state of the exile

The day I got the WWdN database fixed, and had all the old WWdN entries rescued and readable was the day I found the path out of Exile.

Now that I know there are two ways out of this prison (in a pine box, or through that large opening over there that we all like to think of as "off limits, as a favor to me,") it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to stay here.

Which brings me back to the Typepad vs. MT w/plugins issue. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I like about Typepad, that MT 3.2 doesn’t have out of the box, and I came up with three things: Typepad has a great WYSIWYG editor, it easily and seamlessly handles uploading images and enclosures, like the RFB files, and all those little things on the right side are so easy to add and remove and update, I can’t believe I ever did any hand-coding of tables and filled them with php includes (which I also had to create and edit by hand.)

But I miss WWdN, and all its lameness and non-W3C-compliance. I miss its out of date FAQ and musical suggestions. I miss its clunky archives and the sense that, even though it’s a shitty house, it’s my house, goddammit.

Redesigning issues aside, can I move back to WWdN and still have as much control as I have right now? And most important: will it be easy?

I’ve been playing around with three different editors that all have WYSIWYG editing, and various other features:

  • Flock, which is a browser that is built on top of Firefox with integrated blogging tools.
  • Performancing, which is a Firefox extension that puts a WYSISYG editor into your browser.
  • ecto, which is an editor and publishing tool that lets you compose and edit entries outside of your browser.

Flock is pretty cool. It’s got a nice editor, and I especially like how it seamlessly integrates Flickr images and bookmarks into your blogging experience. It integrates lots of tools and appears geared toward blogging and anything which involves a tag. If I was all about that sort of thing, I’d be really into flock, but since I’m not, I can’t see myself using it.

Performancing is also really nice. I love that it easily inserts technorati tags and adds bookmarks whenever you update one of your blogs, (if you want it to), and I love that it lets you see a ton of information on the page you’re viewing. It’s a free Firefox extension, and free is good.

But I think ecto is the way to go for me. It does all of the things that the other two do, and adds in too many features for me to list here. I was introduced to ecto when Xeni told me she uses it to update boingboing, and even though I have to buy a license for it, if it’s good enough for boingboing, it’s totally good enough for me.

Last night, while I was goofing off with ecto, I ended up quasi-live-blogging part of an episode of TNG:

I’m watching one of my favorite (and most heartbreaking) episodes of TNG, The Offspring. It’s one of the best episodes we ever did, and it nearly reaches  —

There I am in the ugly grey space suit on Stage 9. I’m not acting very
well right here, even though the scene is really about the Admiral.
Nice package on Wesley, though. Eww. Gross.

Gods. Data
has to say good bye to Lal now. This always makes me cry a little bit.
Lal says, "I love you, father," and Data just looks at her and says, "I
wish I could feel it, too."

It’s such a testament to the writing
in this episode (and the actors in the scene) that Data didn’t end up
doing a cheesy "I love you too," thing. It’s so true to his character
that he remains emotionally unattached, because Data doesn’t have
emotions. (I always thought it was an insanely stupid fucking move to
give Data his emotion chip, like giving Geordi sight. Weak.)

I just said, "Course is set, sir." See? That’s why I hated working on
TNG in those days. Even though the episode is great, just saying those
stupid lines bored me to. fucking. death.

Now G4 is running an
ad for Star Trek 2.0, which I think is going to be the dumbest thing to
happen to the original series in 40 years. And now, it’s time for
Futurama on [adult swim].

So I have three things left to do before I can return to WWdN (in this order):

  1. Find an editor that I like, that’s easy to use and reliable. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that.
  2. Figure out a way to easily update modular content for the non-blog areas of the site. This feels like it should be fairly easy, but I haven’t put all that much time into reading the MT forums or digging through the plug-ins. I suspect the answer is to use MT-Includes that are files linked to various MT Templates. Alternatively, I can figure out some sort of web-based php backend that will let me update all that information without having to go into an html editor offline, and ftp the damn thing whenever I want to make a chance. And don’t even talk to me about ssh-ing into the server and using vi from a shell prompt. Those days are long behind me. This is, I think, the stickiest widget.
  3. Complete the re-design. We’re working on this, and once we figure out a couple more things, it will go live very quickly.


33 thoughts on “state of the exile”

  1. I can attest to Ecto being one of the best editors out there for MT, especially on OSX.
    In fact, it’s because of Ecto that I wrote SharpMT for MT, TypePad and WordPress blogs: when I Switched Back from a PowerBookto a PC, I found I missed Ecto – a lot – since it was Mac only at the time.
    I don’t know if you’ve seen SharpMT, of if you’d want to: it’s not WYSIWIG, since I like seeing the HTML tags while writing, but it is geared for MT/TypePad engines.
    If you want more info on it, plz ping me directly :)

  2. Something you may want to consider would be to transition to site to an open-source content management system (CMS) like Joomla/Mambo. Most ISPs will allow (and in some cases facilitate) such a site on their servers, and the adding of links, posts, images, etc. is all done via a slick web interface. As an added bonus, both Joomla and Mambo have RSS syndication links built right in. I’ve created several corporate intranets like this, but unfortunately can’t provide links as they’re not exposed to the public interweb ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Sounds like you are well on your way to getting back home. No matter what eidtor you go with, and you’ve got me checking them out now, we’ll be along for the ride.
    When you get the site ready to go are you going to have Nolan or Ryan standing at the keyboard saying “Course set, sir” and waiting for you to say “Engage.” ? Cheesy joke, hope it made you smile.

  4. “Your lives here will be incredibly tedious and awful!” –Skits and Stickers* – *Stickers not included
    I miss the old site, too, and I am happy for you that it is being improved at the same time as so many other facets of your life. Congratulations, Wil.
    “We’ve got mayo, mayo coming through!”

  5. I got pretty teary during that episode as well. Patrick Stewart played the hell out of his role; that seen with the “belay that order” against the Evil Admiral was awesome.
    I wasn’t looking at Wesley’s package, but I did laugh at the grey uniform.

  6. Hi Wil, I just wanted to point out that “W3C compliance” (I assume you are speaking of the xhtml) has nothing to do with which publishing platform you use, but merely on the templates in use.
    Also, as you said, it’s your house, not a condo in a high-rise apartment building. As such, it cannot possibly be lame. A bit messy perhaps… ๐Ÿ˜‰
    And just to address The Kernel for a moment: Open Source only makes sense for programmers still, sadly. Most people don’t fix their own cars. Also, what you may call a slick UI is far far from that for a “normal user”. Trust, I’ve been doing exactly that for 10 years. Oh and by the way: MT’s source is all right there in the tar.gz… modify to your heart’s content. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My self I trust the awesome community of MT plugin developers to hack out whatever functionality i need. hehehe

  7. I adore ecto… I’ve tried about every other standalone blog editor out there, and ecto won out in everything but integration, where Flock really shined… But Flock’s overal package can’t win over ecto, endo, and Safari.

  8. The Offspring ALWAYS makes me cry. The pain she feels is just so unbearable to me when she realizes she may be taken away from her dad. Data’s inability to feel any of that. *HUGEsigh* Then you have the politics, the philosophical issues, the great writing, and awesome acting. =)

  9. I’m also a self-taught website builder and MT user. I have to say I’m excited about your choice to move back “home” with WWDN. I totally see where you’re coming from. One site that has really helped me when I want to find out good ways to achieve something in MT is Elise Bauer’s Learning Movable Type .
    As far as sidebar content, the latest solution I’ve used (and am most satisfied with thus far) is instead of using MT-Includes, I create an Index template (or multiple templates, depending on how you want to organize things) for the sidebar content and then use PHP includes to put it on the site. That way I can use MT tags, but I don’t have to think about the different ways the tags will manifest themselves depending on the template type (index, category archive, individual archive, etc.), which is the case if you use MT-Includes. I also like this solution because it gives me the ease of quick editing and no uploading (you do have to save & rebuild, but that’s one button now). I’m sure there’s probably a more elegant and easy solution out there. I just haven’t messed with trying to fix what isn’t broken for me.
    Another possible solution you might want to try for a WYSIWYG editor is the Ajaxify plugin by Arvind Satyanarayan at Movalog . I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t vouch from specific experience, but I have used some of Arvind’s other plugins and aside from consistently writing good plugins, he’s always been very helpful when I have a question. His site is another one of my favorite MT how-to sites.
    Some other plugins I’ve seen that may be of use to you are Media Manager and Sidebar Manager by Byrne Reese at majordojo .
    You’ve probably already come across these sites I’ve talked about here, but they’ve been so helpful to me that I thought I would mention them. Best wishes for your remodel.

  10. Wil – have you checked out Geeklog? From what you’ve said, this might be the tool you’ve been looking for. I’ve used an older version for over a year and really like it — in fact am preparing to upgrade to the new version.
    Every other “blog” software I tried just didn’t cut it for me. I prefer to spend more time writing instead of coding.
    If you are curious, you can visit my site: or the home site:
    What have you got to lose?

  11. Well, I know nothing of HTML and the like, so I can’t help you pick out a new host for your not-so-shitty new house. But that doesn’t mean I won’t stalk it…
    Speaking of your old blog, I just now read the introduction to it, about that Hooters chick (man, did she underreact upon recognizing you) and I’ve decided – I love you more than ever. =D
    And hooray that I am not the only one boycotting Star Trek 2.0. I had a feeling you would revolt against it. *considers renting some of the TNG seasons, and is now continuously checking Spike TV for the CSI rerun you’re in*
    If those things can’t cure my itch for talentedly geeky (or geekily talented) writer/actors, then I shall just have to sit down and watch Stand by Me for the fourth time (no problem at all with that). Bet that Hooters blonde never watched it… =P

  12. I really liked you being here on typepad.. but you are right about WWdN being all yours. I really hope you find what you like, and don’t worry.. you are the pied piper of blogging.. Wherever you go, your rats will follow :)

  13. A suggestion: In this day and age with RSS and Feedburner and so on you shouldn’t have to move anything… Just get the WWdN site to subscribe to and republish your TypePad blog’s RSS feed.
    For example, I write my blog at and then republish the feed at I’ve been able to do away with my hand-coded craptaculous editor, get all the convenience and functionality of TypePad and yet still get to inflict my terrible web design skillz on the interweb at large.

  14. In your post when you were wondering should you stay or should you go, I suggested you stick with Typepad – if you find it more transparent to your writing (which is the goal).
    But now I have changed my mind. That old handmade site, with all its quirks, is all about you. Its geek-cred infuses your writing: what you say, how you say it. Keeping that running is a big part a part of the (dare I say) charm of WWdN. It’s part of your online brand. Keep it. Geek out on it. Write posts about php includes. Write about the process of writing. Control your output.

  15. Wil Wheaton checks out Flock

    I’m rather fond of this guy, and not just because his junior high pictures look a lot like my junior high pictures. Well, except for the puppet part. In a recent blog entry, Wil Wheaton reviews Flock, my favorite browser…

  16. WordPress all the way. Open, a ton of plugins, great themes, easy to customize as you see fit. It has a WYSIWYG editor, but ecto will work if you are sold on that. Most importantly, when I decided I was tired of toying around with the dozen or so systems I’d already tried out, and just wanted to get to the basics of writing and maintaining that writing, all the frills and extras faded away and didn’t interfere with just going and writing.

  17. For what it’s worth I’ve been tinkering around with Performancing and I’m not very impressed. Initially it didn’t do what I want (what, it can’t read my mind??) and while I found out how to do what I wanted eventually, I was mostly underwhelmed.

  18. I don’t know how easy it would be to migrate your old stuff to it, but WordPress rocks my socks off. I have used it for 4?5? different blogs and love it. I’m sure you must have looked at it already and for some reason chose not to use it though.

  19. I’m currently reading a very entertaining book called “Blogging for Dummies.” It really goes in depth in Moveable Type, although I haven’t read that section yet because I’m not ready to get that serious with blogging as of yet. But you might like to skim the chapter and see if there’s anything you may glean from it.
    Good luck with the redesign! Looking forward to it.

  20. WYSISWG/Spell Checking.

    Alright. I finally have a WYSIWYG editor and and spell checker running correctly in Firefox. This shouldn’t have been nearly as hard as it was, but being as bad a speller/typist (yea all my errors are typing errors honest ) I was having issues with just

  21. I use WordPress too and have fallen in love with it. It was a decision based on money and the lack of, but the more and more I use it the less and less I can figure out why I should pay. But, the blogging tool you use should feel righ to you, as it is something you will use everyday (hopefully).
    Re TNG – they started showing them from the very beginning on Sky One in the UK a few weeks ago and I hve been enjoying them a lot. I still remember it when it first started, finishing my homework so I could watch it; my mum (not a Sci-Fi fan) rolling her eyes in the background as I got all giddy recounting the story to her. But even she sat quietly when Lal died. And that’s a mjor achievement with my Mum. I, of course, was in floods. Ah, the memories!

  22. Saying those lines may have been boring Wil but it was FANTASTIC! We love ya for it!
    Regarding the resurrection of WWdN: If you only do one thing, PLEASE bring back some of your audioblogs! Specifically the American Flag/doormat post! I laughed my arse off on that one! The passion in your voice over seeing that was priceless.

  23. So Long Ecto!

    Well, Ecto came and Ecto went. The Windows version is just too buggy. It is obviously built by a company more geared towards Macs. Now, that is not a bad thing. It is just that I do not have a…

  24. Hi Wil
    Instead of moving to *another* blogging system why `archive` your old sites and use the beautiful mediawiki software to blog ?
    I moved from b2evolution [] to mediawiki [] using a wikinews [] layout at the start of 2006 and haven`t looked back , its a bit of work to look after , but nice to intergrate blogs and other musings into one system.
    Another mediawiki blogger is Sy :-
    Good Luck

  25. That way I can use MT tags, but I don’t have to think about the different ways the tags will manifest themselves depending on the template type (index, category archive, individual archive, etc.), which is the case if you use MT-Includes.
    Maybe you can go my wiki to learn more.

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