“Fortunes Mania” : A Community Quotes Sites


When I told some people on Freenode’s #perl that I had an idea for a Web 2.0 site, someone told me: “write it down, and then burn it”. But I still think it’s a good idea. So here goes.

What is “Fortunes Mania”

In a nutshell, Fortunes Mania is a community sharing sites for quotations, (or “fortune cookies” or “fortunes” as they are called in UNIX speak. People can create feeds of quotes, syndicate and aggregate them, tag and categorise them, rate and comment on them, etc.

Existing Efforts (and why they are inadequate.)

There are many quotations sites online, but most of them are not user editable. Now, The wikiquotes are the most prominent user-editable quotations wikis I know. However, being wikis they suffer from being free-form and the fact one has to parse the pages to effectively transform them into UNIX fortunes’ collection or any other machine readable form. They also suffer from lack of proper categorisation: quotes that are attributed to people are kept on the people pages, and relatively few are categorised into the topics’ pages.

The Quote Database is a collection of user-submitted IRC conversations. The problem with it is that the quotes still have to be accepted by the editors, and reportedly they have a huge backlog. The quotes are not categorised in any way, and they are all plain text.

Features of the Site

The site will allow users to register an account, and start publishing fortunes. The fortunes can be categorised into several categories and sub-categories, as well as tagged. There will be streams of fortunes (with the appropriate RSS/Atom feeds) that can be controlled and/or moderated by groups of editors (using the site’s permission system).

The Formats

Clearly the traditional text format of the UNIX fortune program is no longer satisfactory. By all means, fortunes should also contain styling, hyperlinks, various media, etc. One can think of several export formats: DocBook/XML, plain text, HTML, the various Wiki formats etc. One can also think of several import formats: plain text, IRC conversations (whose logs have variable formats), HTML snippets, the various Wiki formats, etc.

Thus, it makes sense to define an intermediate format (defined by an XML grammar) for the exchange of fortunes. The “Fortunes Mania” system will allow input in any of the input formats, will convert each one to the intermediate format (while possibly keeping the original) and will export it to the final formats on demand. I also believe this format needs to have structured markup.


Beside the web-interface (possibly facilitated by AJAX), it will probably be a good idea to supply some more convenient clients for different platforms: command line, GUI, Mozilla XUL, etc.

By defining an API, one can expect a culture of open-source and non-open-source clients to emerge eventually.


The site should supply a way to export to and from Wikiquote and other such quotes sites. For more information refer to Joel on Software’s “Let me go Back” essay.

Commercial Value

As with most Web 2.0 sites one can make money from commercials, as well as by giving the users the offer of premium accounts with more advantages.