Switching to WordPress

For those who care about such things, I migrated this blog from Movable Type to WordPress. Why the switch? For starters, my MT install was starting to accumulate quite a bit of cruft, and it was taking increasingly long to post to the blog. Furthermore, attempts to weed out comment spam were blocking legitimate commenters, and a reliance on some non-standard tweaks to the system were resulting in some difficult-to-diagnose errors. None of these, strictly speaking, are Six Apart’s issues (Six Apart is the company behind MT); they’re a combination of me using the application for 3 years (and at least 4 upgrades in that time) and me hacking away at the site infrequently.

And, it should be said, I like playing with new tools. I started this blog on Blogger, within three months moved to Radio, and a year later converted to Movable Type. It’s been three years with Movable type, and I’ve really liked the app… but it was time to play around with something new. More on the switch, what I did to ensure a smooth transition, and my early reactions after the jump.The install was insanely easy. It requires a minimal amount of tech expertise, and the site was up and running in about 5 minutes. The first step was to import my Movable Type blog into WordPress; Movable Type exports its entire database into a text file; my blog (posts plus comments) was about 4.5 megs. I broke that file up into 3 parts, then imported each one at a time.

One challenge when moving from blog app to blog app is maintaining permalinks (that is, the link to the individual page for each entry on the blog). I’d made some significant changes to the way Movable Type handled permalinks, and in order to preserve all inbound links (i.e., from other blogs) as well as referrals from Google searches, it was critical that WordPress output the same permalinks as Movable Type.

It turns out that this was rather doable, though it took one false start. WordPress gives you the ability to change your permalink structure, and even lets you use your post title as part of the permalink (this is indeed how I configured Movable Type). However, WordPress inserts hyphens between words in a title, and I’d set up Movable Type to use underscores. WordPress has a great plugin architecture, and there’s an aptly named underscore permalinks plugin… but it’s only effective for posts created after you activate the plugin. Having already imported all of my Movable Type posts, I had to delete the database and start over.

With the permalink solution in place, I re-imported the Movable Type posts (all 2300 of them, plus another 3,000 comments) and the content came over without a hitch. Kudos to both Six Apart for providing a simple export feature, and to WordPress for making the import process seamless.

Next potential hiccup: I’d come to rely on Brad Choate’s Textile plugin, which, among other things, greatly simplifies the HTML markup you need to write when posting to a blog. As a result, instead of including actual HTML in my entries, many of them included words in quotes with a URL following a colon (the format that Textile takes hyperlinks in). Once again, a quick Google search revealed a WordPress plugin to handle Textile-formatted posts, and a spot check verified that all of my old posts were being properly translated to HTML on the fly. Sweet.

I grabbed Steve Smith’s FeedBurner plugin (mainly to see how it worked, since it’s a source of quite a bit of interest from first-time WordPress and/or FeedBurner users), and updated FeedBurner to monitor the new URL that Steve’s plugin provides (instead of the old URL I’d set up for FeedBurner with Movable Type). (Feed subscribers, if you’re seeing this, it just means that the conversion worked and was seamless for you. If you’re not seeing this, well, how am I talking to you?)

At Eric’s suggestion, I browsed over to the catalog of WordPress themes, and picked a simple, 3-column design for the blog. It’s overly simple right now, but it’s at least a framework that gives me plenty of flexibility to play around.

WordPress has a built-in blogroll feature, so I assembled a quick list of blogs I read on a regular basis, and added a few categories in to help add a little structure to the list. I’ll be adding to this list quite a bit over the next few weeks.

I’ve got a few items I’ll try and pick off over the next couple weeks as I get used to WordPress. If you’ve read this far, and you care about my take on the app: very, very elegant. I got to know Movable Type pretty well in the 3 years I used it as my blogging platform; I’m now looking forward to better understanding WordPress and its approach to blogging. I’ve already seen a number of features that make a ton of sense, and I have a feeling it’ll serve me well. End result for readers? It should mean that it’s easier to read, more functional, and easier to leave comments. Let’s see.

3 responses to “Switching to WordPress”

  1. Wow, Rick.. The site looks awesome!The more you play with it, you'll love WordPress even more. It's nice to not have to “rebuild” anymore. 🙂

  2. Yeah, gotta agree that the lack of rebuilding is a huge plus. The difference in publishing is about 5 seconds for WordPress vs. 1-2 minutes for Movable Type. I know MT has a “dynamic” publishing option, but my periodic attempts to get it working never panned out…So far, I'm really impressed. Just about every “gee, I wonder if I could…” thought has had a plugin already built that took all of 2 minutes to install and configure.

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