Russ Lipton Documents Radio ...


Every great software product deserves great documentation.

Radio's docs must be as vivid, real and engaging as the product itself. How better to reach this goal than by giving you a documentation weblog that enriches Radio's own Help system?

As well as teaching you how to use Radio, you will learn by example how to write, edit and manage your own weblog.

Five Minutes To Weblog ...

Like any weblog, mine offers a strong point-of-view. Ready?

Radio is, in my opinion, the world's best weblogging application.

Radio allows you to use a tool with which you are already comfortable - your Web browser - to create-and-edit weblog posts and stories, manage subscriptions to other weblogs, select or alter design themes and fine-tune Radio through the Preferences system to your own working style.

Most of us discovered to our delight that we raced from downloading Radio to our first successful weblog post in five minutes or less. This was no accident. The best computing tools get out of the way so we can do what we want to do without noticing they are there.

Okay (you may think), that's fine but when does the hard stuff kick in?

It doesn't.

My twelve-year old son maintains his weblog day-after-day without any more computer knowledge than it took to get to the five-minute mark with Radio.

A Platform To Explore ...

If you are like me, you will find yourself saying a few minutes after that first weblog post, "this is cool but I wonder if I can do ... ?"

The answer is almost surely "yes'.

You can often 'turn on' the features you want (categories, for instance) in Radio's extensive Prefs system. More features can be found slightly below the visible surface in Radio's powerful desktop application. If not, third-party Radio developers have created a host of tools that extend Radio's features ... and are dreaming up new tools every day. You might become one of these developers yourself someday.

Really, my unsolicited praise of Radio in the section above was not worded strongly enough:

Radio is the world's best weblogging application AND publishing platform.

Based on robust UserLand technology proven over more than a decade, Radio's desktop application also includes a web server, a complete content management system, a full-blown scripting language and a complete object database.

Radio not only adheres to Internet standards but pioneered many of them, thanks to UserLand's work over the years with protocols like RSS, XML-RPC and SOAP. You don't need to understand these acronymns but it's nice to know that the core Internet strategy of companies like IBM and Microsoft now rely on the work of UserLand and a few other visionaries.

Getting Up to Speed ...

These docs as well as Radio's own Help system will get you started on this pleasurable journey. Over time, I (really, we) will give you more. An entire community of fellow Radio webloggers stand ready to help us with our explorations. 

Meanwhile, let's begin with a simple map that orients you to Radio's terrain:

1. Create and edit your weblog.

I almost mis-spoke here. You don't have to create your own weblog. Radio has already built a weblog for you. All you have to do is post to your prebuilt weblog.

To be a bit more precise, Radio assembles a 'default' weblog for you from a set of supplied components. These include design templates, a visual theme, a calendaring device to archive and retrieve your posts, automatically scheduled publishing events and - not least - free space on a UserLand Community Server so people around the world can find and enjoy your work.

2. Subscribe to news and information channels.

You can allow other webloggers to subscribe to some or all of the content on your weblog. When you post, your weblog notifies subscribing weblogs and distributes the changed content to them. Subscribers can click to repost your news items directly to the home page of their own weblog. Of course, you can also subscribe to other weblogs and return the favor.

Increasingly, mainstream media and other 'classical' websites are making their content accessible to Radio users. Notably, The New York Times offers exclusive rights to you as a Radio users to receive real-time updates of their content directly to your weblog. Who woulda thunk it?

Not so coincidentally, UserLand was a co-author of the RSS specification that makes all this possible. Innovative uses of this technology are emerging steadily. As one instance, Radio now supports multiple-weblog authoring. This allows writers to send posts from their weblogs through RSS to a weblog (yours?) that serves as the central collection-and-editing source for that content.

3. Manage your weblog with shortcuts, themes and templates.

Customizing your weblog over time is a big part of the fun. Nearly every element of Radio's environment (and your weblog) can be inspected, edited or redesigned to suit your objectives and tastes.

For example, you can ask Radio to take titles that you give to your posts or stories and create shortcut lists. Then, you can refer to these shortcuts in other content, counting on Radio to build automatic links from the shortcut titles to the related posts or stories. Or, you can define your own shortcuts ... including shortcuts to other web sites, frequently used texts or graphics.

UserLand supplies a set of prebuilt themes (design looks) that you can apply at a moment's notice to your weblog. Or, you can download themes made by other Radio designers. Or, you can make your own - and share the spiffiest ones with other Radio users.

Radio's templates define the structural pieces of your weblog. Your texts (posts and stories) are poured into these templates whenever your weblog is published. These include such elements as your weblog title, description, calendar, navigation links and more. The different templates contain one another (posts in the item templateare contained within your home page template) and/or apply to different contexts (for instance, you will want to see Radio menus on your local home page but not on the home page displayed to your readers).

4. Define categories to create weblog sections or new weblogs.

Do you want to create multiple weblogs? Use Radio's categories feature to tailor different weblogs to different audiences. Or, you may want multiple sections within one of these weblogs to cover a variety of different topics. Again, use categories. (Of course, each category can boast its own themes and templates as well as unique texts and graphics).

Once you have defined a category, you can direct new-or-edited weblog posts to that (or multiple) categories. The next upstreaming event then publishes those posts to each category's public location.

(The same post can be published to your weblog on UserLand's Community Server as well as to another location on the Internet which hosts your content. Or, entirely different posts can be directed to different categories. You make all the choices.)

5. Use Radio's desktop application for outlining and content management.

The browser-based application that drives your weblog is layered over a full-blown publishing and content management environment tuned for this task over more than a decade.

While you are never required to dive into the desktop application, it offers you (and Radio's eager third-party developers) a wide-open pathway for building powerful tools that extend the product's reach. Many developers already offer simple yet powerful tools that can be dropped into your copy of Radio at no cost.

The desktop application is noted for its elegant and consistent outlining model. Not only are Radio's object databases and complete scripting language integrated with outlining, but you can use the onboard outliner to create, edit and render your own weblogs - or, indeed, other more 'classic' websites as well. This is hardly a surprise - Dave Winer's ThinkTank pioneered the entire category of outliners on personal computer more than twenty years ago.

Though the desktop application is hidden from immediate view, UserLand envisions tighter integrations between weblogging, outlining, instant messaging and publishing that will expose more of the platform's power in the coming years. Meanwhile, use as much or as little of that extra power as you like. It comes for free (literally) with Radio itself. 

Join the Community ....

As you use Radio, you will come up with questions that aren't covered in the documentation - yet. Here are some tips for sharing your expertise with us as we share ours with you:

First, check out UserLand's own online support forum. Your question will probably be answered the same day it is asked. All questions are worthy. If you don't understand the answer, ask again.

Second, email me ... not only with questions but with suggestions about topics that still deserve coverage.

Third, post your questions and (even better) your discoveries about Radio to your own weblog so all of us can benefit from your growing expertise. Let me know where to find your posts so I can incorporate them over time into the docs.

Finally, always remember the "five-minute rule" -

It only takes five minutes to install Radio and create a weblog. You need never learn more and yet still publish the best weblog in the world.

Never forget what your weblog is all about - speaking in your own voice to me, your loved ones, your business associates and to future friends you don't yet know on the other side of the planet.

It doesn't get any cooler than this.

© Copyright 2002 Russ Lipton. Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.
Last update: 06/16/2002; 10:58:49 PM.