Joining the Dark Side

Posted on Fri 27 October 2017 in Journal • 4 min read

Since rebooting my blog in March 2013, I've been using a static-site generator to manage my content and the publishing process.

Back in 2013, this approach made sense to me. I was developing more, writing less and I was on the verge of switching to Linux. For the next couple of years, this worked. My output was modest to say the least and I treated blogging as little more than a means of documenting my pet development project at the time.

Things started to change in 2016 when I switched back to macOS from Linux and made a serious effort to rewrite Weaver of Dreams. Then early this year, I resolved to write more fiction and as an unintended consequence, I've been blogging more. I've written more in 2017 than I did in entirety of 2013-2016. Turns out, this is the consequence of developing healthy habits and side-lining the stuff that's just not as important.

I've written more in 2017 than I did in the entirety of 2013-2016.

As I wrote more, it became obvious to me that my workflow and Pelican wasn't keeping up with my output. I kept having to make adjustments. I offloaded Pelican to my server. I changed my permalinks. I tweaked my theme to accommodate new types of content. I developed bash and python scripts to handle the remote pushing of content from iOS and macOS.

Meanwhile, I've become sick of managing my growing collection of source files - literally hundreds of documents and images sitting in DropBox. Finding files so I can properly link to posts and pages (using Pelican's weird cross-referencing hack) has become a real chore.

For a while, I've been thinking of developing a new theme, which amounts to quite a bit of work. In digging around in my current theme, I noticed that all my SEO metadata has been hosed for months - and here's me wondering why my readership has gone up (thanks to social media referrals) while Google barely knows I exist.

I'm also sick of writing in text editors that were developed for developers, not writers. For months, I've been eyeing a switch to either Scrivener, Ulysses or iA Writer for writing and managing the raw content of my blog.

Honestly, I'm getting tired of this crap and blogging about my hacks is wasted effort. Based on my page views, my readers are far more interested in my articles about writing, productivity and my reviews. My posts about wrangling with Linux, Python and Pelican barely register more than a blip.

My readers are far more interested in my articles about writing, productivity and my reviews.

Thanks to my frustrations, I've been contemplating a shift of blogging engine too. In the last few weeks, I have been quietly testing Medium and Ghost. Medium is too proprietary and I can never make it my own platform. Ghost is too basic for my needs.

The elephant in the room, I deliberately avoided is, of course, Wordpress.

Wordpress is far and away the world's most popular blogging and content management system. I've used it before, both in my original site (circa 2008) and for other's people's sites I've managed over the years.

Wordpress has been on the back of my mind, ever since I reviewed Ulysses and iA Writer, both of which have the ability to post directly to a Wordpress installation. To say this is appealing is an understatement of epic proportions. However, like most nerds, I've disparaged Wordpress as being too bloated, complex and insecure.

I can be really pigheaded on times.

So last night, I did the unthinkable. I downloaded the latest version of Wordpress, deployed it on a virtual machine and spent a couple of hours playing about with it.

I have to admit, the experience wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

First thing I tried was publishing a post from Ulysses -- it worked flawlessly. Basically this opens the very real possibility of drafting and managing my content in Ulysses and simply using Wordpress as the end point. Sure, I'll have to log from time-to-time to tweak content or make structural changes to the site, but may brief experiment suggested a lot's improved and it won't be as painful as it once was.

Next I tried changing the permalinks to match the schema I use with Pelican. I've already been through one permalink change and it's not something I care to repeat. Again, this worked flawless, with Wordpress allowing me to use exactly the URL structure I want. The fact that Ghost doesn't allow this is the main reason why I abandoned it early in my experiment.

Then, with my heart beating fast, I attempted to migrate content from Pelican into Wordpress. To do this, I used a plugin that extracts the content from my current RSS feed. It worked, with a few minor caveats: it didn't rip my images, nor did it bring across my categories and tags. I can live with this, to be honest.

So, Wordpress is 3 for 3 so far.

All year, my mantra has been write more, hack less. No-one cares about my wrangles with obscure technology: least of all me. As far as I'm concerned, my platform of choice is but a delivery mechanism. I need a frictionless means of publishing my words.

So yes, I'm thinking seriously of switching over.

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