Total eclipse of the something-or-other

A couple of years have passed since my last post announcing updates to Plerd, the open-source software that powers this blog. That seems like the right pace, per Anil Dash’s ninth lesson. But all things come due, the sun and the moon dance on and I pushed up Plerd version 1.5 last night. What’s new?

  • Better documentation. While I continue to keep Plerd’s README updated with a complete usage summary, I’ve also started to add pages to its wiki about customizing templates, the single most flexible yet under-documented feature of this software.

    I’ve also reformatted the example config file for clarity. For my whole career I’ve always appreciated this style of “chatty” config file, with lines and lines of commentary, and it pleases me to have reason to add my own small contribution.

  • Social-media metatags. With a bit of additional blog-side configuration, services like Facebook, Twitter, and Slack can now present those ubiquitous little summary-cards of Plerd-based blog posts whenever they link to them. It adheres to both the Open Graph and Twitter Card standards.

    Interestingly, I didn’t know about these cards at all because I view Twitter through third-party clients (which don’t display them) and I seldom visit Facebook. I had wondered why Slack made tidy little preview-summaries of some webpages, but never for my own blogposts, though. My weekend research of this puzzle led to here.

  • Support for custom post attributes. You can now put anything you wish in any post’s metadata section, in key: value format, and then refer back to it from within post templates. This allows you to design templates that display all sorts of variable information beyond the handful of Plerd’s predefined post attributes.

    I added this feature for the blog of the nonprofit I help run. Despite Plerd’s original design goal of supporting only one author, a team can use it just fine through the use of custom post headers. In this case, I just add the header byline: Jason McIntosh to my own posts.

  • Estimated reading-time labels. You know, the labels that say “7-minute read” or whatever at the top of articles. I actually don’t know how I feel about these things; as of this writing, I haven’t added them to my own blog, even though I added support for them to its codebase.

    But, I saw them on a friend’s blog recently, and I thought I bet it would be fun to add this to Plerd and it was.

  • JSON Feed support. Plerd has quietly supported JSON Feed for a few months now. My motivation for adding it was the same as that for adding the reading-time labels, and when I tweeted about it I got a Daring Fireball link out of it, so time well spent as far as I’m concerned.

    According to my access logs as of a week ago, a single person reads Fogknife via JSON Feed, and I unironically salute this iconoclast. I do have more thoughts about this technology, and perhaps I’ll share them here, sometime. In the meantime, here is Fogknife’s JSON Feed link, available to all.

  • Support for older/newer-article links on every post. If you read Fogknife on the web, you’ve probably noticed these already.

There’s a passel of variously less interesting features and improvements beyond these, as listed in Plerd’s complete changelog. Enjoy!


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