Technical, Technology, WordPress

WordPress – First Impressions

I recently installed WordPress, mostly out of curiosity. My web site has evolved over many years from static files, to using stylesheets, and some lightly-templated formatting to facilitate the creation of an RSS feed. While I have maintained a “log” for a few years now, I’ve always been wary of the whole self-important, vapid, “blogging” stuff.

Well, I saw Keith Garner using it, and I liked the idea that it was a rewrite of some previous software, and had a plug-in architecture, so I thought I would try it out. The install was easy enough, and then I got hooked in to the possibility of importing my data from into via an RSS file. There was some wrestling involved to hack the migration script to eat my raw HTML, and a bit more to get my scraping script adapted to output the appropriate HTML via RSS, but lo and behold, everything made it in.

And I got to tweak the look and feel a great deal with the stylesheet, and by editing the index.php directly. It has all the bells and whistles. Like, comments, which I’ve never had before, but a few people have asked for. And then all this gay backtrack stuff and pingback and backflip and blogflop and whatever. Okay, it promised to be easy to install and support all the silly jargon that I don’t care about, personally. Yay.

And for the most part, it has been comfortable. I get to put things in categories. The categories can be organized hierarchically, but any given item can have more than one category. I can maintain a list of links that can be displayed in the side menu bar. No really serious god-awful, show-stopping bugs …

What do I like?

One thing that really turned me on was that I can edit a draft of a piece and proof-read it before publishing. This is something that was hard to do when I was just editing the HTML directly.

The features I’m not so interested in pretty much stay out of my way. I don’t have to play with the links or catagories, and I can turn things off. The features aren’t shoved down my throat. Things are easily configurable enough so that I’m mostly comfortable. Bottom line: it looks like it will save more of my time than it will waste, make posting easier, and provide more features for the readers than I could have provided in the old system.

It’s hacker-friendly. I haven’t tried the plug-ins yet, but I was able to dork around in the index.php and whip my stylesheet into shape without breaking anything. I dimly recall loading up mysql at one point to do some heavy lifting. Nothing got in my way and everything was straightforward enough for my D.I.Y. mind.

What don’t I like?

For starters, the documentation is terrible. “We’re too busy writing code to write documentation.” For that honesty, and the fact that it is a volunteer operation, I can forgive them.

Some of the features are buggy. I’d like to think that these are new features with known bugs, but you can’t really tell this from the lackluster documentation. For example, “sort by most recent” for links doesn’t seem to work, and “sort by random” doesn’t seem sufficiently random.

It uses MySQL to store the post bodies. This might simplify their coding somewhat, but I’ll have to find or write some cheap hack that can check posts out into files for editing. I can deal with editing things in a web interface, but sometimes I need to get in there with vim.

There’s an e-mail gateway that works by using POP. This was somehow easier to implement than a lightweight little script that I could invoke from procmail? These PHP codin’ kids these days, I tell ye …

The “permalink” thing is completely broken. But I can suck it up and deal. The feature is so tantalizing that once it has been un-sucked, I look forward to using it.

One feature I have seem to have lost is the distinction between when a post is written, and the date the post describes. For example, I’m still transcribing posts from my World Trip, but WordPress doesn’t seem to appreciate that a post from 2002 can be “recent” …

The categories list does not seem to have any sorting …

The Verdict so Far?

I’d be very happy if I could specify per-category, or per-month or per-post stylesheets. And I want to get a macro or two in to the text editing interface. At some point I may well learn to write plug-ins, but I’m not as easger without the nice documentation.

All in all the documentation, and the flakiness of few of the features make me uneasy. But compared to something like Mailman, or even a lot of commercial software, this project seems fairly coherent, which lends me confidence in its future maturity.

I like to think the documentation is out there, and it is only a matter of time before it coalesces somewhere where it can be sanely accessed.

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Categories: Technical, Technology, WordPress

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