About URL-Shorteners

06 December 2009

URL-Shorteners are getting popular these days, due twitter’s 140 character limitation. But what happens behind the scenes, if you are opening a url, created by an url-shortener? The shortener takes the request from the browser, looks up the given value of the short url in the database and redirects the browser to the original site. And here is the point, where the trouble comes in:

Short-urls are adding a layer of indirection to the internet, which is not needed in my opinion.

What could Twitter do about short-urls?

People are using url-shorteners, because they are forced to limit themselves to 140 characters. Twitter could implement a different counting mechanism:

By using this behaviour, no one has a real need for short-urls anymore and you will always know, how the real url looks. It should be fairly easy to implement this for twitter, but i think they are not doing this, because people cheat to get more characters in a single by simple typing something like: “http://and-i-also-wanted-to-say-this-and-that.com”. In my opinion, this would be acceptable tradeoff if we could get rid of url-shorteners! You could just unfollow the people who are abusing the now legal long urls for something else and you are done.

My current solution

Because I don’t think twitter will solve the problem with url-shorteners in the near future, I have set up my own with the help of Shaun Inman’s lessn. This solution won’t help to get rid of short-urls, but I am at least no longer dependent of a third party url shortener. I am in control of the short-urls I have posted on twitter and so I will never ever lose a link again, because a short url service abused my trust in their service.


My New Blog

29 November 2009

So, this is my new blog. In fact, my only blog before was a posterous account which I used as a blog1. But posterous wasn’t the blog engine I was looking for, so I finally decided to host the blog by myself. But what blog engine should I use? I could use WordPress like everyone else does. There is nothing wrong with WordPress, but it doesn’t fit my personal requirements. These requirements are:

Two months ago, I found out that I wasn’t alone with these requirements. I stumbled upon jekyll, a static site generator written in ruby. “A static site generator? That sounds so like the 90s!” you may think. But in fact, a static site generator is the perfect system for a blog engine. Think about it, what makes a blog a blog? A blog consists of one or more blog entries, which are all consis of a title, a date and of the text of the blog entry itself. Nothing more. If you write only a few blog posts in a month, the content of the blog itself doesn’t change very often. A perfect use case for a static site generator! Write the new blog post, generate the site, and upload this site with the tool you want. You don’t even need a server with special capabilities! The server only needs to serve static html files. So you don’t even have to worry about a special caching system, because caching is already given with static files!

Advantages of jekyll

With a generated static site, I don’t have to worry about keeping the blog engine itself up to date. I don’t have to fiddle around with plugins. With jekyll I can write blogposts in markdown. Syntax highlighting of code is also supported. Every single blog post is saved as a single text file, so I can easily back them up with my version control system of choice, which is git by the way. I don’t have to worry about backing up the database. Because no database is needed at all!

Final thoughts

I have now written more than I thought. Perhaps you want to comment to this blog post. This is the only thing, you can’t support with a static site generator like jekyll. But what you can do, is to host the comments externally. For this purpose I use the disqus commenting system, which I think is great, because they handle all the anti-spamming stuff for me. One thing more, I don’t have to worry about. The less I have to worry about, the more I can be lazy. Which is a good thing, because all good programmers are programmers because they are lazy! ;)

  1. If you find it, you can keep it! :)

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