"there should be no standard [wiki] syntax"

First google result for: standard wiki syntax

Is "no standard syntax" really a good thing? When the wiki itself is the user interface, perhaps it is, but if you want the user interface to be a slick WYSIWYG desktop client that edits any wiki via Atom, then having a different syntax for each wiki really sucks.

Triangle blogger con 2005 links

Bruce has a great list of links about the Triangle Blogger conference. The first weekly Triangle blogger meet-up is tonight at Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill (Anton Zuiker has the details).

Clearly see the big three

pie chart of blog server market share

"Interesting analysis of the market share of the popular blogging tools by Elise Bauer." She used Google to gather the statistics. From Threadwatch.org via Scoble.

Planet Roller internals

I promised some details on PlanetTool (the command-line tool that generates Triangle Bloggers) internals, so here goes. This is what happens when PlanetTool runs:

diagram of PlanetTool


(1) We start by reading the XML configuration file (via JDOM and XPath)

(2) From the config, we create a config object, subscriptions and groups

(3) A group has subscriptions

(4) And a subscription can belong to more than one group

Refresh subscription data

(5) For each subscription, call the Rome Fetcher

(6) Fetcher uses Conditional Get and Etags and caches feeds on disk

(7) Feeds parsed into entries objects and added to subscription objects

File generation

(8) Call Velocity Texen with name of a control template

(9) Texen calls our control template

(10) Control template calls file generation templates

(11) Templates calls planet object to get config, group, subscription, and entry objects needed to generates files needed for aggregated site (HTML, RSS, OPML, etc.)

Turning the paper into a community forum

Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism, Etc.: The News & Record: "As noted here before, the News & Record, the newspaper of record in Greensboro, North Carolina, is embarking on one of mainstream journalism's most important experiments: turning the paper into a community forum, 'to build a Web presence that invites readers in to share the news they know and engage in the civic discussion,' as John Robinson, the paper's editor wrote on his blog. (See online editor Lex Alexander's memo, chock-full of ideas, for more.)"
What about the stodgy old Raleigh N&O? Newsobserver.com has newsfeeds now, I guess that's a start. By the way, the N&O newsfeeds are not really hidden behind the registration wall, anybody can get them. Here is the current list:

College Sports
Story via Ed Cone.

Couple of notes from the Triangle blogger con

I attended the Triangle Bloggers Conference 2005 on Saturday morning in Chapel Hill. The meeting was held in a classroom large enough to accommodate the approximately 150 people in attendance, power in every seat, and wireless internet. The agenda was divided into three portions, but the conference was really one long, seamless, and very interesting conversation between audience members and the speakers. The theme was using blogs to build community, how to build a larger readership for your blog, how to use blogs in grassroots journalism. Here are a couple of the things I wrote down (these are not 100% accurate quotes):

  • David Hoggard: You've heard of 'dancing like nobody is watching' -- you've got blog like nobody is reading if you want to get your authentic voice out there.
  • Dave Winer: Why do you care about being popular? Bloggers don't need readers. Bloggers are documenting the human knowledge base and making expertise available that was previously only available to the press and big institutions.
  • Ruby Sinreich: blogs will never replace the mainstream media, their role is to watchdog the media and that is a good place to be. Few people will get their news from blogs, but those that do are journalists, politicians, activists -- people who can make a difference.
  • Matt Gross: On the Blog for America site, approximately 5% of visitors would click on the comments link and 1% would leave a comment.

I also got a chance to talk to folks about corporate blogs at SAS and IBM (both have some internal Roller sites) and student blogs at UNC. I also spent some time talking to Roch Smith, the man behind the Greensboro 101 community aggregator. All and all it was a great experience. I learned a lot about blogging and I feel a little more connected to my hometown and the Triangle in general. Thanks to Anton Zuiker, Paul Jones, and everybody else who helped put it together. More information, check here and here.

Rome + Texen = Planet Roller

After a couple days of hacking with the Rome Fetcher and Velocity Texen, Planet Roller is born.

Planet Roller is currently a command-line line tool that reads a configuration file of newsfeed subscription data, then generates an aggegated weblog with an RSS feed, and an OPML listing of all subscriptions. It's essentially a Java version of Planet Planet. I've got it set up to run every 30 mintues. Yes, I'm aware that the RSS gets a warning on validation. No, I haven't added newsfeed autodiscovery yet. Yes, I stole David Edmondson's Planet Sun theme.  No, I haven't done any testing on the OPML. Enough questions already! I need to get back to work.

I'll be adding a couple more details to this post as the night progresses.

OK, I'm back. Did I mention that Planet Roller is a community aggregator, a "A Community Aggregator is a portal-like web application that displays weblog posts from a group of closely related but separately hosted weblogs and provides synthetic newsfeeds so that readers may subscribe to the group as a whole."

Configuring Planet Roller

Currently, Planet Roller is just a simple command-line tool that is designed to run as a scheduled task. It reads a list of newsfeed subscriptions from an XML file, as shown below. Eventually, there will also be a UI for Planet Roller so that you don't have to shell into to a server and edit an XML file to add and delete subscriptions.

   <admin-name>Dave Johnson</admin-name>
   <subscription id="dave">
   <subscription id="lance">
   <subscription id="matt">
   <subscription id="anil">
   <subscription id="henri">
   <subscription id="pat">
   <group handle="roller">
      <description>Other folks who are blogging Roller</description>
      <subscription-ref refid="dave">
      <subscription-ref refid="lance">
      <subscription-ref refid="pat">
      <subscription-ref refid="matt">
      <subscription-ref refid="anil">
      <subscription-ref refid="henri">
   <group handle="trijug">
      <description>Triangle Java User Group Bloggers</description>
      <subscription-ref refid="dave">

The configuration file contains three types of information: 1) configuration information for the planet site itself, 2) newsfeed subscriptions, and 3) groups. Groups allow a single Planet Roller site to host differernt aggregations. In the above configuration file, I've defined two groups "Planet Roller" and "Planet TriJUG". Note that one subscription can appear in more than one group.

Customizing Planet Roller File Generation

The command-line version of Planet Roller uses the Texen feature of Velocity to generate whatever files you want in your Planet Roller site. I included templates for HTML, RSS, and OPML, but you can tweak these and/or add whatever you want.

You tell Planet Roller which templates to use by specifying a Texen control template in the element of the config file. Specify the templates directory in the element. The control template does not generate anything itself. It controls the file generation process and it determines which files are generated and which template is used for each. Here is Planet Roller's current control template:

#set ($groupHandles = $planet.groupHandles)
#foreach ($groupHandle in $groupHandles)
    #set ($outputFile = $strings.concat([$groupHandle, &quot;.html&quot;]))
    $generator.parse(&quot;html.vm&quot;, $outputFile, &quot;groupHandle&quot;, $groupHandle)
    #set ($outputFile = $strings.concat([$groupHandle, &quot;.rss&quot;]))
    $generator.parse(&quot;rss.vm&quot;,  $outputFile, &quot;groupHandle&quot;, $groupHandle)
    #set ($outputFile = $strings.concat([$groupHandle, &quot;.opml&quot;]))
    $generator.parse(&quot;opml.vm&quot;, $outputFile, &quot;groupHandle&quot;, $groupHandle)

The control template loops through the groups defined in the config file and for each, generates an HTML file using the html.vm template, an RSS file using the rss.vm template, and an OPML file using the opml.vm template. You can provide your own control template, or just hack the one that comes with Planet Roller.

Based on the above configuration data and control template, when Planet Roller runs, you'll end up with six files:

Let's look at the RSS template, so you can get a feel for how the templates work.

<rss xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" version="2.0">
  #set($group = $planet.getGroup($groupHandle))
  <generator>Roller Planet 1.1-dev</generator>
  #set($entries = $planet.getAggregation($group, 30))
  #foreach( $entry in $entries )

And here is the OPML template:

#set($group = $planet.getGroup($groupHandle))
<opml version="1.1">


#foreach($sub in $group.subscriptions)
   <outline htmlurl="$utilities.textToHTML($sub.siteUrl)" xmlurl="$utilities.textToHTML($sub.feedUrl)" text="$utilities.textToHTML($sub.title)">

Within a template, you have access to the configuration through the $planet object, plus there are a couple of other objects that you'll find helpful in generating files. Here are the objects that are available in a template:

  • groupHandle: a string that contains the "handle" of the current group, which you can use to get the group object from the planet.
  • planet: the planet object allows you to access groups via $planet.getGroup($groupHandle) and aggregations for groups via $planet.getAggregation($group, N) where N is the max number of entries to be returned.
  • planet.configuration: this object contains configuration information, such as
  • date: current date
  • utilities: text-to-HTML, data formatting, and other utilities

Running Planet Roller

You can run Planet Roller from a simple script, like the one below:

java -classpath ${_CP} org.roller.tools.planet.PlanetTool $1 

If you want Planet Roller to run on a schedule, schedule it. For example, on UNIX you can use cron. I use the following cron task to run Planet Roller on the 6th and 36th minute of every hour:

   6,36 * * * * (cd ~roller/planet-roller; ./planet-roller.sh)

Planet Roller uses the Rome Fetcher library to retrieve, parse, and cache newsfeed data to disk. Fetcher uses HTTP Conditional Get and Etags to ensure that feeds are only downloaded when truly updated.

That's enough for now. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about Planet Roller internals.

First blogs.sun.com podcast

Jim Gisanzio: Check out what is probably Sun's first BSC Podcast -- Simon Phipps interviewing Ed Peterlin at Linux Desktop Summit on NeoOffice/J

Triangle Bloggers Conference 2005

I'm looking forward to Triangle Blogger Con 2005 in Chapel Hill tomorrow. Big time bloggers Dave Winer, Dan Gillmore, and Ruby Sinreich will be in attendance and, I assume, helping to lead the discussions. It's a very short conference with thee sessions in the morning focusing on using blogs to help build communities. That's a very appropriate topic for me since I'm spending today writing a community aggregator front end for Roller, which I'm calling Planet Roller (I'm not sure if the name will stick).

Update: via Mister Suger, the Durham Morning Herald on the conference: Bloggers Gathering Outside Cyberspace

Raleigh, NC: coffee shops with free wireless

These are the best places I've found in Raleigh to get work done, drink good coffee, and enjoy free wireless access to the net.

  • Helios Coffee - in trendy Glenwood South (413 Glenwood Ave). Bonus features: very cool music, outside seating, good smoothies, beer and  wine.
  • Percolator Lounge - in North Raleigh at Quail Corners (5039 Falls of Neuse Rd, used to be a Cupajoe)
  • Cafe Cyclo - in Cameron Village (2020 Cameron St.). Bonus features: excellent food, full bar, ice cream store next door.

Know any others? I need to find similar places in Chapel Hill. I'll leave comments open on this one.

Corporate Podcasting goes live at Sun

Rama and the rest of the crew at Sun.com have been working long and hard to bring you the coolest of the cool. Podcasting, or MediaCasting as the cool kids call it, has gone live at Sun (actually it's beta).  Stay tuned to Rama's blog because the best is yet to come.

I'm proud to say that I'm part of the Sun.com crew. My little part in this endeavor was to add MediaCast support to the Roller instance we have running on blogs.sun.com. I did it by implementing part of the Weblog Entry Plugin architecture, which is on the table for Roller 1.1 release.

Blogger with no time to blog

I find it somewhat ironic that, because I'm working on a book about blog technologies and working full time on developing blog software, I have almost no time to blog. That's why you've seen so few personal blog entries recently. Matt's right, the mix of personal entries are what really make a blog for me. I hope that will change soon. Now that Roller 1.0 is really, truly out of the way (fingers crossed) and the really fun part of the book is starting up, I hope that will change (but I'm not making any promises).

Roller 1.0.1 bug fix release (with nofollow support)

Roller Weblogger: Roller 1.0.1 is a bug fix release that also adds support for Google's new rel="nofollow" flag. You can get the release on Roller's Java.Net download space. You can read the change list on Roller's JIRA issue tracking system. And, you can find install instructions and instructions for upgrading your existing Roller 1.0 install to 1.0.1 on the Roller wiki. Happy rolling!

Proposal: Roller 1.1

I made a proposal for a Roller 1.1 release today. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions please join us on the Roller-development mailing-list to discuss.

HTTPS logins in Roller 1.0

I just wrote up some instructions for configuring Secure Logins for Roller 1.0.

I had to make one minor change in Roller 1.0's Secure Login feature. I found that, when Roller is running behind a web switch, I can't rely on request.isSecure() to tell me if I have an HTTPS connection. I had to add an (optional) request header test. In my case, I have to test for a header named X-SSL to determine if HTTPS is active.

Ordinary user -> XHTML

Alan Williamson: I have attempted to use online editors (fckeditor/htmlArea) but they do not enforce valid XHTML and the results they produce can sometimes be a right old mess of tags  (try editing the source of a post-fckeditor saved text).  Ironically one of the common suggestions that have come from my users is their desire to use a WIKI type of input.  They are comfortable with this and it does solve a lot of UI problems. However I am finding it difficult to find tools that will actually take WIKI Markup and transform it to XHTML.
Do the closed source blog/wiki tools do a better job at going from ordinary user to XHTML?

Clearing the JSFud

Rick High: For such an indispensable technology, Java Server Faces (JSF) has generated an undue amount of FUD.
Amen, brother.

JavaOne proposals

A first for me: I submitted a couple of proposals for JavaOne 2005. The first one is a joint session with four speakers (that may pose a problem) titled Beyond Blogging: Feed Syndication and Publishing with Java. If the proposal is accepted Kevin Burton, Patrick Chanezon, Alejanro Abdelnur, and I will discuss the Java tools available for feed syndication, FeedParser, Rome, Roller, and BlogClient. We'll also discuss plans for moving towards a standard Java API for feed parsing, generation, and publishing.  The second paper is titled Enterprise Blogging With Java and it is basically an updated and improved version of the talk I gave at the Triangle and Orlando/Gainesville JUGs last year.

Moving on to part II and the blog apps

Some status on Blogs, Wikis, and Feeds in Action: I submitted Chapter 8: Publishing with Atom last week, bringing me to the end of part I of the book. Now I'm moving on to Part II, a collection of blog apps, example applications that are designed to be interesting an immediately useful. One of the first blog apps is a simple community aggregator, like a simple more limited version of Planet. That is quite convenient, because I'm also supposed to be working on a more full featured aggregator for the blogs.sun.com front page.

Anil's new Roller plugins

Anil has put together a couple of Roller plugins for Google links and Technorati tags. He has also set up his very own wiki.

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