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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Tue, 18 Feb 2014

It's been nearly three years since I started using Ode

I took a look back today, and I learned that I started using Ode as my main blogging platform two years and 9 months ago. Call it "nearly three years," because that makes for a nice headline.

I suppose I could wait three months and write this post then. I'll probably do that, too.

But for today, I'd like to thank Rob Reed for all the care and feeding he has put into Ode over the years and all the help he's given me and the others who have used this software.

While Perl-powered CGI is as old as the hills, Ode does blogging in a way that is very satisfying for me. I'd rather write Markdown-tagged text files on my local machine and move them over to the server than work through a web interface (though Ode has one of its own in the form of the terrific EditEdit addin, which I do use on occasion).

I'm not against the newer blogging applications that use Node.js (Ghost), Python (Pelican and Nikola) or Ruby (Jekyll and Octopress), or the old ones that use PHP (WordPress, Geeklog, Joomla, FlatPress), but none of them speak to me the way Ode does.

Perl CGI isn't sexy. It hasn't been sexy since the late-'90s or early '00s. But it works.

More than anything, Ode is a platform that encourages learning and hacking.

Ode teaches you about how servers, HTML and CSS work. You learn about FTP and file permissions in Unix/Linux. Ode can even teach you how programming works. Not just Perl programming, but programming in general. You can see everything and learn to code from what goes into the system. (I promise I will do more of this. Really.)

The accompanying documentation is top-notch. The comments in the main Ode script and its configuration files are extremely helpful. And there's an annotated version of ode.cgi that tells you much more about how it works.

That's an integral part of Ode. It's simple. You can figure out how it works. Then you can build on that. You can build whatever you want.

The educational component of the Ode project is one of the things that make it fairly unique. It's easy to dig in and learn. And it's hard to break things in such a way that they can't be made right.

But most of all, Ode -- for me -- offers a pleasant, efficient way to make a blog.

It does take some effort to put the whole thing together at first. That is especially true when you take into account the non-standard addins like Indexette, EditEdit and Disqus comments. But you don't need any of these extras out of the box. All you really need to get started is a shared hosting account or a server (anything from VPS to bare metal that runs Perl CGI) and the willingness to follow the directions.

It's not a one-button install like WordPress on some shared-hosting providers. That is intentional. You won't have to master Git, dive into Python's Pip, or even know anything about Perl's CPAN. Once you figure out how to get into your server account and use an FTP program, you're pretty much off and running.

And those of us who use this software day to day are always here to help. Part of what makes Ode special is its small but persistent community. (It wouldn't hurt if it were a bit bigger!)

Over the past 2.75 years, I've made untold modifications to my Ode themes, set up a workflow that syncs my Ode site locally via a program called Unison and made some quick-and-dirty CSS changes that added enough responsive-design elements to make this blog look great on mobile devices. I've created Ode sites on a FreeBSD-running shared host, in the Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud and on Red Hat's OpenShift (and not so successfully on an OpenBSD server).

And I've written hundreds of posts in plain text with Markdown.

It's been fun and hasn't stopped being fun.

I could use any number of other blogging platforms. I'm always looking at what's out there. But Ode has been my home for nearly three years.

At the risk of offering a painful reference, thanks for all the fish.