Look Back in Anguish: My Switch to a True Blogging Platform
10,000 Birds was started back in 2003, way before anyone dreamed of splogs, carnivals, or problogging. However, even then, many of the conventions of the blog format were already in place. Because I had already experimented a bit with Microsoft FrontPage, I chose that old shoe, rather than any of the dedicated programs, as the software for my blog. Amazingly, it took until October of this year, just two months ago, to make the switch to a legitimate blogging platform, in this case the wondrous WordPress.
The coders and webheads out there are no doubt wondering why it took me so long to make the switch. FrontPage is infamous for its clunky code, unbearably offensive to those who strive for elegance under the surface of their site. Furthermore, the software doesn’t come with the bells and whistles of bloggery. I had to hard code permalinks to every post, turn to a third party solution (Haloscan) for comments, and design and populate my archives and category pages by hand. Using FrontPage, with its curious hostility to everyday FTP, meant that I could only post from computers that had both the program and a copy of my site on them. Sounds positively medieval, doesn’t it?
So why do I often miss my old FrontPage days?
Don’t get me wrong… I love WordPress. I’m a true believer, eager to convert other FrontPagers into the fold. But praising WordPress or any other sophisticated personal publishing platform to the blogging community is truly an exercise in preaching to the choir. I haven’t come here to praise WordPress but to bury it. Two months into a life blogging without clumsy, crude Frontpage, here’s what I miss:
- Freedom from coding – With FrontPage’s true WYSIWYG interface, I always knew what I was getting when I hit Publish. Designing a web page was much like formatting a Word document with tables and everything. Especially tables! Sure, the code was bloated, but what did I care? I didn’t have to spend that much time under the hood. Now, my blog is like a souped-up sports car I spend more time fixing than driving. The last few months have been a crash course in HTML, CSS, and plugin interoperability. The ability to affect global changes by altering a few snippets of code is nothing short of miraculous, but I really need my tables back!
- Easy file management – My entire FrontPage site was saved on and published from my desktop, or laptop when I was on the road. Any time I copied an image or modified a photo, I could save it to the appropriate folder and work with it on or offline. When I published a new post or page, all of the sites folders would update. Now, any time I want to work with a photo, I have to FTP the file and then type the file’s path into my post. I haven’t found the plugin yet that makes working with images in WordPress nearly as simple as it was in FrontPage.
- Instant, immaculate backup – Because my entire site was located on my desktop as well as my host server, the site was always backed up. Furthermore, I could work on any page offline without resorting to third-party blogging tools. Now that my site is essentially a database, I don’t even want to know what the backup file looks like. I just fear the day I’ll have to dig into it.
Moving to a more sophisticated publishing platform dedicated to blogging was undoubtedly the right move for my site. I’ve already reaped some dividends from the initial investment of time and effort, although other expected gains have yet to manifest. But the move is far from complete. 10,000 Birds is currently a house divided, as much of my content is still only accessible on the FrontPage version of the site. Migrating the content has been a difficult process, primarily because there is no way to automate the process. Every one of my hundreds of posts needs to be entered by hand. This task is complicated by my crippling coding deficiencies; many essential pages, from my About page and archives to my trip reports, will be stuck in limbo until I can figure out how to recreate them without tables. At the pace I’m moving, that may be a long, long time…
This post is part of the December 2006 ProBlogger Group Writing Project