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[Comments] (2) Instant Karma Chameleon: This is seriously the best NewsBruiser yet. It's got all the features on Zack's "stuff NewsBruiser can't do" wish list, and you know Zack's a tough customer. You want NewsBruiser to look like the rest of your website, you got it. You want a blogroll, you got it (albeit slightly ugly to manage). The search engine is smarter and much more robust; it's fun to search where before it was kind of a drag, as though your baby had been untrue.

And if you like to import things, you're in luck. Not only can you hook a NewsBruiser weblog up to a Moveable Type weblog and suck down all the entries, comments, and trackbacks; it now comes with a lumbering Tor Johnson of an HTML machete (deserving of its own post, tomorrow) that you can use to exhume weblog entries (and things-that-should-be-weblog-entries) from their nonstandard HTML coffins.

You'll forgive me if all that functionality makes me wax poetic for a bit. Over the past year or so I've been thinking about weblogs, syndication, online communities, information retrieval, the next step in computer-mediated communication... the whole bit. I haven't been talking about it much, because I don't do the grand vision thing well. In my experience, a grand vision is largely a pheremonal advertisement for the person with the vision. I see instead a lot of little strategies and experiments. The world doesn't need another wannabe visionary, but I figure if I can make some incremental improvements and implement some ideas, I can hold my head high with the rest of them.

This ties into NewsBruiser like so: you know how a lot of open source software projects start out with an idea to write a program to do one task, then get it into their heads to do a generalization of that task, and keep integrating the task over some variable and never get anything done? I am fortunate and happy to report that the history of NewsBruiser development has been the good twin of that phenomenon.[0] All this time I've been envisioning and implementing slight tweaks to NewsBruiser concepts that open up new vistas, restricted liftings of restrictions that make it more powerful. Such changes add up, and somewhere during the past year the application became capable of being a platform. Those slight tweaks are becoming more powerful, and my crackpot ideas for fearsome electronic beasts are resolving themselves into simpler and simpler transforms on the NewsBruiser codebase.

But as they say, talk is cheap. I'll let you know when the killer app is done. For now, we've just got a really good weblog system.

[0] The urge to generalize is natural, and it's not hard to generalize without biting off more than you can chew: you start with a working system; you make incremental improvements; you make sure all improvements have a working system as their endpoint; and you try very hard to make the new system as simple to use as the old system, assuming you don't care about the new features. Above all, be patient. It will be better and come faster, and you'll get a better understanding of the problem domain if you don't try to do everything at once. Slow and steady wins the race. A stitch in time saves nine. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

PS: Zack, Mike, everyone else who's interested: give this version a try. Let me know if you have problems or feature requests.

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Posted by Leonard at Thu May 20 2004 19:06

I've been dreading localization. There's no support for it at all right now (though there should also be no reason why you can't write weblog entries in any language). However, since almost everything in the public interface is controlled with templates, you might be able to get pretty far by changing the templates.

The offer I made on the main NYCB page stands: tell me what URLs you want and I'll tell you how to get them.

I have been thinking about making entries accessible by their titles. This ties in pretty well to my idea of a tiny tweak (more for show than anything else) that lets you run NewsBruiser as a Wiki. It shouldn't be hard so long as you ignore the problems caused by two entries in one day with the same title.


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