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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Sorry about the lack of postings lately. I’ve been very busy with the two girls, trying to learn Final Cut Express to justify my DV camcorder purchase, and wrestling with a crisis of conscience.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity. In the time that I’ve had this site, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments about its breadth and depth. People who I knew mostly casually or through my wife have said that they feel like they know me better than they know people they’re closer to. My wife left a comment awhile ago suggesting that she likes my blog because she gets to find out stuff about me that I don’t normally talk about. A gentleman at another site smeared me as “not a thorough-going man of ideas” based on the site.

The thing is that I’ve never considered this site to be a good representation of me. Practically every part of this site is a shallow presentation of a small portion of me at a given point in time. My biographical sketch is out of date, my values are but a smattering of my total values and don’t even show a hierarchy or change over time, and there are probably fifteen major essays that I haven’t converted to HTML yet.

My blogs were designed to make up for those shortcomings, but they’ve always been an imperfect window into my mind. If I have time to work up an extensive entry, the blogging format is really bad about editing. The pressure to put out an entry a day or an entry every couple days and the poor support for good workflow in the blogging tools means that most entries are rushed out the door, so to speak. I’ve had entries that took a week to compose, but I always had to keep those in a text file on my desktop in order to not interrupt the daily flow of postings.

So what’s a Web-savvy guy to do in this situation? I came up with three choices, naturally:<ol><li>Stop the whole shebang, cease publication</li><li>Half-ass the whole thing and either publish longer entries less frequently or shorter entries more regularly</li><li>Whole ass it—don’t even think about getting that domain: I own it and—and use some better tools to make it easier to keep current</li></ol>
For most of last week, I was seriously leaning towards option one. Option two didn’t appeal to me because the possibility of making my web presence less reflective of my self wasn’t going to cut it. Option three scared the dickens out of me because it sounded like a lot of work and, more importantly, a lot of time.

Then came Plone, an open-source, free content management system that is infinitely extensible and eminently customizable. Oh, and entirely web-based. Actually, the software was just a nice idea until I came across very affordable and quality hosting for Plone accounts at Zettai!. They’ve got a lot of experience hosting Zope and Plone accounts, great pricing, and a very liberal allocation of space, bandwidth, email accounts, subdomains, and domains. My current host is great, but he specializes in ColdFusion, which was my previous favorite development environment. I don’t want to burden his servers with a completely new and different environment.

What Plone will buy me is the simplification of document creation, a customizable and powerful workflow engine, and an excellent version control system. Adding new pages is a piece of cake and there are a lot of plug-ins (called products in Plone/Zope parlance) available for free that assist with photo album, discussion fora, and blog setup and maintenance.

Wait, that sounds like a lot of work! Isn’t it the holidays and aren’t the girls requiring a lot of care and attention? Good observation, Eddie. That’s why this ain’t going to happen overnight. I’m going to try to have everything ready for the new year, but I can’t make any promises. What I can promise is that it’s going to look like I took option two for a while longer and then it will seem like I’ve been operating on no sleep after that. Except I won’t have because things will get infinitely easier.