Crafting, Kitbuilding, and DIY Blogging

Yeah, I know. I used "DIY Blogging" in the title of the last posting. Get over it - it's a continuation of a theme. Yes, as I described in my last post, I put together my own blog program, but it's not as big a deal as it sounds (or maybe, dear reader, it doesn't sound like much at all). It's actually pretty easy to do these days, and with tools like Django to build on, it's like playing with Legos, or Crafting or something. <!-- SUMMARY_END -->


I used to be addicted to World of Warcraft. I had heard about it but wasn't much interested until I saw an article about how WoW was like the new golf in tech circles. The meme was started (I think) by activist/enterpreneur/pioneer blogger Joi Ito, who touted his guild (called "We Know") in a bunch of articles around the net. I thought I'd give it a try. I'm skipping over a lot here - I could spend pages describing what I loved about WoW, but what finally was the most fun for me was the crafting.

A lot of the most interesting tools, weapons, armor, decorations, and food in WoW are made and sold by players. Your character can have several professions, like Alchemy, Herbalism, Engineering, etc. - you train in your profession and collect recipes that let you make cool, powerful, or obscure stuff, which you can then use or sell. Some of the recipes can be learned from trainers in the city, while others have to be learned from odd characters in obscure locations, or from monsters. There are entire sites devoted to collecting these recipes, their ingredients, and where the ingredients are to be found.

For instance, a Magic Resistance Potion is made using 1x Khadgar's Whisker, 1x Purple Lotus, and 1x Crystal Vial. A Philosopher's Stone requires 4x Iron Bars, 1x Black Vitriol, 4x Purple Lotus, and 4x Firebloom. Collecting the materials meant going on long quests through Azeroth, during which you picked up items or other recipes that led to still other quests... Anyway. Except for the monsters and obscure names, crafting was really another form of kitbuilding. And when I finally kicked my WoW habit, one of the things I replaced it with was kitbuilding.


I remember looking at old Sears catalogs and seeing kits. You could mail away your two bucks and get a bicycle kit or the parts for a butter churn, or whatever. My dad and I used to make model rockets and even tried to build a model boat once. Radio Shack and Heathkit had electronics and simple computer kits. At the time I never really got into kitbuilding though, and it seemed to fade away, or maybe it was just because I lost interest or maybe I just got too enamored with shiny pre-built objects.

A lot of really important stuff happened around kitbuilding though. A lot of the major players in the whole personal computer thing hung out at meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club - the Steves (Woz and Jobs) were both members, and the original Apple was a kit.

Kitbuilding is making a comeback lately. O'Reilly started publishing Make Magazine a couple years ago. It used to seem way too technical, but I ordered a couple kits and built them without too much trouble. I saw Lady Ada's talk at OSCON 2007 and have been lusting after her x0xb0x kit ever since.

DIY blogging and personal content management

In yesterday's post I mentioned James Bennett's article as an inspiration for this blog. Django (and to be fair, some other web frameworks too) give you a bunch of code lego blocks that you can assemble pretty quickly into a working app.

Jeff Croft also describe the possibilities really well in his article on personal content management that came out last year. Not too long ago, if you wanted to put your content online you had to either write your own app from scratch or cough up LOTs of dough for a huge content management system (CMS) like Interwoven, after which the setup and customization was almost as much trouble as writing it yourself. A couple years later, we got apps like PHP-Nuke and Drupal that started out as bulletin boards or blogs and tried to expand to become CMSs. But they tried to force all your data into page-sized chunks, even when that wasn't appropriate.

In his article, Jeff describes how Django can be used to assemble exactly what you need to manage your data, without all the sidebars and other stuff that you don't need (though you can add that too if you want). I've been using it at work for just this kind of sub-CMS work - or maybe it's "right-sized CMS". And a case in point is this blog app, assembled from a bunch of pre-built parts glued together.

It'll be interesting to see what the future holds.