Muschamp Rd

Been Building Something

March 10th, 2012
PHP logo

Once again it took way longer than I would have liked. Once again the common denominators are PHP and people who say look, here is my code, it does this, it just works, use it. Then when you write them informing them it doesn’t work they say “Oh I wrote that two years ago, I don’t feel like maintaining it anymore.”

Is this just a PHP thing? Or do lots of people write long detailed blog posts and post large amounts of code that they just abandon?

Life is More Important than Code

In fairness life gets in the way of your plans and maintaining code or a blog for a decade or more for free out of the goodness of your heart is a long lonely road. I know I’ve put way too much effort into way too many things only to receive way to little ROI. None-the-less I am updating old blog posts again trying to make them better and more useful.

PHP is a Four Letter Word

I will admit that PHP is better than it was 10 years ago and that there is a lot of examples and open source code that does work that you can use. PHP has even improved over the last few years since I’ve had Muskblog online, it is now much more object oriented, but it is still inferior to Java or Objective-C in this regard. There is a real problem with consistent naming conventions, version-ing, and readability in general. PHP comes from UNIX and Perl and that is more and more of a handicap as kids grow up with iPads. What’s a command line? Why does “string” get shortened to “str” or “strn” sometimes but not other times?

Screenshot of my miniature painting news aggregator

What I’ve been building is a news aggregator. They aren’t new, I remember setting up a back in 1996 or so. What has changed is the amount of content that is online that you can subscribe to. The tool I decided to use was SimplePie. What I wanted to do was replace the From The Warp Blogger Group. I talked to Ron about it. It might still happen. Unfortunately even using the latest greatest version, I seem to have encountered a bug. I documented it on Stack Overflow.

Not all RSS feeds are created Equal

The HTML and CSS layout to News Blocks 2.0

Not all feeds are even RSS, Atom I always thought was a “me too” technology but it might actually work better. Some websites definitely have better functioning Atom feeds with RSS being their fall back strategy. Other websites only provide RSS feeds so you have to work with it regardless of technical merit. One thing that isn’t up for debate, is the superiority of WordPress over Blogger, at least not in my mind. I don’t understand why people keep creating Blogger blogs when they could be creating WordPress blogs.

Feeds from work. Feeds from work but not quite as well, especially where SimplePie is concerned. It is possible to move your content from Blogger to WordPress. If you are at all serious about blogging or brand building you should have already had a domain you could simply redirect. But miniature painting is just a hobby. A hobby that already can cost too much. But if you’re thinking of starting a hobby blog, do yourself a favour and choose WordPress over Blogger. There are other options too such as Tumblr.

Use WordPress or at least FeedBurner

If you do have a blog on and for whatever reason you don’t want to move it to WordPress or another alternative, do your readers a favour and use FeedBurner for your feeds. Google bought Blogger/ and FeedBurner and my testing has revealed that at least as far as SimplePie is concerned FeedBurner feeds are clearly superior to the feeds generated by Blogger itself. Apparently it is easy to enable FeedBurner in Blogger. Your readership may increase and you’ll be better able to measure how many readers your blog has.

When I set up a dedicated hobby blog for miniature painting and using said miniatures in tabletop games, I definitely used WordPress and not Blogger.

Flickr Supports RSS, Instagram No Longer Does

Another thing I’ve never understood is why more people in the miniature painting community don’t use Flickr. Flickr has great RSS support, better than YouTube, another company/technology Google bought. If you’re noticing that Google has been buying up technologies and companies and then still not producing the best product/solution, you’re not alone.

I’ve had to declare my miniature painting news aggregator good enough for now. It needs some more fine tuning. It definitely needs the next major revision to SimplePie to be completed or at least a work around to my problems fetching multiple blogspot hosted feeds. It would also benefit from more standard compliant feeds and better quality control among hobby bloggers. I however need to study or prepare for a job interview.

Hobbies on Hold but the Internet Never Sleeps

A lot has changed, blogs come and go, Pinterest changed their RSS feeds at least twice, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram largely abandoned RSS while upgrading their APIs. I’m lived in China and needed to use a VPN to use many websites, however I’ve spent time updating the code that powers my miniature painting news aggregator. My other main contribution to the hobby has been to pin 1000+ awesome miniatures to my painted miniature pin board. Maybe my news aggregator has less content than it did years ago, but I don’t need a VPN to use it and I haven’t seen anyone build anything better certainly not for an obscure hobby like miniature painting.

If you have thoughts on painting miniatures, news aggregation or programming in PHP something I don’t seem to do much anymore, you can leave a comment below.


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