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While working on Blog by Email (http://blogbyemail.com) I came across the necessity to create my own HTML helper class.  For those who don’t know helper classes “…reduce the amount of tedious typing of HTML tags that you must perform to create a standard HTML page.”

The registration request form on the site was getting hit pretty hard by spam bots and I was getting tired of cleaning up the mess, so I decided to add a captcha.

ReCaptcha is what I decided on and started down the rabbit hole.  First of all there was only ASP.NET examples.  Since I was writing this in ASP.NET MVC, I wanted to use a more, “MVC” approach to it.  I came across an post on Devlicio.us named Using ReCaptcha with Asp.Net MVC.  The post covered exactly everything I need, what it was missing is details around its steps, specifically Step 5 – Create a Html Helper to build and render the Captcha control. It shows the current code and nothing else:

public static string GenerateCaptcha( this HtmlHelper helper )
{
  var captchaControl = new Recaptcha.RecaptchaControl
    {
      ID = "recaptcha",
      Theme = "blackglass",
      PublicKey = -- Put Public Key Here --,
      PrivateKey = -- Put Private Key Here --
    };
  var htmlWriter = new HtmlTextWriter( new StringWriter() );
  captchaControl.RenderControl(htmlWriter);
  return htmlWriter.InnerWriter.ToString();
}

My first thought, is cool, I can just add an HTML helper to the view to generate the captcha, this is a good approach.

First stumble, that is a method, that needs to go into a class–what class should it go in to?

No problem, I’ll just look up creating helper methods.  That was an easy search which rendered an ASP.Net site page, Creating Custom HTML Helpers.  Great, now I have my examples.  I matched it to an extension method; okay, I get that, I have used those before.  I learned the syntax and added it to my site.

It doesn’t come up in Inteli-sense.  What can it be.  I changed all kinds of things around, from renaming the class, to changing the method name.  I was wondering if it followed some naming scheme like controllers and models do.  I don’t recall it needing to.

I decided to browse though the comments, see if anyone else ran into this.  And there is was, someone named, ianchadwick mentioned a way to make the namespace global in the web.config.  Well, damn, that is it, the view doesn’t know about my namespace BlogByEmail.Helpers.  I added @using BlogByEmail.Helpers; to the top of the page, and everything fell into place.

To use the helper in the view simply use @Html.Raw(Html.GenerateCaptcha())

Html.Raw is needed to keep MVC from HTML Encoding the output.

Damn I feel dumb sometimes.  …back to my code!

For some time now I have wanted to post to a blog from an email account.  Some blog engines these days have this functionality, like WordPress and TypePad.  Some through plug-ins and some built in.  I have used the WordPress plug-in on a test installation, and it works pretty well.  Though WordPress is probably my most preferred blogging engine, most of the time when I am installing blogs, it’s on a Microsoft stack and I am not big on running PHP on Windows.  On the Windows stack I really like using Blogengine.NET.  I find it to be a very capable blogging engine.  The only problem is, at least to date, I have not found a plug-in for it to post by email.  What it does support though is XML-RPC.

With the Help of the XML-RPC.NET library and a few hours away from the family, I through together a rough blog posting application.

I added in OpenPop.NET, a popmail client library I have used in the past, and now have a way to collect emails.  Now all I needed to do is tie them all together.

The outcome is Blog by Email (http://blogbyemail.com).  An online service for setting up email accounts to post to blogging engines.  Besides looking like crap (I am using the generic MVC layout), it is functioning well. I am hoping my buddy will give me a hand coming up with a real design for the site.

The biggest challenge to setup posting to a blog is finguring out what XML-RPC entry point is, and what the blogging engine uses for the Blog Id.  The blog id is often the name of the blog, but I found in MovableType it uses the actual integer value assigned to that blog.  Bit of a pain to get that value.  A cool aspect of MovableType is that it generates a password to use for posting via XML-RPC.  A nice security feature.

Speaking of security, to protect the users entered credentials I am encrypting both usernames and passwords in the database.  Also, each user is given a unique key pair when the sign up with the service.  Little steps to make it harder to get this information in case someone does hack the application.

 

If you need to post to your blog from a POPMAIL email address, give Blog by Email a try.  The service is free (at least until it grows to the point where it needs a bigger web server).

While the site is getting off the ground and I get the code stable, registration is closed.  There is a form request an account.  I am looking for people to help test the system, so if you are interested please let me know.

Brett

http://blogbyemail.com

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