Announcing Subtext, A Fork Of .TEXT For Your Blogging Pleasure

subtext, open source comments edit

sub text\ Function: noun\ 1. The implicit or metaphorical meaning (as of a literary text)\ 2. A story within the story.

What is .TEXT?

.TEXT is a popular (among .NET loving geeks), scalable, and feature rich blogging engine started by Scott Watermasysk and released as an open source project under a BSD license. Scott did a wonderful job with .TEXT as evidenced by its widespread use among bloggers and being the blogging engine for http://blogs.msdn.com/ among others.

Sounds great. So why fork it?

There are several reasons I think a fork is waranted.

.TEXT is dead as an open source product.

.TEXT is dead as a BSD licensed open source project. Out of its ashes has risen Community Server which integrates a new version of the .TEXT source code with Forums and Photo Galleries. Community Server is now a product being sold by Telligent Systems. There is a non-commercial license available, but it requires displaying the telligent logo and restricts usage to non-commercial purposes. I'd prefer to use a blogging engine with an OSI approved license, in particular the BSD license works well for me.

As an aside, if you're wondering how they can take an open source project and turn it into a commercial product, it's quite easy actually. Here's the story of another commercially acquired open source project.

Community Server Targets A Different Market

Another reason is that Community Server has become sort of the Team System of blogging engines. By virtue of it going commercial, it's being targetted to a different market than your average hobbyist and blogger. While I'm sure many are looking forward to the tight integration with forums and photo gallery, that's just not something I personally need. This integration project was quite ambitious, but it resulted, in my opinion, a rushed 1.0 release as evidenced by this list of bugs. Bugs are fine, but many of these are regressions of RSS functionality that worked fine in .TEXT. I've helped Jayson with fixing some of these bugs in CS. As a developer on the RSS Bandit team, you can guess that proper RSS support is very near and dear to me. Starting this project will enable me to have a hand in both ends of the blogging spectrum.

Ok, So Who Does Subtext Target?

Subtext is the name I've chosen for this fork of .TEXT. Subtext targets the blogging enthusiast who wants a usable and tightly focused blogging engine. If you've ever caught yourself throwing your hands in the air and declaring that you're going to write your own blogging engine from scratch, Subtext is going to be for you. My first and primary task is to streamline the installation and configuration process (hence my recent fascination with WiX).

What are the Subtext Guiding Principles

There are several principles that will serve to guide development on Subtext.

  • Usability
  • Badass Quality
  • Documentation
  • Focused
  • Easy to install and configure

One of the difficulties of many open source projects is their typical lack of documentation. Working with Dare and Torsten, I helped improve their already impressive documentation of RSS Bandit. I'd like to do the same for Subtext.

Likewise, I want to make setting up Subtext a pleasure, not a royal headache. That's my first task and highest priority at this point.

Where's Subtext At Now?

Currently I'm in the planning stage for Subtext. I've uploaded the code to the Subtext SourceForge project and am currently recruiting a few core members to help out. I've started with the .TEXT 0.95 code base, so if you have patches to submit, by all means please do. I've already added some small changes to make it more XHTML compliant. In the beginning, I plan to recruit a small core team of developers with write access to help me review and apply code patches, as well as do some of the development. Over time I hope the team will grow as we find developers who are making meaningful contributions.

In the meanwhile, I'll be drawing up some project guidelines and a roadmap so stay tuned.

UPDATE: Ken Robertson points out some inaccuracies with this announcement in his blog. I went ahead and made some corrections.

One thing he mentions is that I'm slightly off when I say that the target market for CS is larger institutions. I agree that CS may work well for small fries like me, but I defended my assertion with a comment in his blog.

As for the target market, I see your point that I may be slightly off. My point is that by commercializing Community Server, you've created an incentive to target the needs of larger paying corporations. You're a business and you need the cash inflow. Nothing wrong with that.

Starting this project is not an attack of Telligent or Community Server by any means. I do wish them well. I just think there's still room for a tightly focused Open Source blogging engine targeted to individuals with no restrictions. It's very likely that Community Server 1.1 or 1.2 will blow our socks off and have us questioning whether Subtext is worth the time. But until then, I think Subtext will ride the wave of backlash at the perceived hastiness in which CS 1.0 was released and hopefully turn into a compelling product in its own right. We're carving out a niche here.

Tags: Subtext

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