If you only have a nail, every tool looks like a hammer

Like many bloggers I’ve been following the recent debate around Clay Shirky’s Power laws and blogs article with interest. At the same time, Lilia and Denham Gray have been carrying on a blog-conversation about blogs vs. threaded discussions and wikis.

Ross Mayfield adds some excellent observations about the multiple possible purposes for blogs from something resembling journalism to tools to support collaboration among tightly integrated teams.

Blogging software such as “Radio” or “Traction” has that wonderful characteristic of the best kinds of tools that can be warped and twisted to fit so many different needs. Think of Excel being used as a word processor or database manager, for example.

Couple that flexibility with lowering the barriers to entry so that you expand the universe of potential users by an order of magnitude or so and you get the blogging phenomenon. You don’t have to be any sort of technology expert to pick up a blogging tool and get started. Want to talk about your cats? Feel free. Want to become an instapundit? The name is taken, but there’s room for more if you have something worth saying. Want to improve knowledge sharing among a project team? That’s fine too.

The tools don’t put much shape on how you interpret them. That means you interpret and explain them from the perspective of your work. If the problem you have looks like a nail, than this must be a hammer I’ve just picked up. It’s the fundamental beauty of general purpose software running on general purpose computers. The limit is your imagination. No wonder the establishment is worried.

Writing posts from Radio’s outliner

A Minor bug in my outline post renderer from yesterday was revealed in my previous post. Nothing major, but the renderer was not properly closing off the unordered list. I fixed it and placed the revised script in my gems folder for download. I am sure nobody noticed because I had very few page hits yesterday.

I really, really like writing my posts using Radio’s outliner. It has got me wondering how far I can push this thing. Can I use my table renderer to conveniently drop a table in a post? Could I use rules to drive the layout with the Pike renderer? Is anybody else interested in using Radio‘s outliner to author their posts?

[On The Mark]

Mark Woods has started playing with using “Radio”‘s outliner to post to his weblog and has nicely shared the script for how to do so. As a long time fan of outliners, this is great news for me. I know enough about UserTalk to take advantage of other’s good work. Maybe this will motivate me to see if I can remember what I used to know about scripting and programming.

Certainly makes writing longer pieces a lot easier to contemplate than squeezing into a textbox.

Connecting weblog conversations

Some standards matter…. As I’m more and more seeing my words appear excerpted on other people’s site ( Hi Mark!), I decided to go after another source for related reads: RSS feeds. To participate, you don’t need to use weblogging software that supports trackback or pingback, you simply have to update your templates to have a link to your RSS feed. [Sam Ruby]

Does this mean I don’t have to figure out how to do trackback/pingback in Radio? It’s been on my to do list (albeit very low on that list). Wouldn’t it be lovely to cross it off?

Getting your blog on the map

Metatags for Geographic Locations. GeoURL ICBM Address Server is a location-to-URL reverse directory. This will allow you to find URLs by their proximity to a given location. Find your neighbor’s blog, perhaps, or the web page of the restaurants near you.

Add yourself to the database.

For an example, check for sites near New York City and San Francisco. You can also get an RSS feed: see New York City RSS and San Francisco RSS (the RSS has an attached XSL stylesheet, so if your browser supports it, you will actually be able to see a reasonable rendering.)

Why is it called an “ICBM Address?” Old Usenet historical precedent [Smart Mobs]

Took me about 30 seconds to add myself to the database.