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Running Weblogs With Slash 168

Posted by timothy
from the free-code-but-not-a-free-book dept.
Two Slashdot (and Slashcode) readers -- Alex McLintock of Openweb Analysts Ltd, and Dave Aiello of CTDATA -- have graciously contributed their impressions of the new O'Reilly book Running Weblogs With Slash. Since the Slash code is now used to run sites covering a huge number of topics (fly fishing, mountain biking, "news for nerds," etc.), it's time there was at least one printed reference to it.
Running Weblogs With Slash
author chromatic, Brian Aker, Dave Kreiger
pages 262
publisher O'Reilly
rating (see each)
reviewer Alex McLintock
ISBN 0-596-00200-2
summary It's the first book I know about slash: That means it's the best, and the worst.

dave_aiello's review:

I have been running two small-scale Slash sites since 1999. When I began developing web sites using Slash the only code available was Version 0.3, one of the first tarballs ever released by Rob Malda. That code was almost totally undocumented and not at all modular.

The Slash project has grown and the code has improved since then. Slash has now reached the point where it is a feature-laden, open source web publishing platform. However, documentation that can help new users has always been hard to come by.

I found a paragraph near the beginning of the book that I thought was important because it may help you to decide whether this book will be helpful to you:

This book is aimed at anyone interested in setting up and running a weblog with the Slash software. This includes system administrators and programmers, but attempts have been made to keep the discussion readable for people who have no desire to compile their own kernel or to rewrite the moderation system. It concentrates much more on how to accomplish things than how things work underneath, though it doesn't shy away from the greasy gears and wheels when appropriate.
The authors' choice of audience might also be why you have seen comments from some experienced Slash site maintainers indicating that they weren't entirely satisfied with the finished product. That's OK -- it wasn't written for them. But, if you have a desire to build a web site running on Slash and you don't want to spend the months that it took me to read the code line-by-line, "Running Weblogs with Slash" is a good place to start.

The main part of the book begins with an overview chapter. It starts with a brief history of the Slash project. The next ten pages are a review of the user interface of Slashdot, including a number of screenshots. This is followed by three important short sections: The Slash Author Interface (administration), The Slash Publishing Cycle, and The Slash Architecture. These sections do not contain screenshots, but author interface is discussed in detail later in the book, and the publishing cycle and architecture parts have diagrams to help you visualize the concepts being discussed.

The next chapter, Installing Slash, may be the most important one of the book. This chapter is surprisingly short (about 21 pages) considering the difficulty that some people have installing the software. Two of the most critical pages of the chapter cover getting help with the key underlying software: mySQL, Perl, Apache, mod_perl, and Slash itself. All of the important URLs and mailing lists are documented here. A short outline of the installation process, and a set of step-by-step installation instructions follow. There are also short sections on building sites that are distributed across multiple machines, and running multiple virtual Slash sites on the same server.

Although the installation chapter is clearly written, some users may have difficulty completing it without a little frustration. For instance, the book says "Although many UNIX-like operating systems come with Perl already installed, building Apache with mod_perl requires the Perl source." It would help if the detailed installation section of the chapter indicated how to uninstall a binary version of Perl from at least one of the major Linux distributions. The authors have been consistent, however, in focusing this chapter on critical, Slash-specific installation issues.

The next five chapters of the book focus on Slash site administration. The topics covered include editing and updating stories, reviewing and approving submissions, comment-related functionality, moderation, and managing sections and topics. These chapters are important because most people who want to implement a Slash site have never seen the administration interface and need some help understanding the tools that are available. These chapters are also helpful to people who have experience with other web publishing systems, because a quick comparison can be done between the Slash author interface and the system with which the reader is more familiar.

The main part of the book concludes with chapters on managing a Slash-based community, basic and advanced customization, and advanced administration. The customization chapters are the only places in the main part of the book where the Perl code that makes up Slash is discussed in any detail. Now that Slash implements much of the web site's look and feel through the Template Toolkit, modification of the application source is much less important than it used to be. The advanced administration chapter is primarily about the Slash daemon (slashd), the tasks it performs (dailyStuff, moderatord, portald), and how tasks can be added and modified.

The appendices are easily the most technical part of the book. They begin with a detailed discussion of the Slash architecture, which includes several process diagrams, and a discussion of the Slash directory structure. The second appendix discusses the Slash database schema. The appendix on the Slash Template Language looks quite useful to people trying to modify the appearance of their Slash site. The Slash API appendix covers some of the important high-level functions that would be useful in building your own Slash plugin or theme. The last appendix covers Slash configuration variables, which can be important if you have to modify the location of Slash content in your file system, or you need to change other fundamental aspects of your site's configuration.

I would strongly recommend this book to you if you plan to build a Slash-based site and you want to develop a basic understanding of the Slash software as quickly as possible. You will also need to find resources (either in print or on-line) to help you understand administration of the underlying operating system, Perl, Apache, and mySQL, if you have little or no background in these subjects.

I'm sure that many people will be able to successfully install and operate Slash by using this book as their primary reference. And, if they have difficulty, they will have sufficient understanding of the architecture and terminology to ask "good questions" on the mailing lists or the Slashcode web site.


Alex McLintock's review:

Executive Summary:

This review basically lists the flaws and missing features in the book. But that doesn't mean it is a bad book - just that it is easier to find fault than praise. If you need a book on running a weblog with slash then buy this book.

About the Reviewer:

My slash experience is in running a book reviews website http://news.diversebooks.com/ using slashcode. I did set up a site years ago called "mines-a-pint.com" using a pre 1.0 version of slashcode but the site fell over due to lack of spare time.

I am also a perl programmer and web developer so I can figure out a huge variety of problems with Apache, mod_perl, and MySQL. This is lucky because slashcode depends quite greatly on the administrator having those skills. Sadly this book doesn't look into them in great detail. Were this a Wrox book the publishers would have copied a few chapters from different books - or at least given more details on how to troubleshoot those systems. The O'Reilly strategy is that you can perfectly well buy their book on MySQL, their Apache book, and their mod_perl book(s).

Choosing Slash:

I was expecting more of a comparison of Slash to other weblogs. Why chose slash over others? It is in fact a hard question to answer unless you require a site really quite like http://slashdot.org The big benefit of being able to cope with a lot of traffic probably don't apply to most sites just starting out.

The book assumes you have greater than Slash 2.2.0, but presumably quite a few people such as myself have 2.0 installed and not upgraded yet. (I don't know how many people are running pre 1.0 slash sites). It doesn't mention how you upgrade. Lets face it - even if you installed the latest version today (2.2.5) you *will* have to upgrade at some point.

Setting Up Sites:

I expected this section to be a lot more detailed than the basic instructions - but it isn't so much better. When setting up slash sites there are at least three different types of user (slash, unix, and database) and these are not differentiated properly. The authors of the book fall too easily into using slashcode jargon without realising that someone coming to this for the first time wont know the slash-speak. I understand it because I've been reading the mailing list for nearly a year. However, someone picking up this book may not have.

Most jargon terms are introduced but they could be better explained - perhaps with more diagrams. As a typical example, it took me ages to understand the difference between topics and sections. It would have been great to see examples of how different slashcode sites decided what their topics and sections would be. Originally I just saw topics and sections as being a matrix of slots into which one would pigeonhole each article. However there are some things you can do with sections (the columns of the matrix) which you can't do with the topics (the rows). This seemed to me to be an arbitrary limitation of slashcode which an installer needs to be aware of when choosing topics and sections.

More screenshots of the default theme are needed. For instance it talks about the various slashboxes which are configurable but doesn't show them.

Virtual Slash Sites:

I pretended I was a newbie at this and tried to follow their instructions for installing virtual slash sites (ie multiple weblogs on the same machine). The instructions for setting up virtual users aren't complete. EG how do you *add* a new user to DBIx::Password I figured it out because I know perl but others may have significant problems....

Slightly Unusual Config:

I wanted to see if the book would tell me how to put all slash URLs inside a directory of a pre-existing site. (eg http://mysite.com/newsdir/slashpages ) but no found info on doing this at all....

This is a shame because it means that if you wish to combine slashcode with some other html you have to take the approach of installing slash and then adding the extra html content rather than the other way around. It should have considered the situation where someone already has a pre-existing website which they just want to enhance with some news capability.

Running a Slash Site:

There is not much description of the workflow of submitted articles through the system. Instead it is explained by describing what slashcode editors (aka "Authors") do. Looking at the article workflow is important because many other organisations will have different workflows and thus will need to change their behaviour to match Slashcode and not vice versa. This is generally a "bad thing".

Would I Buy This Book?

If I were installing slash for someone and I wasn't being paid to do all the maintenance I would have no hesitation in buying this book to help whoever is doing first line support. However I don't feel a desperate need to keep the book myself since I've already learned most of what it contains just by running a slash site. I know how to read the docs, look at the perl and database, and use the mailing list.

Ok - I can't do entirely without the book because it has some useful reference sections: a full third of the book is made from Appendices and index! One of the most useful of these is the chapter on Andy Wardley's Template Toolkit. I have a bit of an advantage here since I have used Andy's code before in a different web project. However most of my future slash site design will be done by a more junior web developer who doesn't have any perl experience and I expect this will be his most used chapter. (Check back to http://news.DiverseBooks.com in a few days for his additions to this review). The final appendix is useful too -- the list of configuration variables and their meanings.


You can purchase Running Weblogs with Slash from Fatbrain. Want to see your own review here? Just read the book review guidelines, then use Slashdot's handy submission form. (Psst! O'Reilly has also made available a 20% discount for Slashdot readers ordering by phone (800-294-4747), email (order@oreilly.com) or from the O'Reilly web site. Use discount code "#E1EW36."

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Running Weblogs With Slash

Comments Filter:
  • by InterruptDescriptorT (531083) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:42AM (#3065088) Homepage
    The opening section is actually entitled 'First Chapter!' :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Is there anything about beowulf clusters, hot gritz in your pants or goats? I think that ASCII art of the goat guy (you know the one) would have been good for the book cover.
  • by arnoroefs2000 (122990) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:45AM (#3065098) Homepage

    About 120!! sites run on slashcode. Take a look [slashcode.com].
    • I have not updated that list in sometime. It is probably less then a third of the sites that I have posted and quite a few of them that are on the list are dead.
    • My favorite one of these is the "Naturist Journal : You May Encounter Nude News Beyond This Point" : http://www.naturistjournal.com/.

      I kid you not.
  • List of Slash sites? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sphealey (2855) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:48AM (#3065112)
    Is there a list of public sites known to be using Slashcode?

    sPh

  • (could not resist) This is selfpromotion or what... As much as I like ./ and its backend... i can't help having this view of - say - a chineese newspaper article: scientist analyses communism and finds it good.
    • Well, except that both reviews aren't entirely positive. The first one pretty much says it's useful, but the second one even stated that it was just listing faults, they were easier to find. And of course, Slash is free, so they're not really promoting anything that'd help them out, since they were not the authors.

      Besides that, I'd bet a lot of the people who would set up Slash sites and be interested in the book probably surf here, so it is targetted... it's sort of like the Chinese newspaper article: Scientist reads book about communism and says it's fairly nice if you don't already live here. And is promptly shot.

      There is no sig.
    • by FortKnox (169099) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:08PM (#3065198) Homepage Journal
      This is true...

      When doing some research on what I wanted to run as my personal weblog, I looked at slashcode, scoop [kuro5hin.org], PHPNuke [phpnuke.org], and PostNuke [postnuke.org].

      slashcode and scoop were a bear to get running, and slashcode was extremely slower. PHPNuke took me a total of 10 minutes to get running, was a simple interface, and was, generally, a "prettier" interface. Not only that, but both Nuke's were easier to modify, and add onto.

      Nothing against slashdot, but I think other backends are just better for the majority (although I'd love to find a good J2EE weblog that was as "pretty" as the Nuke's).

      (For those interested, I went with PHPNuke).
      • (although I'd love to find a good J2EE weblog that was as "pretty" as the Nuke's).

        I've been thinking the same thing. An MVC design using JSP and Servlets should be a decent design/coding project. Something like those high-end Content Management systems.

        Wanna try?
        • That'll be a helluva project. I'd love to be a part of, but it'll require a lot of time and personnelle. Might I suggest Jakarta Struts [apache.org] as a base framework?
          • I don't know; didn't Malda start Slash by himself?

            Anyway, Struts seems like a good idea, both you and joib suggested it. I'll look into Struts, and maybe I'll start something on Sourceforge.
        • Yes there seems to be no such thing as an open source J2EE weblog. One reason might of course be that open source developers in general seem to have quite a bland attitude towards everything Java. The high profile open source Java stuff seems to be mostly infrastructure stuff, like the Apache Jakarta project and JBOSS. One thing which might be a good start for a Java weblog is Jive [jivesoftware.com], probably the highest performing forum software around (and yes, written in Java). Unfortunately they went commercial a while ago, but you can still download the older Jive 1.2.4, which is under an Apache license. So with some amount of work, you might be able to mangle it to something resembling a weblog. And there seems to be some kind of integration with Struts too, which of course would be a very cool thing to have. I'd really like to do something like this, but considering that I don't personally really have a need for a weblog and that I unfortunately seem to be perpetually busy with all kinds of things I don't think I'd be able to donate enough time to a project like this...:( I wish you good luck if you decide to give it a try.
      • I'm starting a slash-like site, and I went through the same process, evaluating slashcode, scoop, and most anything I could find at freshmeat.net. Eventually, I settled on YAWNS [freshmeat.net]. It is written in perl, but struggles to avoid the server and perl module complexities associated with slash. Granted, it is not as full-featured as slash , nor will it scale like slashcode, but for a smallish hobbyist site it works well.

        Full disclosure: Although not "officially" associated with YAWNS, I've contributed some code to the project and plan to contribute more.

        Shayne

    • As far as I know, Slashdot / AndOSDVerANLinux^h^h^h^h^h^hSoftware gets no special benefit by running this review besides the small amount from an affiliated link to Fatbrain.

      Would you really prefer we not run a review of a book (still the only one as far as I or these reviewers can tell) about running Slash sites?

      Obviously, I think it's good to run this (hey, I put it on the page :)) and I know one of the authors slightly in person, another even more slightly by email (so am happy to see them get their book in print), but that has nothing with whether I would post this review anyhow.

      So, Yes -- it's convenient, because Slashdot is a site running on Slash, which is supposed to be a convenient means of disseminating and discussing just such things :)

      timothy

      • Slashdot / AndOSDVerANLinux^h^h^h^h^h^hSoftware

        Tim, I know this is OT, but honestly, after the poll "Do you like your job", I have to giggle that you typed this. Granted, Andover has changed their name a bazillion times. How does this affect your work? Are you frustrated about it? Do you look up apathetically to your parent employer? I recently saw a video [yahoo.com] of VA Software's CEO stating that "VA Software no longer in the Linux biz." What do the Slashdot authors feel about this?
        • Mr. Knox:

          I hear that VA has an office in Fremont, California. Once in a while they send me some money, and some people I know say they have been there, so I guess it's true.

          Other than that, I have a VA Linux T-shirt that says "Open Source -- It's the Difference Between Trust and Antitrust," and a VA mousepad that an ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend gave me, when his employer bought several servers.

          :)
      • No further comments from me...

        The fact is I find it a bit awkward for /. to run a review of this kind. It's natural that one should think twice before doing something that may sound like "Look ma, i'm on teevee!"

        just my 2c, and my very sincere reaction...

        btw, I like both /. and slashcode, it really has nothing to do with that. I probably never manage to set up something this size and complexity...
        • Well, my response above is honest / sincere -- I don't mean to sound flippant about it. We did try to 'think twice' about it, asked our reviewers to please speak as frankly as they could, just because we didn't want any kind of softball review. Once we told the reviewers they had the go-ahead, they could have panned as hard as they wanted to :)

          The circularity of a book on Slash running on Slashdot really isn't that strange when you think about it ... everyone here *is* a Slash user in some sense :)

          Anyhow, my last word too.

          Cheers,

          timothy

    • So if a book on slash gets published, should slashdot purposely not post a story on it to avoid claims of self-promotion? It's not like it's a story about slash being the only viable solution for your weblog needs or anything. Maybe we're making a knee-jerk reaction here...
  • You can purchase

    But not from that link =3 But Here's a link that actually works [fatbrain.com]. Additionally, if you want to buy it without an affiliate, here's a link over to Amazon [amazon.com].

  • by EchoMirage (29419) on Monday February 25, 2002 @11:51AM (#3065127)
    Okay, so Slashcode is finally serious. I'm amused that O'Reilly has written a book about it. However, being as it powers a great deal of sites, some of them widely read/used daily, it begs one question in my mind:

    Why can't Malda and the other authors make the HTML standards compliant?!?!?

    In the Slashcode FAQ, Malda (or whoever maintains the FAQs has written this: [slashcode.com]

    "Can you make Slash compliant with HTML x.x?"
    "No, but YOU can! Slash is fully customizable. You can edit the templates to suit your taste. See the HOWTO documents for themes, plugins, and templates."

    Boo. Bad answer. The Slash implementers shouldn't need to fix this when it would be a fairly trivial task to go through the Slash code and update to HTML 4.0 or XHTML 1.0 standards.

    Really, I think the failure of Slash to be HTML compliant reeks of laziness in an important area. I appreciate the work Rob has done, I don't want to sound like an unfair critic, but come on, it's 2002, let's get up to some semblance of recent standards!
  • PHPnuke is a worthy open-source mention here, diff being it's PHP instead of Perl, is possibly a bit more user friendly, but lacks the level of security and performance that slashcode has to offer.
    • by reaper20 (23396) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:09PM (#3065209) Homepage
      Postnuke [postnuke.com] is a fork of PHPNuke with a focus on security and performance and is also dreadfully simple to setup. Still in alpha, but getting better.

      Right now the Postnuke team is gearing up for a major release, .71, and from what I've seen of it so far, it is moving forward at a nice pace. I've anyone has ever been frustrated with the installation of Scoop, Slash, or PHPnuke, you might want to give postnuke a try.
  • slashcode sucks (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    sorry to break the slashdotter's bubble, but scoop and others are a breeze compared to slash. installing, configuring, maintaining, just about every aspect is better done.

    slashcode is one big heap of spaghetti and is not recommended for people with middle of the road systems.

  • Now only if they could take the stability of Slashdot with all the traffic it gets hammered with and apply it to LiveJournal, a "weblog" website that has over 100K userrs, and is generally inacessible after 9pm, plagued by DNS errors and .PL file errors(?).

    I was debating with a friend on the problems Slashdot and livejournal share(server load).
    • I like livejournal a lot. Their big problem is that everything in the site is generated from the database. If more of their pages were pushed out as static pages then their database loads would probably become a lot more reasonable.
      I think with time they will work out the kinks.
  • by Wizy (38347)
    Postnuke is much easier to setup, doesnt take a book to explain. Has a lot of good addons. Why run slash, when you can get the same thing from something simple to use, easy to setup (under 20 minutes from the first time I downloaded it, to the default site running just fine.)

    (and no, im not on the postnuke team, they have just done real good work.)
    • Totally agree ... PostNuke rocks and seems to be well on it's way to becoming one of, if not the best CMS around.

      I also like the fact that Postgresql is now supported 100%

      If you like Perl and want to stay away from PHP try Scoop. Much, much much better.
  • by titansfreak (525514) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:08PM (#3065202)
    Postnuke, geeklog, and many other free and open source tools are for most people a much better option than slashcode. This book should have been more flexible to cover at least a couple other weblog options.
  • Although enjoyed reading the book, it wasn't the resource I thought it would be. I liked the insight and history of the slash evolution. However I bought this book as a reference for the site I'm running, and I have yet to refer back to it. When I have a problem with the site, the answer isn't in there. All in all I would have liked the book much better if it had a different title.
  • Slash for Dummies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alien54 (180860) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:11PM (#3065216) Journal
    bottom Line is that it is a basic intro book.

    I was disappointed by it. I wanted more technical meat, but what it looks like is that the tech level would tranlate nicely to a "Slash for Dummies" level. I need at least one level deeper information, with at least a description of the perl modules and at least a once over light weight commentary of the code.

    Granted that it is changing fairly quickly, but really, this is what I really need. - not something with occasional digs at pet peeves in the examples.

    I consider this a beginners book, and not really at the level of a professional reference that I need. Anyone who has set up BBS's etc in the past needs more than what this book offers. It makes an OK first section with a second and third much more detailed section desperately needed. I really do not need the first volume, except for some convenient info in the appendices.

    • there probably *will* be a book called Slash for Dummies! :)

      Smiley, but I'm serious. And if it's not in the For Dummies lineup, probably in one of the similar ("we're even stupider!") lines, Idiots or whichever.

      And frankly, I like that idea. I think the Dummies books and similar are much kinder introductions to certain topics than the "you must be this tall to enter" typical computer book is. No one has to *stay* with the novice-level books, but novice-level is where most people start out, no matter what the subject :) (There's a good german saying which nearly applies here, I hope spelling is correct. "Alle Menschen sind Auslaender, fast ueberall" -- "All men are foreigners, nearly everywhere.")

      Sounds like you've identified a market niche that I hope someone fills -- maybe there will even be a volume II to this one.

      I bet when "Running Slashsites for Encephalitics" comes out that the O'Reilly book will prove to have a more interesting writing style :)

      timothy
  • by fobbman (131816) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:13PM (#3065225) Homepage
    "Running Weblogs With Slash"

    I was SO stoked when I saw this headline. I mean, not only is he a guitar GOD but now he's doing web logs? Dude must have some TOTALLY killer stories about touring with Axl and all the rock babes with the big...hair.

    Imagine how totally bummed I am, now that I know what the review is about. YOU LEAD ME ON, SLASHDOT DUDES! Totally non, non non, NON-HEINOUS.

  • by anti-snot (555305) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:18PM (#3065257)
    I'm disappointed that O'Reilly didn't assign the goat to this line of books...
  • Plot is discussed, but not ending.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Please don't mod me down for this, but guys, come on! A book on Slash?! Yeah, Slash is quite nice, especially Nested mode. If only NNTP clients could display threads like this, it'd be amazing. Moderation is quite a good system too overall, despite having its problems.

    But, that's about where it ends! How on earth can Slash ever be thought of as a mainstream 'product' or system to run a mainstream discussion site? It can't be! Is the ordinary luser going to understand what the heck Troll, Flamebait, and Redundant mean? Nope, thought not. Are they going to understand thresholds and using HTML to produce their posts? No.

    Slash is great at providing "weblogs" (I seriously dislike that term, I find it very peculiar) to a geek-ish audience, but for mainstream luser apps, it just doesn't cut it.

    With releasing books like this, it's no wonder O'Reilly's in financial difficulty.

    (Before you consider moderating this post down to -1, just take a step back from the situation: imagine some of your non-techie friends or even your mother using a Slash-based site. Can't you hear the questions already?)

  • but how is it actually better? I'm running slash and I can customize every single thing... can you do that with Post Nuke? most of the nuke type sites I've ever seen have stark similarities, and reading the basic FAQ's and FMs led me to beleive that nuke is too dumbed down for someone who actually knows what they're doing. I think Slash is the best, so someone please give me ACTUAL EVIDENCE that nuke is better, and please no "it's just easier" because I don't want to hear that computer scientist-esque mumbo jumbo.
  • Man, I'm just glad the book is over so Brian Aker can work on mod_mp3 instead of slash junk all the time. When he was working on the book, it was like he stopped working on everything else. When the book was over, there was a new version of mod_mp3 [tangent.org] just a week later. The funny part is that nobody really knows what krow [slashdot.org] does until after he does whatever he does. Like, I didn't know about any book until the week he finished it. Funny guy. Me and another mod_mp3 user setup a slashsite about mod_mp3, maybe I should actually go get the book too. However, I hear that the book isn't for perl hackers, but rather for the person who doessn't care how the internals of slashcode work. This is direct from the Author too (well Brian anyways). Krow has told me that if there were any person he could give the book to, it would be his slash using room-mate, who runs a slash site, and knows nothing of how the insides of slash work.
  • by elmegil (12001)
    I think the question on everyone's mind is whether or not it covers $rtbl banning [slashdot.org] of allegedly abusive users....

    • I think the question on everyone's mind is whether or not it covers $rtbl banning [slashdot.org] of allegedly abusive users....

      It did, but his editors modded that chapter down and then quietly removed it, and afterwards stopped payment on his advance check.

    • It does, in chapter 8. This not only includes how to do it, but when to do it, why to do it, and all of the other options that make this a last resort. Your opinion on whether or not it's a good thing may disagree, but it's left up to each site owner to decide. (The rest of chapter 8 is all about running the site in such a way that this is rarely necessary.)
      • Thanks for taking time to respond. Just for the record, I never said it was a priori a bad thing. In case anyone reading this might get confused, the fact that it exists is not a bad thing at all; what gets reasonable slashdot readers upset about it is that it appears to have been abused here at slashdot on a wide scale on at least one occasion with no explanation and deafening silence (or occasional defensive posturing) from the site owners/maintainers regarding its use.

        There's an easy fix: update the faq and quit pretending that moderation is purely "by the users for the users". Then everyone knows the "real" rules and we can get on with our lives and flaming John Katz.

        For any hyper-defensive moderators who might feel like punishing me for stating my mind, it's worth noting that we are still discussing slash code and things relevant in the book reviewed up there at the top of the page, so this post is hardly offtopic. Of course, you can feel free to mod me down anyway, and prove the point that slashdot itself doesn't live up to "the rest of chapter 8".

        • I agree. Honesty and openness will calm a lot of teapot tempests. Feel free to quote chapter 8 as necessary:
          The fewer surprises your users and Authors have to face, the less friction there will be.

          Treat your users like rational, clever adults, and they will tend to behave that way.

          (Don't worry that it sounds like a self-help book. That's about as philosophical as things get, really.)
    • Gee, good to see that a comment about slash code in a thread about a book that's about slash code is offtopic. Let's see if we can burn some more karma now, shall we?

      • Probably a power-drunk editor modded you down. The editors with unlimited mod points that beat down these discussions are the true anonymous cowards of Slashdot.

        • You should use that second sentence as your sig. Much better than your current sig :).
          • Suggestion implemented ! :-) Unfortunately you can't stuff that many characters into a sig, so I've had to paraphrase it. This paraphrasing may insult the ethical editors who don't abuse their power. My apologies to these people...

            • I like it, I like it a lot! Much more powerful now. I hope you don't get chopped down by the editors. I think you'll be ok but what the f* do I know :).
              • I don't care anymore. I was blacklisted, so I can never moderate again. I was a frequent moderater that most always used my points wisely. I considered it a privlege to be a moderator and treated it as such. I moderated up the forbiden post because it was obvious what was going on.

                Slashdot rewarded me and other long-time faithful contributors to the success of this site with blacklisting. So, they can karma rape me all they want. This site has gone from a valuable news resource to a power trip site for a select few good old boys.

                I get more information and enjoyment now from the Troll subculture that resides in the Score 1 and below area.
                • Wow.. I didn't know they did blacklisting. In all truth it doesn't seem like you're missing much these days with what /. is now. I can understand how it would be annoying to be unjustly blacklisted.

  • Not to burst the slashdot bubble about weblogging, but if you want to try a really nice weblog, try GreyMatter from www.noahgrey.com [noahgrey.com].



    It's great CGI software!



    Check out my weblog (Yes, blatant plug) @ www.oswego.edu/~scooper3/journal/index.html [oswego.edu]

  • by klaun (236494) on Monday February 25, 2002 @12:57PM (#3065481)
    The thing that disappointed me the most about this book is the amount of space spent on the social dimensions of administering a weblog. For such a lightweight book to spend the majority of its pages on how to reduce trolls and have a coherent theme to your site, while ignoring technical questions, made it feel like a rip-off.

    Particularly upsetting to me was the information on installation. The book basically repeated what's in the online documentation without adding anything. Nothing included on common problems with installation or on non-standard installs. The book was suprisingly nontechnical. It reminded me of fluff HTML books that spend all their pages on aesthetic questions and do's and don'ts of webpage design.

    Expensive, short, and padded with fluff. Overall, disappointing, especially from O'reilly.
    • You seem to be talking about chapter 8, which is 13 pages long in the manuscript here. That's 5% of the book. Part of that is taken up by managing authors. It's included because the ability to install Apache and a database and whatever program you prefer doesn't automatically give people wisdom and insight into managing an online community. (It's also my favorite chapter.)

      As for the installation information, that (in my opinion) is just about the only documentation Slash has, period. It's good stuff. We tried to include more information, especially about places to get help. (I did forget to explain how to add a new virtual user in DBIx::Password, so throw tomatoes at me.)

      I do agree that it's aimed at a mostly non-technical audience, but the last third of the book was intended to provide a lot more meat. I'd like to think the description and back cover blurb make the target audience clear, but realize some advanced users will be disappointed. I'm sorry about that.


      • chromatic, I haven't read the book yet, but I get the impression that what I really need is the second edition.

        The history of computing, it seems to me, is everyone spending hundreds of hours puzzling over things that are poorly explained.

        Anyhow, I expect that the book is a big improvement over what was available before, which was very little.

        I'm very, very impressed with Slashdot. I'd like to set up a Slashcode site, but am trying to avoid the many hours of frustration that is usual for something like this. A book that was extremely complete would be worth at least $200 to me.
  • Let me guess, a Cowboy Neal??

  • I like slash for sites like slashdot.. but for most joe average sites, slash is somewhat overkill. I think thats why you find so many sites that look and act like slashdot using phpnuke or postnuke or some of the other slash-alike systems that are easier to install and use, and while having all the features you want and more, don't necessarily have features that don't apply to sites having less than 100,000.
  • Only for Unix users (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jfsather (310648)
    I was over at Borders the other day buying some books and saw this. I was looking to redo my existing website (which provides weblog functionality for my friends) with some other engine. Given that my site is running on Win2K, I ended up having to use PHP-Nuke5.5 (PostNuke had some problems getting going and MyPHPNuke was missing some features I wanted). Anyway, this book has absolutely no information (that I could find) on getting things running on Windows. I don't know if this can be done, but don't go looking to this book for help.
    • There's a footnote pointing to a port of Slash 1.x to Windows NT [trippy.org] in the first chapter. Several people have asked about such a thing on the mailing lists. A few have started projects to port things, but, to my knowledge, nothing has come of them.

      Most of the pieces should work, but fitting them together nicely would be a lot of busywork. Consequently, the book assumes that Slash is installed on a Unix or Unix-like machine. (It can be administered and edited from a Mac, or BeOS, or any operating system with a 1998-era web browser, though.)

      • Cool, thanks for the info. My quick browse at the store didn't get me that. I will definately have to check that out. My browse was simply a skim of the TOC and index, so that is why I missed it.
  • by v4sudeva (156187) <vasudeva@@@megarad...com> on Monday February 25, 2002 @02:34PM (#3066050) Homepage
    A few months ago, I undertook a single-man campaign to get Slash up and running so I could help realize a goal I and a few friends had together -- a goal that was conceived long before "blog" was a household term. Before "E/N" was a common site format, even.

    So I broke down, bought O'Reilly's MySQL/mSQL book, got the Slash code, installed all the various bits and pieces. I was struck almost immediately by the profound lack of decent, in-depth information. Not knowing PERL, and not being a SQL wizard, there were many places where I had to put everything aside and go do something else for a few hours.

    As my girlfriend was gone for the week, I was able to pretty much devote every waking minute to getting this thing up and running. ;)

    I don't remember how long it took me to get everything in place. Two full days, at least -- and by "full," I mean morning-to-morning shifts of hacking, tweaking, install, uninstalling, praying, urinating on various altars, etc.

    In any case, eventually everything was up and running. I should note here that the fastest machine I personally own is a 233mHz with a bit more than 128 MB of RAM; I was trying to run this thing off a p166 with 72 MB of RAM. It seemed sensible at the time, since Linux, when properly tuned, can work wonders. Plus, the site was meant to be fairly low-traffic, at least at first.

    Well, ha-ha.

    This thing was dog-slow. With all the PERL munging and SQL queries running on the same box, even just me using it from a different machine was roughly as enjoyable as beating myself in my own damn face with a small but dense brick.

    Enter PHPNuke, circa version 5.1. The reason you hear people report over and over "it's a ten-minute install" is because, well, it is. Add an hour or so for exploration, bug-checking, tweaking, maybe a day if you want to really cook up a nice theme, and that's pretty much it. Additionally, it's extremely fast on my old hardware.

    Granted: PHPNUke doesn't offer Slash's myriad of configuration and control options -- but then, for me, finding documentation for those options was itself an adventure. On the other hand, PHPNuke's documentation and support resources are many and varied, and almost all in French or some other god-awful thing for an American to see at 3:15 AM when something is suddenly mysteriously breaking. However, there are various IRC channels (which are a bit less populated than #slash, to be honest) wherein one may find helpful folks who run a roughly 1 in 10 chance of speaking a language you do. The installed userbase is large enough that any bug you may encounter is almost certain to be reported elsewhere, possibly with a fix already in the works.

    The upshot: PHPNuke saved the day! Slash is cool, but, in my opinion, only for those of you who have a serious userbase and plenty of hardware budget.

    The site I and my friends eventually got running -- Megarad.com [megarad.com] -- is now running PHPNuke 5.4. Apart from a few hiccoughs here and there with upgrades (not to mention the deplorable operating practices and customer service standard of our hoster), things have been very good indeed.
  • ...but a bit daunting to setup for the first-time user (MySQL could have something to do with it...)

    I just put together a personal weblog [homelinux.net] at home with Movable Type [movabletype.org], and it was a breeze to set up. (Note: visitors are welcome, but right now there's not much on the site, and what is there is in french, mostly).

    Of course, Movable Type is not as feature-rich as Slashcode (pretty hard to beat in that category), so it's not for everyone. But for a simple, perl-based personal weblog, it's quite alright.
  • Since the Slash code is now used to run sites covering a huge number of topics (fly fishing, mountain biking, "news for nerds," etc.), it's time there was at least one printed reference to it.

    Anyone know where to find the mountain biking site mentioned?

  • Gods, I knew this day would come.

    See, once upon a time, back in the ancient days, before the existance of slashcode.com, there was a group of people who attempted to use the 0.2 and 0.3 releases of Slash.

    This was BEFORE the Andover acquisition, before the IPO, before the VAOLinux assimilation.

    Someone managed to a) make slash 0.3pre work b) provide a patch to do so, and c) PROVIDE DOCUMENTATION.

    A list sprung up for those of us interested.
    http://projects.is.asu.edu/mailman/listinfo/slash- help [asu.edu]. A FAQ was written: http://www.zevils.com/programs/files/slash-faq2.tx t [zevils.com]. Patches were given to Mr. Malda, who promptly either ignored or failed to acknowledge them. Pleas were made for Malda to link the list or FAQ to the slashcode page. They went unheeded. People who had spent months unsucccessfully trying to make Slash work discovered the FAQ, mailing list, and patch, and managed to make slash work. And *they* were unhappy that Malda and /. blew us off and refused to point to us as a help source.

    I'm really p*ssed off here. OUR work was blown off by Malda and never ever acknowledged on /. and then we got to be insulted later by the appearance of a 0.9 release without any acknowledgement of our effort, followed by the appearance of slashcode.com, and now finally there's a nice book about it posted on /. itself, which kicks money back to /. not to mention the authors of the book whom are likely largely ignorant of the early history of /.

    Yeah, I'm real bitter that all this isn't even a footnote in history. I think though that a) there should be credit given where it is due and b) the truth should be made public about what Malda was up to with slash at the time ("slash was made public as a joke as an entry for obfuscated perl contest and we will never support it" IIRC yet he through Andover/VAOLinux did later).

    So come on, let's see if we get some acknowledgement from /. and the book authors etc. about these issues. Or perhaps I ought to buy one share of stock and ask at the stockholder's meeting! Yeah, that's it, they gotta answer to the stockholders...

    Email: (slash) [at] (underwaterbasketweaving [dot] (com)

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