Programming for open-ness

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of open date formats: The most important WordPress command, and how WordPress supports an open data format for blog content. Since this blog is about open-source and open-ness, let’s put on our thinking caps and explore ways in which we could make WordPress even more open.

I’m using WordPress to write this blog. As the author I have access to information you don’t.I think you should. Here’s why.

A WordPress author has access to a number of tools to assist in creating posts and managing the blog. These tools are collectively called the “Dashboard.”

“WordPress” stands for many things:

  • An open-source blogging package written in PHP and licensed under GPL;
  • A community, wordpress.org that has grown up around the software package and is responsible for its development;
  • A site, WordPress.com, that is hosts hundreds of thousands of blogs;
  • A company, automattic.com, that runs the site and employs most of the WordPress developers.

Before going further, if you are new to the world of open-source, let me suggest the following short course on open-source.

  • Point your browser to wordpress.com/signup. Follow the instructions that will let you create your very own WordPress blog, on the same site as this blog, so you’ll be able to play with the “big boys” from the get-go.
  • You’ll be asked to pick a name for your blog. If you aren’t sure, just use “twitxxx,” where “xxx” is a three-digit number.
  • Follow the instructions so you can learn to write the first post. Give it the title “?” and content “!.” That’s just two characters. It shouldn’t take long.

If you want to get a sense of the WordPress software, let you browser take you to wordpress.org. Poke around, especially the documentation (“Docs”) section.

Once you’ve written the post, you can explore other “Dashboard” functions; for example, “stats” will tell you about your readership.

Here’s a brief summary of the Dashboard options:

  • Dashboard
    • Dashboard – summary of recent posts and comments
    • Blog Stats – summary of total views, referrers (how people reached your site), posts views (with total views for each)
    • Feed Stats – number of people reading your posts via feeds
    • Friend Surfer – a way to share with your friends and family (I haven’t used this yet)
    • My Comments – links to comments you have made in other WordPress.com blogs that refer back to your blog.
    • Tag Surfer – list of posts by people using same tags you do
  • Write
    • Post – to write a new post
    • Page – to write a new page
    • Note: You can have outstanding entries for each of these – things you have started but not yet finished.
  • Manage – manage your prior posts, comments, and such. Manage means view, revise, or delete.
    • Posts
    • Pages
    • Uploads – files you have uploaded (I haven’t uploaded files yet)
    • Categories – create and delete categories (Categories are similar to tags. I’ll be discussing how to manage them in a forthcoming post.)
    • Import – to incorporate content from another blog, typically when converting from another blog to WordPress
    • Export – to save your content. See The most important WordPress command
  • Comments – to mange user comments
  • Awaiting moderation – to review comments, either because you have asked to review all comments, or because WordPress has found one that it thinks needs your attention (these are usually spam. I’ve only gotten a couple of them.)
  • Askismet spam – a list of comments that have been automatically deleted by Akismet. (Reviewing this from time to time can cause one to rethink one’s views about the death penalty.)
  • BlogRoll – managing a list of blogs you think your readers may find of interest. (I used to have, but pulled it down a while back, lest people think that the folks on the BlogRoll might be endorsing my views.)
  • Presentation – used to decide how your content is presented.
    • Theme – revise your theme, the overall look and feel of your blog. I used to use this, but am now locked into Cutline by Chris Pearson. See Ferrara Cafe, and so won’t be using it for some time.
    • Custom Image Header – to select image for your blog header. Per previous entry, I’m locked in Ferrara Cafe, and so don’t use this.
    • Sidebar Widgets – choosing the widgets, such as the “Search” box and the “Calendar” that help uses navigate your content.
    • Edit CSS – to edit you Cascadign Style Sheets (CSS). This lets you customize your site. You need to be an expert and you need to pay to get the right to do this. I live a simple life, and so don’t do this. See Keep it simple – live a default life
  • Users – manage who can read and mofidy the blog to modify. I live with the defaults here.
    • Authors & Users – to manage the lists of readers, authors, and contributors
    • Your Profile – basic info about you as the author, including the password
    • Invite – form that helps write mail to folks you think might want to try WordPress
  • Options – basic information about the blog, such as title, date format, and such
  • Upgrades – additional functions you can get if you are willing to pay for them, such as getting more space to store uploaded files.

    All these Dashboard functions are currently available only to the author. But, if I want to be as open as possible, then for example I have no objection to people being able to see my Blog Stats, including Referrers, Views per post, the graph of traffic over the last month, and so forth.

    Beyond that, I’m willing to share anything that doesn’t allow someone else to hijack my blog. For example, you shouldn’t be able to read or modify the password, nor should you be able to write content, or delete posts. On the other hand, you should be able to see my options, which upgrades if any I have purchased, and so forth.

    For example, I’m a big fan of newegg. I would be willing to share my account info, so you could see what I bought and when I did, and perhaps even what I paid. It’s my information, after all, so why should I have to manually copy it over to make it available to you?

    I think this would be useful for any piece of software that is meant to be used as a web application – give the author as much freedom of action as possible, so they can a open as they desire. Why, assume that since some Dashboard options must be available only to the option, then all should be. Let the author allow allow others to look over their shoulder, so to speak, but make sure only that author controls the keyboard.

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  • One Comment

    1. Posted December 18, 2006 at 15:39 | Permalink | Reply

      You give a nice tour for non-members. I think that sharing all that information is an interesting proposal. Who knows what shape the web will take in the next few years?

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