Why This Site?

About a year ago I launched a The Cafes with some fanfare to host shorter writings on a variety of subjects that didn’t already fit into Cafe au Lait or Cafe con Leche. That site was a partial response to my feelings about the shortcomings of a lot of existing weblog management and CMS software. In several ways I think it’s still superior to a lot of what’s out there, including the WordPress engine that hosts this blog. But not in all ways.

For The Cafes I spent a lot of time thinking about the front end and the user interface to the site, and I think I did a very good job there. It works and it works well. The Cafes is still a very nice site design. I spent a lot of time working on comments in particular, because that was the main feature Cafe au Lait and Cafe con Leche were always missing. I not so humbly think the comment system is second to none (though perhaps it could be a tad more obvious how to find it.)

Unfortunately I was so focused on the comments and the overall reader experience, that I neglected the other side of the user interface: how posts were uploaded, written, and managed. The process of writing and posting new articles was so involved that I tended not to do it. Adding a new article requires editing and manually uploading at least three separate pages. Consequently I’ve written very few articles specifically for The Cafes over the last several months. In a few cases I’ve actually written fairly long articles, but not gone to the trouble to upload them. (The negligible AdSense revenues haven’t really inspired me either.) Most of the recent articles on The Cafes started as long posts on Cafe au Lait or Cafe con Leche that grew past what I like to put on those sites.

By contrast, WordPress isn’t just nice for readers. It’s also nice for authors. In fact, it’s so nice, I’ve actually drafted one article for The Cafes in WordPress rather than BBEdit. WordPress makes it much easier to dash out quick notes on a variety of subjects, organize them, and catalog them.

There are some issues I have not yet addressed. I would love to rip out the cookies and replace them with decent HTTP Digest authentication, though that’s a bigger task than I feel comfortable undertaking just yet. I want to replace the Atom 0.3 and RSS feeds with a single Atom 1.0 feed. Possibly WordPress 1.6 will offer that option. And I absolutely must get rid of the hideous HTML escaped markup in the feeds. That’s too gross to be believed. It has to go. It is an embarrassment to have it here.

But I can do all that, sooner or later. The WordPress code is well enough designed that I can hack this all together. I’ve already made one change. I hacked the WordPress software to generate RSS/Atom feeds for the different categories subcategories, so you can subscribe, for example, just to the Software Development feed or just to the Testing feed. So far I haven’t even needed to ask for help on IRC or the mailing list. The combination of Google and the WordPress Codex has answered all my questions, though I still have a few doubts about whether my hacks are the right solutions to my problems or whether there are easier ways to accomplish what I want to accomplish. I may have to ask the mailing list for their judgment on that.

I’m not abandoning The Cafes. I still plan to publish my longer more focused articles there (Indeed I’m dual publishing this article on The Cafes and on Mokka mit Schlag) but I think Mokka mit Schlag is likely to see a lot more activity going forward.

P.S. Mokka mit Schlag is a form of German coffee covered in whipped cream I first encountered at Borsodi’s coffee house in New Orleans about 20 years ago. This site is dedicated to the memory of its proprietor, Robert Borsodi. If I’ve skipped an umlaut or doubled consonant or some such, I apologize to any germanophones reading this; but that’s how Bob spelled it.

5 Responses to “Why This Site?”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    Yes, embedded escaped HTML in RSS description fields is gross. But you have to do it. It’s what feedreaders expect. Indeed, the script that generates RSS for Unix Power Classic, my ongoing hacker-oriented translation of the Tao Te Ching, has to concoct escaped-HTML markup from the *plain text* of the poems. Uggggly.

    “Mokka mit Schlag” is quite correct. The word “Schlag” is an interesting one, perhaps the most lexically complex noun in the German language. Its basic meaning is “blow, stroke”, so in this case it refers to “beaten” cream (i.e. whipped cream). It can also mean worthless merchandise, stuff that looks like it’s been beaten — this sense was imported into English via Yiddish with the spelling “schlock”. Other meanings include “stroke” (in the brain), “bat” (baseball or cricket), “swing” (of a bat), “shock” (electrical), “percussion”, “flop” (theatrical or business), “stamp” (the kind that makes coins), and even “wood-chopping”. It is also the root of a vast number of compounds.

  2. Christof Hoeke Says:

    Altough I not a coffee drinker I think Cafe mit Schlag is actually an austrian speciality. It comes from Vienna (the city ;) I guess. I somehow remember they sometimes even say “Schlagobers” which I somehow naivly would translate as “Schlag (whipped cream as explained above) on top” which might not even be a valid translation as austrian food seems to have its own meanings…

  3. Oliver Mason Says:

    Yes, definitively Austrian. Whipped cream is ‘Schlagsahne’ in German, abbreviated to ‘Sahne’ (cream), and ‘Schlagobers’ in Austrian, abbreviated to ‘Schlag’. And I would guess that Mocca had been adopted in Vienna long before anywhere in Germany, due to the geographical location near to the Turkish/Ottoman Empire.

  4. Rob Sanheim Says:

    I don’t think you have to do anything special to provide feeds for your categories in WordPress. For instance, if I go to http://robsanheim.com/category/ruby/feed it finds a feed for my Ruby category automatically, and I didn’t have to change wordpress at all to do that.

  5. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    WordPress automatically provides category feeds. However it doesn’t include the title in the category. For instance, all your feeds have the title “Panasonic Youth”, same as the main feed. The hack I used here includes the category name in the feed titles so they’re “Mokka mit Schlag: Birding”, “Mokka mit Schlag: Blogging”, “Mokka mit Schlag: Movies”, etc.

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