Serendipity

I have a secret to confess. I’ve been checking out Serendipity. I had a prospective web design client ask me about it, as he was apparently seriously considering switching to it from MT. While I haven’t heard back from the guy, I decided to go ahead and upload a testbed of it at webjones.org and start playing around with it.


It has quite a few “ooh wow” features that I kind of like:

1. Easy breezy setup; no configuration file to edit beforehand; it is edited during the install session. The only preparation you need to do is make sure you have a database and user set up for it. You can use an existing database and simply declare a table prefix; Serendipity is that friendly.

2. It has a template application similar to Blogger, where you just choose a design from the array provided, using a radio button, and the new style/template is applied on the fly. And this new style drives the backend as well. There are a disturbing number of out of the box MT templates available for some strange reason. [Out of the 15 templates offered, 10 of them are MT designs!]

Templates (or themes) are managed in a similar fashion to the wp-style directory. Each theme has its own directory and that’s where all its pages, not just the stylesheet and images, are found. This theoretically makes it possible for you to have all manner of bizarre layouts, each using a different index.php. I’m starting to salivate.

3. Comments are easy to manage. You can disable or close comments on the fly on a post-by-post basis. Also installed right out of the box is an anti-spam system that requires the commenter to type in the letters-numbers combo displayed as an image in the comment box. This thwarts auto-spammers and anyone with little patience.

4. You can assign users to post only to certain categories, which is probably really nice if you have a lot of guest bloggers who keep forgetting to post in a guest category you may have set up for that purposes.

5. Like WordPress, and now MT 3.11, Serendipity features subcategories.

6. Plugins, do we have plugins. There are sidebar plugins and there are event plugins, have your royal choice. A dropdown box lets you choose the plugins you want activated and — in a manner similar to Geeklog or e-107, you can choose where the plugin is featured on your sidebar. How far up or down the sidebar it is, and whether it’s on the left or right.

7. Trackbacks are built into the system, as they are in MT. But they are handled kind of awkwardly if you ask me. You see a link at the top of the comment box. The link says clearly, “Trackback specific URI for this entry.” If you hover your mouse over it, the alt text says “This link is not meant to be clicked.” So I went ahead and right-clicked and chose “Copy link location” and then went to this WordPress entry screen and pasted the data into the Trackback field here.

What happens if you dare to click on “Das Link”? Well, a javascript box opens repeating (patiently) that the link is not meant to be clicked… Well, here is what you see (click for a larger view):

Serendipity Trackback Popup

Now, here’s where WordPress mops up the floor with it, IMHO.

a. No way to directly edit templates as is provided for in WordPress and WP Wuh-Wuh. I like being able to go to the WordPress control panel and click “Templates” and, BAM! there’s my index.php ready for me to mess with. Same thing in MT and in pMachine. The user-configurable templates are at the ready.

b. Serendipity supports Textile just as WordPress now does, but the commenters are relegated to _underlining_ and **bolding** their comments. And emoticons like ;-> and 🙂 are converted to smily images, but I have no idea where they are in the Serendipity install. And there’s no way in Preferences to designate a specific smily directory either.

c. The link management system in WordPress is second only to that found in TextPattern. There is no link management system in Serendipity.

I’m sure there’s more I haven’t thought of. Visit my Serendipity Testbed to get an idea of what it looks like. Right now, it is wearing the very clever “Idea” style.

I also am checking out the trackback system using this post.

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