Abnib Version 1.0 was a funny little beast. It was built to accomodate for about half a dozen bloggers, but ended up with about nine or ten. It worked, though, and the principle of aggregating the blog entries of our friends and our friends’ friends took off. Abnib 1.0 had a few major flaws: firstly, it only showed a summary of the post. This was partially because all but two of the bloggers thereon were using free LiveJournal accounts, and a limitation of free accounts at that time was that you could only get the first couple of hundred characters of a post at once. Another limitation was that the site design was columnular – each person had a column of their own, which dramatically reduced the space available and made in-post images impossible. Furthermore, Abnib 1.0, which updated itself wholly or partially every time it was visited, was as slow as a dog.
Abnib died when I accidently deleted a few key files for which I didn’t have backups, and that was the end of that. However, with Gareth‘s help, it was reborn in August 2004 as Abnib 2.0. This was powered by Planet, a Python-driven flexible feed aggregator which is used in all kinds of places for just the kinds of purposes we use it for. Jon went a step further and added an interesting new style to it, and we added the Abnib Gallery (Abnib 2.1), a place for all things Abnib to share photos. Abnib became a real “centre” for our fun little crowd, gathering information on Troma Night and the RockMonkey wiki, as well as the usual weblogs. The release of Abnib 2.2 brought extra abilities much-requested by users, such as the ability to “hide” the community feeds. That’s where we are now.
However, all is not well. There are a few key things I’d like to see improved in Abnib:
- Several LiveJournal users have commented (Paul comments, Matt comments) that sometimes, when they make multiple posts in quick succession, Abnib only picks up on the most recent of them. I’m not sure what’s causing this, so it’s probably Planet.
- Some people like to make lots of “friends only” posts (a LiveJournal feature whereby you can restrict visability of your posts to specific other LiveJournal users). As more and more people use Abnib as their “quick window” onto Aber blogs, people are finding the need to make superficially-pointless posts (like this one) in order to ensure that people realise that they have made a “friends only” post that might otherwise be overlooked.
- Abnib 2.2 still isn’t quite doing so much for the community as I’d like it to be; it isn’t as interactive or as inspiring as I feel a weblog aggregation portal should be.
So, in order to fix these problems (among others) and implement some new features, I’ve begun work on Abnib 3.0. This new version of Abnib will:
- Correctly deal with multiple posts in quick succession from LiveJournal users.
- Better integrate with Abnib Gallery.
- If permitted (by individual bloggers – either overall or on a case-by-case basis), advertise when you have made a “friends only” post, and how to go about reading it if you have permission.
- Load faster by holding content back until requested (for example, only the 20 most recent posts are shown by default, but more can be displayed without a page refresh: up to 80!).
- Hold meta-information on members such as a short description, which can be updated by that member only.
- Allow readers to ‘hide’ any or all feeds, in order to focus on the things that matter to them.
It’s all powered by a new weblog aggregation engine called Phatnet, which I’ve been building for the last few weeks specifically for this purpose. And it’s pretty damn gorgeous. But that’s not all. Experimental features which might end up part of it now or later include:
- Tighter integration with RockMonkey – see what pages other people are reading.
- Ajax-powered “keep me posted” features, such as a checkbox that, when checked, automatically adds new posts to Abnib as they are written – right in front of your eyes.
- Comment counting: know how many comments have been made on standards-compliant blog posts.
- A couple of other things I’ve been playing with.
Hopefully, I can get Abnib 3.0 finished and released later in December. If you want to see what’s been done so far and how it all fits together, take a peep at the Abnib 3.0 Preview (it updates every few days, so it’s no good for actually reading blog posts on, but it should give you an idea about some of the features: try clicking the “More Posts…” link at the bottom or on people’s names in the sidebar). It’s ugly as sin, but hey. Feedback appreciated.