Rinke Park, via foursquare
“Giant Steps” - John Coltrane
from Giant Steps
Individual posts are edited in Markdown format, using the MacDown editor on a Macintosh. They are translated to HTML via a shell script that does some reformatting and vets the output using Tidy. Images are edited, when necessary, using Acorn and NetPBM. Autodesk Graphic is used for vector graphics.
Most of the not-quite dynamic sidebar content is produced by really small Python scripts running from cron, generating tiny HTML fragments that are transcluded into the pages at rendertime. This allows the flexibility of dynamic page generation with the benefits of static performance. More discussion of this technique here.
hover for obnoxious commentary
Because my caffeine rush is hitting, and because this is my blog, and I can bore the shit out of whomever I want, I thought I’d do a short (but probably still eye-glazing) explanation of how I populate a small area of my blog’s left sidebar.
TL;DR: I grab XML from last.fm a few times a day and render the HTML statically into the sidebar.
At one point, I was going to make the sidebar live with whatever was playing in iTunes at the particular moment when the blog is being accessed, but that’s a really silly thing to do, for reasons both technical and social.
This sidebar contains a rolling top 10 of my most-listened-to musical artists in any given week. I feel compelled to funnel as much of my listening as possible through applications that scrobble to last.fm. Because last.fm caters to sad folks like me who love to keep track of things like “which artists did I listen to most during the second week of February 2008?”, they provide lots of ways for applications to access this data.
Usefully, for example, I can get an XML feed of artists I’ve listened to, and I can request various time-slices of this data. In this case, I grab the raw XML and parse the bits I care about from the XML tree. I then write an HTML fragment into a cache. You don’t want to see the code that does this, because I’m a real tyro at using ElementTree, so it’s really ugly.
Though Blosxom can be configured to generate its pages statically (e.g. most Movable Type blogs are run this way), I’ve pretty much always run it dynamically (i.e. every blog page request runs a script which generates a page on the fly to serve to the user-agent – most Wordpress blogs are run this way.) There are pros and cons to both approaches, of course, but in general:
Because this blog is very low traffic, it’s almost never been a problem running it dynamically. In the course of its history, it was linked from Slashdot once, and Daring Fireball once, and stayed up in both cases. To be honest, over-enthusiastic spidering by poorly-coded web crawlers has been a bigger issue.
One strategy I’ve adopted is to pre-render as much “dynamic” content as possible. Many of the sidebar elements that contain changing content (the Pinboard links, the geolocation stuff) are actually rendered into static HTML periodically and then transcluded into the page, rather than being fetched/rendered on every pageload.
With that in mind, I grab the XML from last.fm once per hour, and cache the transformed results. When the page loads, it grabs that already rendered cache and plops it into the sidebar.
posted by Seth Williams at Mon Aug 4 01:05:45 2014
The time when men of reason go to bed.
— Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary”