Noets - An IRC Weblog System

Noets was originally conceived in 2003-10 as a simple way to take notes from IRC and publish them as a weblog, i.e. in both human-readable (XHTML) and machine-readable (RSS) formats. As such, the prototype implementation got underway at, and was called "noets" after the word noetic. The text formatting was a simple affair: ".." to separate paragraphs, and {link title <URI>} to scribe links. The bot that powered the thing on the client end was called blogbot.

The raw and sources for this prototype implementation are freely available on inamidst. Here's the help section from the blogbot code, to get a feel of how it works:

Hi there. I'm a blogging bot
To start an entry, type '<<< ' and then the entry title...
For example: '<<< This is a Test Post'
Everything you type from then on will be part of the entry
To seperate paragraphs, use '..' on a single line
The link syntax is {link title <URI>}
I won't post any line starting with ':: '
To change the title, use '@title My New Title'
Then, to post the entry, use '>>>' on a single line
To quit an entry whilst editing, use '@quit'.

The prototype progressed nicely, and we made several quite interesting posts:

Unfortunately, it was decided that entering information from IRC was unweildy, and that the two mechanisms—IRC for input, Weblog for output—clashed in that they made you write apparently quite choppily and so on. That's obviously quite ironic now given that once again I'm writing from IRC; this very page is being scribed on an updated version of blogbot in phenny, and now crschmidt has his own version of blogbot running.

What Happened to Noets

Even though the noets prototype site itself was abandoned, the code itself carried on being developed into other of my projects. The first such project to receive its goodness was hwiki—a wiki that either I challenged myself to write in an hour or Cody did. I succeeded, and though the wiki wasn't amazing, it actually came in very handy indeed. Handy to the extent that I eventually made it into pwyky, which serves now as the basis for this site, eph. So eph can trace its lineage all the way back to noets.

Not only that, though, but the original noets code is once again being used in a slightly updated form by Christopher Schmidt. His site, the new noets is his proving ground for new ideas, and uses the same styles and technique at the old prototype (and with better crediting!). The archives reveal some interesting posts already: for example, Images of the Past, International Shipping, and New Phone. He's even using the same botname: blogbot on Freenode, and anybody's welcome to come along and participate in it. I had to make phenny accept a slightly different syntax, "phenny: <<< title" etc., but they basically work side-by-side very nicely. You'll have to ask me if you'd like to post to eph, however, whereas noets is open to the general public.

The Future of Noets

Since the code's been around for quite a while being incorporated into other projects, it's difficult to say which directions we'll be going in next with the code, but it's fairly likely that some furtherances will result. In fact, they already have: at one point I was hacking on a rather grand replacement for pwyky, but I haven't published that code yet and it's still under development. Since eph is going so well, it's unlikely that I'll publish it all that soon.

Christopher also reminds me that he, Cody, and me hacked on "atombot" together—a new version of blogbot that allows posting to sites using the Atom API, so that it can be used on a wider range of sites. The original blogbot just used a custom REST interface which was simple but obviously not implemented anywhere other than on the prototype noets site (and now on the new noets site). Good old MoonEdit.

Incidentally, blogbot is still using the old {link title <URI>} syntax, whereas phenny is using the newer pwyky-style {URI link title} syntax. I'm not sure whether crschmidt finds the old one significantly impeding: the rationale behind it was that it makes it a lot clearer what the link syntax is, since the order is sometimes hard to recall (as anyone who remembers chump's introduction on #rdfig will attest!).


<jcowan> sbp: so a bot that performs magic would be called "goets"?

Sean B. Palmer