Complete blog makeover

hammerI have been working over the last few weeks to migrate my blog from Thingamablog to WordPress. This is something that I had been considering for a while and then after Randa’s review of my blog, I started looking into it seriously.

I created a test install of WordPress at home to play around with and then started to look at the options for exporting my Thingamablog data. On the face of it, the data could be exported in XML format. However, the structure of the data wasn’t compatible with any of the import options. In the end, I imported the data into Excel, reformated it and created a new file in WordPress export format. This enabled me to import my posts into the test WordPress install.

Then the fun began… although the post content imported, the post dates didn’t carry over and some of the formatting didn’t work either. So, in the end I had to edit each post, correcting the post date and resolving the formatting. Some 250+ posts later and they were the same as the live blog. In hindsight, it would have been as easy to create each post fresh and edit it then, rather than spending the time with the import.

Then I had to add the comments individually. As they were all made by me and then edited to correct the time and author, the records of where they were posted from and what operating system & browser will be wrong.

I wanted a 3 column theme similar to what I was currently using and after trying several, I settled on Zen in Grey by Sajith M as a starting point. I didn’t make any changes at this time as I wanted to look at the available plugins for WordPress. After a lot of experimentation and thought, I settled on the following list of plugins:

  • Akismet – built in comment spam protection
  • AskApachePasswordProtect – additional password layer for access to wp-admin files. You have to enter username and password once each browser session.
  • FeedBurner FeedSmith – Redirect to Feedburner for feed requests
  • Firestats – blog statistics, integrates with comments for country, operating system and browser symbols
  • Google XML Sitemaps – creates Google sitemaps when blog updated
  • MyAvatars – adds MyBlogLog avatars to comments
  • NoFollow Free – removes NoFollow from comments for regular commentators
  • NowReading – Library / list of current books. I got this one from Gary‘s blog and have sent the creator Rob Miller his dues.
  • Subscribe to Comments – adds a subscribe tick box to comments and allows you to manage your subscriptions
  • Technorati Tags – converts the WordPress 2.3 new tag system to display in Technorati format
  • Weathericon – provides current weather conditions
  • wp-cache – caches requested pages to static files for quicker serving

Some of my other widgets like MyBlogLog and WeatherPixie had plugins available but I ended up using a text widget and adding the code.

Like previous sites, I tried to make this one standards compliant. The links are in the footer to validate for valid XHTML, CSS and RSS (a given as Feedburner provides it).

By this time, I was having to make changes to the theme to integrate some of the plugins, so I had taken a copy of the Zen in Grey theme and called it ijhedges. I was reasonably familiar with stylesheets and php, so it wasn’t too difficult to start making the changes. I also had to adjust the templates for now-reading, as it was designed for a 2 column theme. Just when I thought that I’d sorted the theme, I tried looking at the theme in Internet Explorer. AAGGGH! A few hacks and another stylesheet for Internet Explorer and I have a theme that functions in Internet Explorer as well.

Next, I needed a new header for the blog. I wanted to retain the image of O’Sensei in the header and found Prasit Imtanavanich’s waterdrop images on morgueFile. So, after a while I had my new header image.

Lastly, I have set up the .htaccess file to 301 redirect each old post to the corresponding new post.

I think it’s all working. Can you let me know what you think.

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