Review: Blosxom Blogging Script
If you spend any amount of time on the Web, it's a pretty safe guess that you've heard of blogs. Basically, a blog is an online journal, but there's more to them than just posting your daily thoughts.
Blogs are used used by corporations to keep their customers updated on current products and trends, business leaders use them to share their views on a variety of topics (Jupitermedia Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan M. Meckler has his own blog), they are used by individuals to address topics related to specific subject areas (JupiterReasearch has several analysts who write their own blogs) and individuals use blogs to address subjects which are more personal to them. There are political blogs, religious blogs, news blogs, personal blogs, industry-specific blogs and many more. Together, I suspect they cover the entire human experience.
From a Web designer point-of-view, blogs may need to be established for several reasons: to provide current information about your services; to comment on the topics of the day as they relate to Web design or to set one up for a client. Anybody can start a blog and there are several ways to go about setting one up. The three most basic methods are:
Each of these methods has its share of positive and negative aspects, although the first method is rarely used. Within the blogging community, the second two methods seem to be the most popular. For our purposes we'll take a look at one of the existing blogging scripts, Blosxom.
During my recent vacation, I decided it was time to set up a blog about my personal Web sites. I've read the horror stories that many people have experienced with some of these programs — and many of those people are really tech-savvy. It seems that blogging software can be a bit frustrating at times. Many of the packages also require a database (which I didn't want) as that could complicate things a bit. I was just looking for something simple, something I could quickly set up and start posting. I don't even recall how I stumbled upon Blosxom but it seems to be a popular program (judging from the search results on Google).
Blosxom (pronounced "blossom") is a compact, easy-to-use blogging script created by Rael Dornfest, Chief Technology Officer at O'Reilly Media. It's Open Source so it's free. The entire package consists of one file written in 444 lines of Perl code. Very simple. There are 10 variables to configure, 12 if you use plugins, which I'm sure you will. (There are four additional variables to configure if you set up static rendering.)
This script has all the bells and whistles, just like the others. It automatically creates RSS feeds, you can set up trackback links, ping other servers and allow visitors comments.
Configuration and Installation
As I said, the program is just one script, so configuring the variables is quite simple. Instructions are given right on the Web site. Basically, it's just a matter of adding the title of your blog, a description and some path information. That's all there is to it. If you're interested in the coding, Frank Hecker created an annotation version of the script.
Installing the script is a snap. Once again, instructions are on the Web site, but if you've ever installed a CGI script, you could do it blindfolded. You just drop the script into your CGI bin and change the file permission to make it executable.
Plugins and Flavours
These are used to change the display and makeup of the blog itself. By mixing and matching these, you can personalize the blog to match your own site or preferences.
Plugins are used to add customized features to each blog. They're easy to use; most just need to be uploaded to the site. To activate plugin support, just create a plugin directory on your Web site. While you don't need them to use Blosxom, they add another dimension to the blog. There are plugins available for all kinds of different things: setting up archives or a calendar, listing different categories for your postings, changing the date display, setting up the display, letting visitors make comments, customizing RSS feeds, setting up cookies, creating polls and many other options. On the Blosxom Web site there are 239 plugins, divided into 35 categories. In addition, there are other plugins on other Web sites. You can even write your own plugins.
Flavours are nothing more than templates that tell the script how to format the pages displayed. (The spelling within the program is "flavours.") If you like the default output, you don't even need to create one. You will need to do it, however, if you want to blend the blog into an existing site. It took me about five minutes to create a set to match my site. A "set" is made up of four small files which, together, comprise a whole page. Just take an existing page from the site and cut it up into four parts:
Posting to the Blog
Well, this is what we were working for, the ability to post our comments and thoughts for all the world to see. The actual blog postings are plain text files loaded into a designated directory on your Web server with a ".txt" extension. You can add HTML coding, if you like. You can even post to it via e-mail.
For the most part, that's all there is to setting up the Blosxom blog. As I said, it's easy to create and use a blog with this script. There's no need to set up any databases either. One of the nice things is that it doesn't have to look like all the other blogs.
If you're looking to create your own blog, or set one up for a customer, be sure and check out Blosxom. It could save you a lot of headaches.
Created: November 7, 2005