Rolling Your Own Blog Engine

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Hello
World

Jeff Atwood asks the question in a recent post if writing your own blog software is a form of procrastination (no, blogging is).

I remember reading something where someone equated rolling your own blog engine is the modern day equivalent of the Hello World program.  I wish I could remember where I heard that so I can give proper credit. UPDATE: Kent Sharkey reminds me that I read it on his blog. It was a quote from Scott Wigart. Thanks for the memory refresh Kent!

Obviously, as an Open Source project founder building a blog engine, I have a biased opinion on this topic (I can own up to that).  My feeling is that for most cases (not all) rolling your own blog engine is a waste of time given that there are several good open source blog engines such as Dasblog, SUB, and Subtext.

It isn’t so much that writing a rudimentary blog engine is hard.  It isn’t.  To get a basic blog engine up and running is quite easy.  The challenge lies in going beyond that basic engine.

The common complaint with these existing solutions (and motivation for rolling your own) is that they contain more features than a person needs.  Agreed.  There’s no way a blog engine designed for mass consumption is going to only have the features needed by any given individual.

However, there are a lot of features these blog engines support that you wouldn’t realize you want or need till you get your own engine up and running.  And in implementing these common features, a developer can spend a lot of time playing catch-up by reinventing the kitchen sink.  Who has that kind of time?

Why reinvent the sink, when the sink is there for the taking?

For example, let’s look at fighting comment spam.

Implementing comments on a blog is quite easy. But then you go live with your blog and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with insurance offers.  Implementing comments is easy, implementing it well takes more time.

If you are going to roll your own blog engine, at least “steal” the Subtext Akismet API library in our Subversion repositoryDasblog did.  However, even with that library, you still ought to build a UI for reporting false positives and false negatives back to Akismet etc...  Again, not difficult, but it is time consuming and it has already been done before.

Some other features that modern blog engines provide that you might not have thought about (not all are supported by Subtext yet, but by at least one of the blogs I mentioned):

  • RFC3229 with Feeds
  • BlogML
    • So you can get your posts in there.
  • Email to Weblog
  • Gravatars
  • Multiple Blog Support (more useful than you think)
  • Timezone Handling (for servers in other timezone)
  • Windows Live Writer support
  • Metablog API
  • Trackbacks/Pingbacks
  • Search
  • Easy Installation and Upgrade
  • XHTML Compliance
  • Live Comment Preview

My point isn’t necessarily to dissuade developers from rolling their own blog engine.  It’s fun code to write, I admit.  My point is really this (actually two points):

​1. If you plan to write your own blog engine, take a good hard look at the code for existing Open Source blog engines and ask yourself if your needs wouldn’t be better served by contributing to one of these projects.  They could use your help and it gets you a lot of features for free. Just don’t use the ones you don’t need.

Jerry
Maguire 2. If you still want to write your own, at least take a look at the code contained in these projects and try to avail yourself of the gems contained therein.  It’ll help you keep your wheel reinventions to a minimum.

That’s all I’m trying to say.  Help us... help you.

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