Squall: Perfect Plone blogging with Scrawl + Quills

I just did a little experiment today (prompted by a clever idea from Erik Rose) to see if I could achieve Plone blogging nirvana by mashing together QuillsEnabled and Scrawl.  Not only did it work, it made me cackle with such evil genius glee that I needed to write it up.

OK, so you’re probably thinking: Scrawl and QuillsEnabled are both blogging products for Plone — how could you possibly combine them without creating a rupture in the very fabric of spacetime itself?  And yet…

QuillsEnabled is content-type agnostic.  It just provides some very nice portlets (archive, tag cloud, etc), some smart syndication, and a sweet little blog-style view on a folder.  Just create a folder, hit “enable blog” in Actions  (which applies a marker interface to your folder) and start blogging.

Scrawl is in many ways just the opposite.  It provides a Blog Entry content type (a straight-up copy of a News Item), some default settings on the Blog Entry (comments enabled, and a blog-style view for the Blog Entry).

Either of them alone provides a pretty nice blogging experience in Plone.  But each is missing something.  QuillsEnabled can’t let you have comments automatically enabled on only your blog posts, because it’s just using standard Plone content types, and comments get enabled per-type or per-item, but not per-location.  On the other hand, Scrawl doesn’t have nice blog-style portlets, and setting up a blog in Scrawl involves a bunch more pointing-and-clicking than with QuillsEnabled.

Erik suggested that I could install both Scrawl and QuillsEnabled, then tell QuillsEnabled to use Scrawl’s “Blog Entry” objects as its “blog” type (which is a configurable option in QuillsEnabled).  So I did, and it worked beautifully!  I now have a blog based on Scrawl’s Blog Entry objects, which have a nice blog view and default to having comments enabled, wrapped up in QuillsEnabled’s lovely master blog view and portlets.

If you want to give it a try, here’s how:

  1. Add Products.QuillsEnabled, Products.basesyndication (required by Quills) and Products.Scrawl to your buildout.
  2. Install QuillsEnabled, fatsyndication and Scrawl in your Plone site.
  3. Add a folder; use the actions menu to mark it as a blog.
  4. Click the “configure blog” link in the Weblog Admin portlet on the right side of your screen.  Change the “default type” from Document to Blog Entry.
  5. Add Blog Entries to your blog and publish them.

Voila!  You’re now publishing beautiful Scrawl blog entries in a Quills blog.


Warning: I have no idea if this is a good idea or a horrible one.  I certainly wouldn’t advise you to try it in production unless you know how to extract yourself from a sticky situation.

Manage Infomration Overload by Blogging

Michael Gilbert has an interesting notion: becoming a knowledge blogger is a good way to practice managing information overload.

The experience of “information overload” has many causes, among which
are these three important ones: (1) We don’t know what to do with the
information we are getting. (2) We don’t know how to filter and select
amongst all that information. (3) We don’t know how to influence the
flows of information themselves.

Blogging addresses all three of these causes of the “information overload” experience.

The operating principle here is this: Most of the inbound flow of
information that we have to deal with is unclearly tied to our
productive work. If we can shape a small element of our productive work
so that it gives us the practice of rapidly discerning the value of
various types of information, in a manner that is easily actionable,
then we will quickly refine our sense of purpose in a way that improves
our filters. By learning how to decide whether or not to blog about
something and then what to say about it, we become ruthless in our
culling of information and in our selection of sources.

It’s a counterintuitive notion, but I couldn’t agree more.  I’ll add the notion that blogging regularly is really great practice for developing a personal, authentic and *brief* online writing style. 

Windows Live Writer: Really Nice Offline Blogging Software

Call me crazy, but I just checked out Microsoft’s just-out-of-beta Windows Live Writer offline blogging client, and I gotta tellya, it’s pretty nice.  Score one for the kids in Redmond.

It’s free and Windows-only (of course).  It offers an easy-to-configure, very polished UI for writing and editing blog posts. It handles cut-and-paste from the web and Word with aplomb.  It has a nice little image handling system.  It feels quite polished, at least in the first 30 minutes I spent with it.  It supports all the major blogging products and APIs.

Plone-related question: it would be cool if we could support uploading of images via FTP or via a blogging API from an offline client.  Maybe we can already?