A Change of Sorts

“Who is the Mike Ward chap and what have you done with Blue Onion Software?”

This started about a month ago when I decided to update my blog engine. Bloget was my Web-Forms based blog engine that I wrote ages ago when modems ruled and AOL dominated the Internet . It’s served me (and others) well. However, having lived in the MVC world of web development for the last couple of years I’ve found there are better ways to generate a web page.

Blog engines are not hard to write, especially with newer toolsets and frameworks. Bloget was an all inclusive, Wordpress like, blog engine. Although I never came close to the capabilities of Wordpress, it served my needs well. The new blog engine is much lighter and simpler. I’ve tossed off the stuff I don’t use and kept it to the basics. Here’s an brief overview of what I used.

NancyFx – Nancy is a Sinatra inspired MVC framework for ASP.Net. It’s low ceremony and just plain fun to write in. The home page communicates volumes about its philosophy in just 7 lines of code (including braces).

Super Simple View Engine – NancyFx’s default view engine. Yeah it’s simple but I’ve found it’s all I need. Need more? You can use Razor, or Spark or a half dozen other view engines.

Database – I use files. It’s a bit old school but it’s all that’s needed. I just serialize a blog post to a file using JSON with the post number as the name of the file. Bloget did a similar thing. I tested it by generating 10,000 posts. Didn’t phase it in the least.

Frontend – HTML. Shockingly, you an actually write useful stuff in plain old HTML. Blog content is mostly just text and images so there’s really no need for a fancy MVVM like KnockoutJS or BackboneJS or AngularJS. I would certainly feel different if I were handling comments.

Comments – I punted here and use Disqus. It’s free and it handles the very messy business of moderating and filtering comments. Comment systems are one of the harder (maybe the hardest?) tasks of writing a blog engine. Call me weak.

Editor – Here I opted not to implement an online editor. I never used the one I wrote for Bloget because the offline editors are so much nicer (Windows Live Writer being my favorite). To support offline editors I needed to implement a blogging API’s. The only one I’m familiar with is MetaWeblog API. The documentation is lacking and relies on some defunct Blogger API’s, which are no longer documented. It’s also an XML-RPC protocol. This was the most difficult, fiddly part of writing the new blog engine. Suggestions on a better, Windows Live Writer compatible API, are welcome.

And then there was that name: Blue Onion Software. Where did that name come from?. Actually, it was a bit of a joke. I was sitting in my driveway smoking a cigar and needed a domain for my then new blog. I thought of “Blue Onion” but some catering business in Nevada already owned it. So I tacked on the “Software” and thought everyone would know this was not a real company. I guess I was too subtle. I got a lot of inquires about hiring.

This time around I thought I would be a little more up front in declaring this as a personal blog. Amazingly, I secured a domain with my name in it, albeit with a hyphen. Still feels strange seeing my name so prominent on the site. If I were a bit more clever, I might come up with a more interesting title (my colleague, Adam Marks has a web site named “Defining Terms”, which I’ve always admired). My mind just doesn’t work that way.

The original mission of this site was to bookmark a bunch of stuff I found interesting and of use. The “Friday Links” posts do that in part. What has fallen off over the years are the in-depth programming articles. I write code everyday and over time I’ve come to think that what I’m doing as obvious and not worthy of a blog post. I’m wrong about that. This business is hard and even the seemingly easy stuff is worthy of a note, if only for the discussion it generates.

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