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Pressed

Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Dave!For better or worse, this blog is now running on WordPress.

Migrating was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. I was dreading converting all my templates because Movable Type has a far easier template language to work with. Much to my delight, it took me just under two hours. Much to my horror, the comments display looks like complete shit. And the comment form is wonky. I've spent around SIX HOURS trying to fix everything, but WordPress uses a stupid fucking HTML List Element to output comments, and all attempts to figure out how to style it have failed. I've read dozens of tutorials and read loads of documentation, but nothing works, and I have no idea why. So... something left to do, I guess.

Anyway... for anybody wanting to dump Movable Type and switch to WordPress, I have notes.

DATA
Movable Type's "Export" function has always been incomplete and terrible. They tried to fix this with a "Backup" function, but I was never able to get it to work. Ever. Part of the problem is that my hosting company, Media Temple, has a pathetically small time-out value for their Grid Hosting. If you have more than a couple hundred entries, this means Media Temple will never get to finish the job. So there goes my hopes of spending $49 at TP2WP.com for a quick and dirty conversion of my entries and comments to WordPress. Fortunately, Mihai at Pro-IT-Service has near-miraculous knowledge of all things Movable Type, and I was able to hire him to do the job for me for a reasonable fee (considering I have over 4,000 entries and nearly 52,000 comments!). He did a flawless job. Permalinks were preserved. Extended entries were merged to WP format. Categories were not only preserved, but he provided an .htaccess file update so that referrers to my categories would be redirected to a WordPress-friendly URL. Just like his previous work for me, Mihai totally delivered, and I couldn't be happier.

MIGRATION
My hosting company allows me to host multiple domains on my account. All I have to do is create a folder in my "domains" directory, point my NameServers to their servers, and I'm done. This made it dead-simple to install WordPress in an unused domain, then just rename its folder to "blogography.com" after Mihai migrated my data. All I had to do then was let WordPress know that its domain had changed and I was done. For some reason I thought it would be a lot more difficult.

STATIC
One of the things that I really, really liked about Movable Type was the option to go with statically-generated honest-to-goodness html files. You can do this with WordPress by using a clever plugin, but that adds a lot of overhead when you're working on converting your templates and are making lots of changes. For now, I plan on leaving things dynamic. But the security of having static html files that will still work even if your database craps out is something I'm too paranoid to resist for long. Even so, I am using the W3 Total Cache plugin so WordPress serves up pages more efficiently in the meanwhile.

SECURITY
Something you're forced to learn when switching from Movable Type to WordPress is that securing your site is a big deal. I learned this the hard way when I converted DaveCafe as a WordPress blog... and got hacked in four days. Yes, four days. I installed a bunch of security plugins to help clean up all the malicious code and my database, but was hacked again the following month. Eventually I just locked down WordPress completely by editing my .htaccess file so the back-end is completely inaccessible. Which means in order to work on DaveCafe, I first have to edit my .htaccess file. Then edit it back. Every time. It's a pain, but I only update the site a few times a year, so I can live with it. Obviously, this is not an option for a blog I'm updating every day. Enter the Better WP Security plugin. It seems comprehensive, so I'm hopeful. Then again, I've only been running for one day...

BACKUP
Back when I first began with my web hosting company, Media Temple, they had a backup tool included. But then they switched to their "Grid" service and backup was dropped. I never understood why. This is a BASIC FUCKING FUNCTION that even the cheapest hosting companies offer. Years later Media Temple managed to finally get around to it, but you have to pay for their premium "CloudTech" service to get it. At least you did. I have no idea what the situation is now. In any event, I'm done with dealing with this crap, so I'm using the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin to keep my data safe.

COMMENT SPAM
I frickin hate... HATE... CAPTCHAs. Every time I go to comment on a blog and I see I have to interpret some crazy-ass bullshit in order to post, I think twice about whether I want to put in the effort. To avoid this on my Movable Type blog, I used some javascript code called Obfuscator that passed code from the comment form to prove the comment was manually generated instead of a spambot. I haven't yet figured out how to use it with WordPress, so I'm relying on the included "Akismet" plugin to catch spam for me until I do. So far, so good. Akismet has blocked 32 pieces of comment spam in 6 hours. If this keeps up, I won't worry about figuring out Obfuscator after all.

SUPPORT
Going from a fringe product like Movable Type that few personal bloggers are using anymore... to a 10-ton gorilla like WordPress that everybody is using... well, it's quite an adjustment to make. I'm simply not used to having such a huge community available with instant answers to even my most bizarre problems. But the best part of WordPress is ACTUALLY DOCUMENTATION! Movable Type always had shit for documentation, and it's wonderful to not have to worry about putting up with outdated, shitty docs any more.

DEVELOPMENT
Another reason I'm ecstatic to finally be rid of Movable Type? WordPress has an active development community. Plugins are plentiful and current. You can extend functionality in just about every conceivable way. Finding new themes for you site design is easy... whether you want something free... or to pay for something more. And the apps! WordPress is well-supported because so many people are using it. My third-party blogging software, MarsEdit, barely supports Movable Type. Subcategories never worked right. A lot of features weren't supported. But with WordPress? An entirely different story. Everything works flawlessly. I can use categories again!

PAGES
WordPress has an irritating schema that omits the ".html" extension on Pages. I have no idea why since they have no problems appending it to Posts, but there it is. It isn't too big of a problem... slapping some 301 redirects in my .htaccess file fixed the problem nicely. Which is a good thing, since Google's Custom Search refuses to work without it.

TEMPLATES
And now we've come full-circle to WordPress template-building. As I said, Movable Type has the upper hand here in a big way because they use simple tags. WordPress uses PHP code snippets. Which makes getting anything out of WordPress a bit more difficult (and, in the case of formatting comments, a hell of a lot more difficult). Still, once you get the hang of it, it's not too bad. Just not as easy as it could be.

LINKS
When you've been blogging for 11 years, you're bound to accumulate a few broken links. Thanks to a plugin called Broken Link Checker, I now know I have 1,214 of them. Most are from people who left comments linking to their blog... which no longer exists. Kind of sad to see so many sites having died. I remain amazed mine isn't one of them.

CONCLUSION
Ultimately, I'm happy with the move. If the plugins I'm using will keep spammers and hackers at bay, I'll be very happy. My only regret is that I didn't do this much sooner. If you have a solution for migrating your data from Movable Type to WordPress, this isn't a difficult decision to make. The resources, tools, and activity benefits are pretty much a no-brainer.

   
And now I should probably work on getting my Archives page running, my comments formatted, and my comment form working... but it's past midnight and I'm all WordPressed out for the night.

P.S. Originally, I had coded big purple X's before all my posts on the WordPress blog so I could easily tell which site I was working on. After a couple hours, I actually grew to like them there (especially when scrolling through a long list of posts) so I think I'll keep 'em!

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Comments

  1. val says:

    wow so much work….all I can say is I appreciate it. I enjoy your blog, brings a smile on most occasions and thought producing on others. Keep up the good work…oh and can I say you are such a geek to know this stuff…..wow.

    snowed in, down in Atlanta, finally sun shine and should be 60 by Wed…c a n n o t wait for winter to be over

    val

  2. NYCWD says:

    Wow. Aside from the wonky comment display, I can barely notice the difference!

    Great job!

  3. NYCWD says:

    Wait. Did my comment just automatically appear? How can this be? No more Shamrock Dave???

    THAT is a big change.

  4. martymankins says:

    First, major accolades to the time you put in to making this WP blog look pretty much identical to your MT blog. Had to do a double take here.

    I’ve been running Better WP Security for a while now. For almost 6 years, never been hacked (before and after I installed the Better WP Security plugin). I also use the plugin WP Ban, which I use to input a nice list of IP addresses that are common to hackers (I’m sure it’s a bit outdated for some, but it’s got me through the years.)

    And yes, I know you are still working on the comments, but I had to say the following: “My avatar is all smooshed. Wait, so is Becky’s.”

  5. Guv says:

    Hey Dave … Looking good .. I don’t know if you know … or if you planned it that way .. but your comment box extends beyond the width of your page.

  6. Guv says:

    Well in Chrome Version 32.0.1700.107 m anyway!

  7. Neil Turner says:

    Glad to hear the switch meant mostly okay !

  8. Who squashed everyone’s heads?!?

  9. Glad you took the plunge too! And bloody fantastic job making everything look almost identical to how it was before. Seriously that’s something to be proud of. Like Marty I also had to do a double take ;-)

    If you find Akismet not keeping up with your spam situation or find it overwhelming, the ‘Bad Behavior’ plugin is rather handy for keeping “the bad things” away from being able to comment in the first place.

  10. Göran says:

    Wow, cool with the move to WordPress. I thought with your massive amounts of posts and all that it would be much more work! Do keep an eye on the backup plugin. They all seem to not work properly without giving any good warnings (learnt the hard way). Do the occasional backup from within WP and download it to your computer. And, if you maintain a few different WP sites managewp.com is the place to be at.

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