5 May 2004
b2evolution is a feature-rich blogging software package. It has many of the key features of frassle: multi-user, DB-backed, built-in search, posts can be put into multiple categories, etc. It also has many features frassle doesn't: internationalization, draft/private posts, trackback, integrated statistics, and a plug-in architecture.
It looks so good that if I wanted to start a blog today, a blog with the most often used features of frassle, I'd probably use b2evolution or something like it. I mean, it's pretty awesome.
Josh, my housemate and fellow frassle user, has thus reasonably wondered: why am I spending all this time developing my own blog software when there are so many systems out there — that are not only powerful and pretty, but Free and easy to customize?
Hypocrite though Josh is, my first reflex is to defend frassle — it didn't start with the goal of replicating the functionality in typical blogging tools. I built some of it, and I started blogging with it, and so I wanted a lot of those features. But "historical accident" isn't a good excuse. Why not start with an existing tool and write plugins that add frassle-style functionality, like categorization?
My real answer to this does go back to my original motivations for frassle. But it isn't simply that I wanted to develop something unique and inadvertently fell into a commodity market. My original vision was for frassle to be not just a publishing tool, but to allow individual participants in the blogging world to leverage their community in a new way. I saw that a major activity bloggers were doing was pointing at stuff on the internet and responding to it. And I started taking advantage of this by using blogs I trust to find relevant information on various subjects.
Frassle is working toward automating that process. It needs some of the blog tool basics to make that functionality accessible, but it crucially needs a few features that aren't in any other system I know about.
Frassle needs to tightly integrate publishing and reading. Some other tools have aggregator functionality built-in, but frassle bases its entire comments system on aggregation and makes it easy to categorize other peoples' posts. The next important step in this integration is frassle's upcoming support for republishing — actual syndication of content from other sources, assembled using unique tools.
To achieve these features, frassle needs to do some strange stuff. It need to keep everything it aggregates. It needs to have an internal representation of URLs and categories that it can use to track who's talking about what and where they're doing it.
If you're a pessimist, you could say that frassle is in the peculiar position of having blogging features inferior to b2evolution and WordPress, while having linkstacking/shared bookmarking features inferior to Furl and del.icio.us.
But I'm an optimist, so I think there are some very interesting problems in that niche. But I'll admit I need to put my time where my mouth is and focus on what's really crucial for that.
Thanks to Josh and others for prodding me.