Using Blogger as a front end

One of my web developer friends evolved her own custom CMS several years ago, when there the opensource CMS’s (a la Drupal, Joomla, et al) were not nearly as good as they are now.   In the past few years many of her clients have wanted to start blogs.  Writing her own blogging module seemed a bit silly in this day and age when there is so much free blogging software available.   She considered what a lot of site owners do– installing a wordpress and hooking it to either a subdomain or a subdirectory of the main client site, but it was not her choice, mainly because if you self-host a wordpress you have to maintain and update it, and most of her clients were not willing to foot the bill for their own private hosted wordpress.   She might have minimized their cost if she had them all running blogs out of a single wordpress install, but  I do not think she considered wordpress mu, or doing what I have done, which is essentially my own homespun mu setup done with symlinks.   Her solution was to use Blogger!

That was head scratcher for me when I first heard about it because I did not understand the exact lay of the land. I knew that, for a fee,  you can point your blogspot blog at a domain but that’s not what she did.  Neither she nor her clients pays blogger  a nickel; her clients use blogger’s dashboard to manage their blogs; and the blogs serve from her server under their own domain.  This means she did not have to reinvent the wheel and write a blogging module in her CMS.  Although the clients use Blogger’s admin interface to manage and update their blogs, she DOES NOT USE BLOGGER to directly display the blogs. She was unhappy with the amount of control you had with Blogger templates at the time, and also with the web interface to manage them,  so she tapped into one of Blogger’s little known features — its ability to populate a template with blog content and automatically FTP it to a server of your choice.  Maybe Blogger only had local cacheing in mind when they created this service. They probably thought, “sure if anyone wants to cache and serve their blog from their own server, that’s just less bandwidth load for us” but it seems my friend put one over on them.

Anyone reading this who really wants to use Blogger’s FTP capability has the ability to go poke around in blogger until you find out how. I don’t know exactly how, but the point is it’s possible if you want to.    Next I explain how my friend turns the whole concept of templating on it’s ear, so pay attention:

Apparently blogger can stuff content from its database into ANY template that you feed it and FTP it back to you.  We  think of a template as HTML with proprietery placeholders for data–that is the typical model. But my friend actually feeds it PHP file with placeholders.  Her template also contains whatever custom logic she needs to integrate with her CMS and pull in all her styles locally. So what Google/Blogger FTP’s down to her server are a bunch of php scripts all the same except for their file name and their content. The content is statically pre-inserted. When a user browses the site, he is pointed to the php file that does the logic later — after the content is already there.  The end user never touches Blogger!

The blog data still lives at Blogger. Her server, of course, contains files with parsed, mixed,  and rendered copied chunks of this data. I have no idea what sort of cacheing solution she has.

The point of this post is that my friend has a slightly unusual way of doing things.   Wrapping your head around different ways of doing things,  even if you have no intention of doing them, is a good way to keep your brain flexible.  Can you reach that cerebellum around to touch that parietal lobe yet?

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