Publishing will set us free!

I have long longed for my dream publishing tool for the web. With the release of Movable Type under the GPL, I took another chance to evaluate it – I have a long and unhealthy relationship with it. It was
my tool of choice, but like many, moved to WordPress when Six Apart fucked with the license. The free software release of Movable Type, or MTOS, as they’re agonisingly calling, is a lot prettier than the last
MT I used – it’s still a clusterfuck of Perl scripts, but either I’m better at installing it now, or the installation has gotten better. For years, I longed for it to come and be set free, and now it’s here, I want so much more.
I spent today working on a website using Wikidot. Wikidot, for the uninitiated is a hosted wiki that does some other cool stuff. It’s a bit Web 2.0, and uses a lot of Javascript, and is entirely web based,
and so it involves a lot of messing around in textareas to get any real work done, but it’s actually simple, and more important, hackable.
In places, at least.
You can’t change the page template. You can change the navigation, the sidebar, the content (of course), but for whatever reason you can’t break out of this fixed construct. It’s also proprietary, but
very soon will be released under the GNU Affero GPL, which wins a few points from me.
But it’s not what I want.
Here’s the rub with all of these systems – I have to learn new tools. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t take to new habits very easily. I still use GNU Emacs, and badly, when the rest of
the world moved to IDEs and GUI editors. I don’t even handle my Emacs sessions properly, so at any one time, I have 11 copies of Emacs open and no idea what’s going on in 9 of them. They also fail to have
version control – a latecomer to the merits of version control, I am now a fully qualified Subversion lover. I don’t get distributed version control, so git and bzr people, you need to try harder to sell
your idea to me, cause I’m not smart and I don’t quite get it.
Now, before you start emailing me with your suggestions, let me say this. I’ve heard of Ikiwiki. In fact, I use Ikiwiki every day, all day, for my Campaign Manager job at the FSF. It’s alright, it serves its purpose as a wiki, but it doesn’t quite fill my requirements.
I’m not even sure they’re even implemented.
I’m looking for something with the ease of installation of WordPress, that uses SVN as its back end, lets me maintain users in a simple text file or similar, and most importantly, will publish, via a templating system, to one or more locations on the file system, in static HTML. And I want to write things in WordPress, but my colleagues might want to use a textarea, or a WYSIWYG editor.
I love static HTML.
Oh, and I want proper URLs – none of this cgi-bin crap or WiKiNaMeS nonsense.
I’m sure this tool exists. I really am. Without the SVN stuff and Emacs stuff, that tool is probably Movable Type, with some hacking.
Does the tool of my dreams exist? Will publishing set me free?
This tool will probably be the system that runs http://www.fsf.org some day. It’ll be the tool that runs exploringfreedom.org as soon as it exists and it’ll run all my other sites as well.

  • Can I write ‘articles’ in GNU Emacs on my local machine?
  • Can I check them into Subversion?
  • Can they appear on one, or more locations on my web server?
  • As static HTML on the file system?
  • Via a templating system?

One installation will set me free.

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4 comments

  1. Philip Neustom · December 23, 2007

    Re: Wikidot — I’d encourage you to take a look at the Wiki Spot project (http://wikispot.org) as we’re dedicated to free software and operate as a non-profit organization (and lots more).
    [Found you via your advogato feed]

  2. MJ Ray · December 26, 2007

    With the exception of subversion (I’m a wholehearted DVCS fan, because I work for a small cooperative playing in the bazaar and not a big dot-org), I think we’re looking for the same system… I’ll post if I find or build it. Please do the same.

  3. Shaun · January 17, 2008

    Just came across this one. It’s Java (well, Groovy, which sucks for being Yet Another Programming Language) and I haven’t tried it at all, but it does have a couple of neat-o features like the offline asynchronous editing using SVN, and LaTeX export 🙂
    http://gatewiki.sourceforge.net/

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