I write ongoing in an XML dialect that is mostly HTML with a few little extras; I use Emacs to do the editing, but any old text editor would do.
The essay fragments that make up ongoing are organized by date into a directory tree (visible in the URIs), and each is filed into one or more hierarchical categories; you can navigate around both the date and category apparatus.
Since I'm a hopeless geek, I couldn't possibly use any one of the excellent
personal-web-site or blogging tools out there; it's
all done with a Perl script imaginatively named
maintains a Mysql database containing
basic metadata for each essay.
The Perl script runs over the source tree, figures out what needs to be
updated, generates any new
notes, and always regenerates the top-level page and RSS/Atom feeds.
It's not rocket science, there are less than 3,000 lines of Perl representing
weeks not months of effort.
Then there’s the comment system, which is under 1,000 lines of Ruby; its design is brutally minimal, involving no databases or framework code.
One virtue of the setup is that it works exactly the same on my Mac OS X laptop staging environment and the Debian box where ongoing lives. Getting the ImageMagick processing up and working both places used to be a serious pain in the butt until Homebrew made the world better.
The layout tries pretty hard to be good clean CSS; the original 2003 version, stolen from the best, namely Eric Costello and Tantek Çelik, survived until 2011; the current version is described in Reflowing. Well, except then I figured out how to expand pix into the left margin because size matters.
Also, there's a
DOCTYPE declaration that claims the output is
XHTML 1.1 and the W3C validator
seems to agree, so to the extent that’s virtuous, so is
There are some complaints from the accessibility checkers because of all the
little ... links at the end of the article summaries; it's bad practice
to have links to multiple different places with the same anchor text.
I wonder how serious a sin this is?
I could probably achieve a completely different look & feel for ongoing by switching the CSS, if I wanted to. I could certainly produce a cellphone-friendly version with almost no work and may well do that one of these days.
I've got it all terribly automated so I can start a new entry, proof an entry, and publish it to the website with single keystrokes in Emacs; I recognize lots of people wouldn't be OK with that.
On the "pro" side I can type in any HTML weirdness that strikes my fancy, which might be a "con" except for the XML processor in the pipeline helps keep me honest.
Header Graphics · Occasionally I get mail asking “what’s that picture behind the title?
This is the first header graphic ongoing ever had. It’s a close-up of a piece of oriental carpet in my Mom’s collection. For the first couple of years after launch, it was tiled across the top, until I got tired of looking at the same thing all the time; and it’s still the basis of the little diamond-shaped ongoing icon that might be appearing right now in your browser’s address bar.