Apologies for commenting problems

As some readers may have noticed, the Troppo commenting system has been malfunctioning badly for the last week or so. When you try to post a comment, it invariably returns an error message saying that the “server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.”

In fact it seems that the comment really has been posted, and will eventually appear on the published site (although sometimes several hours later). The result is that many prospective commenters give up, while the more determined post their comment multiple times, and I then have to go in later and remove the duplications.

Obviously this situation isn’t sustainable. Unfortunately I don’t have either the access or IT skills to fix this problem. Troppo is hosted on domain space kindly donated by Scott Wickstein. Scott currently runs a very old version of Movable Type blog software, which seems to be on its last legs. I have offered to pay for an upgrade to the current and much more stable version, but Scott doesn’t seem to have had the available time to remedy the problem. I guess we’re going to have to bite the bullet and get our own domain for Troppo. However, I simply don’t have time to do this right at the moment, so I can only ask readers to bear with us for a few more weeks.

PS – I have signed up for a trial Typepad subscription, and just spent the last hour and a half setting up the basics. However, as I expected, it takes much longer than they claim to get it working even vaguely satisfactorily. I tried to copy in the existing Troppo templates to Typepad, so it would look exactly the same as the existing blog, but I got an error message when I tried to publish it. I didn’t dare tackle importing the existing Troppo files, because that would certainly be a time-consuming nightmare. The bottom line is just as I expected. I have neither the time, patience, expertise nor remaining level of interest in blogging to be bothered spending the time setting up a new one. However, I would like to keep Troppo going if at all possible, more for the other authors than myself. Any offers of assistance with set-up from knowledgeable readers would be gratefully accepted. Otherwise, I’m simply going to cancel the Typepad subscription before they charge my credit card, and simply persevere with the existing blog until it dies completely, because any other options will inevitably be even more time-consuming and unsatisfactory than Typepad.

PPS – Alternatively (and preferably), is there someone out there with the expertise and willingness to help with setting up the new subscription version of Movable Type on Scott’s domain? I’m perfectly happy to pay for it, but I don’t have the expertise or time to install it, and nor it seems does Scott.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

I’ve tried repairing the databases, I don’t know if that will fix it or not. I suspect its all getting a bit clunky and old, and I don’t have the time or skills to fix it anymore. Sorry about all this.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

I’m thinking about subscribing to Typepad, because it would enable us to get going with a minimum of fuss and technological ability. But I’ll need to consult Nicholas, Sophie etc first. And I’ll also need to make sure that we’ll be able to import all the existing Troppo archives easily. A quick glance at their site didn’t show a mention of an import/esport feature, although it’s a standard aspect of even the older versions of Movable Type itself so I assume it’s available. Does anyone know?

Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

Yes exporting the archives can be done but the problem with is is that it doesn’t distinguish between multiple authors. You might want to talk to the Typepad people and see if they will give you a hand with that.

Cameron Riley
2021 years ago

Ken, If you are going to upgrade, can I make the suggestion to hop to scoop as the software that runs troppo? Scoop is extremely configurable and can be set up as a blog site as well as a community site. One of the benefits of scoop is you can enable your audience to also post blog entries which go to a dairy section while the main group bloggers (yourself, Nicholas, Sophie etc) post to the front page.

Scoop is at;

http://scoop.kuro5hin.org/

there are plenty of example sites on there. The benefits of scoop are that it enables a community to develop organically, rather than the island like status of blog software. I am personally of the opinion that some of the highly trafficked Auian blog sites should make the jump to a community site, and troppo would very definately be one of those sites.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Off topic Ken, but an interesting point of constitutional law might be in the offing with the Tattersalls public float on the stock exchange. The float was open to institutional mums and dads investors and was heavily oversubscribed. As a consequence only 553 shares per individual were allocated, but a further restriction was that only applicants from states where Tatts operated (ie not WA and SA) were allocated a parcel. I have never heard of this stock market practice before and the question arose in my mind was- did this action contravene the constitutional right of free trade across states? (no I didn’t apply for some but the son did and presumably his cheque will be returned in due course)

I should add that small investors subscribed to the float at $2.90/share (institutions $3.10) and the shares opened at $3.50 on market.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

observa

There’s almost certainly no constitutional issue here. Section 92 (and for that matter other constitutional freedoms) only contrains Parliaments in the sorts of laws they can enact i.e. neither the Commonwealth nor States may enact laws that act in a protectionist way to favour some states and their residents over others. Section 92 doesn’t inhibit private individuals or companies from discriminating against residents of particular states in whatever way they think fit, so the Tatts float could be restricted in the way you describe without any constitutional problems.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

I’ll second Cam’s suggestion that you should look at moving Troppo to something more mature and featuresome like Scoop, as well as a shift to a dedicated domain name.

Upsides:

* Scoop is a community system: memberships, private diaries are available. Also possible is allowing articles to be voted onto the front page, or to allow diaries to be promoted to the front page if they receive enough approval.

* Late second-generation web comments code. Threading, nesting, even dynamic nesting possible. Beats the pants off flat conversations. Also checks for standard attacks.

* All sorts of commercial code (text ads code, subscription system etc) if Troppo decides to head in that direction.

* Very flexible. Scoop includes the bones of a proper templating system, including flexible code insertion.

* Proven and robust. Scoop is used to host Kuro5hin.org and DailyKos.org among other very heavily visited sites. Also designed to resist crapflooding and spamming.

* No charge. Opensource the old fashioned way.

Downsides:

* No direct import from MT currently exists. One could probably be written using Perl – say a few afternoon’s worth of hacking for a good Perlista. Mainly a matter of mapping database schemas and writing some glue code to copy stuff across.

* Different URL scheme means old permalinks will break. Actually this could be solved with some perl too: auto-generation of 301 directives for Apache shouldn’t actually be too hard. In any case, Scoop’s permalink scheme is a bit more future-proof.

* Unfamiliarity. People are not as familiar with Scoop as MT, though in fairness comment boxes all work more or less the same.

* Administrative overhead. Already Troppo is experience growing pains (refer to my previous notes on the lifecycle of virtual communities). Allowing user memberships a la Kuro5hin may allow more entrenched troublemaking. However the code includes mechanisms for self-regulating controls which only topflight trolls can defeat (GNAA or Advocacy.org level trolls).

* Needs configuration. Scoop is much more flexible than MT and supports many models of site operation. Thus it needs more time to set up.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Jacques (and Cam)

Thanks for your suggestion/s. I’m sure all the benefits you list are there, but I don’t envisage that many of the features you list will be of much if any use to Troppo in the foreseeable future (at least my conception of it). Moreover, I lack both the time and expertise needed to set it up, and no-one has so far offered to help with the much simpler Movable Type or WordPress systems, let alone something more time-consuming like Scoop. So I’ll just keep hoping someone reads this and kindly offers to help with setting up a purpose-designed blogging system i.e. Movable Type or WordPress, and if not I’ll just keep bumbling along here until Scott’s old system breaks down completely. I suppose I could just move to WordPress, use one of their standard style templates and not bother with importing existing Troppo files, but I don’t want to do that unless there’s no choice at all.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

Ken,

I’d give Scoop some time and I’m sure Cam could be coaxed into using some of his practical experience. It’s just a matter of time and money: I’ll do it if you’ll kick in for the new domain name and possibly private hosting.

I should add though that as I’m on holidays, I don’t have very much time.

The beauty of these things is that you don’t need to move all at once. You can take the time to set up (say) troppoarmadillo.net.au, let the crazies and geeks tap away at it for a while, then switch people over to the new address when it’s ready. Cutover needn’t be immediate, as this isn’t supposed to be a tablecloth trick.

No rush. MT will hold up for the moment I think.

Sam
Sam
2021 years ago

Scoop requires mod_perl, which generally isn’t available unless on a dedicated server. Drupal is a similar system in PHP.

Upgrading MT sounds easiest to me, that or WordPress. You can import MT stuff pretty easily. Ask around the WordPress support forums and you can probably even get someone to do it for you, especially if you’re willing to pay.

boynton
2021 years ago

I’m not sure if your MT upgrade plans have implications for the whole domain – but ‘boynton’ doesn’t seem to be experiencing the same problems.

I would be tempted by Typepad myself. There are several Typepad bloggers on my blogroll and they all look good to me. Last year I asked one US blogger if he would recommend it and he gave it a glowing endorsement. (Though I have also read of some minor quibbles.) I believe that transferring archives across from MT is one of the easier things to do – and this factor would be a big plus for me. Unfortunately it is not so easy in reverse – especially going back to blogger.

Anything involving MT versus Typepad tags is tricky.
Re template: I think it’s better to tweak the default one into a troppo-looking shape, than try to import this MT one into Typepad.

I also notice that MT offer Hosting plans now?
http://www.sixapart.com/partners/current

Stephen Bounds
Stephen Bounds
2021 years ago

Hi Ken,

I have some experience with setting up various content management and blogging software packages, including Movable Type. I could probably help out with an upgrade or software change if needed.

It would also probably be worth having a look at your log files to try and pin down the exact cause of your error before upgrading. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss this further.

[For those engaged in blogwars, http://www.asymptomatic.net/blogbreakdown.htm has a comprehensive, if slightly out-of-date feature comparison of blog packages.

Note that this doesn’t include package aimed more towards content management such as Drupal, Scoop, Slash or Plone.]

Cameron Riley
2021 years ago

Ken, If you want to go the scoop route, I will set it up for you. I have a server in my basement, so if you want to set up a test/demo site (not a production site, I probably dont have the bandwidth for troppo) to see what scoop is like and if it will fit what you want from troppo, then I am happy to do that.

Email me at, cam.riley at gmail.com, if you want to pursue it further.

As Jacques said, the existing troppo can continue to run, and you only need to cut over to the new system when you are happy with it. It will require getting scoop hosting, but there are several options for that.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Does this commenting problem only affect IE users? I use Firefox and am having no problems.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Thanks for the info Ken. I don’t think the lad was about to launch a High Court challenge, but I have to say it’s pretty poor PR for business to call for subscribers from all over the country and then discriminate against certain state based investors, ex post. You wonder about big biz brains trusts sometimes.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

Sam,

mod_perl requires more work to establish, but on every other metric it blows CGI scripts to dust. Some tests show the same code running on mod_perl running hundreds of times faster. If a mod_perl version of MT existed I’d recommend that as an important palliative step towards switching to a more robust software/hardware setup.

The problem is that a CGI call requires the entire Perl interpreter (or whatever other language is in question) to be loaded from scratch, used to process stuff once, then dismissed.

Quite aside from the relatively high cost of loading perl from scratch every time someone views a page, the use of CGI precludes almost every sane caching scheme known to man or machine.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

Stephen,

Just to split fine hairs, I’d probably describe Scoop (and other nominal Slash-alikes) as a “community application” rather than content management software. The emphasis is not on a generic process or technology, but on creating discussion and maintaining civility.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

I would be just horrified if Troppo stopped. For the reasons Jacques specified, Barista is easing towards Drupal. From my tentative initial contact, I dearly hope that some clever technical person other than Ken or Scott step forward to do it.

Learning curve is a bit steep in the middle. I presume that Troppo could be left as is, with comments shut off, after a new site is set up, rather than embracing the problem of transfer.

sam
sam
2021 years ago

hi,

i run some MT blogs of dox.media2.org and we’ve had the same problem with the later versions of MT.

my conclusion: MT sux. we are going to play with Drupal and WordPress.

commenting is going to become a major issue because it provides a wound for spammers to enter.

there’s two things going on here. Bad code like MT’s which enables spammers to crash servers, and the bad comment code that enables spammers to make life hell for the person running the blog.

perhaps it’s the reality of open commenting!

i’d encourage Drupal at this point in time, though two or three years ago, i was talking up MT ;-)

sam
sam
2021 years ago

hi,

i run some MT blogs off dox.media2.org and we’ve had the same problem with the later versions of MT.

my conclusion: MT sux. we are going to play with Drupal and WordPress.

commenting is going to become a major issue because it provides a wound for spammers to enter.

there’s two things going on here. Bad code like MT’s which enables spammers to crash servers, and the bad comment code that enables spammers to make life hell for the person running the blog.

perhaps it’s the reality of open commenting!

i’d encourage Drupal at this point in time, though two or three years ago, i was talking up MT ;-)

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

There are some excellent plugins for WP which have blocked some absolutely massive spam attacks at LP.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

Have you investigated other options -say like a cyclostyle machine and Australia Post? Or engaging native bearers and picking up a bunch of hockey sticks and, y’know, clefting them? (the sticks, not the bearers that is).

Or carrier pigeons? Which reminds me (hic) for some reason of this.
http://mprofaca.cro.net/spyanimals.html
Now that’d add a whole new dimension to avian-based blogging.

“Please keep this thread civil or I’m taking off the hoods and warming up the lures.”
or
“Mr V.U Lture Spammer, meet Flt Lieutant Peregrine.”
or
“Now that’s what I call an albatross of a post.”

Stephen Bounds
Stephen Bounds
2021 years ago

Jacques: I accept the hair-splitting — I used CMS more as a “catch-all” term for non-blog software.

Sam: I’m currently working on a Drupal-based system for a local community organisation and I can thoroughly recommend it (although it’s possibly overkill for a predominantly blog site such as Troppo — it could easily be used to build a news portal like http://www.theage.com.au or similar. You can accomplish a great deal through the GUI interface, but if you know PHP and MySQL, it’s also designed to be easily extensible.

WordPress is very much traditional “blog” software but has the advantage (over MovableType) of being completely free (GPL). Has a good reputation in the community.