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PolkaDot FAQ


FAQ (Short Version)

FAQ (Long Version)

What is PolkaDot?

What is PolkaDot?

PolkaDot is the cheapest, easiest, low-rent blogging system imaginable.

PolkaDot is a really simple blogging system, roughly based on Blurt, which in turn is based on Bloxsom. It's much simpler than either, both in terms of installation/configuration as well as its (minimal) feature set. It's also written in PHP, rather than Perl like its inspirations.

What does it look like?

What does it look like?

This.

I wrote PolkaDot for fun. But then, once it was working, I needed to test it out. So I set up a blog, sexyredheadednuns.org. It's just a personal blog. No sex, no red-heads, no nuns.

Why "PolkaDot?"

Why "PolkaDot?"

Why not? It's a catchy name.

It's short for "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Blogkini." Or did you mean "Why write PolkaDot?" Actually, my friend Roger has a blog and I was giving him a hard time because he's using WordPress rather than writing his own blogging software. (I mean, really, what kind of a geek doesn't write his own blogging software.) I had seen Blurt on Freshmeat recently, and decided to whip up something similar in PHP. Took a couple hours, total. (Granted, I grabbed all the hard code from php.net comments.)

I mean, why use it?

I mean, why use it?

It's really, really, really easy to install and configure, on even the cheapest web host.

Because it provides the following benefits:

  • It's free.
  • It just needs PHP. That's all. No database. No external libraries. No Perl or ASP. Nothing fancy at all. It'll run on the cheapest of hosts.
  • There's no real installation.
  • There's very little configuration. And, even if you don't configure a thing, it'll still work.
  • It's simple as can be:
    • Posts are just text files.
    • Categories are just sub-directories.
  • Has RSS 2.0 feeds, too!
  • Has full-text searching!
  • Has date archives, sorta!

Of course, it has its drawbacks as well:

  • Very few features.
  • No comments. (Doubt I'll add this.)
  • Uses system time. I'm on the east coast. The host is on the west coast. So all the posts show a time 3 hours earlier than my local time. (I might fix this.)
  • No fancy stuff like calendars and opinion polls.
  • Posting to multiple categories requires setting up symlinks.
  • Probably doesn't scale real well. (But, if you wanted a large site, why would you even think of using this software?)
  • A whole lot of other things that aren't coming to me right at the moment.

In general, PolkaDot is great if you want to throw together a very simple blog on a whim. If you're looking for more than that, well, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other blog packages available. Or you could write your own.

Requirements

Requirements

A PHP-enabled host.

PolkaDot requires three things:

  1. PHP-enabled server or hosting service. (Darn near any of them will work these days.)
  2. Some means of creating text files (Any old text editor, like vi or NotePad or even "copy con:". I use TextPad.)
  3. Some means of copying the text files from requirement 2 to the server or hosting service in requirement 1. (FTP or whatever your host provides. I use TangoDropBox.)

Installation

Installation

Dump index.php, config.php. style.css, not-found.txt, and poweredby.png in a directory.

Put index.php, config.php, style.css, not-found.txt, and poweredby.png in a directory. It can be the root directory of the web site, or under a sub-directory. That's really all there is.

Configuration

Configuration

There isn't much, really. Edit config.php to suit, if you want. It'll still work fine if you don't.

You don't have to do any. But if you insist, edit config.php and change these six variables to taste:

  • $blogname determines the name of your blog. This shows up in the title bar and at the top of the page.
  • $blogdesc determines the description of your blog. This shows up after the name at the top of the page.
  • $maxPosts determines the maximum number of posts to show. Setting it to -1 turns the limit off.
  • $convertHTML determines whether quotes, angle brackets, and ampersands get converted to the appropriate HTML entity codes. Turning it on (=1) means you can just stick those characters in your posts. But you won't be able to embed HTML in your posts. That means no hyperlinks and no images. Turning it off (=0) means you're responsible for using " instead of ". But you can embed HTML to your heart's content. Note that PolkaDot always converts line breaks to the appropriate HTML. So don't worry about that.
  • $skipDir tells PolkaDot to skip over certain directories. This is mainly if you put the files in the root of your web server and your host has other system directories there. "cgi-bin" would be a typical example. Change it to "$skipDir = array();" to disable.
  • $staticLinks defines the sites that show up in the list of "Other Sites" in the right-hand sidebar. Change it to "$staticLinks = array();" to disable. (Although it'll look funny if there are no sites listed.)
  • $staticLinksTitle defines the heading that tops the links on the right-hand sidebar.
  • $postDateFormat defines how the post date and time look. The options available are the same as for the date() command in PHP.
  • $displayRSS determines whether a link to the RSS 2.0 feed appears at the end of the right-hand sidebar. Set it to anything other than 1 to disable.
  • $searchFailedFile determines the text file to be shown when a full-text search returns no hits. The text is processed like any other PolkaDot post. In other words, line breaks are converted into the appropriate HTML.

The site's appearance is all handled in the style-sheet. Change it if you like. It's not my design anyway.

Operation

Operation

Dump text files in the same directory as the PolkaDot files. Make sub-directories for categories. Dump text files in there, too.

Put text files in the same directory as the PolkaDot files. (They must have a ".txt" extension.) PolkaDot will show them as posts. The first line will show as the title. The system "last modified date" will show as the post date. Line breaks are converted to the appropriate HTML.

If you want to be fancy, you can make sub-directories under the directory in which the PolkaDot files reside. Each sub-directory becomes a category. Text files dumped in a sub-directory will show as being in that catagory.

There. That's literally all there is to it.

License

License

Ain't one, other than you should lemme know if you set up a PolkaDot-based blog.

I originally wanted PolkaDot to be "Bikini-ware." It would be free to use, but only if you emailed me a picture of yourself (if you're a girl), or your wife and/or girlfriend, in a bikini. (Or your mom, if she's hot.)

My wife frowned on this idea. So instead, please just let me know if you're using it to support a blog. (But, if you do send bikini photos, I won't complain. (Unless they're of your mom, and she's not hot.))