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February 19, 2003

Blog brainstorming

I've been brainstorming with some teams here at Macromedia about how we might help with software for the blog world, and I'm interested in what you all think. Are there things you wish were easier to do? Are there things you can't do but wish you could? Is everything just fine as is?

For example, I know from designing this blog that it's pretty difficult to create a blog design visually, since Dreamweaver doesn't recognize the special MovableType tags (or the templates from other systems like Blogger). Also, Contribute makes it easy to edit content on HTML pages, but it might be useful to also post content to blogs with it. ColdFusion could better support assembly of microcontent. Flash has been used to enable some experiments in audio and videoblogs, but are there other rich interfaces we should explore with it?

If you have thoughts about this topic please post a comment or send me a note, and we'll see what might be possible. Thanks!

19 Feb 03 07:59 AM


Josh Dura says:

Kevin, most of the problems I encounter, you have already mentioned here (the Moveable Type tags not showing up in Dreamweaver, etc..). One thing that I think would be interesting to look at, would be making 1) Flash Components that interface with Moveable Type/Blogger/etc.., and 2) Dreamweaver Extensions that interface with Moveable Type/Blogger/etc...

I think these type of extensions would ease the design problems most developers have with Moveable Type. The most common thing I hear from new Moveable Type users is "What the hell is all this? I dont understand a bit of how these templates work" and with components and extensions, I think it might be easier for the user to just "drag and drop" a Permalink for MT, or a MTEntry tag, etc...

Just my 2 cents :) Let me know what you think...

Posted by: Josh Dura on 19 Feb 03 09:49 AM

Edwin W. says:

It would be nice to see Contribute as an ActiveX plugin / "thin client" for a company like Google/Blogger. Contribute could also be modified so as only to allow a certain tag set. This would take out the need to know HTML to blog.

Posted by: Edwin W. on 19 Feb 03 09:55 AM

Brian LeRoux says:

Personally, I'm not too sure about these template driven perl dependant solutions. From the perspective of a webapp developer I'd rather 'role my own'.

I think Josh's ideas about extn's for the existing blogs is a great idea... and perhaps a set of of components/cfc's on the next DRK for syndicating rss, displaying rss. I don't know much about contribute than its yet another desktop wysiwyg app... why not build a contribute equivalant in flash/remoting/cf and have a run anywhere client? Just thinking outloud..

Posted by: Brian LeRoux on 19 Feb 03 10:09 AM

Marc Canter says:

Hey - this is great! I'm excited about Macromedia listening to customers. But I guess you won't be putting your products into Open Source - huh?

1) Go take a look at Paolo Valdemarin's "Theme Tool" - which takes Dreamweaver docs and turns them into Radio Themes. You could help Paolo promote that a do a version that supports MT.

2) Dave Winer tried for years for you guys to understand what CMS and Dreamweaver would do for your customers. Think add-on CMS. Post directly from DW or Contribute.

3) As far as micro-content is concerned - FIRST we need to establish some new mico-content types. Reviews, Conversations, Topics, People, Media. See my proposals for Open Standards. Needless to say - these new micro-content types CANNOT be a Macromedia product. Just think how pissed of Adobe or Microsoft will be when they realize you've gotten the Open Source religion. Open Servers - which any number of tools can support. Then you guys do your proprietary thing.

4) Then there's the wonderful world of audio and video blogging. And videophoning. I tried to explain to Jeremy that the current pricing of the Flashcom server is really holding up - the world. It's architecture, design, implementation and timing are PERFECT. Only thing wrong - the price. Think Real Helix server. Think Apache Cocoon. There's SO MUCH for the world to gain by having something like Flashcom. There's only ONE way for you guys to f*ck it up and it's what you're doing with the pricing of it. Isn't there some way of you 'opening'that up so we ALL can benefit from it. By defintion right now - it's irrelevant - which is a shame - as it's so KICKASS! [Pardon my French but SOMEONE has to say this to you!]

Posted by: Marc Canter on 19 Feb 03 10:41 AM

Aaron Johnson says:

Native support for RSD ( would be a pretty cool thing to have in Contribute/Dreamweaver/Homesite. For instance, instead of saving to the file system or a network drive and then publishing via FTP, add a 'save to blog' or 'save to site' option in the 'File' menu.

Posted by: Aaron Johnson on 19 Feb 03 11:08 AM

Raymond Pirouz says:

I think there are two ways to look at this:

1. Some will want to roll their own solutions.

2. Others already work with a tool vendor (like Blogger, MT, pMachine or whatever).

BOTH approaches have their own unique challenges, and while the bits and pieces of technology are all around us, NOBODY has yet created a truly easy to use system whereby the bits and pieces come together in an easy to understand, implement and use solution. I think THIS is where someone like Macromedia can come in and add value.

Don't reinvent the wheel...make it smoother.

Look at Apple - they didn't reinvent the web server...they pulled it (Apache) into their suite of products and simply offer somewhat of a usable UI with their OSX Server product (although I must say that it could be MUCH better). Needless to say, I think there is much to gain from the
open" source community, and much to do yet when it comes to making all of these technologies USABLE and IMPLEMENTABLE -- not to mention MAINTAINABLE.

Look at pMachine - you could easily offer to buy that product and offer your own tool with better Macromedia integration and what-not. You've done it may times fact, that's the foundation of your company (buy, improve, brand, sell) it makes sense.

Posted by: Raymond Pirouz on 19 Feb 03 11:22 AM

Moises Garcia says:

I'm with Josh. Finally I get used to Blogger templates and tags and my template has behind a lot of work. Maybe all that effort could be made smoother to the final user implementing extensions for the different blogging engines.

There is also software out there that help posting using the Blogger API so you can post form your desktop ( is an example). Maybe Dreamweaver MXX or Contribute MMX or whatever can make it.

Forgive my English 8)

Posted by: Moises Garcia on 19 Feb 03 01:50 PM

Jarle says:

Someone mentioned Radio and Userland/Dave Winer. Please don't go in that direction. Ok, he has made a nice tool, but it is a tool that is all to easy to misuse. Just look at the RSS feeds generated by Radio.. Full of depraced HTML-tags from their WYSIWYG-tool. Instead it would be nice to move more in the direction of XHTML/XML. It is a lot more useful to add semantics, than it is to add fluff. IMHO. What the web needs is glue to tie different information together.

Posted by: Jarle on 19 Feb 03 02:53 PM

Anil says:

I had talked to this with Erik Larson back before Contribute was announced, but it seems to me that a natural fit for the Contribute user audience (the updaters on the "edge" of a site's content base) would be very likely to adopt the weblog format. Since that's true, integrating with not just the template tags as placeholders (which could be as simple to implement as the analogous data echoing tags for ASP, PHP, or CF) but with the posting APIs and extensions to metaweblogAPI would make more sense.

One of the best values that Macromedia could extend to weblog tools would be an in-page WYSIWYG rich edit control that generated real, solid XHTML markup. Offer it as an extra-cost bonus or integrated with a for-pay version of Movable Type, and I'd be first in line to knock on your door, wallet in hand.

Oh yeah, or you could just build the microcontent client.

Posted by: Anil on 19 Feb 03 04:17 PM

Todd Hopkinson says:

I look at the current batch of blogging systems and can't help but think that they all are equally less effective in that none of them provide a really fluid experience. You must come to the log in page, log in, go to the administration page, click a command, which takes you to a form to fill out for your post. You fill in the form and choose to post, which takes you to a new page. All of this interaction and page hopping really adds up and takes its toll over time.

What we need is a solid, fluid, innovative solution. A simple example of a very fluid experience was an email entry form that I saw on the Macromedia web site recently. The form allowed you to input the information and without reloading the page, transitioned with a swipe effect over to the next element in the form. Although it was only an email/name form, it was very fluid, very hassle free, and almost a pleasure. I don't see why a similar effective and fluid approach can be worked out for a blogging system.

Posted by: Todd Hopkinson on 19 Feb 03 06:23 PM

Andrew Stopford says:

I think its great that Macromedia are looking at what can be done and can only serve us blogger better :)

Some great ideas being thrown around here, support for authoring/changing templates in Dreamweaver, RSD support in Dreamweaver, Blogger API's and contribute as a authoring plugin.

What ever Macromedia decide I do think that all Blogger software should be supported (and yeap that includes Radio) you could start with the main 3 at first, blogger, radio and MT and then move onto others but I think to stick with one or two is a mistake. Bloggers use different software (some home grown) and to stick with one or two will be cutting out all the others, even if you don't like the software in question does not mean that others won't be using it.

One idea I floated a few months back was for Macromedia to join this sphere. You could still use the software you already have - radio, MT or blogger etc but use a Macromedia authoring tool to update its content using (as some one has suggested) the Blogger API. You could use elements of Contribute or Flash (even a mixture of them both).

Just a thought.

Posted by: Andrew Stopford on 20 Feb 03 01:16 AM

Kiruba Shankar says:

Kevin, one of the things I would like to happen in blogging is to make it easy for audio files with small filesizes to be added on to the blog. I have been trying out audioblogging using a few tools but the file sizes come up pretty huge. A one minute speech exceeds 500K.

Wouldn't it be nice if we just put on our mike, talk our ideas out and then press the "publish" button. Now that would be cool.

Posted by: Kiruba Shankar on 20 Feb 03 02:02 AM

Roger Benningfield says:

I would definitely be interested in offering a smoother, Contribute-powered template editing experience to my users. ( With JournURL and its earlier prototypes, I've noticed a tendency in users to stick with the default template, no matter how simple or powerful I make the customization process.

Hooks into a straightforward, visual editing app on the desktop might be the way to solve that problem.

Posted by: Roger Benningfield on 20 Feb 03 03:05 AM

Peter Elst says:

Direct RSS/RDF parsing functionality within Flash would definately makes things easier.

Maybe find a way to syndicate Flash content, the sand-box security settings are proving to be quite annoying for data sharing between servers. I'm sure there must be a secure and better way to do this.

Posted by: Peter Elst on 20 Feb 03 06:43 AM

lincoln says:

blogging consists of two steps "design" and "content production". Content production (your voice heard) remains the soul key factor for blogging but desing is always pleasing. I can see Marcomedia developing tools to make the design section more streamlined and effective but I'm unsure if there are ways in which the rate of content production (the speed at which text or idea can be pushed out) could be made quicker, what with all the good tools that are now out there(i'm singing the praise of MT).

MM can offer a bevy of solutions to the design section of the blogging community. First, MM can produce a plugin or script to help Moveable Type users change on the fly the MT tags to read correctly in DW as well as still retain their validation. Blogger is crap for production of valid code, as we all know. By doing so, more blogs will have a less rigid design structure, where you're able to perform all your design work within DW. Many of the MT blogs out there still run completely within the CSS templates provided by Ben and Mina. This is good to get the content out there but sad in the fact that it all looks very cookie cutter. Offer something to make design of blogging more creative and streamlined by allowing the MM family tools to work along with the blogging tool providers.

At first, I wanted to design my blog within the flash
env. by sending the RSS feed to an xml socket and uploading that to flash. The feed would deliever all nessissary text and pictures (comments as well) through to the interface, just had as it would be in HTML but more dynamic in Flash. I believe someone had developed a Components in FlashKit(something 'candy') that would perform such tasks but i'd never fiddled with it enought to actually develop a design around this. Ideally, I would like to flesh this idea out more to see if a blog scheme could actually function within Flash entirely. I think it remains to be done, completely.

Those are the two says I see how MM can influence the Blogging community. For the creation of content on the web at a fast pace, MT stands alone.

Posted by: lincoln on 20 Feb 03 11:45 AM

Phillip Harrington says:

I was just saying how Macromedia Should Embrace MT! I would like to see the ability to set up my server as a remote site, pull down the templates in my static template directory, edit them with dreamweaver or ultradev, then save them. Also a button to "rebublish" my blog would be great. I'm guessing this would take some support for the blogger/MT API, but those things could probably be integrated.

Posted by: Phillip Harrington on 20 Feb 03 12:00 PM

martin says:

I think a set of Flash Templates/Skins for the well known blogs would be a good start. Your talking about making the information richer, not making it easy to produce/edit - that's always going to be as intuitive as the product/service and the person using it. So naturally video messages, audio samples, photo sideshows etc are a natural fit for a flash blog.

Imagine a Flash App that was basically a desktop diary (Outlook, Eudora, Notes) but served as your media library, blogging editor/viewer, email client, calendar, contacts in the one UI. Drag a picture over todays date - and that's the picture at the top of your blog. Drag a link into your favourites, it appears in your links list. Point and click, drag and drop, hell just take over the desktop already...

Posted by: martin on 20 Feb 03 03:26 PM

Sean says:

I agree with the don't reinvent the wheel scheme. I'd hate to see Macromedia turn this into something where you need Coldfusion MX to run your blog. I want to see Contribute put to use. MT is fantastic. A Contribute/Dreamweaver interface with MT would be awesome. But whether you embrace MT or not doesn't matter to me, as long as running my blog on my own server or another is cost-effective.

Posted by: Sean on 20 Feb 03 07:55 PM

Oscar Trelles says:

I don't know how many people run their own blogging systems. I'm working on my own, after experimenting with Blogger for about 4 months, finding so many limitations and trying to solve some of them with my bare hands :)

I'm sure users of other platforms got their own issues, but they are more or less the same thing: incompatibility with existing technologies and lack of 'advanced' features. For instance, to know if somebody posts a comment here after mine, I will have to come back and see. I don't have anything about coming back to Kevin's page, but wouldn't it be nice if I could subscribe to the thread and be notified by email when new comments are posted?

Although features like that are fairly easy to implement, from my point of view, the most important concern to address is the necessity of a 'perfect' separation between functionality, data and design. If components and templates can do the trick, they will be more than welcome. Macromedia has the means to provide their users with these commodities, although I'm sure I will be using them after tasting the power of a custom-made system.

Posted by: Oscar Trelles on 20 Feb 03 08:04 PM

Kingsley Jegan says:

When I first heard of this, I thought, "Hey, cool! Now I just need to file/save to blog!". Then it's struck me. It's easier to just shoot an email off. Doh. I don't think any of the current MM desktop products can be extended to incorporate day-to-day blogging. Here's why: blogging is about immediacy. When I want to blog, I want as little as possible between my thought and post. I don't want formatting, images, no nothing. I just want to type, correct and hit send. This workflow pretty much rules out starting any new app. The user is likely to go with one of the apps they definitely run when they're online: browser, email or chat client. Definitely not Dreamweaver.

This is not to say that Dreamweaver cannot have blogging features. With all its faults, it already is a great templating tool. With tweaks to make it easier for MT, Blogger and other tags, and with some Blogger API stuff, it can turn out to be the greatest templating tool out there. I doubt if it will ever be used for any day-to-day use though.

The only desktop tool that would revolutionize blogging would be a newsreader/ blogging tool built like a chat app. You would see a list of your favorite blogs, with any new entries in comment threads you want to follow. Maybe one of them is interesting enough that you right click and "Reply to this on my blog". This app would give you news, allow you to comment, either within the blog, or on your own blog. I'm just cooking ideas here. Wait, this is just so interesting that I'm gonna blog it!

Posted by: Kingsley Jegan on 22 Feb 03 11:55 AM

praxis says:

Hi really a very relevent subject to brain-storm about!

In fact ask me about the pains of developing a site with MT! I did not know anything about CSS a month ago when I installed Movable Type neither did I knew anything about template design. One thing I wished for as I designed K-Praxis over the last two week-ends was an integrated template and CSS engine which recongnise Blogger/MT tags.

I guess with acquisition of Blogger by Google the folks at Blogger might have more time to devote to create something like that.

Mind you that if Macromedia Dreamweaver could be the best platform for this kind of thing but how many of us will be offord a fresh copy of Dreamwever?

Posted by: praxis on 23 Feb 03 03:01 AM

Sheila Lennon says:

Kevin, I blog with Dreamweaver now on a huge news site. It's a handmade html page on our common staging server that displays as an include in a site template.

I have figured out a permalink system -- I save the body.htm page as a "weekxx.htm" page after each addition, and add anchors manually to each item, and the anchor name to a "Link to this item" link that points to the weekxx.htm page.

I have hoped to find extensions that would help with some of this -- and autogenerate an rss feed.

Html is the simplest way to get a blog out there for many people who aren't programmers, using the tools we already have.

(Because the blog is behind the firewall and the page must be available to others for fixes, etc., I can't use a desktop blogging tool. They also won't permit unmoderated comments, so I take those through the email link.)

On my infrequently updated personal site ( I use an old version of DW3 on a basic hosting account that doesn't include use of cgi, etc.

Could extensions make all this easier? Would Macromedia make some?

Posted by: Sheila Lennon on 23 Feb 03 05:20 AM

Nadav says:

Not sure this is an obvious Macromedia thing, but one thing all blogs could use is a link-rot-detector. Some way to monitor old posts for links that no longer work.

Posted by: Nadav on 24 Feb 03 07:28 AM

Kevin Lynch says:

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments!

Sounds like there is a lot of agreement around being able to better design pages with tools like Dreamweaver, have Contribute support blogger APIs for content, and perhaps make a developer resource kit with components to handle RSS and better in-browser content editing. Also hear the need to support a variety of blog servers, though certainly a lot of voices of support for MovableType!

I hear the issue about lower pricing for FlashCom. Anil, I also noticed the suggestion to just go build the microcontent client!

More brainstorming is certainly welcome, the comments are being read by a bunch of people at Macromedia.

Posted by: Kevin Lynch on 24 Feb 03 09:56 PM

Kevin Roche says:

Dreamweaver MX was slightly disappointing from the point of adding new tags. Us CF Studio users were used to being able to add new tags easily and were hoping to be able to see that in Dreamweaver MX too.

Extensions are possible but the creation of them is not the trivial thing it was in CF Studio. Maybe a tool to make creating Extension musch more easily would do it.

Posted by: Kevin Roche on 25 Feb 03 11:41 AM

ranjan says:

Here are a few of my observations

1. Most blog tools are based on Linux based open source technology like perl/php. The few ASP blog tools are not upto the mark. I haven't yet come across a blog tool in CFM.

2. Most people use blog as a hobby. Paying for a blog tool thus is out of question. Its something people do in their spare time with whatever resources they can spare.

3. Most users do not understand what RSS/XML feed actually is. Me for example wouldn't consider using RSS/XML feed because who would want to syndicate my content? Where as people would love to syndicate content of your blog or maybe Zeldmans'

4. Existing Macromedia products are capable of creating a custom blog tool with some work.

Given the above, I think someone from the Macromedia community should consider writing tools in the form of extensions/packages rather than Macromedia spending time and resources on it.

Posted by: ranjan on 28 Feb 03 01:22 AM

san says:

I agree with ranjan: syndication of John Q's content is unlikely. I like that RSS/XML is available in tools like Movable Type, because it enables you to subscribe via apps like NetNewsWire to blogs you enjoy keeping up with. But, for example, widespread commercial syndication of my blog is unlikely.

Also, you probably aren't going to sell too many copies of Macromedia Studio MX to the run-of-the-mill bloggers. As ranjan pointed out, free tools and low-cost hosting presently drive the phenomenon. A $500 front-end for a free web-based application hosted for $5 a month seems a stretch of an investment. We own Dreamweaver, but the only point at which I used it for my blog was as a teaching tool, to understand how templates interact with stylesheets. Now I do all the HTML/CSS in a text editor.

In comments above, quite a few people seemed to miss that there are already available tools -- free or very low cost tools -- for posting with a blog's API. Tools that bypass the blogging software's web-based GUI. Kung-Log, which supports MT, and I believe, Neutron, stands out.

But, blogging is growing from micro-fetish to the next-big-web-thing, so Macromedia products certainly have a place in the medium. In my opinion, not in content-contribution (posting) or in reinventing the wheel (developing your own server-side blogging tools), but in integration with existing tag sets as a design tool. As the popularity of blogging increases -- and the content diversifies -- demand for quality web design for blogs will probably increase. For many web designers, in order to access this work, the ability to use Dreamweaver as a template-creation tool will be essential.

Posted by: san on 01 Mar 03 06:43 PM

Adam Lasnik says:

Okay, some people in this thread are looking at stuff from a mile-high perspective, and I suppose that's fine.

Me? I just want to be able to work on MT templates with my nice ol' Dreamweaver MX *WITHOUT* having the Library function make mincemeat out of my links!

For instance, when I have something like href="" in a Library file, and then I move or copy a template that uses that file, the href becomes "/../%3CMTBlogURL%3C" or something like that. A total mess! So in many cases, I've found that I've been unable to use the Library function at all when using MT tags! If there was just a way to get Dreamweaver to leave stuff alone sometimes, I'd be a happy camper.

I'm sure the same could be useful for other blog apps and template-based stuff as well. Teach Dreamweaver when to just behave and keep stuff the way I tell it, please! :)

Posted by: Adam Lasnik on 04 Mar 03 02:00 AM

Adam Lasnik says:

ACK! Even your comment box ate my link! This is not my decade :-(

I had written:
For instance, when I have something like href="{MTBlogURL}" in a Library file... [pretend the {}'s are HTML thingies]

Posted by: Adam Lasnik on 04 Mar 03 02:01 AM

san says:

Off topic: you can't use MT tags in an MT comment box. It strips them. And I think Kevin has html in comments turned off, anyway, so his blog will strip any html tags.

Posted by: san on 05 Mar 03 05:57 PM

Gerald says:

I would therefore recommend that you implement a preview functionality and/or add some instructions near the comment form, just as phil tells us here:

Posted by: Gerald on 20 Apr 03 10:30 AM

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