Strangely Silent

Those who know me well know that I’m never just sitting around doing nothing.  So, I’ve received several comments from friends and relatives about having very little activity on my blog for the past week or two.  What’s up?!

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I’ve been insanely busy, primarily with exploring new technology platforms.  The fruits of these explorations will soon be evident here at tt.us!

As some of you may know, I use MovableType as my blogging platform here at tt.us.  (The husband and wife team that started what was to become MovableType (MT), basically invented blogging.)  I started using MT way back with version 2–when it was completely free.  I’m now using the latest iteration of version 4.  And, version 5 has been released.  MT is a solid and powerful blogging platform.  So naturally the question is:  time to upgrade?

Not so fast…Once a year or so, I revisit WordPress (WP), an open source blogging system that has been around now for several years.  In many ways one blogging platform is like any other blogging platform.  But, for me, MT seemed better:  more familiar to me (that crazy complicated template tag system sort of makes sense once you wrap your mind around it) and more robust in its feature set.

But MT has vacillated between being free and being really expensive. And while it is currently free for personal use and for K-12
installations, such has not always been the case.  In fact, in my opinion, they dropped the ball and as a result have pretty much lost the education market to WP.  WP has always been free–open source, and, along with Blogger.com (also free) has probably cornered the great majority of the education market.

Over the years I never changed to WP because, frankly, it seemed less robust to me, and I don’t know php–a key element to being able to really edit and design the functionality of WP.  But times have changed.  I recently did my quasi-annual pilgrimage over to wordpress.org and was blown away by what that development community has established.  WP now rocks my world.

So, for the past couple of weeks, in all my spare time (what spare time?–I just don’t sleep!), I’ve been digging into WP.  In fact, I’ve
set up a mirror site for tt.us to really get into the inner workings of the WP platform, learn all of the features, explore the endless number of awesome plugins, get my head around the feature set, ponder what will I gain and what will I lose if I migrate platforms, learn how to style and theme the installation, and try to figure out an appropriate migration strategy (my current task) to avoid breaking data links and losing too much traffic from Google. (I’ve noticed I get a lot of traffic from Google searches, and the whole URL structure of WP is different from MT–better, if you ask me.)

I’m learning that switching blogging platforms is a huge undertaking. Here’s a couple of simple examples that aren’t even really related to changing platforms, but are just part of blog maintenance and should be addressed before any platform migration:

  • WP has a link checking plugin that checks to make sure all of the links on your blog are still working links.  With nearly 2,500 posts here at tt.us over the past 6 years, I have thousands and thousands of links–over 500 of which are no longer valid!  So I need to decide how to clean that up and prevent such a significant issue from reoccurring in the future.  (Some of it is just unavoidable.)
  • Migrating from MT2 to MT3 created a huge mess with the way my archives are structured.  I’ve never bothered with it.  Fixing that is now a major problem.
  • At some point in the past, special characters (like the simple quotation mark) on hundreds of the oldest posts on my blog were replaced with their html code values.  For example:  the double quotation mark – ” – becomes €™ What a mess!  It’s time to clean that all up.  Many of the older posts are virtually unreadable!
  • Over the years, the way rich media content is presented on the web has evolved.  Some of the older methods have not deprecated gracefully resulting in content (like movie embeds, for example) that no longer functions predictably in the more modern browsers.

And other issues abound as well.  So, it’s now time to start cleaning this up.  I suspect I should clean all of this up before migrating to WP, and that will take a good bit of time.

So, sometime soon, probbly in the spring, expect to see a completely new timtyson.us.  In addition to the image at the beginning of this post, here are a few screen shots of the design of the new blog.  I’ve done 10 but will probably narrow that down.  Two of the ten are “vintage themes” that I really like from the current version of tt.us.