On The Frontier
Views From The Leading Edge
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Welcome To The New Frontier
Richard G. Parks
Nov 15, 2010

When I first started "On The Frontier" it was just a few web pages, occasionally updated but mostly neglected. I had an idea of where I wanted to go with the publication but I was also facing some pretty major personal changes, including a move and a new job in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

A complete redesign of the blog on top of all these other distractions was difficult to accomplish but I finally managed to complete it. While there will be new challenges as time goes on, I'm hopeful that I can now engage in continuing publication into the foreseeable future.

The most important near-term change is the blog's new look. It is sleeker, has a new format and offers syndication feeds in both RSS and Atom. I made the decision early on not to use conventional blog software or editors because I wanted a unique look and feel for my publication and did not want to be channeled into mediocrity.

Popular blog software and blogging services are typically designed to be all things to all people. As a result, they end up being overly complicated, difficult to use and force the publisher to accept pretty severe restrictions on the publication.

Commercial blog software (like Wordpress, for example) is heavily tied to the host servers resources. Anyone who has ever experienced a server crash or moved to a new hosting service can tell you what a disaster server-side resources can be. Online blogging services are more portable but most are pretty severely limited as well. They also have tricky rules, often governed by arbitrary and capricious corporate decisions and policies.

I've learned valuable lessons over the years about what happens to bloggers who don't tow the corporate party line when publishing on an online blog service. There are numerous examples where bloggers got kicked off the online services for exercising their free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. Anybody who speaks the truth will gore somebody's sacred cow sooner or later and corporate interests have very little regard for either the truth or free speech.

I also wanted to explore all the related aspects of the ideas behind my website and blog, including special projects and commercial products. Such elements usually mean lots of links, banner ads and the like due to software limitations. The last thing I wanted was that kind of clutter.

I've always liked Google's home page for its simplicity and lack of screaming visuals. Sure they advertise - and make a ton of money doing it. But it's not an "in-your-face" experience. I wanted something like that but yet different - not a Google clone. And for practical reasons I needed to be able to manage my blog with very little effort.

These specifications don't sound particularly challenging in themselves but are actually a real showstopper. After a couple of early disastrous experiences with commercial blogging software and online blog services, I realized that I had to take a new direction. I needed publishing control, freedom from server resources and immunity from infringements of my First Amendment rights at the whim of some nameless corporate bureaucrat. Many times during my search I was told that such a combination was simply not available.

Fortunately I was lucky enough to hook up with a patient and innovative software engineer named Stefan at Bracher Automation. He ably set me up with my own custom blogging application that was more compatible with the way I like to do things. It is also free from the interminable "version-itus" of well-known commercial products where the object is to extract as much money as possible from the customer base, or in the case of the online services, control usage patterns of subscribers.

This publication is now about as self-contained and independent as I can make it and has a unique look and feel. It will also be a gateway to many new projects and products. I will no doubt continue to evolve as will the publication over the long haul. After all, the essence of life is change. Welcome to the new frontier.