2007-11-12, , , Comments is dead

After over 14 months and 130 posts, I’m closing down


Well, despite trying, I still dislike the word blog. No, I’m not against neologisms and no, it’s not as horrible as bliki — but it just doesn’t smell nice. And no, I don’t like ’blog, weblog, web-log or web log either.

There’s a bit more to it than that, though. This article reviews my experience of running and writing a blog, lessons I’ve learned, and my plans for the future.

Quality and Quantity

A couple of things Mark Dominus writes ring true:

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, and I was wondering why. … In the past ten days I’ve written seven articles that are unfinished or that didn’t work. Usually only about a third of my articles flop; this month a whole bunch flopped in a row. What can I say? Sometimes the muse delivers, and sometimes she doesn’t.

I said a while back that I would try to publish more regularly, and not wait until every article was perfect. But I don’t want to publish the unfinished articles yet.

My intention, when I started, was to publish more and edit less. It hasn’t entirely worked out that way. Like Mark, much of what I write never makes it into production. I’m not aiming for perfection, but if I can’t get things to tie up I don’t want them online. And for everything I actually write, there’s an order of magnitude more which barely escapes my head.

Why would I ever have wanted to publish more and edit less? After all, there’s no shortage of material on the web, and I’d prefer to be noticed for a few thoughtful and original contributions, rather than volume. Here are some reasons:

  • I get a huge kick out of immediate publication to a world audience (“Hello World!”)
  • I’m trying to find out what my subject is and have been using as a space to explore
  • I half hoped, at the outset, that readers would help with this exploration — that I’d be able feed off their comments

Hosting a Web Application

I’ve carefully avoided user interface development for most of my programming career. Now that the net is the computer and the browser the interface, I want to catch up. The dynamic languages I prefer have come into their own. I’d hoped to learn something about Ruby on Rails by deploying a Ruby on Rails application ( uses the Typo blog engine, which itself runs on Ruby on Rails).

In fact I’ve not learned much about Ruby on Rails. I’ve migrated between versions a couple of times, written a plugin or two, tweaked some settings — but that’s about it. This has been a spare time activity, and I’ve always given priority to writing new material.

What I have learned, the hard way, is that a dynamic web application can be slow and hungry. I rent space on a shared server, and the relationship has become uncomfortable — mainly because the blog application keeps banging its head against the limits imposed by the hosting company. Probably the sensible thing would be to upgrade my hosting plan or find another host, but I kind of like the deal I’ve got at TextDrive. The support is excellent, and they’re permissive about what you can do with your site.

I’ve also learned (again!) I’d rather use libraries than frameworks. Quite simply, I don’t know enough about the problems Ruby on Rails is trying to solve. I need to get back to basics and do it myself: to figure out how to generate pages and feeds, how to handle persistence and indexing. Then, when I’ve reinvented a few wheels, I might just get it.


Comments have been the worst and best thing about running a blog. The comment system for is very sluggish, and the interaction isn’t quite right. Perhaps the speed issues arise because I’ve gradually been ratcheting up the anti-spam filters: now these filters at least seem to be doing their job, but spam-bots continue to bombard in the hopes the weak spots will reappear. Meanwhile the few who have taken the trouble to post real comments have had to put up with a poor interface. For those few who have persisted, thanks!

One solution might be to migrate to WordPress or Movable Type, but I’m not too excited about PHP.

Long live

As I said, I’m dismantling I plan to keep it alive in its current form for another week or so, then I’ll start re-directing visitors to the right places on the new site. looks very much like The content hasn’t changed, except that everything there relates, however tangentially, to software development (reflections on the Tour de France, pictures of dinosaurs, and so forth will move somewhere else). I’ve retained the Scribbish theme, which I like: besides, one rule of software development is to change just one thing at a time, and as I’ve noted before, re-working a theme can be a risky activity.

Underneath, though, it’s all static pages generated offline from Markdown source using a blend of domestic and imported Python code. So I’m hoping it will be quicker to access, more stable, easier to update, easier to develop and run locally, easier (should the need arise) to transfer elsewhere.

Comments, for the moment, are missing. I’ll convert any comments made on at some point but I haven’t decided how to solicit comments on — that’s one thing I’d be delighted to out-source. For now, you can comment by email. I’d particularly like to hear any thoughts about spam-free zero-maintenance comment systems.

Please update your bookmarks is at

The feed for new material is at

See you there!