Using Habari from a user’s perspective

I’ve been a WordPress user for the longest time. I love the easy out-of-box experience of WordPress. However, I got bored and began wanting to something else that was different from all the content management systems out there. I’ve toyed with Drupal, but there are way too many things to click just to get things done. Then, I heard about Habari again and decided to give it a try.

The installation process is actually faster than the famous 5-minute install of WordPress. Habari’s schtick is about building a solid foundation and letting plugins do the rest of the work. This is good from a developer’s perspective, but cumbersome for a user. I will delve into the reasons which are exactly why I’m struggling a little bit with Habari.

Here are the issues (for me):

1) Habari has 2 main versions: the stable version and there’s trunk version of Habari. The developers, I’m presuming, play with the bleeding edge versions a lot and this is evidenced by the large number of plugins marked ‘-trunk’ under the Plugin directory of the Habari Project.
2) Half the time, plugins I have an interest in using either: don’t work for the version of Habari they are listed for or (ii)work for the ‘bleeding edge’ version instead of the stable version. I know developers like to live dangerously, but I wish there’s be a set of tried & true plugins that will make the experience of using Habari less frustrating. I suspect things are simply being labeled wrongly.
3)For the plugins that do work, there’s no smooth way of finding out if there are upgrades except for browsing manually to the plugin folder on the Habari site or visiting the author’s page. I’d recommend providing a subscription method (which won’t scale if they get bigger) for now so that I can subscribe to updates of plugins I’m interested in.
4)Lastly, a lot of the current themes for Habari that I’ve encountered require plugins to function as intended. I’ll use the Dilection Theme as an example. Currently, this theme requires the following plugins: blogroll, monthly archives and flickrfeed. I was able to get Flickrfeed to work after much guidance from the very helpful developers at the #Habari IRC channel on Freenode. The last two simply cause the plugins.php page to emit a 1-line message about a “fatal error” and I have to manually delete the plugin folder before that message will go away.

I pride myself on having a very little bit of a technical bent, but so far, Habari’s making me feel pretty helpless. However, it’s not all gloom and doom. The Habari Project obviously hopes that competent people will be willing to step up to the plate to develop for the platform. The plugin ecosystem is what will make or break Habari and I truly hope that by this post, more people will be interested in knowing more about Habari and might even get inspired to building themes & plugins! šŸ™‚ In fact, if I visited the #Habari channel on IRC, the chances are very good that I’d stumble into one of the Habari devs and they WOULD talk me through figuring out what the problem with a particular plugin is. That’s just how awesome the Habari developers are. šŸ˜€ It’s just that after doing that 3 or 4 times, I worry about being too imposing or that I’m bugging someone.

As a content management system with a somewhat stable assortment of plugins, Habari works great. There are a few design bugs here and there, but I’m mostly happy with it and that’s why I’ve stuck with it thus far. For thiose out there who are wondering what does work with Habari 0.6.2, here are some recommended plugins I’ve got enabled & working on my blog:

  1. Code Squeezer 0.4 is the first plugin I’d recommend you install. It literally allows you to insert any code you like into the header, sidebar or footer. I use the Code Squeezer for squeezing in my Google Analytics tracking code and some super-secret other stuff. šŸ™‚
  2. The Flickr plugin comes with a default install of Habari. It’s a beauty and I highly recommend it if you have a Flickr account. Unlike the built-in Habari media management silo, the Flickr plugin allows you to insert image thumbnails and is configurable! In this post about viewing chkdsk logs, the pictures were uploaded using built-in media management utility in Habari, but it inserts the pictures at the uploaded file size! Not good behaviour at all.
  3. Habari Media Silo: I love that they built media managment into Habari, but right now, it’s rather rudimentary. If I uploaded a huge image file and wanted to insert a resized version of the picture into a post, I can’t do that right now. Yes, I could google for the html code to manually resize the picture myself, but I would recommend that they borrow a page or two from the Flickr plugin’s playbook and provide an option to insert a thumbnail of the picture or a resized version of the picture.
  4. Habari Backup 1.5 by Scott Merrill (thanks to Michael Harris, one of the cool Habari developers for turning me on to this plugin in my post on backing up data). It works as advertised and I’m sleeping much easier at nights. šŸ™‚
  5. Youtube Media Silo – need I say more? It simplifies insertion of my uploaded Youtube videos to my blog and again, it works as advertised!
  6. Smugmug Media Silo – again, excellent plugin for simplifying insertion of my media from my Smugmug account
  7. WordPress Importer – a clear must for people migrating from WordPress to Habari. They are smart to have this feature developed and working because Habari has some WordPress features in terms of the administrative backend layout.

Before I finish, I *have* to commend the Habari developer(s) behind the design of the administrative interface and the default “Charcoal” theme. Go to my front page (Jane Talks Tech!) and you can see how tasteful the greys and text mix together. In composing a post, I love how the focus is on the title bar and the textarea for entering your blog post or page. Any plugins that are enabled are simply available in a row of clickable buttons and they expand very gracefully when clicked. If you are curious about what I’m talking about, take a chance and install Habari. Before moving my tech. blog over to Habari, I installed several test installations of Habari and had a chance to make sure that there were no showstopping hindrances to successfully running my blog with Habari. So far so good. I hope this post will be seen in the light of constructive criticism with which it was meant.

Shoutout of members of the Habari cabal who have helped me on my road to becoming a Habari user (andyc, michaeltwofish, dmondark, mikelietz, lildude, rmullins, ringmaster, and many others in the #Habari channel on the Freenode IRC server! šŸ™‚

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Jane Ullah

I wear many hats. In no particular order, I am a: wife, geeky blogger, a twitter-happy aspiring photographer, and passionate about things I believe in.