Encouraging bloggers to use the 'extended' feature

This is a collection of ideas for how we can encourage bloggers using blogs.perl.org to split their posts into an abstract and body. Attempts at education have largely failed, so I think we should try something else.

Idea #1: boilerplate in the body

When you create a new post, you start off in the abstract, cunningly called the body, and it's empty. Instead it could have some boilerplate in it, such as:

This is the abstract for your post. Put one or two short paragraphs here, summarising your post, and then put the rest of your bullsh article in the extended section.

This would serve as both reminder and education.

Idea #2: start off in extended

Instead of starting off in the abstract, start the blogger off in the extended section, and put a one-line abstract in, along the lines of:

Another gripping installment from insert name here.

This could be made entertaining by randomly selecting the boilerplate from a file, à la fortune(6).

Idea #3: Change the names of body and extended

Change the labels body and extended to abstract and body.

Idea #4: Limit the length of the abstract

Limit the number of characters that can go in the abstract. When you get close you'd be warned. It could either be a hard limit (force everyone to split into short abstract and longer body), or just a soft limit, aimed more at educating users, and encouraging them to provide a separate abstract.

Suggested by sillymoose (see comments).

While I'm here ...

Thanks to Dave Cross and Aaron Crane, who run this service for us. I'll be submitting these ideas to them, but am posting them here in case / hope they prompt additional (better?!) ideas.


Great ideas! I would say 3 should seriously considered. I think 2 is a fun idea, but personally I think given the alternatives I would probably just say an automated abstract should be generated from the top of the text if unspecified.

While you mention it, Dave and Aaron, could I ping you again on my patch (or if I didn't patch in the right place, at least the idea it correct) for fixing the CSS for displaying Gists from GitHub.

I agree, thanks for the this great platform!

I suspect that antisocial morons like Shlomi Fish will always ruin these attempts.

How is an ad hominem helpful here?

It might encourage him to post less.

Ouch! #3 would be more than just helpful. I always thought that "Extended" was some sort of extended editor. I guess #3 is mandatory.

Put a word limit on the abstract.

how about the bleeding obvious,

rename body -> abstract

rename extended -> body

make the new body the default tab


The easiest thing to do is to make the "extended" text entry, no matter what you call it, the thing you start typing in. If the writer wants an abstract, which I think almost no one will, they have to do work to create it. Since the full post is available in the feed, there's not much reason to create an abstract. If the writer doesn't create an abstract, create one automatically. Wordpress does this and I never think about it because of that.

The length of the first page on the website is the only reason I suspect anyone cares, and I've been one of the people to annoy readers like that. There's another possibility: Collapse the posts with some of that fancy web magic stuff.

Do the thing that responds to the needs and behavior of the writers. I've never liked MT much because it seems so hostile towards users. "You're doing it wrong" is a common theme of software implemented in Perl. The other theme is "You can configure it differently to get sane defaults (if you write some code)". So far, this MT installation is just under the threshold of me not using blogs.perl.org, and if it gets any weirder or more onerous. These are the two actual failings of Perl marketing, not all the other stuff people whinge about when they talk about "marketing".

Idea #n: switch to a different blogging back end?

It sounds like your premise is that long posts on the main page are somehow bad. I like reading long posts inline without having to click each article and load a new page, what's the big deal? I recommend leaving it as it is.

@brian e lozier: For one thing its especially painful if you browse on anything other than a computer.

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About Neil Bowers

user-pic Perl hacker since 1992.