open Source J2EE Weblogger, the article that introduced the Roller weblogger (now known as Apache Roller) to the world. It changed my career and my life in a bunch of nice ways and 10 years later I'm still benefiting from my choice to create Roller and write that article. So you can get a taste of the times, here's the intro:
Building an Open Source J2EE Weblogger: As a Java developer, you should be aware of the tremendous wealth of open source development software that is available for your use -- even if you have no desire to release any of your own software as open source. In this article, I will introduce you to some of the most useful open source Java development tools by showing you how I used these tools to develop a complete database-driven Web application called Roller.
Roller fits into the relatively new category of software called webloggers: applications that make it easy for you to maintain a weblog, also known as a blog -- a public diary where you link to recent reading on the Web and comment on items of interest to you.
The Roller Web application allows you to maintain a Web site that consists of a weblog, an organized collection of favorite Web bookmarks, and a collection of favorite news feeds. You can define Web pages to display your weblog, bookmarks, and news feeds. By editing the HTML templates that define these pages, you have almost total control over the layout and appearance of these pages. Most importantly, you can do all of this without leaving the Roller Web application -- no programming is required.
I've written and talked about Roller and the history of Roller numerous times. If you're interested in learning more about it here's my most recent Roller presentation, which covers Roller history in some detail:
These days, Roller isn't really thriving as an open source project. Wordpress became the de facto standard blogging package and then micro-blogging took over the world. There are only a couple of active committers and most recent contributions have come via student contributions. Though IBM, Oracle and other companies still use it heavily, they do not contribute back to the project. If you're interested in contributing to Roller or becoming part of the Apache Software Foundation, then Roller needs YOU!.
I blogged about Alfonso Romero's Apache Roller 4.0 Beginner's Guide book before. It's a great resource for folks who want to get the most out of their Apache Roller-based blogs, and not just beginners. As you can see in the photo on the right, I've got my copy. You can get yours directly from Pakt publishing:
To publicize the book, Pakt publishing has been publishing some useful excerpts and even a complete sample chapter online. Here's summary of the excerpts so far:
If you've been following Roller development you know that Roller 5.0 is on the way. Most of the changes in Roller 5.0 are "under the hood" so 5.0 won't make Alfonso's book obsolete. Except for a couple of pages in Chapter 5 "Spicing Up Your Blog" that need updated screenshots, I believe everything in the book applies to Roller 5.0 as well.
Crammed into one post...After a month of blog neglect, my automatic Latest Links from my Delicious.com account started to pile up. Back in the glory days of this blog, I blogged about things instead just saving links or tweeting about them. I realized that, by adding some commentary/opinion for each, I could turn a month's worth of links into a month's worth of blog posts and thus gain total absolution for my sin of going a full month without a post. So that's what I did. [Read More]
Even when you're mentally prepared for a layoff and you know it's probably for the best, its still a life-changing shock when it happens, a loss. It's hard not to feel fear, anger, sadness, self-recrimination and all those stages that fellow RIFee David Van Couvering blogged about. I still cycle through those, but not as frenetically as before.
I got over the sadness and fear part pretty quickly thanks to my tweeple, the very supportive network of friends, colleagues, former coworkers, etc. that's grown around my blog, my work at Sun, my involvement at Apache Software Foundation and my social network accounts like Twitter. I got the word out on Twitter first and word spread quickly. I posted to my blog and some very kind friends, Tim Bray, Ted Leung and Robert Donkin helped spread the word on their blogs and said some very nice things about me in the process. Within hours a flood of supportive tweets, emails and calls come rolling in, including about a dozen real live job leads.
So, thanks folks. I really appreciate the help. I'll keep you posted.
Happy New Year 2009 to one and all! I took a nice long break from work, complete with a Florida vacation, hot tubbing, theme parks and a mini-vacation to rest-up from the main vacation and now I'm back. I think I'm rested and ready to restart some things including work, of course, and this blog.
Restarting a blog is not easy, or so I've heard. Here's what I did. I drew a big diagram on the white board with multiple colors, circles and arrows. I did some calculations and eventually figured out that what I need is a new theme. A little bit of eye candy for the couple of folks who end up here after a search gone wrong or accidentally clicking through as they skim over my blog in Google Reader; that's just what will re-ignite my blogging activities. My problems all have technological solutions. Funny how that works.
So, if you've clicked through to my blog then you're looking at my new theme and newly restarted blog. Thrilling, huh? It's a simple faux-column deal like my old theme, but this time I'm taking advantage of Roller's new 'action' pages, I'm using YUI Grids CSS to define the layout and I'm including content from my other sites (Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, etc.) via aggregation. I'll provide some more details about the theme and it's features (and a download) in a subsequent post, after I've gotten some real work done.
I'm honored, excited and now I'm prepared.
I just finished writing up some notes for tonight when I'll be one of four guest speakers talking to Fred Stutzman's Technologies of Friendship class at UNC. Here's Fred's reminder post:
I remember how freaked-out I was to see the referrer hits start rolling in (pun fully intended) from http://blogs.sun.com/roller. I can't believe it's been four years already. Thanks to Linda for the reminder.
Here's a concept that I've been using to help me both in my blog writing and to filter all the incoming feeds, tweets, photo sharing and social bookmarking items that come in via my feed reader: my A list. It's not made up of famous folks and big blog names like Scoble or Winer or Arrington. My A list is made up of people that I know or work with and that I believe are following me in some way, reading my blog, subscribing to my tweets or working with me on a project. I've got a folder in my feed reader and my A list is always the one I read first. Sometimes I don't get much farther than than before hitting the mark all read button. And when I do blog, that folder helps remind my of who I'm writing for. "A" stands for audience.
I mentioned the Social Software for Glassfish (SSG) EA2 release before the winter break, but I never got around to posting any details. Since then some documentation has appeared, Manveen Kaur blogged it, The Aquarium too and now screen-cast master Arun Gupta has created an excellent Social Software for Glassfish screencast that walks you through the features in this very early access release. Now I don't have to say nearly as much.
Apparently, CISCO has a pretty active internal blog server and it's running Roller. I can tell from my referrer logs. If any CISCO folks are reading this, drop me a line. I'd love to know how Roller and internal blogging in general is working out for you.
I have just one item for Roller Strong today: the post below from James Snell of IBM, which lists some pretty impressive stats for IBM's internal blogging system. James doesn't mention it in the post, but I've been told that the site is powered by Apache Roller v3.1.
Growth: Quick note: IBMâ€™s internal blogging environment currently has 95k+ entries, 94k+ comments, 41k+ registered users, 11k+ Blogs (about 13% of which are considered â€œactiveâ€�), 20k+ distinct tags, and 6k+ ratings on entries (entry rating has only been around since June of 2007). On average, there are just under 150 new entries posted to about 115 blogs per day. The number of comments per day fluctuate between 80-230 per day. A range of between 200-400 tags are used each day. Update: in the first three days of January, the server access logs show 109,439 unique visitors, 3,265,739 hits, and 61.37 GB of data transferred.
And that's internal boggers only. Just think what they could do with an external blog site. Roller works well outside the firewall too.
Anne Zelenka, Gigaom: Could open-source blogging platform WordPress serve as your next social networking profile? Chris Messina, co-founder of Citizen Agency, thinks so. Heâ€™s started a project called DiSo, for distributed social networking, that aims to â€œbuild a social network with its skin inside out.â€� DiSo will first look to WordPress as its foundation.
This could be the next step towards the unified social graph that some technologists wish for. WordPress suits the purpose because it provides a person-centric way of coming online, offers an extensible architecture, and already has some features â€” such as an OpenID and a blogroll plugin â€” that can be pressed into social networking service. And its users represent exactly the sort of audience that might appreciate the permanent, relatively public identity that DiSo aims to offer.
Interesting. I think that blogs should be the corner-stone of social networking and I'd much rather have my blog be my social network profile rather than some page inside somebody else's container. Then again, as a blog server developer I'm pretty biased.