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Domino blogging: Domino Blog
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Contents:
Downloading the file
Setting up the database
Resources
About the author
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Domino blogging: Blogs and blogging
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David DeJean
Partner, DeJean & Clemens
07 Sep 2004

Domino Blog by Steve Castledine is one of several Notes applications that you can use to develop your own Domino blog. Find out how you can customize this application to create your own look and feel using this toolkit-like application.

Domino Blog, by Steve Castledine, is distributed as a template (NTF file). You can download and use it without charge, but Castledine does put some limits on both his liability and your commercial use of the software. (See his Web site dominoblog.com.)

Castledine describes his application as a "Domino Blog Toolkit," and that's more than just home-grown marketing hype. The design and function of the blog application are extremely customizable and extendable. You can set a visual theme for your blog by creating and installing a set of HTML templates and stylesheets and include custom tags that combine the application's data with this presentation information.

The newest version of Domino Blog, 2.2.1e, was released August 18, 2004.

Domino Blog is read-only from the Web. All document creation and administration is done from the Notes client. This means that a blogger using Domino Blog can work entirely off-line.

Where the DomBlog application is built on subforms, Domino Blog is driven by agents. This, along with the custom tags and templates, separates the graphical presentation of the application from the processing. Here's how to get started with Domino Blog.

Downloading the file
Because Domino Blog is distributed as a template, it is very easy to set up. Download the zipped file from dominoblog.com, and extract and save the file to your Notes data directory. From there, you can create a new database using the template on a Domino server.

Setting up the database
To open the blog application from the Web, you must first edit the ACL and sign the application's agents with an ID that had rights to run agents on the server.

You must add the Anonymous role to the ACL and give it Author privileges. Add yourself as Manager.

In Domino Designer, make sure you're using an ID that can run server agents, then open the Agents menu, select all the listed agents, and click the convenient Sign button. This resaves all the agents and enables the application to work for Web users.

In Notes, the database opens to the content creation/administration interface:

Figure 1. Domino Blog
Domino Blog

You should start by opening the Site Configuration document and editing several of its settings: the site URL, title, a description, and meta tag information. Castledine recommends some other changes as well in the extremely brief Quick Installation Guide available on the dominoblog.com Web site.

The blog looks entirely different to a reader on the Web (the URL is straightforward -- http://Domino server name/database name.nsf):

Figure 2. Domino Blog on the Web
Domino Blog on the Web

The default menu design includes listings of archives by month and by topic, a fixed number of recent entries, a blogroll, RSS feed link, and a credits panel. The default configuration is only a beginning point. Castledine's Web site includes a list of blogs that run on the Domino Blog application. Some of them, like Ed Brill's personal blog, make little change to the defaults. Others, like the blogs of jonvon, and Libby Ingrassia are heavily customized. Here is the Domino Blog database customized for the same Time's Telescope blog that we created using DomBlog:

Figure 3. Time's Telescope
Time's Telescope

The custom tags and templates make this relatively easy. (You can see the list of custom tags at http://www.dominoblog.com/DominoBlog.nsf/dx/dxtags.htm.) Moving the search box, for example, was merely a matter of deleting the tag for it, <$DXSearchForm$>, from one place in the site template and adding it in another.

Templates and template blocks work something like subforms in Notes. There are several pre-built templates in Domino Blog, as indicated on the administration menu:

Figure 4. Administration menu
Administration menu

You can design as many templates as you want, then set the one you want to use to be active in the site configuration document. Template blocks allow you to design and reuse smaller pieces of the interface by combining custom tags and dynamic HTML. Here, for example, is the code for a content list block that includes several of Domino Blog's built-in custom tags:


<h2><$DXMonthName$> <$DXDay$><$DXDayDesc$>, <$DXYear$></h2>
<div class="blogbody">
<h3 class="title"><$DXSubject$></h3>
<div class="posted">Posted at <$DXTime$><$DXCategory$>| 
<$DXInlineCommentLink$> (<$DXCommentCount$>) | <$DXPermLink$></div>
<p><$DXItemContent$></p>
</div>
<br /><br />

To make a template active, you select it in the site configuration. To make a template block active, you name it in a tag and include it in a template:

<$DXTemplateBlock Name="Content">

The custom tags and templates make Domino Blog flexible enough to use for off-the-beaten-track kinds of applications like photo blogs. You can also create static Web pages in the database using the custom tags. The fancier you get, of course, the more DHTML and JavaScript you'll need to know, but the strength of Domino Blog is that it allows you to put these tools to work if you know them.

Another plus for Domino Blog for business-related applications is its tools for tracking statistics that show who is using how much of the application.

The latest version of Domino Blog adds even more custom tags The tags expand the software's flexibility especially for working with categories and image galleries. It also adds features to help blog owners manage comments and block comment spamming, which is an increasing serious problem for blogs. Version 2.2.1e allows the owner to block incoming comments by IP address and build a list of banned addresses either by entering them directly or choosing an offending comment and selecting "Remove Comments/Ban IP." It includes code aimed at detecting and blocking comment spam created by robots. And it includes a configurable comment validation feature that can hold all incoming comments in draft mode until the owner can review them and release them to the blog. This not only helps with spam and offending comments, but it lets owners enforce site policies that require proper identification of commenters or relevancy of the comment.

Documentation isn't exactly a plus, but it's no longer a minus. With the last couple of versions of Domino Blog, Castledine has built up a collection of documents on his dominoblog.com site that provide instructions and examples for enabling and customizing many of the more advanced features in the application. The visual presentation of Domino Blog is infinitely malleable -- and Castldine promises to post template designs that show off this flexibility. Even more documentation to explain the application's architecture and to provide guidance on the most efficient ways to modify it would save a lot of tear-it-down-and-tinker-until-it-works time.

Resources

About the author
David DeJean has been working with and writing about Lotus Notes and Domino for as long as they've existed. He was co-author of the very first book about Notes, "Lotus Notes at Work," and has been an editor and writer for a variety of computer publications. He is a Lotus CLP and a partner in DeJean & Clemens, a firm that does Notes and Internet application development and technical and marketing communications.


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