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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Wed, 21 Sep 2011

Back to Ode

I haven't been doing much of any writing lately. Most of it has to do with being overloaded with the rest of my work. It's only going to get busier next week when 1/2 of my staff goes on vacation.

The other reason I've been writing less is that I've committed, in my mind anyway, to do less of this kind of writing and more of other kinds.

It's easier to do this.

Let me turn my attention to Ode for a moment.

I've been working pretty intensively in Movable Type over the past few days, working on both production and documentation for the podcasts I produce, notably one for high school sports.

I use the MT Podcasting plugin, but most of the method and infrastructure has been hacked together by me. I'm trying to teach somebody how to do the production all the way through. We've done audio production, now it's time to get that audio into the MT system and out to the feeds, first Feedburner, then iTunes.

I do this knowing full well that we will be moving away from MT and toward WordPress some time in the future. It could be two months, could be six months. Maybe longer.

So what does this have to do with Ode? I just wanted to say that it's nice to be back in this familiar, highly productive work flow where I either write the entries into universally understandable text files or (as today) in the excellent EditEdit web interface created by Rob Reed.

Rob has written many excellent posts recently on how Ode's templates work. What hacking I've done in Ode has been to the HTML and CSS in the default Logic template.

As Rob has written on many occasions, just about all things are possible through Ode's templating system.

The project I'm working on now is something that is perfect for Ode. One of the biases I have about Ode is that it's not meant for the beginning user, who might be more comfortable with a system like WordPress that is entirely based on a web interface.

But for something like this poll project, teaching my users to drop a hunk of Javascript into a text file and then upload that file via FTP, after which Ode does the rest?

That could work. It's simple.

Early in my web-hacking days, once I figured out how to do one little thing with a particular system, it was easy enough to modify the code and do three dozen little things.

With Ode, Rob's documentation, both inline and otherwise, lets you know what's going on at practically every line in every script and output file.

Don't get me wrong, the code — the Perl, Javascript, HTML and CSS that make up Ode — are extremely important. And it's this code that attracted me to Ode. I absolutely consider it the next logical (yet otherwise untaken) in the quiet, early-2000s revolution of Blosxom as a simple (yet now abandoned, development-wise) blogging system.

But it's Rob's documentation -- something most developers either ignore or do poorly -- that sets Ode apart from almost every other software project I've had the privilege (or burden) of using.

I didn't study computer science in college. There was no Web in those days. Like many of you, I picked up what skills I have as I've gone along. Something needs doing? I figure it out.

We've batted this around quite a bit in the Ode forum: Just jump in. Get a cheap shared-hosting account. Start installing anything and everything. I've installed my share of web services, including Movable Type, WordPress, Moodle, Blosxom, and now Ode.

Everything with WordPress is so automatic that often you, the person doing the installation, barely knows what's going on with the hundreds of PHP scripts and other assorted files, databases, etc.

Not knowing how it works? It's going to bite you.

Ode is built from the ground up to be understood. (And so should these other systems, while I'm stating the obvious.)

We're all neck-deep in networked information, be it in blogs, on social-networking sites, traditional web sites, via mobile devices and a dozen other ways I can't think about right now.

Knowledge really is power, as this slightly modified version of the popular saying goes.

Another popular saying: Content is king.

Don't give away your content, your power. Ode is one way you can keep it close, yet share it with the world.