Migration to WordPress

Until today I hadn’t posted on here since 2009! My main excuse for that delinquent behavior was that I didn’t have a very nice interface for posting to my site and more significantly I didn’t have a nice interface for managing my sets of photos and the detailed captions that I like to include along with them. I actually worked for days, perhaps weeks, back in 2009 trying to prepare and post my photos from my trip to Costa Rica and the stories that went with them, but it just got too tedious. So I put it on hold indefinitely, at least until I could develop a better admin interface.

For quite a while I had intended to re-write the whole hand-coded site and to design a nice set of admin tools using the Ruby on Rails framework that I had been using at work. However, I soon realized that most shared hosting plans don’t make the latest versions of Rails  available until quite some time after they are released. They do this for good reason, really, but ever since I started playing around with Rails I had been keeping up with the bleeding edge, frequently writing code for versions that had not been released yet. I couldn’t put up with using seriously old versions for new development and experimentation.

Anyway, when I realized that having a cheaply-hosted latest-version-of-Rails-based site was not very reasonable, I finally bit the bullet and decided to look into WordPress. My friend Josh had been developing professional sites using WordPress for a while now and that got me thinking about using it for my church as a way to get a nice-looking and easy to maintain site up quickly without having to pay someone to do the design from scratch. So, my friend Nate and I worked together on that and we were pleased with how the site turned out. That experience gave me enough confidence that I could probably make it work for what I wanted to do.

So yeah, a while back I installed WordPress and started migrating my old blog posts and comments over. That was a relatively straight-forward process as the WP posts and comments tables were similar enough to my custom ones and I could bulk import everything with a few lines of SQL. I had a bit of cleaning up to do after that, but it wasn’t too bad. Getting the slideshows imported was a lot more time consuming. After using the nice photo uploader interface to get the actual images in place, I had to manually copy and paste each alt tag and caption for each photo. I’d say it probably took a total of 6 to 8 hours of non-stop copy and pasting. 

At that point, I had all the content more/less in place, but there was no presentation. I decided to go with a theme called blankslate, which is pretty much what the name implies. It just generates standard WP HTML5 code but leaves all the styling up to you. This allowed me to replicate the look and feel of my old hand-coded site pretty closely with a few improvements. It took me a while to tweak things and to discover all the different pages that WordPress creates (search results, not found, archives, etc) and to make them look reasonable, but I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out.

Anyway, I’m sure I will add more simple “features” and tweak more things as I go along, but for now I’m just happy to have it back up. In the process of the migration I ended up reading the entire content of the site, and it brought back a lot of (mostly good) memories. In a way it was like reading an old journal or going through an old photo album. It made me realize the value of documenting my experiences, more for my own sake than even sharing with others. Hopefully I will keep it up, and hopefully future posts will be significantly more interesting than this one!

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