• Picking a License for Tanzawa

    As Tanzawa is getting closer to being something I can release for other people to use, I've been trying to decide on the best license for it and my goals for the project. The most likely scenario is that Tanzawa will only power my blog or a handful of blogs and that I'll be the only regular contributor. I'd love to be proven wrong, though ๐Ÿ˜€.

    My main goal for Tanzawa is to provide a system that slightly-technical folks can use to create their own home online. My secondary goal is to explore low-resource computing and using Tanzawa as my proving ground. If I can find a model that would allow me to build a revenue stream around Tanzawa, that would be great, but it's not a primary focus.

    I've considered all of the main open source licenses: Apache, AGPL, MIT, and BSD-3.ย  Each license is appealing to me for different ideological reasons.ย 

    Before researching licenses a bit, I had thought I would pick the AGPL. I really like changes would need to be released to the community. Wordpress uses the GPL, too.ย 

    But then I started thinking about the possibility of building software around Tanzawa to support paid hosting for Tanzawa blogs. This bit wouldn't be open source and it may require some custom hooks into Tanzawa. Picking the AGPL would lock me in needing to release these changes. Being the original author, I could just dual license it to myself, but it gets a bit murkier if anyone contributes to the project.

    I considered the MIT and BSD licenses together. BSD is basically public-domain in my mind. You're free to use Tanzawa how you please and keep all your changes to yourself. I'm not entirely opposed to this, and I'm sure it happens in reality with GPLed code. This said if someone uses Tanzawa to build something, I'd like them to acknowledge that what they've built is built on Tanzawa.ย  While I think scenario is a low probability, it's not zero.

    The last license I considered is the Apache license. What sets it apart from other licenses is its stance on software patents. Basically is someone contributes to Tanzawa and then sues me (again, low probability), they lose their right to use the software. But not being able to be sued gives me a piece of mind I can't get with the other licenses.

    Now to merge license files into the repository.
  • Re: Ode to my flip phone

    Reading Ode to my flip phone reminded me of Frank in You've Got Mail, singing the praises of his typewriter as everyone is getting computers and getting online. Society, for better or worse, has picked a new technological successor and the old ways โ€“ your flip phone, your typewriter, will eventually disappear.

    But this line โ€“ this line hit me hard.
    And by privacy I donโ€™t mean cookies or my Social Security number or whateverโ€”I mean the fragile sphere of imagination in which I exist when Iโ€™m not diddling about online. I mean whatโ€™s left of my nondigital self. When I clack your two halves shut, you glorious techno-mollusk, thatโ€™s it. Sauron cannot see me.
  • Build Open Systems And Maintain The Promise For Future Generations

    Growing up in the 90's, tech and the internet promised us open-data and open-systems. With a good idea and a bit of know-how could do most anything. And for a while that was true. But over time the systems have been slowly closed off.

    Even if you put your data into their systems you can only retrieve it under their terms. If you can even retrieve it. Formats are opaque or undocumented. API access could be revoked at any time for any reason with little or no recourse on your part.

    In other words: your data isn't yours. And you're certainly not free to do with it what you please.ย 

    Why do people subject themselves to this unfair and unequal status-quo? I'd argue that it's because how people view tech, including within the tech circle, has changed.ย 

    You can draw a line: Hackers vs The Social Network.

    If you watched Hackers, Sneakers, or Wargames in high school, you likely remember that promise of open-systems and open-data. You also see that promise being reneged one company after another. You may not feel it's as important as it once was, because, let's be real, goofing around on "free" services is easy and fun.

    However if your high school movie was The Social Network, you likely see the current state of tech as normal. Like a fish in water. Those VC companies neglected to mention the promise of the internet. In fact, the idea that your data is yours may not even be something that crosses your mind. Why should it? Nobody talks about it, so it must not be important. But it is.

    One of my major motivations for building Tanzawa is to help us regain control of our data and help uphold the promise back.ย  Want to visualize your Tanzawa data for a new project? Point your project to your Tanzawa db (or make a copy of it) and you can do whatever you want.

    The promise of open-systems and open-data isn't a given.ย  The default is closed. Or at least open until you're big enough consolidate and centralize. It's up to each of us to be stewards of an open internet. It's up to each of us support an open and free internet.

    Build open systems and maintain the promise for future generations.
  • Raising Awareness for the Carbon Cost of our Systems

    One of my original reasons for building Tanzawa was I wanted a blogging engine that, while pleasant to use, put a hard focus on efficiency for the express purpose of reducing carbon emissions. This has informed a number of architecture decisions in Tanzawa itself: no big background tasks, no db server, only make optimized images on their first request to save disk / cpu and more.

    To bring this in to focus, each page on Tanzawa has a badge that from websitecarbon.com that measures and reports the amount of carbon required to get that page from my server in Germany to you. It's not perfect, but it raises awareness.

    I don't run any analytics on my site, so I have no idea how often people click on things on my site, but my buddy mario saw I post I wrote andย  decided to test his own fusioncast.fm website.

    Mario is using carbon as a guide in his website redesign

    This is the first documented instance I have of people being inspired to reduce the carbon impact of their sites based on my work! One site down, a million left :)
  • First Days with Tanzawa

    This was my first week using Tanzawa to power my actual blog and not just the dev blog. So far it's been great. I love how easy it is to post. I love that my site is IndieWeb native. I love that my site's stability has improved because I no longer require a database server. And I love that it's using fewer resources. It's great.

    This said, there's been a few rough edges that need polishing. Approving 50 some-odd webmentions after OwnYourSwarm started importing un-sent checkins required 50 some-odd page loads. Ouch.ย 

    I'd also like to improve site performance more in respect to images. Currently Tanzawa automatically requests the most efficient image format that your browser supports. Image format selection is all handled by the browser automatically (no Javascript). This alone usually cuts transfer size in half.

    While cutting the transfer size in half with a format change is a good start, I still don't need to be serving (at times) 4000px wide images. This is noticeable in streams where posts usually have images ( Checkins etc..) where the text loads instantly, but the progress bar lingers while images load.

    Rather, I'm going to change it to serve a resized (max 800px wide? ) image unless the original is specifically requested.

    Lastly, I want to start building a list of things that must (not should) be done before I can feel comfortable releasing Tanzawa for others to use and then start working on that list bit-by-bit.
  • Planning the Wordpress Migration

    The next big challenge for Tanzawa, and the last thing required for me to switch to it, is import my data from my existing Wordpress blog. There's 4 major parts to this challange:

    1. Parsing the Wordpress export XML file
    2. Figuring out how to map Wordpress posts to Tanzawa posts
    3. Downloading and importing media
    4. Rewriting existing posts to use these new asset urls and fix links.

    The first step is the easiest. I've figured out the basics of it yesterday using Beautiful Soup, but will require more exploration of the various posts before I can decide how to properly map data.

    The other steps are managable, but wrapped up in a 5th challenge โ€“ย  managing the entire import process itself. Initially I had planned on just making a command line import tool. Run the command and it does its best to import everything. But telling Tanzawa how to map categories to streams would entail complex command parameters, which I wouldn't want to use myself, let alone inflict on others.

    Rather, I need a simple web interface and database tables that will let me manage and monitor the process. The basic workflow I'm imagining is something like this:

    1. User uploads Wordpress export file -> Tanzawa saves it into a blob in its database along with some basic meta information about it.
    2. Tanzawa will create a mapping record for each category/post/post-kind found in the file. In step 2 users will see a list of their Wordpress categories with a dropdown next to each one with the stream it should map to (not mapping is also an option).
    3. Tanzawa will also provision a record for each photo and post to import. This will include its planned final permanent url, as wellย  its existing permanent url, and will be central when rewriting content.
    4. The photo records will track not only urls, but also file download status, so we don't download photos twice. There should be a page where users can see a list of all photos to import, the status, and perhaps a button to retry if it's failed.ย 

    One tricky bit will be that Tanzawa doesn't support background tasks. Which means I can either introduce them (don't really want to) or I need to find a way to control entirely by the front-end.ย  I think a little a small Stimulus controller on the photo list page that loops through each photo and call an import api should be sufficient.

    5.ย  Once the photos have been imported there should be a big button to publish all the changes. This will be button that will actually execute the entry creations.
    6. After importing is complete, all of the old Wordpress urls should automatically redirect to their new Tanzawa permalink.

    Throughout this process I'll likely find data that I (should) import that I don't have a way to handle in Tanzawa - and as such I may need to create features to handle them along the way.

    Thinking about how large of a task importing Wordpress properly is a bit daunting. But if I just make a little progress each day, piece by piece, I'll complete it before I know it.
  • Weekly Roundup #2

    This past week was spent rounding out support for checkins.

    Microformat Fixes

    I was so focused on getting locations functioning and out the door that forgot to include microformatted data. I've now included it along with the map and added tests to ensure I don't break it in the future.


    Building locations helped me figure out the best pattern for adding 1-to-1 related data to an entry. A checkin is a location and a checkin record which is the name of the venue and a url for the venue. The one limitationย  I built in surrounding checkins is that they must be created via a micropub request and can only be updated via the admin interface.

    While it's possible to integrate with Foursquare's places api and allow people to "checkin" using Tanzawa, it's a much better experience to use Swarm app and backfeed it.


    Syndications is different from locations or checkins because rather than being a 1-to1 relationship, they're a 1-to-Many relationship. i.e. a single entry can have multiple syndication urls.ย 

    Supporting multiple syndication urls from micropub is straight forward, I can just iterate over the urls and save. However, the adminย  interface allows me to add, update, and delete records. In addition to the form itself, it also requires a (hidden) management form to manage the number of records and so forth.ย 

    Thankfully I was able to work the pattern out so going forward, adding any other 1-toMany data for a post should be much quicker.
  • Weekly Roundup #1

    Along with my regular status posts, I'm going to try to make a weekly roundup post for Tanzawa. As this is more of an experiment at this time,ย  I'm putting them in the "Articles",ย  but I may add a weekly stream just for these posts.


    I build and launched the ability to associate a location with an entry. Initially I had planned on limiting locations to check ins and statuses, but decided against building in an artificial limitation.

    Location support is baked into the Tanzawa micropub endpoint as well as the RSS feeds. Posts that have a location associated with them will display the location after the author's name in the posts' byline. RSS feeds will append the location name ( or coordinates where there isn't an address) to the end of the post.

    A status post in Tanzawa

    Layout Cleanup

    While adding the map to the public post views, I also I did some cleanup. I had originally planned on having a 3 column layout for Tanzawa: left navigation, middle content, right meta. But having it split into 3 columns felt unnatural. I removed the meta-data from the third column, though it still exists.

    I also cleaned up the footer so it's stuck of the page without extending the view port beyond the natural max. Practically speaking it means that you'd always get a scrollbar even if the content length didn't warrant it. Ironic given that the footer text reads "Made with care". This text is also now styled to reduce emphasis.

    Posts that belong to multiple streams will have their streams highlighted on the left. There's also a new "Home" link that takes you to the top of the site.

    Misc Issues

    The CSS and Javascript required to run Tanzawa is now getting sufficiently complex where I should look into a proper deploy solution. My main server is the smallest droplet available at Digital Ocean, and 1GB of memory just isn't enough to run postcss when I made a lot of template changes without causing the server to swap and basically bring it down until the build completes.

    The CSS and Javascript build processes are currently separate commands run with npm. CSS (tailwind) is controlled by postcss, while Javascript is controlled with webpack. I need to integrate the css build into webpack. Doing so would allow me to reduce the number of commands run on each deploy and create unique filenames for each build. Saving each filename as a hash would allow me to never worry about caching old assets.
  • The Point of Mapping

    When I think about what I want in a map on a blog, my needs are fairly basic: posts that have a location should show a map with an indicator where the post was made and if I'm unsure of the coordinates (a guarantee) , I should to be able to search and find it on a map.

    If the location too new or uncommon, it may not show up. In that scenario finding the location on the map and selecting in manually isn't large ask.

    While maps are a an important point of many posts:ย  that new coffee shop I checked in at, the location of that cool bridge in a photo I shared, or that time status I posted looking out the window of the shinkansen โ€“ they're not central or even wanted in most posts.

    Sharing a thought, a checkin, or a photo is the point.

    One day there might be public facing features where maps play a prominent role and are the point of a post. But until then the big maps will be reserved for when you're authoring a post and can use the extra space to pan and zoom, and on the public side, they'll be smaller and out of the way โ€“ they're not the point.
  • Counting Down the Tasks

    I got a good question from Adam (@TalAdam) about why I have Tanzawa on a subdomain, rather than my main domain. While the answer is simple it's a good opportunity to discuss my plans for Tanzawa in the mid-term future.

    To answer Adam's question:

    1. 1. When I started Tanzawa I didn't have a domain (or even a name), so I started with a domain I owned.
    2. 2. I need to build up my minimal feature parity of my current blog before I can switch my main domain from Wordpress to Tanzawa.

    What's remaining for my minimal feature parity? Only three parts:ย  bookmarks/likes, checkins (w/ maps), and photo posts. Technically four - but photo posts are lower on the list. Once that's done I'll need to figure out how to migrate my data and create a huge redirect map for nginx. Perhaps by the end of the month?ย 

    Once I migrate my main site to Tanzawa what's left for this blog? I plan to redirect it somewhere on the tanzawa.blog domain. From there, I'll continuing using this blog as a development blog as I polish Tanzawa for a proper release that other people can use.
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