Rethinking the Blog as Database: My First Post on the Blog Herald

I am proud to announce that I have joined the Blog Herald. The Blog Herald has been blogging about the blogosphere since 2003 and has since become an established source in the blogosphere. I have been reading the Blog Herald for a while now and was absolutely thrilled when they asked me to write for them. I will be joining an excellent team of bloggers including Lorelle VanFossen, Tony Hung, Chris Garrett, (founder & ex-Blog Herald/now TechCrunch-blogger) Duncan Riley and more.

I will be blogging about blogging and blog software from an “academic” point of view. My first series of posts will be related to my upcoming thesis on Blog Software and the Act of Blogging.

You are welcome to read and comment on my first post at the Blog Herald: “Rethinking the Blog as Database

8 Replies

  1. Edwin Reply

    Good job! Enjoy the new dimension!

  2. Breyten Reply

    Nice going! Congrats and have fun ;)

  3. anne Reply

    Thanks! And feel welcome to participate in the discussion :)

  4. Rod McFarland Reply

    I appreciate your mentioning my WordPress theme in your article. It’s a small “movement”, mostly of the people on the google group, but somewhere between pure nostalgia and pure functionality, I think the command-line interface has not seen its end just yet. “Taking back the Web” for old-schoolers has been a fantasy ever since the “eternal September”, but I’m not quite that old. I liked the aesthetic, mostly, but after that I was seduced by the efficiency. And if a blog is really mostly about constructing one’s own identity in the virtual world, then I really don’t see why facilitating one’s own memory would be a wrong thing to include with the same software.

    I actually do have a “SQL” plugin to the theme.

  5. anne Reply

    I am actually very likely to write a paragraph on your CLI WordPress theme in my thesis on blog software.

    What do you mean with “facilitating one’s own memory to include with the same software?” Is your identity command line based instead of the regular blog format?

    Regarding the CLI & Commodore theme could you please tell me if I understand the code correctly. In order to defy the regular chronological descending ordering of posts on the front page, that is currently the hegemonic way of displaying posts, you removed the Loop from index.php and replaced it with a header that calls the pre-defined CLI functions in functions.php?

    And could you please tell me what you mean by a “SQL? plugin to the theme? (I am semi tech-savvy)

    I wonder what your WordPress admin panel looks like ;)

    Thanks for your comment and I hope you will be able to answer some of my questions as the CLI theme fascinates me.

  6. Rod McFarland Reply

    Cool, a paragraph! Truly an honour. I never got to write a thesis myself. If I had, it would probably have been something quite boring and non-groundbreaking about autonomous agent simulation or some such.

    About facilitating memory, basically I was saying that if one considers the blog as a personal database, then as everyone knows databases are most efficiently queried via a command line. Well, maybe not everyone, but I find myself using the mysql command line more often than not. Once you learn the syntax you can do much more than you can through a traditional Web interface, which is essentially a wrapper around a few prepackaged SQL queries.

    Yes, I break “The Loop”. Maybe it was the capitalization that made me attack it :) Architecturally, my choice to use header.php rather than index.php was arbitrary (probably I should just have used index.php). The Loop can’t handle random access. There is a degenerate version of it (in lib/start-display.php) to show whatever would have been shown on a regular page visit, but on subsequent calls to the blog via AJAX, there is no Loop. The main handler for commands is actually interpret.php (functions.php is used by the theme control panel under WP Admin).

    SQL plugin — well, it’s not really for public consumption, but all it does is allow one to enter a command like:

    sql select * from posts where post_content like ‘%search term%’

    and it will display the results in tabular form. It tries to prevent modifications to the database and display of private posts, but since I mostly made it for debugging purposes I didn’t pay much attention to hardening it against hackers (so it’s not in the downloadable version).

    Funny thing, my WordPress admin panel looks just like everyone else’s. The theme only affects the reader’s view. I know you can get admin themes for WP, but I never saw the point. Maybe K2 does something hyper-groovy with that. Not that there haven’t been requests to extend CLI into the admin side, but I do have a day job, and I’m not sure that the admin panel would be well served with a CLI. Actually, that kind of thing has already been done e.g. by Bowie Poag’s MicroBlogger , which uses a Unix shell for administration.

    Maybe someday I’ll get myself to a WordPress meetup and I can convert some more people to the CLI cult :)

  7. anne Reply

    If you say that “everyone knows databases are most efficiently queried via a command line” which SQL queries do you in the mysql command line then that are not handled by the WordPress interface?

    What interests me, if I understand you correctly, is that you prefer to query the database (the blog) through the command line while you input data in the database (the blog) through the regular WordPress interface.

    Thanks for the tip of MicroBlogger and taking the time to answer my questions.

  8. Rod McFarland Reply

    Well off the top of my head, with an interactive prompt that gives SQL access one could do things like:

    Find categories used in a particular date range
    Display only posts that have comments
    Display all comments by a particular person
    Add a new tag to all posts commented on by Mr. WordPress
    list all email addresses of commenters, so you can send out a mass mailing (or sell the list to spammers)
    … and various other things that might conceivably be useful but for which there’s no existing functionality in WP.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some sort of walking SQL engine; in general, using WordPress the way it’s built is just fine 90% of the time. I just don’t like to be constrained if I don’t have to be.

    Yes, entering blog posts directly via the SQL command line would be possible but not particularly advantageous or enjoyable — there is a benefit to interfaces after all. I think the people who want an administrative interface for CLI probably just want to extend the illusion, which is fine (I originally made CLI more as an art project than as a tool). Lately I’ve been adding a few administrator-only functions that are beginning to fulfill that role, so ultimately CLI may end up being a complete system for both reading and writing a WordPress blog.