Tag Archives: weblog

C’est quoi un blog? Quelques réflexions à défaut d’une définition tranchante

[en] What's a blog? Thinking about it.

Deux articles sont apparus sur mon radar cette dernière semaine:

Les deux posent des questions de catégorie, limites, définitions. Elles sont liées: si on sait ce qu’est un blog, on sait ce qu’est un blogueur — et vice-versa. Ou bien…?

Durant mes études d’histoire des religions, j’ai appris que les catégories rigides ne fonctionnaient pas trop quand on commence à toucher aux sciences humaines. On a plutôt des définitions ou regroupements par affinité. Je crois qu’il est illusoire de vouloir dresser une liste de critères à la “si et seulement si” pour définir ce qu’est un blog. De même, je crois qu’il est illusoire de vouloir faire une distinction nette entre blogueurs et journalistes, dans le cadre des RP ou d’accréditations pour une conférence.

Il y a très longtemps, j’avais fait une page sur SpiroLattic intitulée “C’est quoi un weblog?“. Vous imaginez bien que ce n’est pas aujourd’hui la première fois qu’on se pose la question. Plus récemment, j’ai écrit ici un article (en anglais) sur les relations blogueurs, dans lequel je tente de poser quelques distinctions entre journalistes et blogueurs qui justifient de traiter ces derniers différemment.

Je vais tenter de démêler un peu ces termes. Ce qui suit n’engage que moi, ce sont mes définitions, mes conceptions, et elles n’ont pas la prétention de faire autorité (ou pire, parole d’Evangile). Tiens, d’ailleurs, en passant, à Coworking Europe j’ai l’impression qu’on a passé une bonne partie de notre temps à nous demander ce qu’était le coworking. Quelques débuts de réflexion de ma part là-dessus.

Donc, un blog — ou un weblog, comme on les a appelés durant des années — c’est quoi? Je vais essayer de partir avec une définition minimale sur laquelle tout le monde (je l’espère) sera d’accord:

  • un blog, c’est une sorte de site web
  • un blog, ça contient des articles datés (billets, posts) organisés en ordre chronologique inverse.

Je pense que si on a affaire à un truc qui n’est pas un site web, ou qui n’est pas une collection d’articles datés en ordre chronologique inverse, on aura de la peine à appeler ça un blog. Par contre je pense pas que ces deux caractéristiques soient suffisantes pour définir un blog. Nécessaires, oui, mais pas suffisantes.

Allons un cran plus loin: voici certaines caractéristiques qui sont généralement partagées par tous les blogs. Mais elles sont plus discutables. On pourrait hésiter, face à un “blog” qui ne les a pas toutes.

  • un blog permet de laisser des commentaires sur les articles
  • chaque article du blog est archivé à une URL stable permettant de faire un lien direct vers celui-ci
  • on sait qui écrit: il y a une personne ou des personnes identifiables derrière le blog, même si c’est sous pseudonyme
  • les anciens articles du blog restent en ligne, archivés chronologiquement
  • un blog facilite et automatise la publication grâce à une technologie spécifique (outil de blog/CMS) côté serveur
  • un blog est intégré d’une façon ou d’une autre dans quelque chose de plus large que lui, à travers des liens vers/depuis d’autres sites/blogs (intertextualité), ou des échanges entre le(s) blogueur(s) et d’autres via commentaires ou blogs interposés (communauté de lecteur ou e blogueurs)
  • un blog contient principalement du contenu original
  • la mise en page d’un blog consiste en une colonne principale présentant les x (généralement 10) derniers articles les uns sous les autres, généralement accompagnée d’une ou plusieurs colonnes latérales avec du contenu secondaire.

(Et hop, petit article en train de se transformer en tartine.)

Rapidement, pour chacun de ces points, un petit argumentaire expliquant pourquoi je ne les considère pas obligatoires.

Commentaires: clairement, la plupart des blogs aujourd’hui permettent les commentaires, mais il faut savoir que durant les premières années des weblogs, les commentaires n’existaient pas. Historiquement, c’est un peu restrictif. C’était pas des blogs qu’on avait? Le blog de Seth Godin, c’est pas un blog? Alors oui, un blog en général ça a des commentaires, mais l’absence de commentaires ne permet pas de dire “c’est pas un blog”.

Permaliens: pour moi, c’est une caractéristique importante du blog. C’est ça qui fait que le blog fonctionne, comme format de publication. Ça attire les liens. Chaque article est archivé pour toujours, avec un lien stable, le paradis! Mais on trouve encore des gens qui disent avoir des blogs, et qui ont des trucs qui ressemblent à des blogs, mais où il est impossible (ou très difficile) de faire un lien vers un article. Exemple: Solar Impulse. C’est un blog ou pas? (Alors oui, quelque part caché j’avais réussi à trouver comment révéler le permalien de l’article, mais on peut pas dire que ça encourage les liens.)

Auteur(s): ça, je crois que c’est super important. Il y a un être humain derrière un blog. Même si on ne sait pas son nom, il est là. Il a une personnalité. Une agence de comm’ ne blogue pas — ses employés le font. Le ton institutionnel, désincarné, impersonnel: c’est peut-être des news publiées avec un outil de blog, mais pour moi ce n’est pas un blog. Vous savez des edge-cases à proposer pour ce critère?

Archives: le format du blog est fondé sur l’organisation chronologique inverse du contenu. Les catégories sont venues bien plus tard, font à mon avis partie des “bonnes pratiques” pour un blog mais ne sont pas une fonctionnalité obligatoire. Si la première page est en ordre chronologique inverse, on s’attend à pouvoir “remonter le temps”, et trouver des archives temporelles. De plus en plus aujourd’hui, on voit des blogs (“blogs”?) qui s’en passent. Pour moi, on tombe dans le blogazine quand le thématique prend le dessus sur le chronologique. Edge case? Le Rayon UX, qui est à mon sens toujours un blog (t’en dis quoi, Fred?) même si il manque furieusement de chronologie dans l’organisation de son contenu.

Technologie: quand blogger.com a débarqué, une des choses géniales que faisait ce service était d’automatiser l’habillage répétitif des articles et leur transfert sur un serveur web. De façon générale, les blogs modernes utilisent un outil ou service de blog qui épargne au blogueur bien des manipulations techniques. Par contre, je refuse de poser ça comme une exigence. Il y a des blogs cousus main. Zeldman l’a fait pendant de longues années (disant même “c’est pas un blog!” pendant longtemps), et à moins que je ne me trompe, Karl fait toujours son blog à la mano.

Réseau: souvent, quand je regarde un “blog” en me disant “ça ressemble à un blog, mais ce n’en est pas un”, c’est cette dimension qui manque. Le blog qui blogue tout seul dans son coin, ignorant la multitude de pages du web et de gens qui les fréquentent. En général, le blogueur fait des liens vers d’autres pages (si ce n’est d’autres blogs), on (= d’autres blogueurs) fait des liens vers lui, s’il y a des commentaires il y a un minimum d’interaction — ou via articles interposés. Il y a une “culture blog”, et c’est celle du réseau, de la relation, et de la conversation.

Contenu: oui bien sûr, le blogueur produit du contenu, ajoute de la valeur quelque part. Est-ce qu’un blog sous Tumblr qui ne fait que republier sans commentaire ce qui a été trouvé ailleurs est toujours un blog? Si Digital Crumble était mon seul blog, j’avoue que j’aurais du mal à me dire blogueuse.

Apparence: j’avoue être assez vieux jeu sur ce coup. Une mise en page magazine, pour moi, ça transforme le blog en blogazine. Un blogazine, ça peut être bien — mais ce n’est plus un blog. Le chronologique a cédé la place au thématique. Et ça se voit dans la façon dont l’information est organisée sur la page d’accueil. Sans articles les uns sous les autres, j’ai du mal à appeler ça un blog. On voit d’ailleurs des blogs qui étaient partis dans une direction 100% blogazine revenir vers quelque chose d’un poil plus chronologique, même si c’est pas un long défilé d’articles les uns sous les autres. Exemple: celui de Tara Hunt.

Alors un blog, c’est quoi? Un blog, c’est plus ou moins ça. C’est cet ensemble de caractéristiques. Mais on va trouver des choses qui n’ont pas toutes ces caractéristiques et qui sont quand même des blogs, tout comme on en trouvera qui remplissent tous les critères mais… n’en sont pas. Signe qu’il faudra réfléchir plus et affiner. Définir, c’est un grand travail de va-et-vient.

Un blogueur, alors? Quelqu’un qui blogue. Mais je m’attarderai un autre jour sur ce qui le sépare du journaliste.

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Posted in Blogging, Thinking | Tagged blog, caractéristiques, commentaires, critères, definition, histoire, weblog | 4 Comments

Idée de nouveau blog

[en] I'm thinking about setting up a second blog for teaching-related stuff (for students and collegues).

Plusieurs personnes m’ont fait remarquer que mes billets s’étaient faits rares ces derniers mois. C’est vrai, et je ne sais pas exactement pourquoi. Moins de choses à  écrire, moins besoin d’écrire, une petite rechute de TMS, la vie qui va bien… Ce blog n’est pas abandonné pour autant. Disons simplement que c’est une période creuse.

Depuis quelques jours, je cogite l’ouverture d’un second blog, en parallèle de celui-ci, centré sur mon travail d’enseignante. L’autre jour, je donnais à  mes élèves une adresse internet que j’utilise pour préparer des exercices d’entraînement de vocabulaire. Ce serait tellement plus simple de mettre ça sur mon “blog de prof” dont ils auraient l’adresse! Je pourrais également l’utiliser pour d’autres communications officieuses. Le site pour les exercices de vocabulaire, ça intéresse également mes collègues. Ce serait sympa d’avoir un endroit où centraliser tout ça! Si des collègues me lisent… qu’en pensez-vous?

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Posted in Stuff that doesn't fit | Tagged blog, Blogosphere Interest, Education, enseignant, Enseignement, teacher, teaching, weblog | 2 Comments

Hosted Blog Platform Test Write-Up

[fr] J'ai testé 13 plateformes de weblogging gratuites*. Voici les résultats. Un grand nombre de ces plateformes sont francophones. Ma recommandation numéro un pour une solution en français est Mon-Blog.org, qui tourne sous DotClear. BlogSome, sous WordPress, est aussi très bien.

Edit 26.12.2006: Pour ceux d'entre vous qui cherchent une plateforme de blogs gratuite, cela fait maintenant un moment que je recommande sans hésiter WordPress.com.

Edit 26.12.2006: For those of you trying to choose a free blogging platform, I’ve now been recommending WordPress.com without hesitation for some time now.

As the people I hang out with on Freenode are painfully aware of by now, I’ve been on a blog platform testing binge. In total, 13 free* platforms tested. Here is a quick list of my test blogs — you’ll find detailed comments about each platform on the test blogs themselves, and a general overview below. The ones I preferred were Blogsome and Mon-Blog.

The platforms were tested with FireFox 1.0 on OSX, Javascript enabled, set to block pop-ups and force links opening a new window to open in the initial tab/window (we’ll see this setting seems to have caused problems with many visual editors).

My main interest was to have a peek at what existed (personal curiosity) and see if it was possible to claim the blogs on Technorati. What follows is an account of my personal user experience on these different platforms. It is not the result of a battery of systematic “benchmarking tests”, though here are some of the points I paid attention to:

  1. was it easy to create an account, or did I have to fight?
  2. how easy was it for me to sign back in, afterwards?
  3. overall, did I find the features I expect from a weblog? (note how subjective that is)
  4. how did writing a post go?
  5. could I add images?
  6. could I change the template?
  7. could I add links to my other test blogs? (linkroll management)
  8. could I claim the blog as mine at Technorati?
  9. did I bump into availability problems?

Lets get the last point over with first. I succeeded in claiming blogs on all platforms except three: NRJ blogs, Skyblog, and LiveJournal. The reason for that is that the last two platforms limit links in the blogroll to weblogs using the same platform. This prevented me from using the blogroll to add the Technorati code necessary to claiming the weblog.

Note, by the way, that I am talking about the free version of LiveJournal, as the paid version does not have this limitation. NRJ blogs, by far the worst platform amongst those tested, does not permit linking at all (even in posts!) I’m not even sure if it deserves to be called a “blogging platform”.

As far as linkrolls or blogrolls are concerned, ViaBloga gets top marks for their “almost-automatic linkrolling”. You can simply type in the URL of the blog/site you want to add, and it retrieves title and rss feed, and also creates a screenshot and thumbnail of the site. It really makes you want to add links to your sidebar. One-click blogrolling, if you like. Otherwise, most link management systems are pretty standard.

Some, like MSN Spaces, make you click “Add Link” between each links, instead of systematically presenting you with a form allowing you to add a link each time you go in link management. This is one of the minor but irritating usability problem which plague MSN Spaces. There are major ones too, but I won’t list them too (no paragraph breaks for me, login problems, timeout problems, clunky interface, ugly permalinks, horrible markup) — they are detailed on my test MSN Space.

Visual editors are neat when they work, but they are a great pain when they do not work. Because of my browser settings, I failed adding links to my posts at ViaBloga, for example. I also failed to add photographs at CanalBlog, HautEtFort, and 20six because of this. BlogSpot is clear enough about the fact you need an external service like Flickr if you want photos on your blog, and both LiveJournal and U-blog seem to fail the photo test for various reasons.

Both Skyblog and NRJ blogs are very limited blogging services, the latter being a very pale imitation of the former. Skyblog focuses on making it easy for teens to put photos on the web with brief comments, and, despite many other shortcomings (no permalinks, interface issues, server overload at peak times), I’m forced to admit it does it pretty well — which partly explains its success (it’s the main French language blog platform in blog numbers). The other services passed the photo test with more or less ease (don’t forget I’m a geek, so uploading a photo first, copying the URL and inserting it into a post isn’t an issue for me — it could be for some).

At some point, I had trouble connecting to the following services (or timeouts): Skyblog, MSN Spaces, and 20six (I can’t remember any others, but my memory might be failing me. NRJ blogs distinguishes itself by refusing to publish certain posts, or waiting a day or two before being so.

Now, before I get lost in random comments, I’ll give you a quick low-down on each of the solutions tested, as well as links to other people who have recently reviewed some of them.

Blogsome
  • Pros: WordPress, very easy to sign up
  • Cons: might need to be a bit of a techie at times
Being an avid and enthusiastic WordPress user, the idea of a hosted WordPress-powered blogging platform was very exciting to me. No bad surprises as I already knew the interface (I’m biased, of course), and no major bugs that couldn’t be addressed after posting about them in the forum. I didn’t try the visual editor there, but I assume it will make it more newbie-friendly. Definitely the platform I recommend for the moment.
MSN Spaces
  • Pros: none
  • Cons: way too beta (buggy)
After Roland Tanglao, Robert Scoble, and a dirty word test at Boing Boing, let me add my two cents by saying I am unenthusiastic about MSN Spaces. It’s still way too rough around the edges. Not usable as far as I’m concerned.
LiveJournal
  • Pros: community, well-established
  • Cons: lots of settings, limitations of free accounts (no Technorati claim possible)
Well, LiveJournal is LiveJournal, and I know that to get a good idea of what it can do you need the paid version. My first impression was that it seemed to have lots of options in the admin part (a bit confusing), but other than that, it was pretty easy to get going and posting. Google will point out to you many more complete reviews of LiveJournal, so I’ll stop here. My main point was, however, to see if I could claim a free LiveJournal as my blog at Technorati, and that was not possible (short of adding the code via JavaScript in the head of the page, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to go that far for my test.)
BlogSpot
  • Pros: well-established, nice admin interface
  • Cons: lack of categories, trackbacks, and image hosting
No big surprise here. I used Blogger for years (though not BlogSpot), and I liked the interface I found during my test a lot. They should wake up and get categories and trackbacks though. We’ll be in 2005 in less than 3 weeks. A good, solid option for people who can live without categories, trackbacks, and hosted photographs.
ViaBloga*
  • Pros: great link management, wiki-like features, active development
  • Cons: some usability issues and minor bugs; not free
ViaBloga has many good features. The “configurable blocs” system (invented by Stéphane for Joueb.com), which allows you to easily move about elements of your page, is just great (once you’ve figured it out). The platform has real wiki-like capability via keywords, and “cross-links”, which work like a kind of automatic trackbacking system. On the shortcomings side, I would say that although the features are great, the usability and user-friendliness of the administration aspect, which is a little confusing, could still be improved. I’m not a beginner, and it took me quite some time to figure out a certain number of things (and I know Stéphane and Delphine, so it’s easy for me to get direct help). And no, it’s not just because I’m “used” to other systems — I should still be able to figure things out easily.
Joueb
  • Pros: well-established, community
  • Cons: community (!), some usability problems (cf. ViaBloga)
Joueb is ViaBloga’s community-oriented little sister. The first French language hosted blogging platform seemed to me a little more kludgy than ViaBloga, but there is a happy community there, and Stéphane is an active developper, always ready for feedback and making improvements to his babies. If you’re looking for a French weblogging platform with a strong community, I’d say this is a good choice.
Skyblog
  • Pros: great if all you want is upload your phone photos, spit out a comment, and allow people to comment (though Flickr does it better)
  • Cons: no permalinks or trackbacks, limited server availability, teen-sms-talk and link-whoring comments
I remember when Skyblog was launched, the francoblogosphere was boiling over in horror at this kind of bastardized blogging solution where teens posted pics of their friends and commented in sms-speak. (Sorry, can’t find any posts right now, will add links later if I do.) As I said, Skyblog does not do much, but it makes publishing photos and short texts easy, and it’s pretty successfully targeted at a certain audience. My pupils have Skyblogs and they are obviously all the rage. Lots of photos, hardly any text, and comments abound which either say “ur 2 kool”, “u suck”, or “com visit my sky http://somecoolnick.sykblog.com/”. Not very interesting as a blogging platform, as far as I’m concerned, but obviously successful.
NRJ blogs
Edit 18.12.04: it seems confirmed that NRJ blogs hasn’t launched yet, and Google caught them by surprise.
  • Pros: none
  • Cons: sucks (I mean, some posts don’t even get posted, and finding your blog URL demands a thorough investigation)
I’ll say it loud and clear, NRJ blogs suck, and as a pretty obvious consequence they aren’t taking off really well: less than 50 blogs created since they launched (and NRJ is a major popular radio!) However, I can’t find a link on their home page, so there is a possibility this was a preliminary soft launch. In any case, I’m getting my few days of fame as an NRJ blog star. Neuro, Mr_Peer, and Kwyxz also tried NRJ blogs and were all but impressed. See their posts or my test blog for detailed complaints.
CanalBlog
  • Pros: has the usual set of features you expect from a blog
  • Cons: admin interface can feel a little rude at times
CanalBlog was a pleasant surprise. The admin interface takes over your browser, but it works pretty well and it’s user friendly enough in a “MS-Office-lookalike” way. The layouts you can choose from are clean, and they have comments and trackbacks. They have ads, though. I’d say they are a viable platform (er… a viable choice of platform).
HautEtFort
  • Pros: nice admin interface
  • Cons: no trackbacks
Too bad they don’t have trackbacks! I like what I’ve seen of the admin interface, nice and clean and uncluttered. As many other platforms do, they force me to go through the home page to log in (which I dislike), but honestly, like CanalBlog (and maybe more, if it wasn’t for the lack of trackbacks), I’d say they are an honest French language blogging platform.
20six
  • Pros: has the set of features you expect from a blog
  • Cons: ugly, cluttered admin interface, server downtime
I really didn’t like 20six. I find their layouts ugly, the admin interface is hell, and their server was unavailable for hours at one point when I was about to do my photo upload test. Even though they know what trackbacks are, I wouldn’t recommend them (go CanalBlog instead).
U-blog
  • Pros: community, features more or less ok
  • Cons: probably doomed
Well, I’ve spoken a lot about U-blog already, but more in a blogo-political context. When there weren’t so many French language blogging platforms around, U-blog used to be my recommendation. On trying it now, I can’t help saying that it feels a little broken, or abandoned. I was faced with an error when trying to upload a picture, and some of the links in the admin section tell you that this or that feature is only available with the paid version. Given the platform doesn’t seem in active development anymore, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Mon-Blog
  • Pros: DotClear (clean, beautiful, all functionalities)
  • Cons: launched three days ago
Now this, ladies and gentlemen, was a last-minute and very pleasant surprise. Mon-Blog is based on the weblog engine DotClear, which I have long held in high regard. For the first time, I’ve had a chance to see the DotClear admin interface, and let me tell you, it’s as beautiful as the themes they provide to dress your weblog in. Nothing really missing feature-wise, though it seems templates won’t really be customisable at Mon-Blog for the moment. The service has just launched and some creases need ironing out, but the forums and the developer are reactive. Just go for it. This is clearly my first choice for a French blogging platform.

I hope this will have been of interest to some. Thanks for your attention, and I’m glad to be over with the testing!

Edit 16:20: I’ve just add quick pros/cons bullet points (thanks to acrobat for the suggestion and the proof-reading).

Edit 13.12.04: ViaBloga was included in this survey although it is not a free platform. It is free for non-profit organisations, however. The mistake is mine — being an early tester, I was offered six months free, and in my mind had not switched ViaBloga to the “paying platforms” category. See my comment and Stéphane’s on the subject.

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Posted in Blogging | Tagged 20six, blog, blogger, blogging, Blogroll, blogsome, canalblog, claim, code, critique, Essay-Like, experiment, fort, french, haut, hautetfort, hosted, image, joueb, layout, linkroll, list, livejournal, log, mon-blog, monblog, niutopia, nrj, nrjblog, ping, platform, profile, review, server, skyblog, system, technorati, test, u-blug, ublog, viabloga, weblog, Weblog Technology, weblogging, Wordpress | 142 Comments

Testing Hosted Blog Solutions

[fr] J'ai ouvert des blogs-tests à  divers endroits qui offrent blogs et hébergement. Voici une liste de mes blogs-tests avec quelques commentaires.

I’ve started setting up test blogs here and there to try out hosted blogging solutions, as I’m eager to encourage people to start blogging, but I’m aware that getting server space, a domain, and installing WordPress isn’t something the casual user will do.

So, very brief review here, more details on the blogs themselves (which tend to be lists of complaints and problems I ran into while functioning in my lazy-lambda-user mode).

ViaBloga

My test blog is Chez Steph. ViaBloga is a cousin of Joueb.com, minus the community emphasis, which appears repulsive to some. (Think LiveJournal.)

I’ve run into a few bugs and usability problems there, which have always been quickly responded to and addressed by the staff. I should add that I’ve known Delphine and Stéphane for quite some time now, and that the latter personally asked me if I was interested in testing ViaBloga when they were starting with it.

ViaBloga has got wiki-like features I haven’t really managed to get into. One thing that really has me enthusiastic (and I discovered that today) is the list management system. Just add the url, it fetches the title of the link, the rss feed, and creates a thumbnail. Here is an example of what it can look like — look at Delphine’s blogroll, too. I’d love to see something like this rolled into a plugin for WordPress — it makes me feel like adding all sorts of links to my blog.

Skyblog

I’ve decided to go public with my skyblog, and I hope you appreciate my courage. Skyblog is clearly aimed at a very young public (teens), and even the language in the admin interface reflects that. Many of my pupils have skyblogs on which they post photos of their friends and make brief comments in sms-talk.

I find the blogs themselves ugly, and the admin interface is kludgy, though it seems it works, because my pupils always complain that WordPress is so hard to use and that skyblog is so much better and easier. One thing to be said, skyblog makes it really easy to upload photographs, so many of these skyblogs ressemble a vaguely commented photo album.

I hardly posted anything to my test blog, and upon checking it out again today I was amazed at the amount of (a) visits (nearly 1000) it had had, and (b) nasty aggressive comments complete strangers had left me. I’ve added a photo of my cat, I wonder what the reaction to that will be.

Blogsome

Blogsome is clearly my favourite. Here is my Blogsome test blog, complete with a Pink Lilies theme. It took me less than 30 seconds to open my weblog (a username, an e-mail address, and a title for the weblog — done.)

It’s WordPress, so I’m in known territory, and I’ve been busy posting bugs and comments in the forums. Blogsome is still young, and my biggest gripe for the moment is the caching problems — for example, changes to the template or links are not immediately reflected on the blog (though “publishing” a post helps).

If you’re looking for a free hosted blogging solution right now, Blogsome is the one I would recommend, along with Blogger, of course. I used Blogger for years, before Blogspot existed. I left mainly because it lacked certain features I wanted (like categories) — and I’d say that still now, it’s a little bit poor on the feature side. But it’s a good, reliable service which has been around long enough to be trusted without too many second thoughts.

MSN Spaces

I just opened a test blog at MSN Spaces. My first two posts complain quite a bit (my biggest gripe for the moment being that it doesn’t convert line breaks into paragraphs — a showstopper, if you ask me). My positive experience was changing the template — that worked fine.

So, if you’re interested, keep an eye on those blogs. I’m always happy to try things out and complain about all the problems I run into.

Edit 06.12.04: Got another test blog at NRJ blogs — though in my opinion you can barely call it a blog. I had to log out to figure out what my blog address was, and it seems totally impossible to make outgoing links. Keep an eye on the individual test blogs for comments on the different systems.

Edit 2: OK, got one at CanalBlog too. The admin interface completely takes over the browser, but it seems really usable (I didn’t run into any problems!) and the default layout is clean enough. Just an ad banner on top. That’s enough for tonight, folks!

Edit 3, 07.12.04: Add a 20six.fr test blog to the list. Follow-up post coming.

Edit 4: HautEtFort, and I think I’m done with creating test blogs. Gah.

Edit 5, 08.12.04: Hopefully the last bunch, but you never know. I seem to be suffering from some obsessive-compulsive blog opening disorder. LiveJournal, BlogSpot, Joueb and U-blog. Have I forgotten someone? I count 12 test blogs. Now let me go and update all my blogrolls.

Edit 6: A fresh new French service, open since yesterday: Mon-Blog.org, based on DotClear.

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Posted in Blogging | Tagged blog, blogger, blogging, blogsome, bug, complaint, farm, feedback, hosted, joueb, msn, skyblog, spaces, test, testing, usability, viabloga, weblog, Weblog Technology, Wordpress | 21 Comments

A Brief Update

[fr] Un très bref état des lieux après quatre semaines d'enseignement. Fatiguée mais vivante. Vacances d'automne en vue. Pas beaucoup de temps ni d'énergie pour le weblog ou ma vie sociale.

I’ve started teaching. Four weeks have gone by already. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally, and looking forward to the time when everything will be running smoother.

I’m finding it harder than expected. Teenagers (13-14) aren’t easy, and as all my colleagues have told me, the first year is always tough. No exception for me.

It’s a new experience for me to be teaching English and French. I’ve had to lower my expectations a lot, and I expect to lower them yet more. I’m flabbergasted at how much difficulty many pupils have at following simple instructions.

We’ve started a weblog project, as I mentioned previously, and it seems to be starting off not too badly. This gave me a chance to have a peek at the non-school weblogs a few of the pupils have set up on skyblog.com — I doubt many of the parents are aware of what their children are posting online (lots of photographs, personal information, and sometimes also sexually explicit stuff).

I haven’t been having much social life lately, and I feel drained enough that I don’t have much to write here. I’m OK though, no need for concern. Things will start falling into place (I’m already used to getting up at 5:45 every morning), I’ll soon be a bit less tired and emotionally stressed, and more visible to those (online or offline) around me. Three weeks to go until autumn holidays.

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Posted in Personal | Tagged difficult, discipline, Education, english, french, hard, Life Updates, parents, pupil, rough, skyblog, teaching, teenager, tough, weblog | 25 Comments

Bloguer anonymement

[en] Two reasons, in my opinion, explain why people might want to blog anonymously: (a) to prevent people they know from reading what they write on their blog; (b) to prevent unknown people who read the blog from tracking them down. In both cases, there is a desire to create some kind of barrier between online and offline. In the first case, the aim is to prevent offline from penetrating online. In the second one, it is to prevent online from penetrating offline.

I think people who "go anonymous" for the first reason are those who are at risk of losing their jobs, falling out with family and friends, or at best, spend a few embarrassing moments if they are "outed". I personally think it's a pretty risky thing to do. On the other hand, I think the second reason can make sense, and even be a sensible choice in some cases -- for example, in the case of a lawyer who would not want to be contacted for professional reasons by people who know him through his weblog.

Lors de la première séance du “projet weblogs” avec les élèves (plus de détails prochainement, et un weblog séparé pour traiter de tout ça), nous avons discuté du fait que nous ne les laissons pas publier de manière “anonyme”. Bien sûr, leur nom de famille n’est pas révélé, mais leur véritable prénom l’est.

J’ai mis en avant ce que je considère depuis longtemps être les dangers du pseudonymat sur le web (je ne vais pas m’étaler, je l’ai fait bien assez déjà ): on risque de se permettre d’écrire des choses que l’on serait bien embarrasé d’assumer devant son employeur, ses grands-parents, ses copains ou la voisine du dessus.

En lisant Eolas, j’ai eu une soudaine illumination. En effet, je vois maintenant deux grandes familles de raisons pour lesquelles on pourrait vouloir ne pas révéler son identité sur son weblog:

  1. on ne désire pas que les gens qui nous connaissent puissent avoir accès à  ce que l’on écrit en ligne (on cache ce qu’on écrit)
  2. on ne désire pas que des inconnus puissent accéder à  son identité (on se cache).

La première est bien entendu celle qui peut nous valoir un jour ou l’autre de nous brouiller avec famille et amis, de perdre notre emploi, ou de subir encore d’autres conséquences désagreables.

La seconde raison est celle qu’invoque Eolas. Il est avocat, et ne désire certainement pas être contacté par le biais de son weblog pour des raisons professionnelles ou paraprofessionnelles. Je n’ai pas l’impression en le lisant, cependant, (qu’il me corrige si je me trompe, mais dans tous les cas, c’est un cas de figure que l’on pourrait imaginer) qu’il se retrouverait embarrassé d’une façon ou d’une autre si son entourage apprenait l’existence de ce weblog. Il serait même tout à  fait possible que les personnes qu’il connaît soient parfaitement au courant de ses écrits en ligne, sans que cela pose problème.

Si l’on choisit l’anonymat (ou le pseudonymat) pour son weblog, c’est qu’on est à  la recherche d’une certaine étanchéité entre sa vie d’auteur de weblog, et sa vie “tout court”. Dans le premier cas de figure, on cherche à  empêcher les gens faisant partie de notre vie hors-ligne de pénétrer dans la sphère du weblog; dans le deuxième cas, on cherche à  empêcher la sphère du weblog de déborder dans notre vie “tout court”.

Si je décourage fortement tout weblogueur de choisir l’anonymat pour la première raison évoquée ci-dessus (je pense, par exemple, que le “journal intime sur internet” que personne ne connaît est un leurre à  long terme), je suis nettement moins catégorique si les motivations sont de l’ordre de la seconde raison, et je pense que dans certains cas (celui d’Eolas par exemple), elle est même un choix raisonnable. Néanmoins, il faut garder à  l’esprit que l’anonymat ne dure que tant qu’il dure: que quelqu’un découvre l’identité d’Eolas et la mentionne ailleurs sur le web, et sa “couverture” s’en retrouvera affaiblie.

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Posted in Stuff that doesn't fit | Tagged amis, anonymat, anonyme, avocat, Blogosphere Interest, cache, danger, écrire, écrit, employeur, eolas, famille, identité, internet, journal intime, lire, nom, offline, online, personnel, privé, pseudonymat, pseudonyme, révéler, risque, security, vie, weblog | 21 Comments

Scripts for a WordPress Weblog Farm

Update 03.11.06: Batiste made me realise I should point the many people landing here in the search of multi-user WordPress to WordPress MU. All that I describe in this post is very pretty, but nowadays completely obsolete.

Here is the best solution I’ve managed to come up with in half a day to finally install over 30 WordPress weblogs in under 5 minutes (once the preparation work was done).

A shell script copies the image of a WordPress install to multiple directories and installs them. A PHP script then changes a certain number of options and settings in each weblog. It can be used later to run as a “patch” on all installed weblog if a setting needs modifying globally.

Here are the details of what I did.

I first downloaded and unzipped WordPress into a directory.

wget http://wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz
tar -xzvf latest.tar.gz
mv wordpress wp-farm-image

I cleaned up the install (removing wp-comments-popup.php and the import*.php files, for example), added a language directory (as I’m wp-farming in French) and modified index.php to my liking; in particular, I edited the import statement for the stylesheet so that it looked like this:

@import url( http://edublogs.net/styles/toni/style.css );

The styles directory is a directory in which I place a bunch of WordPress styles. I don’t need the style switcher capability, but I do need to styles. Later, users will be able to change styles simply by editing that line in their index.php (or I can do it for them).

Another very important thing I did was rename wp-config-sample.php to config-sample and fill in the database and language information. I replaced wp_ by xxx_ so that I had $table_prefix = 'xxx_';.

To make it easier to install plugins for everyone, correct the language files, and edit whatever may be in wp-images, I moved these three directories out of the image install and replaced them with symbolic links, taking inspiration from Shelley’s method for installing multiple WordPress weblogs.

mv image/wp-content common
mv image/wp-images common
mv image/wp-includes/languages common
ln -s common/wp-content image/wp-content
ln -s common/wp-images image/wp-images
ln -s common/languages image/wp-includes/languages

I also added an .htaccess file (after some painful tweaking on a test install).

Once my image was ready, I compiled a list of all the users I had to open weblogs for (one username per line) in a file named names.txt, which I placed in the root directory all the weblog subfolders were going to go in.

I then ran this shell script (many thanks to all those of you who helped me with it — you saved my life):

for x in cat names.txt
do
cp -rv /home/edublogs/wp-farm/image/ $x
cat $x/wp-config.php | sed "s/xxx/${x}/" > config.tmp
mv config.tmp $x/wp-config.php
wget http://st-prex.edublogs.net/$x/wp-admin/install.php?step=1
wget http://st-prex.edublogs.net/$x/wp-admin/install.php?step=2
wget http://st-prex.edublogs.net/$x/wp-admin/install.php?step=3
done

This assumes that my WordPress install image was located in /home/edublogs/wp-farm/image/ and that the weblog addresses were of the form http://st-prex.edublogs.net/username/.

This script copies the image to a directory named after the user, edits wp-config to set the table prefix to the username, and then successively wgets the install URLs to save me from loading them all in my browser.

After this step, I had a bunch of installed but badly configured weblogs (amongst other things, as I short-circuited the form before the third install step, they all think their siteurl is example.com).

Entered the PHP patch which tweaks settings directly in the database. I spent some time with a test install and PHPMyAdmin to figure out which fields I wanted to change and which values I wanted to give them, but overall it wasn’t too complicated to do. You’ll certainly need to heavily edit this file before using it if you try and duplicate what I did, but the basic structure and queries should remain the same.

I edited the user list at the top of the file, loaded it in my browser, and within less than a few seconds all my weblogs were correctly configured. I’ll use modified versions of this script later on when I need to change settings for all the weblogs in one go (for example, if I want to quickly install a plugin for everyone).

In summary:

  1. compile list of users
  2. prepare image install
  3. run shell script
  4. run PHP script

If you try to do this, I suggest you start by putting only two users in your user list, and checking thoroughly that everything installs and works correctly before doing it for 30 users. I had to tweak the PHP script quite a bit until I had all my settings correctly configured.

Hope this can be useful to some!

Update 29.09.2005: WARNING! Hacking WordPress installs to build a farm like this one is neat, but it gets much less neat when your weblog farm is spammed with animal porn comments. You then realise (oh, horror!) that none of the anti-spam plugins work on your beautiful construction, so you weed them out by hand as you can, armed with many a MySQL query. And then the journalist steps in — because, frankly, “sex with dogs” on a school website is just too good to be true. And then you can spend half a day writing an angry reaction to the shitty badly-researched article.

My apologies for the bad language. Think of how you’re going to deal with spam beforehand when you’re setting up a school blog project.

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Posted in Wordpress | Tagged automate, automatic, blog, blogs, Code and Markup, copy, database, edit, farm, farming, folder, htaccess, image, install, installer, link, lots, many, modify, multi-blog, multiblog, multiple, multiuser, muwordpress, mysql, php, script, server, shell, symbolic, user, weblog, Weblog Technology, Weblogs, Wordpress, wordpressmu, wp-farm | 64 Comments

Bloggy Friday: Lausanne, 03.09.04

[en] Weblogger meet-up planned for Friday September 3rd in Lausanne. Please come and join us, and pass the announcement around! Thanks for letting me know in the comments if you're coming, so that I can book the place.

Comme début septembre approche à  grands pas, je prends le risque d’une initiative non-démocratique pour annoncer que le premier Bloggy Friday aura lieu vendredi 3 septembre dès 19 heures au Café Romand, à  Lausanne. (Virginie, ton repas est offert.)

Merci de vous inscrire dans les commentaires afin que je puisse réserver, et faites circuler l’info! Cette rencontre est ouvert à  tout weblogueur qui s’y rendra — que vous soyez autochtone ou de passage pour l’occasion.

Sinon, je vis en ermite pour cause de rentrée des classes. Peut-être plus sur le sujet dans quelque temps, mais là , j’ai encore des cours d’anglais à  préparer… donc pas de panique (ni de mauvais sentiments) si je n’ai pas répondu à  vos mails ou appels :-)

Inscriptions (mis à  jour régulièrement):

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Posted in Bloggy Friday, My corner of the world | Tagged Announcements, bar, blog, bloggy, Blogosphere Interest, blogueur, cafe, café romand, friday, lausanne, lausannois, meet-up, pub, rencontre, réunion, romand, septembre, souper, suisse, switzerland, vendredi, weblog | 46 Comments

Requirements for a WordPress Installer Script

[fr] Pour installer plus de trente weblogs WordPress sur mon serveur, il serait utile d'avoir un script d'installation en PHP. Quelqu'un a offert d'en écrire un pour moi. Ce billet récapitule ce que devrait faire un tel script, de mon point de vue (installation et configuration de WordPress en fonction d'un nom d'utilisateur).

As you may know, I’m shortly going to install 30+ WordPress blogs on my server. Noderat on #wordpress kindly offered to have a go at writing a PHP script to automate WP installs. I sent him this list of what the ideal script should be able to do for me, but on second thoughts, I’m posting it here so that everybody may see it. Of course, if you know of an existing script which already does this, let me know!

  • take $username + $password as input
  • install wordpress in a subdir named “$username”, using table prefix “$username_” and with an extra user (on top of admin) named “$username” (password=”$password”), user level 3
  • mysql user should be “$username” too (password “$password” also), with grants only on the tables belonging to this weblog
  • set permalink scheme to /archives/%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/ for monthlies and /categories for categories
  • generate .htaccess in directory, based on this template, with “blog” replaced by “$username” everywhere
  • in wp-config: define (‘WPLANG’, ‘fr’) and edit appropriate lines
  • wp-includes/languages and wp-content/plugins should be symlinked to directories I can specify in the script
  • blog admin password should be reset to something I can specify in the script

I should be able to edit the script config file to provide mysql root user + pass, wordpress database name.

It would also be interesting if the script was built in such a way that it could be further modified/developed to allow installation of blogs on separate subdomains rather than subfolders. From the point of view of the filesystem the blogs live in, this wouldn’t change much — but some extra WordPress options would need editing (e.g. blog address), as well as the Apache and Bind config files necessary to set up the subdomain. This is not mandatory, but could be useful at some point (if we’re thinking in the line of WordPress-farming).

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Posted in Wordpress | Tagged blog, class, easy, farm, install, installer, many, multiblog, multiple, php, Practical, quick, run, school, script, weblog, Weblog Technology, Wordpress | 24 Comments

Musings on a Multiblog WordPress

[fr] Je réfléchis à comment on pourrait donner à WordPress la capacité de gérer plusieurs blogs avec une installation. Je me heurte à un problème concernant les includes PHP. Feedback et autres idées bienvenues!

Update June 2007: Try WordPress Multi-User now.

I’ve used Shelley’s instructions using soft links. I tried Rubén’s proof-of-concept, but got stuck somewhere in the middle.

So I started thinking: how can we go about making WordPress MultiBlog-capable? Here is a rough transcript of my thoughts (I’ve removed some of the dead ends and hesitations) in the hope that they might contribute to the general resolution of the problem. I have to point out my position here: somebody with a dedicated server who’s thinking of setting up a “WordPress weblog-farm” (for my pupils, mainly). So I’m aware that I’m not the “standard user” and that my solution is going to be impractical to many. But hey, let’s see where it leads, all the same. Actually, I think I probably reconstructed most of Rubén’s strategy here — but I’m not sure to what extent what I suggest differs from what he has done.

From a system point of view, we want to have a unique installation of WordPress, and duplication of only the files which are different from one blog to another (index.php, wp-config.php, wp-comments.php, wp-layout.css, to name a few obvious ones). The whole point being that when the isntall needs to be upgraded, it only has to be upgraded in one place. When a plugin is downloaded and installed, it only has to be done once for all weblogs — though it can of course be activated individually for each weblog.

From the point of view of the weblogs themselves, they need to appear to be in different domains/subdomains/folders/whatever. What I’m most interested in is different subdomains, so I’ll stick to that in my thinking. (Then somebody can come and tell me that my “solution” doesn’t work for subfolders, and here’s one that works for subfolders and subdomains, and we’ll all be happy, thankyouverymuch.) So, when I’m working with blog1.example.com all the addresses need to refer to that subdomain (blog1.example.com/wp-admin/, etc); ditto for blog2.example.com, blog3.example.com, blogn.example.com (I used to like maths in High School a lot).

As Rubén puts it, the problem with symbolic links (“soft links”) is called “soft link hell”: think of a great number of rubber bands stretched all over your server. Ugh. So let’s try to go in his direction, for a while. First, map all the subdomains to the same folder on the server. Let’s say blog1.example.com, blog2.example.com (etc.) all point to /home/bunny/www/wordpress/. Neat, huh? Not so. They will all use the same wp-config.php file, and hence all be the same weblog.

This is where Rubén’s idea comes in: include a file at the top of wp-config.php which:

  1. identifies which blog we are working with (in my case, by parsing $HTTP_HOST, for example — there might be a more elegant solution)
  2. “replaces” the files in the master installation directory by the files in a special “blog” directory, if they exist

The second point is the tricky one, of course. We’d probably have a subfolder per blog in wordpress/blogs: wordpress/blogs/blog1, wordpress/blogs/blog2, etc. The included file would match the subdomain string with the equivalent folder, check if the page it’s trying to retrieve exists in the folder, and if it does, include that one and stop processing the initial script after that. Another (maybe more elegant) option would be to do some Apache magic (I’m dreaming, no idea if it’s possible) to systematically check if a file is available in the subdirectory matching the subdomain before using the one in the master directory. Anybody know if this is feasible?

The problem I see is with includes. We have (at least) three types of include calls:

  • include (ABSPATH . 'wp-comments.php');
  • require ('./wp-blog-header.php');
  • require_once(dirname(__FILE__).'/' . '/wp-config.php');

As far as I see it, they’ll all break if the calling include is in /home/bunny/www/wordpress/blogs/blog1 and the file to be called is in /home/bunny/www/wordpress. What is wrong with relative includes? Oh, they would break too. Dammit.

We would need some intelligence to determine if the file to be included or called exists in the subdirectory or not, and magically adapt the include call to point to the “right” file. I suspect this could be done, but would require modifying all (at least, a lot of) the include/requires in WordPress.

Maybe another path to explore would be to create a table in the database to keep track of existing blogs, and of the files that need to be “overridden” for each blog. But again, I suspect that would mean recoding all the includes in WordPress.

Another problem would be .htaccess. Apache would be retrieving the same .htaccess for all subdomains, and that happens before PHP comes into play, if I’m not mistaken.

Any bright ideas to get us out of this fix? Alternate solutions? Comments? Things I missed or got wrong? The comments and trackbacks are yours. Thanks for your attention.

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Posted in Wordpress | Tagged apache, change, farm, folder, hack, htaccess, modify, multi, multiblog, multiple, multisite, server, site, subdomain, Wanted, weblog, Weblog Technology, Wordpress | 50 Comments