Barnyard BBS

…can you afford to meet your retreat?
…can you hear me like I hear you?
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The Far Reaches of Open Content
9/10/2007 10:08:00 AM

I try to release a lot of content under a Creative Commons license, so that other people can use it.  When things become intellectually free, it's amazing where they can travel.

I love to keep notes on where my content ends up.  Here are a few recent sightings in the wild:

Previous Posts:

Barnyard News
6/27/2006 3:10:00 PM
The flurry of updates continues. I've made a new theme for Barnyard, in regard to the impending July 4th holiday. I call it "Independence". It's a flag theme for the site. It's currently available as an alternate; but I'll set it as the primary someday soon.

I've also written some XML versions of my blog. I've got a nice interface into the Presstopia database; which certainly helps.

Also, I've made a great discovery. Before I get to the discovery, let me explain why it's so great...

In the beginning, there was darkness. Next came light. Now there are these things called websites. In the old days, you simply copied your work to a remote computer to "publish" your site. These days, things aren't quite as simple.

For starters, Barnyard BBS consists of several thousand files. It takes a long time to publish, even with broadband. I don't want to publish the whole thing when I make revisions. Also, information contained within Barnyard BBS is dynamic. Things change in the live version (such as blog posts, family tree, etc.). If I were to just "copy over", I would lose this information.

I've worked with FrontPage in the past, and I use Visual Web Developer today. Both of them have a sort of synchronization feature that is helpful. However, the both have "fragile" indicies for this synchronization. Each product needs to fully "publish" every file at least once. This is a pain-in-the-ass with a big site. It also breaks easily (if you move your local copy, the syncronization information is lost).

Back to the great discovery. I've found a program called SyncBack. It allows all sorts of custom synchronization between locations. It can do local drives, network storage, or even FTP locations. It's very handy. I can synchronize by publishing selectively. I can also grab modified items from the remote site (for example, the blog database). Excellent program. Very configurable. The even offer a free version. I highly recommend it. It's somewhat like an enhanced RoboCopy, which is in turn an enhanced XCopy.
6/25/2006 9:21:00 PM

I've been quite busy with the site lately. Since the major update to the new code, I've been making a lot of changes. I've recently added more CSS skins to the site. They aren't totally mature yet; but it's a great start.

I've also been making a lot of internal improvements. The photo catalog program is entirely new; as is the blogging engine.

For those of you interested; I've switched to Presstopia for my blogging software. It's a open-source (Apache License) blogging package for ASP.Net. I also looked at DasBlog, but ultimately chose Presstopia. Presstopia is very easy to modify. In fact, I'm running a customized version of it on the site right now. It's also very flexible from a database standpoint. It's nice to have choices. It gives me a lot of flexibility that I can read and write to Presstopia's database directly. This was very helpful for migration of the old blog postings; and for the direct interface used on the Barnyard BBS pages.

I use a different approach to blogging that most folks. I want a blog to be part of my site; but I don't want the blog to be the site. Lots of blogging packages are excellent; but they dominate your site.

For reference, I wrote some custom code that reads from the blog and merges it into the website design. I used to use a blogging engine that I wrote myself; but Presstopia offered some features that I really didn't have time to develop by myself.

Regarding DasBlog.... It really is an excellent package. I like it's unique XML storage system. It does not use a database at all, but rather many individual XML files. This would be really cool in a hosted environment, or where you don't have good database access. It's very intuitive. I really wanted to use DasBlog. But at the end of the day, Presstopia was just too easy to modify, and the direct database access was too convenient.

This brings me to an interesting topic. It is vitally important that information be "forward portable". I don't care how easy it is to enter information into a system, if you cannot get it out with the same ease. A lot of people are falling into this trap these days.

A prime example of this is Blogger. It's a beautiful service. It's pretty. It's easy. However, there is no direct access to your data. You could migrate it; but it would be a highly manual process of working from the generated HTML. I really don't intend to be negative towards Blogger (owned by Google, these days). It's a great service, and it's free.

Forward portability of information is critical any time you are creating content. Content doesn't just mean blogs. It can mean lots of things. For example, documents, research, web content, or contact information. I don't know about anyone else, but I've got years of effort into my contact database. I wouldn't want to lose all that work.

Cell phones are a big culprit in this area. Most people never consider the contact information they enter into their phones. Remember, before you make any large time commitment on any content project, have an exit strategy. Know where you're going. For example, the contact data that I have in my PDA / phone is frequently exported to a CSV file (text format file). I chose CSV because it's totally vendor neutral. I can import or convert this file into whatever I may need in the future. I suppose I could use XML, but that would just be bandwagon jumping.

Update: 01/12/2007

Although Presstopia served me well, I've converted to using my own blogging system exclusively.  It's implemented entirely as an XHTML / CSS compliant Asp.Net control.  It gives me all the flexibility I've wanted and also addresses my modularity and accessibility concerns.  If you're wondering what it looks like, you're probably looking at it already. 

6/20/2006 3:59:00 PM
I realize that Barnyard has been inactive for a while. I've been working quietly on some major updates to the site.

Barnyard has been completely re-done, with many new features. Here is a quick list of the improvements:

  • Entirely XHTML 1.1 / CSS
  • All code is now ASP.Net 2.0
  • New Photo Engine (with new sizing and downloading options)
  • New Blogging Engine
  • New Skinning possibilities
I'm still working out all the details, but things should be stable soon. I still need to migrate the old blog posts to the new engine.