sixapart cheers and jeers

A few months ago I took a look at where to publish this journal. For a long time (years?) I’ve been posting simultaneously to and I control and it does more of what I want, but it didn’t support comments. supported comments and had more readers, but little things about it kept bugging me.

I really, really didn’t want to have to install and maintain any new blogging crap on my server, so I was looking at hosted solutions. I also wanted to get all my old posts into it, so it had to have an importer. I decided on Blogger, but their importer was marked experimental and didn’t seem to work the way they suggested. Finally, after a few hours, I gave up in disgust.

Then a week or two ago, I decided to have another look. I saw that LiveJournal had no import mechanism, but Vox did. I had to dig for it, because its help document pointed me through two non-existent pages to find it. I played “Guess the URL” and won.

The importer seemed reasonable. I couldn’t just give it an XML file, as it wanted to get a page that referred to an XML file. It turned out that while it said it wanted Atom, it was happy with RSS, so I tweaked the RSS feed from my Rubric install and pointed it there. It said, “I see about a thousand entries,” and they looked right, so I hit the big green button.

Entries started to appear, out of order, and very, very slowly. I couldn’t see total progress anywhere. I couldn’t even get a total entry count, so I had to keep adding up yearly amounts. After a few hours it seemed to stop, having imported two hundred entries. Had it failed? Was it stalled? Who knows! There was no feedback.

In the meantime, I learned that while they did have a comment system, you couldn’t leave comments using your OpenID. You have to have a Vox account… and this is a Six Apart product? What? It also had annoying ads and didn’t want to let me use my own domain. (I would have been willing to pay for turning off ads or using my domain.)

Finally, I gave up and deleted my account. I got a farewell email that suggested I try another Six Apart product, LiveJournal. Oops!

I looked into Moveable Type, but I really didn’t want to install anything. Anyway, I’d used it before, and posting to it from Perl was a pain. The API documentation didn’t make it clear how to tag my entries or use specific formatters. I really didn’t want to post through its web interface. Eh.

TypePad looked like it might be better, but the pricing wasn’t right and I encountered stupid problems when trying to sign up for a trial. Its importer didn’t seem like it was going to do the trick, either.

Finally, when I was nearly giving up, someone (Jonathan S.?) suggested TypePad Connect. Like Disqus, it’s a system for making a comment section magically appear on your page, using JavaScript. Unlike Disqus, it support OpenID. Now, it doesn’t support it very well yet, in my opinion, but it supports it well enough that I know people can leave comments using their OpenID, rather than needing to create a stupid account with my comment service provider.

After about five or ten minutes of signing up and looking at example code, I had comments. After about five or ten more minutes, they looked slightly less awful.

My impression right now is that Six Apart has a lot of balls in the air, and it seems like their balls are competing with one another. They do similar things, with different strengths, and it’s not clear that any one is singled out to become the One Blog. This seems weird and wrong to me, but I know nothing about the blog market.

I’m just glad I can publish to one place.

This means I’m going to have to get back to developing Rubric!

Written on December 10, 2008