Technology Weblogging

Weblog tweaks: tool independence

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Once upon a time, a weblogger was defined by the tool they used as much as the type of material they published and the style of writing they favored. We were, and many still are, a fiercely loyal bunch when it comes to the software that help us publish our thoughts to the world.

But things happen.

We barely brushed the afterbirth from comments before the spammers hit; people became successful writing the software, or got tired of writing the software, and that changed the dynamics between tool giver and tool taker; open source tools came, and went, and then returned, either with a whisper or a shout. Over time, the packs that moved en masse from one tool to another begin to splinter here and there, and the tenuous bonds of loyalty between tool maker and tool user began to fade. Now, to most people, weblogging software is just that…software. And moving between tools is less a declaration of independence than a simple convenience.

When changing tools, instead of:

I am moving from Movable Type to WordPress now!

Hear me! I am moving now! Watch!

Are you watching?

Here I go!

It becomes:

Oh, I forgot to mention last week, I moved to WordPress.

There will always be core groups of people loyal to one type of software or another; more power to them because they also provide the core support for the product and we all need a little help from time to time. But for most of us, all we want is to write in peace and not have to clean our buffers of 1001 spam messages every morning.

Of course, no one wants to spend their time, moving their weblogs from tool to tool. However, If you truly want to focus on your writing (or your photos, or your garden stories and recipes) then you have to be willing to move your weblog to a new tool rather than stay with one that makes you unhappy. A tool that pisses you off is going to claim a whole lot more of your attention than the day or so to move it.

It’s also not good for the tool makers or vendors to have people continuing to use their tool because they, the webloggers, feel ‘trapped’ into using it. These people will express their unhappiness: probably frequently, and most likely noisely. There’s enough customers for all the tool providers, and none of them needs an unhappy customer. Moving to a different tool could be a far, far better thing for your customer to do, then they have ever done before. I know that my previous weblog tool providers have certainly felt that way about me.

However, rumor has it that porting your weblog between tools is a major undertaking similar to, as I wrote someone recently, dying and being re-born. Painfully. And it’s true that moving your weblog between tools is not the easiest thing in the world–but it doesn’t have to be overly difficult either.

I have moved several people through a variety of tools and environments. I have written a couple of hundred tutorials and tips for the various weblogging tools I’ve used, including how to move your weblog from Tool A to Tool B. But I’ve never tried to separate out the commonalities between the tools when I’ve created these writings–what it is about each tool that is very similar. That’s what I hope to do in this set of essays I call my WeblogTweaks – the last of my writing on weblogging technology.

First up: Moving from WordPress to Movable Type.

I created a brand new MT installation this morning, and I’ve finished the port of the entries using Scott Hanson’s WP to MT export script. In addition, since I’m moving from a PHP-based tool, I’m preserving the dynamic nature in the new environment, and have incorporated the new MT PHP configuration into this weblog; the pages you see are being served dynamically. I’ve also preserved the URLs from WordPress to MT–no redirect or fancy foolin’ will be needed to maintain the permalinks.

Now, I’m working on the sidebar. In my current weblog, much of this is fed by WordPress specific plugins. Whatever functionality can be handled by tags will be replaced by tags, but there are some functions unique to my specific setup. Rather than drop them, I hope to convert them into MT style plugins using the new PHP-based plug-in API.

(And the transparent calendar looks rather nifty on the faintly patterned background. Hmmm…)

But that’s for tomorrow, as is the detailed writeup on the work I did today. I’m beat and I want to write something non-techy before bed.

Caveat: I’m not recommending people move from tool A to tool B just because they can; nor am I recommending any one tool over another. Each tool has good points and bad, and both are relative to the person using the tool and their specific needs. And here’s a hint: all weblogging software is buggy. It is the nature of software–there is no magic fairy that sprinkles pixie dust on weblogging software that makes the bad stuff go away. If there was, Microsoft would have hired him or her a long time ago.