Flickr Has Always Sucked… Now it Sucks More!

A lot of the people I know and work with just can’t help doing a little dance whenever they think of Flickr. They’re constantly raving about how wonderful it is to join this silly little community of photo sharing web pedestrians. I, for my part have always been skeptical. Everyone who blogs needs a way to incorporate photos into their posts, and to be fair, Flickr does make this easy. I, however, have always liked the idea of controlling my own content, so decided to use Gallery2 and its WPG2 integration with WordPress.

This solution worked well for a long time, but suddenly the iPhoto uploader to Gallery2 broke, and I was faced with a decision. I reluctantly decided to try Flickr. After struggling for what seemed like hours, I finally managed to find a crappy Yahoo username that I could only half tolerate. I tried it, but quickly gave up because I could never remember the cryptic username I had selected.

Casey reminded me that he had invited me to Flickr before they had merged with Yahoo, and that I had created an oldskool, non-Yahoo Flickr account with my normal human readable username. I decided to give it another shot. I hated the restrictive terms of service, and the dozens of clicks it took to get a different sized image, but I tolerated it because images were easy to upload. I even went so far as to create a Pro account.

Well, that all came crashing down around me, and thousands of other Flickr users today when I received notification that Flickr was forcing all their users to merge with a Yahoo account! I was furious! I do not have a lot of images in Flickr, but many of them are linked and presented in this site, and I really don’t want to take the time to go back and change all those links. I would have to create a Yahoo account and merge it thanks to Flickr’s Nazish new policy.

I’m not the only one who is cheesed off either. ThomasHawk.com has been following the forums and has compiled a collection of peoples complaints.

One user had this to say:

What really pisses me off is Yahoo’s God-awful ID setup. It took me over an hour this morning to set up an ID, mostly because every name I tried was taken – including random letters I got by hitting the keyboard in frustration. So now I’m stuck with a username I didn’t want, can’t change, don’t like, and won’t remember.

Another user writs:

Is yahoo offering any sort of counselling for people who go into fits of rage after the 387th attempt to find an available user ID that doesn’t suck?

I could not agree more. It took me forever to find a username, and as before, it’s cryptic, and I will never remember it. Somehow I very much doubt that my Flickr Pro account will stand the test of this betrayal. I have never really liked Flickr, but tolerated it. This will most likely be the last straw for me. I’m just glad I left my Gallery2 integration up and running!

Ecto is Busted in WordPress 2.1

Last week I took this site to WordPress 2.1 and much to my dismay realized that Ecto, my favorite XMLRPC blogging client no longer worked. It would let me post, but it was never able to update the category information for posts… It just hung with no error. I looked into it, and found out that Ecto expects the category information to be returned as a string, not an int.

Adriaan, the developer of Ecto is blaming WordPress, while I’m sure the folks at Automattic would call it an Ecto problem… That’s just how these things tend to work. Anyhow, it’s pretty easy to fix if you make this quick change to xmlrpc.php.

Simply change this on line 180:

'categoryId' => $catid,

To this:

'categoryId' => (string) $catid,

Hopefully someone will go back to their code tree and make a permanent fix so we don’t have to constantly edit this file every time we upgrade.

CMS Martix Rocks For Meetings

It sucks when you go into a meeting and try to advocate for a piece of software, but people just keep on coming up with obscure questions about random features that may or may not exist. This happened a little while back when we were investigating a campus-wide blogging solution.CMS Matrix sure does make answering questions and comparing products a lot easier.

Picking a Multiuser Blogging System

I’m a blogger. I’m also a systems administrator at a University. Thus, when the University decided to charter a project to offer each member of the institution a blog, I was selected to sit on the committee. We boiled all of the software choices down to Drupal, Movable Type, and WordPress MU.

In my evaluation of these solutions, the software was ranked on a five-point scale against the following requirements, which we had decided were important to us. I’ve also included my personal rankings. In many cases the software received a lower ranking on a feature because it was not customizable by the individual user.

Intuitive
Drupal:2
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Skinnable
Drupal:2
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Pingbacks
Drupal:3
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Trackbacks
Drupal:2
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Supports XMLRPC
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Comment SPAM blocking
Drupal:2
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:5
Image support
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
WYSIWYG
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
RSS feed Support
Drupal:3
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:5
TAGS
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
URL Rewriting
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Hosted here
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Single installation
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Single Database
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Single Table structure
Drupal:5
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:0
Mysql or Oracle
Drupal:5
Movable Type:5
Wrodpress MU:5
Integrate with IDM (ex. CAS)
Drupal:0
Movable Type:0
Wrodpress MU:0
Quota on file uploads
Drupal:5
Movable Type:0
Wrodpress MU:5
Prefer PHP:
Drupal:5
Movable Type:1
Wrodpress MU:5
Ease of Upgrade
Drupal:4
Movable Type:4
Wrodpress MU:5
Cost
Drupal:5
Movable Type:3
Wrodpress MU:5

Totals:
Drupal: 88
Movable Type: 90
Wordpress MU: 100

Drupal came in last not because it is unable to meet the requirements we had listed, but because it is not as intuitive as the other solutions, and there are many areas where the user can not be granted any granularity of control over the blog. There is, for example, no way to allow the individual user to manage comment spam settings. The administrator chooses the settings that are then applied globally to each user on the system.

Movable Type evaluated quite well. The user interface is very nice, and the entire software package is very feature rich from a user experience standpoint. It meets most of our pre-determined criteria, but there are no built in “file upload quotas”, and the application is written in Perl. Also of possible concern is the fact that, while content exists within the database, it is delivered via static pages. This means that a site (all static pages) must be rebuilt whenever significant changes are made, such as changing a theme. It is anyone’s guess how this static / dynamic model will scale to a very large number of users. Also of note is the fact the MT is a pay for product. Like any proprietary software solution, this can be both a benefit and a drawback.

WordPress MU mets or exceeds all of our pre-determined criteria with one major exception. The database does not have a unified table structure, meaning each blog requires its own set of database tables. It is largely unknown how this model will scale to a large number of users, however wordpress.com has this software successfully rolled out to a large and growing number of users. Should we decided on WPMU, it may be worth discussing the implementation with the WPMU team. The user interface is both elegant and intuitive, and the user retains maximum control over most of the unique blog settings. It is, however, worth mentioning that WPMU has adopted the Web 2.0 standard of not versioning their releases. Upgrades are downloaded via a nightly builds directory, which means that version releases may not be as well tested as with a more traditional release strategy.

For my part, even though I scored it slightly higher, I have no real preference for WordPress MU over Movable Type. Both are great blogging solutions, and I feel that we could find a way around MT’s lack of file upload quota. I do, however, prefer either of these two solutions over Drupal because of issues surrounding usability, and customization.

In the end, the committee agreed that WordPress MU was the winner. We will now go on to write the CAS authentication module, and see if we can get around the requirement that usernames have greater than three letters. We are also hoping to get in touch with the wordpress.com people to discuss how the non-unified table structure will scale to 30.000+ users.

WordPress LDAP Plugin

It looks like Pat Cavit who runs Zilla Smash has coded a nifty little plugin that allows WordPress to authenticate against an LDAP server. Needless to say, this has great potential for universities and organizations who have LDAP based account provisioning and would like to offer blogging to large numbers of people.

So here’s version 1.01 of my LDAP Authentication plugin for WordPress 1.5.1. Note that this will NOT WORK with any previous version of WordPress. Installation is pretty simple: download, unzip into wp-content/plugins, activate, go to the “LDAP Options” menu and set up your LDAP information.

In the very near future we will be testing this LDAP plugin with WordPress MU. Check back for updates. We’ll post any code changes that are required for MU.

Google Blog Search

I’ve been saying for a long time that the world needs a good blog search engine, and Erich points out that the people who do search engines best have finally stepped up to the plate and come out with one. Google has just released the first beta (I know… Google has everything in beta) of its blog search.

My favorite blog search engines up to this point have been Mnongo and Technorati. Both are quite good, although competing with Google on the search engine front has proven difficult even for the largest and most powerful technology players. After tinkering with Google Blog Search for a bit, I have to say that it seems pretty good. It’s never quite clear how Google gathers their info and ranks their sites, although they do seem to lend quite a bit of weight to tags.

Here is what Google has to say about it:

Blog Search is Google search technology focused on blogs. Google is a strong believer in the self-publishing phenomenon represented by blogging, and we hope Blog Search will help our users to explore the blogging universe more effectively, and perhaps inspire many to join the revolution themselves. Whether you’re looking for Harry Potter reviews, political commentary, summer salad recipes or anything else, Blog Search enables you to find out what people are saying on any subject of your choice.

Blogs are really quite powerful tools, and I’m glad to see that the world is taking them more and more seriously every day.

Bloggers Run Condoleeza Rice out of NYC

All over the net, people are talking about how the Bush Administration’s failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina might prove to be the downfall of his administration. Based on his failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and the Gulf Coast, it is certainly clear Bush and his Neo-Conservative followers have become damaged goods, and some are even calling for him to “resign in shame“.

While reading Zach’s story “Is Katrina Bush’s Waterloo?” I found a link to a New York Times story that reports how bloggers, demanding answers about the Bush administration’s failure to act, chased Condoleeza Rice out of the city where she had been shopping for shoes and enjoying plays rather than responding to the death and devastation in New Orleans.

It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle – Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo’s on Fifth Avenue and attended “Spamalot” before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine – lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

Everywhere we look, this government has failed us. During his time in office, Bush has staged a war built on lies against an imagined enemy, perpetuated a fear of terrorism in order to exert social control, and eroded our civil rights, while padding the pockets of his executive campaign contributers. There can be no doubt that this administration is corrupt and incompetent, and I, for one, do feel he should resign.