A new blog engine
This morning I discovered Blazeblogger, a static blog generator in the Ubuntu repositories. I don't know how I missed it. It's written in Perl, and is therefore compatible also with Windows systems. Although it has slightly less functionality to Nanoblogger (the software I was using), I've found it simpler to use. And although Nanoblogger has a publishing script (which Blazeblogger lacks), I anyway had trouble with it, and ended up using Filezilla.
I was able to set up Blazeblogger within minutes. It took a while longer to learn the basics and transfer a few older posts over to the new system. I was quite happy with the default template. The only thing that took me a while to accomplish was to add a few links to the blog template. It would have been nicer if that part of the page had an easier configuration option, but once I tracked down the right file it was easy enough.
I notice also that the folder size for Blazeblogger is considerably smaller than that of Nanoblogger, and that file actions are faster
I think the fuss-level of writing a text file and then uploading it through Filezilla has been one of the reasons that I stopped updating the blog lately. Certainly it would have been hard to publish the blog from the slow internet connections I had in India. (Note: on a static blog, publish means to transfer all files each time.) And I usually don't get a blog post right the first time. In Blazeblogger, the process is just a shade easier, but that might be enough to get me going.
Thoughts on social networks
I've been deliberating a lot about social networks lately. It's an opportune time because the ones with which I am most familiar: Identi.ca / status.net, Friendika and Diaspora, have made some important updates lately. Diaspora is finally attempting to deal with its backlog of new user requests, apparently ahead of a move from alpha to beta status. Friendika has a new version number and has been investing much effort in both visible and behind the scenes changes. Status.net is moving from 0.99 to 1.0.
My use of social networks is fairly minor because aside from Facebook (which I quit a few months back) I don't have real life friends on any of them. Still, I like to have a place where I can occasionally say a few words that do not add up to a blog post.
As a network, Twitter has the most interest value for me simply because it has good people and news sources in its user base. However, I tend not to write directly to Twitter, and wonder about placing material there even indirectly.
I object to Facebook and Google+ for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they make me feel exploited. Our decisions regarding our use of the internet in the next few years will determine much about both the web and the future of humanity. The potential for creating an Orwellian society of surveillance and thought control has never been greater.
The distributed social networks offer a hope for something better. The three that have been mentioned (and a few more) each have advantages and failings. Status.net is the most veteran and minimal (though it is in some ways more advanced than Twitter). Friendika has the most features and perhaps the greatest potential. Friendika's vision - particularly that of its eloquent Aussie lead developer Mike MacGirvin, is particularly full and rich. Diaspora is placed somewhere in the middle. It may have a greater chance of winning over non-geek users.
Ultimately, all of these services may work seemlessly together, so that it won't make a big difference which one of them we use as a base. At present, I've found Friendika a little more bug-prone than the other two, and its servers more sluggish. For now, I am going with Diaspora.