A website by Jeffrey Veen   more →

Leave the Hard Stuff to Someone Else

09 Jun 2004

Many years ago, veen.com was born in a HotWired server closet, running MacHTTP on a IIci. It was a very do-it-yourself hobby that was a lot of fun … for a while. But then the server crashed while I was in London and I couldn’t get mail for a while. That wasn’t fun at all. I wanted an admin.

So, like most folks, I moved my server to a hosting service and really never thought about it again. I get notices that PHP has been upgraded, or a security hole in sendmail has been plugged, and I remember why I was so happy to stop worrying about a server.

While I’ve maintained this philosophy for some time, I don’t apply it to everything. For example, I still run blog-publishing software on the server, rather than outsourcing to a completely hosted service like TypePad or BlogSpot. It’s a balance between paying for a watchful eye, and maintaining some flexibility in the tools I use. I want to hack my templates, but I find it hard to care what modules are compiled into Apache.

So it was a relief to me that a couple more pieces of Web infrastructure moved into the “somebody else can worry” realm. The first is feeds. I spent a few years with the W3C working on HTML and CSS specifications, so I’ll likely never bother to read another rant about which idea is more brilliant than the other when it comes to the minutia of standards making. RSS and Atom in particular fit squarely into that category these days. Goodbye to all of that. Rather than fret over the various feed templates on my site, I can now just point to Feedburner. They bravely content negotiate for all known aggregators and spit out the Right Thing. And lots of other stuff. Go look. They’re cool.

Along the same lines, Ping-O-Matic will help promote your site for you. When you publish an entry on your blog, the software you use will go tell a couple of sites that you’ve updated. Typically, blo.gs or weblogs.com will get pinged, and they’ll make a record of that. Then, search sites like Technorati and DayPop will come visit you and update their indices. But with the number of pingable sites is constantly growing, how can a Web author keep up? Now, you can just enter Ping-O-Matic into your blog publishing software, and let them keep track of all the new ones. They’re sort of like an update repeater — going out and telling the world you’ve done something on your site.

The idea isn’t all that new, of course. The very backbone of the Internet is set up in a similar fashion — see the Domain Name System and the Whois database for examples. But it’s heartening to see the trend reach out to Web publishers. Because in the end, it makes everything a lot easier for us to use. ​