Radio UserLand Kick Start: Tuning in to Radio UserLand


Tuning in to Radio UserLand

Chapter 1 of the book Radio UserLand Kick Start by Rogers Cadenhead, published by Sams Publishing

Our product is designed for users; they create the pull, they have the applications. As with personal computers, two generations ago, our application is not on the radar of many IT managers in corporations. It's starting to show up, and we will have an offer for them. But first we want the hearts and minds of users, and propose to win them by giving them power they can use today, not someday in the future. -- UserLand Software founder Dave Winer

Radio UserLand is a highly touted Internet content-management system and information-gathering tool for Windows and Mac users.

The software is also, without a doubt, one of the most deceptive programs you will ever own.

Since it was launched on Jan. 12, 2002, by UserLand Software, the program has been adopted by thousands of writers and information junkies, becoming one of the biggest success stories in Silicon Valley during the "dot-com bust," a time when most of the news coming from the region's technological innovators has been cover-your-eyes and break-the-piggy-bank bad.

One of the reasons for this exemplary success is the product's $39 price tag -- most content-management software has two, three, or four zeroes in its price and is intended for corporations and other deep-pocket enterprises. UserLand offers a product for this audience, a Web server-based program called Frontier that sells for $899.

Radio UserLand, though, breaks with tradition entirely and offers professional content-management capabilities to penny-pinching personal publishers -- a group that includes you, me, the digital-camera-mad cousin, the family genealogist, and anyone else who wants to share something with a global audience on the Web.

The software is best known for three features:

  • An editor that can be used to create and publish a weblog, a revolutionary new form of personal journalism that has become a phenomenon on the World Wide Web, turning thousands of news consumers into news producers
  • A news aggregator, a tool that scours your favorite Web sites and other sources once an hour looking for their latest content, structured as XML data in a format called RSS that has been adopted by thousands of providers
  • A service that includes free Web hosting for a year, enabling a new user to begin publishing text, pictures, and other material on the Web within five minutes of installation

These features have become so popular that many of Radio UserLand's users might believe that it's just a weblog publishing and news-reading tool.

However, the truth is far more complicated than that. Radio UserLand isn't just a weblog publisher, information gathering tool, or Web hosting service.

It's also an Internet client/server, Web site editor, Web services platform, outliner, text editor, file server, email gateway, and scripting platform that supports an entire alphabet worth of networking acronyms: HTTP, HTML, XML, FTP, SMTP, POP3, XML-RPC, SOAP, RSS, and TCP. Radio UserLand is even an MP3 song file playlist manager, a bit of no-longer-promoted functionality that gave the software its name and provided inspiration to its developers. The program manages to be all of these things (among others) because it's really an integrated development environment and object database that's designed for the rapid development of Internet software. Such as a weblog editor. Or a news aggregator. Or ...

Jon Udell, an InfoWorld editor and day-one Radio UserLand user, described it this way in Byte Magazine:

Like other script- and template-driven Web programming environments, Radio is extensible in a million different ways. Since it does not function primarily as a server, but rather as a client-based tool for writing and Web site management, it may not be immediately obvious why, never mind how, to extend it. Here's why: because optimization and customization of our writing and communication tools is one of the great challenges of the decade. None of the Web's amazing programmability does us a lick of good when it comes to improving how we communicate, since we still communicate mainly in fixed-function email clients that we can't layer interesting applications on top of.

Radio UserLand Kick Start describes this amazing example of stealth technology in full, covering the best-known features such as the weblog editor and news aggregator, showing how they work under the hood, documenting the object database and programming language, and explaining how to fine-tune these features and take the program into new areas, Internet protocols, and functionality.

Chapter 1:

  1. Introduction
  2. Using Radio UserLand
  3. Starting the Application
  4. Reading XML Information Sources
  5. Extending Radio's Capabilities
  6. Finding Documentation
  7. Extending Radio with Tools
  8. Publishing Files Automatically
  9. Summary

Radio UserLand Kick Start home page