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by Glenn Franxman, Django Developer / Stunt Programmer.

The power of Zero

posted: 2007-02-14 22:43:24 perma-link, RSS comments feed

So I've been on this minimalism kick for a couple weeks. Basically applying a "less is more" philospophy to software. This time I'm building a site that has no content of its own, no network configuration of its own, no database, etc. I'm trying to build it completely out of reusable components that themselves use sensible defaults allowing for zero-configuration deployments with the flexibility to allow them to be controlled in cases requiring advanced control.

You can see it at In fact you can see it at,too. You can use any word you like and add to the end and get the site. Behind the scenes it will use your word to fetch headlines from Business listings and photos come from within a 15 mile radius of the 37922 zipcode. I built it all using django and yahoo APIs. The latin text is random and supplied via a nice library I'm building called mockup and loremipsum.

The components I'm building allow me do things as simple as {% loremipsum %} and poof -- you get one to six random passages from Cicero's De finibus bonorum et malorum, "On the ends of the good and the evil." There's a lot of history tied to that text and the world of print that has made its way into online culture 2052 years later.

Images are now as simple as {% yahoo_images query="knoxville",hostname %} and headlines come via {% yahoo_local query=hostname site="" %}. Business listings come compliments of {% yahoo_local query=hostname radius="15" zip="37922" %}. Add in some clever templating and css to handle their default output and viola!

After I clean up some of the some of the code to where I like it, I plan on making the layout more theme-able to work like the css zen garden on steriods. I'm not much of a graphic designer, so I'm lifting the look and feel from other sources like

After that, perhaps I'll look at mochikit or jquery as ways to add prev/next/more functionality to the widgets so all of this information can be browsed from the context of that page without require complete refreshes.

As it stands, that was one night's work and it is running on a machine with only 256 MB of ram. How's that for minimalist?

Given that I find writing code easier than writing english, by the time I publish this entry, I will likely have spent more time describing the site than it took to build it.

Where this seems to be working really well is host names like:

Glenn Franxman said on 2007-02-16 09:58:14:
Where this seems to be working really well is host names like:

Glenn Franxman said on 2007-02-15 13:47:05:
I'm guessing you mean yahoo pipes. Quality datasources can still be hard to find. Re: similarity to domain sqatters' sites. Yeah, it is very similar in both concept and execution. But as a tool to figuring out how SEO and SEM really works, I think this will prove quite fruitful. If nothing else it serves as a proving ground for the Mockup toolkit I'm building so I can prototype sites very quickly and very cheaply.

Chuck said on 2007-02-15 11:09:29:
Slick, although it seems like only a few words really work nicely at this point -- football and cars were pretty good. Crime not so much. It sort of reminds me of the pages domain registrars put up for unused domains/squatters. geoffeg was encouraging me towards Yahoo Tubes this morning. I'm not really in a coder mode these days so I didn't play with it much, but he was doing some cool stuff with bittorrent feeds.

jack lail said on 2007-02-15 08:47:07:
That has some awesome potential. Beyond the minimalistic manifesto (which is pretty powerful for those of us not yet quite the size of Yahoo and Google), the consumer doesn't really care if we created or host the information, they want to find interesting things organized in a coherent way. If it can mean that test, it's media.



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