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Friday, May 27, 2011

Bootstrapping software for these posts

Tonight, I'm thinking about the process of bootstrapping as it applies to a software project. This very collection of pages was started on short notice so that a bunch of people who had been reading my internal corporate Buzz posts could keep following me even after I left that company. Well, here we are.

There's a secret, though: the early posts were all written by hand. All of that HTML and other junk was thrown together in my editor, gluing the template stuff in there, dropping content in, fixing formatting, and so on. Then when people started asking for an Atom feed, I knew I had to do something about it.

Early attempts at using SQLite yielded badness, so I just punted and slapped together an atom.xml, again by hand, and just updated that as posts were written. This got things going, and several people now follow this from their feed readers. Yay. There is one catch, though: it added even more cruft that I had to wrangle to get a post out the door. This was having an "invisible hand" effect on the frequency of my posts, and that's not good.

Obviously this limiter needed to go. I set to work at writing something which would take these posts and would do all of the formatting, including making the directories, writing the index.html out for each post, updating the top-level index.html, and writing the atom.xml. Tonight, I have that tool, and this post is the first new one to come through it.

This is the essence of getting the minimum viable product online and then iterating to make it less painful. I needed the /w/ URL up right away, since the clock was ticking. Making it easy to maintain could happen later.