Well Chris broke the news about, Habari, a new open source blogging CMS platform. While he didn’t want feel it correct to mention in the post who was involved, I’m going to step forward and put my hand up as the designated pixel pushing monkey of this motley crew.

What I find amusing is that as this news was released by Chris, I read this post about how any new blogging software would not stand a chance because of WordPress. Man I love a fucking challenge. I mean reading that post you’d think we’d be fools to even consider making a WordPress alternative. I guess all I can say to that is: Colour us DAMN foolish.

History Lesson

Back in November Chris approached a few of us to see who would be up for helping design for the new project he was working on. His timing couldn’t have been better to be honest with you. See I had a MASSIVE itch that just needed to be scratched. I had definitely not said everything that needed to be said about blogging administration panels, especially since the last one I was actively involved with didn’t exactly go exactly the way it should have.

I felt pretty burnt the last time round to be honest, so much so that I really thought it was best for me to steer well clear of any open source involvement in the future. However like I said in that post the most important thing that I got out of the online experience was the collaboration with the guys. If it was anyone else asking me to do something apart from Michael, Joen and Chris I’d have probably declined there and then. I didn’t join the team because I didn’t have anything better to do (as it will become clear in the coming months), but alas because I really want to create something that I can be proud to have been involved with and that I will find a joy to use. Something that I can contribute towards and that others can contribute towards as well in an open fashion.

So when Chris came forward I was all too happy to say yes. Considering that I had actually contacted another developer (I’m not going to mention him by name but needless to say he was also having a similar itch which says a lot about how things stand in the current open source blogging world) about starting our own blogging CMS, it was interesting that others around me felt the need for an alternative as well.

Shuttle vs Habari

The great thing about the Habari project is the fact that it’s a clean slate. Imagine starting on the ground floor. There were no presidencies, no set stringent codebase that couldn’t be altered, no existing userbase that might be confused and the list goes on. This is a decidedly different beast than Shuttle.

Those who don’t learn from the past end up repeating the mistakes again and again. So my approach to the graphical development of Habari is slightly different. Simply put, I’m going to be as transparent about the design process as you can imagine. I’ve seen several times in the past couple of months on the project, that through being open about the design I’ve been able to seriously move it forward in ways that I very well might not have considered. Ideas are what will make things move forward. At the same time it’s important that one person takes the bull by the horns and really goes to town on the design. Others should jump in with as many suggestions as possible, all the time because that’s how the innovation will continue and the project will not stagnate.

The Design

I will be going into a lot more detail in future posts regarding all the design decisions and what everything does and how it all fits together, so be patient, it’ll all pay off in the long run I promise. As we’ve only recently kind of decided about colours (although knowing me I will probably tweak them, but I’m trying to be very good about this and sticking with this colour scheme), posting this will give people a feel of the quality of final product we’re going for (and I’m not going to even talk about the code, the others are more than capable of that).


The following jpg is but a mockup, however Chris has implemented a fair chunk of this believe it or not (with probably like a 2 week old mock up), I’m telling you the man is a machine that will not be stopped. His dedication has forced me to make sure that I bring my very best to the table. It’s a bit of pressure that I’m actually relishing. Keeps me honest about things.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve got ideas you think the ultimate BLOGGING CMS should have drop a comment, I’d love to hear what ideas everyone has and what’s important to them as a user. What is it about your current blogging software that you wish could be simplified/improved, I’m all ears.


  1. If I am a machine, it is only in response to the overwhelming need to see your beautiful ideas in a browser. I knew if you came on board that great things would happen.

    I am just enjoying the ride my friend.

    1 Chris J Davis
    Quote | 7/1/2007
  2. This sounds hot.

    To be honest, it seems like the WordPress folks (I’m speaking about Automattic and associates, mostly) care mostly about WordPress.com now more than WordPress.org, since they see big bucks with WordPress.com.

    I’m also not afraid to say that that Mullenweg fellow has pulled a few stupid moves over at WordPress.com that make him seem like a real asshole. The Garland theme fiasco is only just the most recent.

    I use WordPress for my site, but I would switch to something better in an instant, especially to get away from all of the drama associated with WordPress at the moment. So, good luck to all you guys involved with Habari. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

    2 k0ma
    Quote | 7/1/2007
  3. This is interesting for so many reasons, and I can’t wait to see where this is going.

    It is especially interesting because having learned the inner workings of Wordpress, I find myself using it at work as well — be it for setting up an internal dev blog, or recommending it to some customers. That said, Habari could be more interesting for the very fact that it looks to have a focus on “simpler”, meaning also simpler for the customer.

    Again, best of luck.

    3 Joen
    Quote | 7/1/2007
  4. K0ma - What’s the deal with the Garland theme? Obviously I’ve been out of the loop on all things wp.com related as I really don’t have any interest in that aspect of the software to be honest.

    Joen - Yeah, throughout the design it was all about making sure that if it’s not needed or necessary for your every day use it could be removed/hidden put in a place that is well associated. We’ve still got a way to go and things are changing at a quick rate, but that can be attributed to all of us really wanting to start using a better/lighter/simpler system now. There’s a lot of energy going on now, and hopefully that fire will be fed more and more as we get closer to a release.

    4 Khaled
    Quote | 7/1/2007
  5. Khaled: “Garland” is the name of the new default theme for Drupal 5. You can read about the saga here and get the theme developer’s side of the story here.

    Basically, Mullenweg had it ported to WordPress.com and uploaded for users to use, despite the Drupal developer asking that it not be ported until after Druapl 5 was released. To add salt to the wound, Mullenweg then plastered his name on the theme, making it look like the whole thing was HIS handiwork.

    The whole situation is disgusting and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Apparently Brian from Avalonstar was fired over an incident involving this theme. The whole thing stinks, and I’m beginning to hate the people at the top of the WordPress food chain.

    There’s always been things I hated about WordPress. I delete the RSS feeds in the dashboard because I couldn’t care less about what Matt and his cronies babble about, unless it’s about WordPress itself, and that’s what the devblog is for. Also, the fact that they oh-so-innocently insert themselves as a new WP installation’s blogroll is a bit underhanded and certainly explains why they all have such good Google pageranks.

    People like to make WordPress.com out to be some sort of ultra-cool and elite blogging platform, just because “A-list” bloggers like Scoble use it, when in reality it’s nothing but LiveJournal for Web 2.0 hipsters. The way they treat their users like idiots is appalling. Charging money to make CSS edits? Right, whatever.

    Good luck to you and the other Habari devs. You’re obviously a very talented group and I can’t wait to try Habari out.

    5 k0ma
    Quote | 7/1/2007
  6. fwiw, i don’t know that bryan’s firing was related to the incident. but it certainly removed the only voice of common decency from the chain of events.

    anyway, i’m very excited to see this project. i think there’s still plenty of room in the field, and it would be great to see design by something other than a clique.

    6 adam
    Quote | 7/1/2007
  7. I certainly like the look of the admin page you posted. I’d be very interested in this, I don’t really understand php and the like and the google page makes it sound very interesting and easy to use for people like me. Is there hope of a website for it? Would be interested in helping if I can although I believe my coding knowledge is pitiful, but on the Graphics side is another matter.

    7 Phil Bowell
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  8. Phil Bowell said:

    I certainly like the look of the admin page you posted. I�d be very interested in this, I don�t really understand php and the like and the google page makes it sound very interesting and easy to use for people like me. Is there hope of a website for it? Would be interested in helping if I can although I believe my coding knowledge is pitiful, but on the Graphics side is another matter.

    Phil jump onto the irc channel, #habari and we’ll talk, there’s always need for more stuff generally speaking although I will say things are looking slightly better on the design front now that Michael’s on board as well

    8 Khaled
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  9. If I could change something about my blogging platform, I’d make it faster. There’s entirely too much code. It takes an hour to FTP a new version. Working with it is like entering a horse race riding an elephant. Even browsing the finished site is slow.

    The second thing I’d do is make it more difficult to spam. Not captcha’s or any other such false security which doesn’t work nowadays. Actually spam-proof. And ideally the real commenter shouldn’t see it. Just enter your credentials and your comment and click Post.

    That should do it.

    9 Jonathan
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  10. This sounds great! Competition is great and I think that Habari will give Wordpress some nice competition further down the road. I love that you seem to be going for a more simplistic UI, and I can’t wait to test this sucker out. If I could help in anyway I would.

    10 Kory Twaites
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  11. I’m the author of the pro-WordPress article you linked to/read above and a contributing developer to WordPress.

    I hadn’t heard of Habari, but it looks like an exciting project. I immediately grabbed the source from the SVN, and I love your license. However, what I’m seeing now is very far from what I see on Chris’ blog - it’s largely broken. But I see the makings of a fine blogging platform, and I’m certainly keeping my eyes peeled and updating my SVN every day.

    Please shoot me an email over at - I’m dedicated to WP because it’s the best there is now, and I am more than willing to take part in such a project. I can’t find Chris’ email, or I’d contact him directly.

    11 Computer Guru
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  12. I beleive you better start a new CMS rather than just another CMS for blogging. My understanding is that any blogger once decides to have smth more than just a blog; therefore, the new application must be a broader CMS, not just for blogging. That would bring more attention from developers and designers.

    Finally, a strong brand is vital for making another WP and Drupal’s rival.

    Though I’m neither developer or designer, I could help you making the brand of the project if you want to.

    12 Ivan
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  13. This really looks great. I’ve yet to grab a copy from the SVN, but I sure will the moment I get time.

    Great work, keep it up!

    13 Indranil
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  14. Ivan said:

    I beleive you better start a new CMS rather than just another CMS for blogging. My understanding is that any blogger once decides to have smth more than just a blog; therefore, the new application must be a broader CMS, not just for blogging. That would bring more attention from developers and designers.

    Finally, a strong brand is vital for making another WP and Drupal�s rival.

    Though I�m neither developer or designer, I could help you making the brand of the project if you want to.

    Well you can’t be a jack of all trades and be able to main a level of stealth, being small, light, easy to manage and simple, while doing all the complex things that say something like Joomla or Mambo can do. Nah I think we’re concentrating on what we want and making sure it looks to the future while at the same time does it’s required task well.

    As for the marketing of it I think that would most definitely be something we’d be interesting in hearing about.

    As always if anyone’s want to contribute in any way all they’ve got to do is drop any one of us a line or even better go on IRC #habari channel and check us out there, one (and in the coming days probably all) of the main devs is bound to be there to progress things forward.

    14 Khaled
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  15. Looks intriguing I’ll certainly be looking at a sandbox for Habari on my site at some point.

    The primary thing I’d like to see initially is seamless importing of wordpress posts, comments, pages etc and a seamless change from the visitors view, URLs, feeds etc.

    15 matthew Maber
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  16. While I remember - something Ive always wanted from WP is simple upgrade route when new versions come out; preferably a one button click n upgrade option but failing that just overwriting one folder would be OK.

    The WP system of multiple folders within folders is very frustrating and usually means I avoid upgrades for a few days.

    This hasnt really got any better since the early WP days (I first used WP in at least May 04).

    16 matthew Maber
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  17. Oh well, I cannot test it as I dont have php 5 :-(

    17 matthew Maber
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  18. I tried to test yesterday but couldn’t get the thing to work. It seems there is some switching around of folders and files that has to be done in order to get it bootable. It comes with K2 theme, though. Kinda nice; shouldn’t be too hard to port your favorite look.

    18 Jonathan
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  19. I want to be involved in this somehow. If you ever find room for me, give me a heads up.

    19 Salazar
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  20. Salazar, just come onto IRC and make yourself heard, we’re all listening :).

    20 Khaled
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  21. Hey,
    Here’s my 2 cents:
    - Easier upgrades. I am far for being blog-illiterate, but upgrading WP has become a pain. And i use it since 0.72.
    - Seamless post&comments import from WP, obviously.
    - Sustainable i18n. There was quite a i18n boom in WP, but it got kind of lost, YMHO. Plugins are usually not ready for i18n, but some “included” plugins like Akismeth add hundreds of sentences and are part of the oficial PO file. That includes real UTF8 support in the app and its plugins (quite a few WP plguins garble UTF8).
    - Community support for the aplication itself, and not mainly for CSS questions and appearence.

    21 eduardo
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  22. Oh, and last but not least: keeping permalinks as they are now is essential. And they ought to be i18n-able (for example, WP has to be hacked if one wants the word “page” in the permalinks in his own language).

    22 eduardo
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  23. I changed from wordpress because of its bloating admin interface… I changed to Mephisto which have a nice simple UI… Maybe you guys should check it out for inspiration - mephistoblog.com….

    23 Dan
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  24. All really good points guys, we’ll definitely keep these things in mind. The rest of the guys are definitely reading all these comments so keep them coming.

    24 Khaled
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  25. And by the way if you arent able or doesnt have the ability to setup a rails application you can email me and I can grant you access…

    25 Dan
    Quote | 8/1/2007
  26. Khalet!!!
    well do i have news for you!!!
    Did you know that ”habari” (n), (v)
    Comes from the swahili word for ”NEWS or HOW ARE YOU” depending on the context and intonation that the speaker chooses to adopt in a given locutionary act with the listener..something you and stathi still need to work on!

    Sponsored by Yiota and Neema Corps.

    26 yiota
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  27. I didn’t think I’d ever consider switching from WordPress, but after attending WordCamp, and the way things seem to working these days, I wouldn’t mind a new CMS to rally behind. When I first found WP I loved the community, but three years later, it’s nothing like it used to be.

    I’d love to help somehow… Perhaps with documentation? I’ve hated the WP Codex for ages, to the point that I wouldn’t go wading through there to save my life.

    I’m very good at dumbing-down tech talk for non-geeky people. When you get started on documentation, I’m all in :)

    27 lisa
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  28. I agree with Lisa. I’ve been looking to switch from WP for awhile now and I’ve been testing out a whole bunch of different CMS’ on many platforms. So when this popped into my feed reader it was like the heavens had opened up. I will be checking out Habari as soon as possible. I love where you are going with the admin by the way.

    28 Jess
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  29. Lisa/Jess - This is the begining, which is arguable the best place to start in influencing the way that the project should go, come on the IRC channel say hello and just see where it all goes. We’re definitely looking for community advocates. If you’re interested drop me a line.

    29 Khaled
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  30. Please, please, please let the theming part be a lot easier and understandable for people who don’t know PHP like me. I’ve had a lot of trouble with theming Wordpress.

    30 Rachel
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  31. I’m new to IRC, so, how to find & join your channel?

    31 Ivan
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  32. I suggest more integrated search and if there was an internal framework.

    32 Abhijit Nadgouda
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  33. Yow specify at clear letters that it’s a “blogging cms”.
    But I think that the main power of WP is the templating system, that allows a “site-in-a-template” approach, using the WP backend.

    I’ve designed a few websites using this approach. If you could “abstract” it a little, it could be an amazing blogging platform, but with also a great expressive power: simple yet powerful backend.

    Two functions are required in WP to do this:
    1. custom “The_Loop” function, callable from everywhere: it creates a custom loop, where you can use ANYTHING usable in the main “The_Loop” but on a custom db query (sorted by date, category, …).
    2. category/page/tag matching: a function that allows matching a page to a category. So you can open a page and call a custom The_Loop on the category specified by the page.

    Note that pages are hierarchic. So with this structure you can build quite any kind of website… using the WP engine, with all its tools/plugins/etc.

    This is a sort of “hack” I’ve developed: if this could be native in Habari, this will be simply amazing… :)

    33 Folletto Malefico
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  34. Molis pira habari poso megalo einai auto to project. pun intended.

    34 Fadi Aboualfa
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  35. Great news! I’ve got experience with WP, Blogger and VOX and I must admit I’m very curious about this project.

    I’m also very excited and impressed by your open and honest approach this early in the project. It sets a positive and promosing tone which I hope you’ll live up to.

    How soon until a non-programmer can install a working version?

    35 Tommy Sollén
    Quote | 9/1/2007
  36. I think that the spirt behind the project is DEAD ON! Best of luck in the development… I can’t wait to be using Habari!


    36 Lance
    Quote | 11/1/2007
  37. oahhh cant wait it !

    37 kus
    Quote | 11/1/2007
  38. What we need now is an interview with Nelson Mandela (a la ubuntu) explaining what habari means in Swahili!

    38 Root
    Quote | 13/1/2007
  39. Two words: custom fields. Perhaps something more along the lines of ExpressionEngine’s custom field capabilities.

    39 Jason
    Quote | 16/1/2007
  40. Dude! Hook us up with a beta already! I can’t tell you how pumped I am for this! :)

    40 Ryan
    Quote | 19/1/2007
  41. Since The WordPress Shuttle Project did not work quite well and that admin area design is quite useful is there a way to incoporate that into Habari?

    41 Joe
    Quote | 21/1/2007
  42. Joe said:

    Since The WordPress Shuttle Project did not work quite well and that admin area design is quite useful is there a way to incoporate that into Habari?

    The Habari admin will pick up elements from the Shuttle stuff (after all same designers working on this implementation) but we’re taking a step back and having it look and function in a much simpler way. It’s all about simplicity. It’s our design mantra and I think it’ll be appreciated by all levels of users.

    42 Khaled
    Quote | 22/1/2007
  43. Don’t feed the Google Juice Addicts, advertising junkies, cloggers, sploggers, and ego maniacs… that’s all I ask. Have a default “seo” setup that blocks search engines but allows pinging blogging indexers (Technorati, etc). Blogs should be indexed by the latter. 99% of blog entries, however, do not belong in search engine indexes. There isn’t much of a way to fix how polluted the web is but at least then any joe that can get a link to his blog doesn’t show up in irrelevant search engine results.

    Obviously people that really feel they need their google juice for whatever reason or have legitimate stuff to be indexed will know enough to change that default setup if they wish.

    Also, consider when coding this that most blog entries are mainly only relavent for fairly short periods of time (blogs are mostly for or related to news, yes?). With most blogging engines it’s harder to hide old stuff away than it is to keep it around being indexed (and gaining pagerank) forever. This is why searching for something on the web usually leads you to entries that outdated by years and you have to go through an aggravating Choose Your Own Adventure style string of sites/posts before finding the most up to date info on what you’re looking for. Things like TTL, expiration, and real archives (where old time-specific posts would be put away such that you’d actually have to go in there looking for them to find them) would be good concepts to keep in mind. It’s easier to drag out and bring back to light old entries than it is to manually put away each one that is no longer relevant (if anyone were to actually do that). Again, the Google-monkies and seo freaks won’t care for even the proposal of this sort of thing… but then, without commercial intent of any sort, why bother with what that demographic cares about?

    In fact, I’d love to see one of the first steps be defining what demographic(s) this project is and isn’t for. With “blogging” being so ambiguous these days especially coupled with the letters CMS, you really need to define your scope I believe. It’s natural to not want to limit anything in any way… but obviously this project isn’t a popularity contest so it shouldn’t take too much thought to override that feeling with the logic that having certain uses for certain people in mind right up front will much better help define the outcome of the project.

    Finally, my one wish that may be totally out of that scope: personal blogging capabilities with actual fine-grained permissions and security, allowing people to control who sees what, be it only friends, family, co-workers, certain groups of friends, certain individuals, etc. on a per-item basis. Without this, personal blogging/journalling isn’t exactly all that personal. Again, it comes down to the scope of the project and who it is and is not for.

    Just my stream of very base thoughts. Best of luck… I’ll be looking more closely at the project.


    43 Jason
    Quote | 26/1/2007
  44. I would love to see Habari take on the super-multi-authored blog situations, where you hvae like 200+ authors collaborating on a single blog. WordPress and MT both have a long way to go before they manage that smoothly

    44 Paul Berry
    Quote | 20/2/2007
  45. Hello,
    I need to try HABARI, can you tell me how ?

    45 Viking KARWUR
    Quote | 21/2/2007
  46. I am very interested to see where Habari is going and I’ve personally noticed things about various other platforms that disgust me as to their commercialism. And have used various platforms, I’ve stopped blogging in the mean time and would love to try this out.

    46 Charon
    Quote | 4/3/2007

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