rob cherny.com

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My name is Rob Cherny and I'm a professional Web Developer with 16 years of experience creating Web sites and Web-based applications. This site is where I write about my work, and random other things...

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Web Development

Building Cherny Dot Com

So in setting out to create Cherny.com (CDC hereafter), I knew that I couldn't take on more than I could chew, between a hearty commitment to my full time gig, any freelance work that popped in, and the realities of having a non-Web life away from the computer, which I value.

I knew I wanted a blogging style, I was offended by the crap code Blogger churned out, and while I considered manually doing updates and enjoying a (mostly) static site, the prospect of search, comments and feeds all manually done left me realizing quickly I would never finish with my other commitments.

Picking a toolset

From there, I immediately started trying out different existing systems and quickly came down to three contenders:

The odd one out there is of course Blosxom, which is a light-weight PERL-based tool which is fast and uses a paradigm of flat-file based storage -- which I love. It has no built in posting functionality, and part of me liked the idea of whipping out a text file and doing the old FTP to publish. In the end, I even wrote a (somewhat) custom file editing and posting system in PHP, which might still see the light of day. It still wasn't quite as flexible as I'd like though.

It seems like WordPress is the big favorite in the blog world these days, and few say a bad word about it. I tried it out and immediately loved how easy it was to roll a blog out of the box with great flexibility. I was tempted. I already have two other projects lined up to use WordPress. Part of me opted against it as I didn't like the idea of coding PHP function calls for specific things I felt like the CMS for this site should do out of the box.

I think I was influenced by an enterprise grade (so they claim) CMS which I was using at work at the time which featured virtually no out of the box functionality, which sort of offended me.

Ultimately, I decided against it not because I didn't like it, but because I felt like playing with another tool which struck me as a more powerful CMS out of the box. Not a more powerful blogging tool out of the box, but a more powerful CMS.

That's just it: I work with CMS tools almost daily in my day job, and I have a lot of strong feelings about them.

A real CMS please...

In the end, I ended up using Textpattern out a fondness for the more "CMS" like approach -- I appreciated both the notion of "Sections" and "forms", as well as the ability to specify specific templates per section. It actually required a little more effort. Maybe I'm just a sucker for tag-based stuff, having started out on ColdFusion years and years ago.

Textpattern

I liked it and immediately found a number of plugins which helped me get where I wanted to get quickly. In the end, you have to do a little more work with Textpattern to get a "blog" per se, but I enjoyed messing with it. I did have a few problems, but I'll save those for another day:

  • mod_rewrite on my Windoze copy of Apache didn't want to cooperate
  • Some plugins locally were crashing my Apache / MySQL setup, which I'd never seen before
  • Some plugins needed to be hacked in the PHP to do what I wanted them to do
  • Actually using PHP includes more than you might in your typical Textpattern install
  • I'm also managing the entire "About" section by hand, apart from Textpattern, just because I can

In the end, I've got a somewhat custom, somewhat out of the box setup, which I'm OK with. Remembering all the places I made changes will be the challenge :)

Shortest distance is a straight line

(and a basic two column layout)

As with any project, you need to know your limitations and set realistic goals. I began to design and had a relatively complex grid layout in mind:

Originally planned on grid for CDC, but dropped

I love a good and different grid.

I wanted to launch soon, and as soon as I started I wanted to be realistic, so I opted for a more realistic and faster end, which is what you see here today -- very traditional blog style -- really simple in fact.

I like simplicity.

Update: Of course I go to print this and there's a few things to iron out, such as the printer CSS which is still wacked out, but I'll get there.

Apr 8, 10:31 PM in Web Development (filed under ChernyCom, Textpattern)

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