problems switching from Movable Type to WordPress
It’s five days since I switched from Movable Type to WordPress, and my experiences are, to say the least, mixed.
- Movable Type doesn’t export Norwegian – or presumably, any non-English – characters, it just leaves them as blanks. Pr??verommet becomes Pr verommet. Obviously, this means WordPress won’t import Norwegian characters. It would also mean that moving my database between Movable Type installations would lose Norwegian characters. I wish developers who want to sell to the world would start realising that most languages other than English use more characters than a-z. I think all the European languages do – except perhaps Italian and Spanish.
- WordPress uses PHP. That’s great if you want lots of control: PHP is a language that you use with HTML (or XHTML) – it lets you get stuff out of a database and get the server do lots of clever stuff that HTML can’t do on its own. However, I never learnt PHP. It looks easy enough, but I have a lot of things I’d like to spend time on and I’m not willing to spend a lot of time learning PHP. For the user, the PHP thing means that the templates you edit are all in PHP – so to display the title of your blog, in your Movable Type templates you’ll write < $MTBlogName$>, in Blogger you’ll write < $BlogPageTitle$>, in Tinderbox you’ll write ^title^ and in WordPress you’ll write < ?php bloginfo('name'); ?>. Once you get used to all the question marks it’s sort of doable even without really knowing PHP, but the documentation does pretty much assume you know the lingo. For instance, you “pass parameters when calling the function to configure some of the options”, which means that instead of putting name inside those inverted commas in the brackets, you could have put description. Or maybe both.
- It assumes your server has lots of cool stuff installed. Our server has lots of cool stuff, but not all the same cool stuff, so some things just don’t work. It’s not my personal server, so I have to wait for the administrator to work out whether it’d be cool to install stuff.
- The default template marks almost everything up as lists, which default to having horrid bullets in front of them. I suppose that’d be OK if I just took the time to style it the way I like it. I’m struggling, though – for instance, I’ve taken away all the list tags from the information about each post that’s showed beneath a post, but it still seems to think its a list. Not really understanding the PHP, I don’t know whether there’s something there that causes this or what. So I gave up and I’m left with an ugly blog.
- There really is a lot of documentation on WordPress, although some of it assumes you know PHP – for instance, the main documentation of the templates keeps repeating that this is or isn’t in the WordPress loop, and I haven’t the faintest idea what that means. However, the open sourcedness of it all ensures that there are lots of willing contributers of documentation, and even PHP is well-documented elsewhere – it’s obvious you could teach yourself PHP pretty easily simply from playing with WordPress and googling.
- The installing was a breeze. Far, far simpler than Movable Type. You only have to ask your administrator for a MySQL password, type the password and username into a configuration file, upload it to your server and the rest is done in a friendly web interface. None of that changing permissions – until you want to upload files or change templates, after which you’ll have fun learning about your server. Neither Movable Type or WordPress is a good idea for a fresh blogger not interested in an intimate acquaintance with their server. Use Blogger instead – or another hosted service.
- There are built-in spam management tools in WordPress that look good, and there are plugins, too. I’ve not got any spam yet, of course, because the spammers haven’t yet discovered my new URL for commenting. The spam is one of the main reasons I left Movable Type. There may have been simpler ways of solving that, but MT-blacklist just wasn’t enough.
- I still haven’t figured out how to display Trackbacks, though they’re clearly part of WordPress functionality. I’ve also looked pretty hard for a plugin that will let me show the most recent Trackbacks and I can’t find one. I really liked displaying them prominently and that was easy to do in Movable Type, so I’m disappointed.
I’m going to keep trying WordPress for a while more, but my experiences this far are pretty mixed. Had I been a better programmer and familiar with PHP and able to write my own plugins I expect I’d have loved WordPress – apparently it’s easy to write plugins if you know the language. As a semi-geek I’m not convinced. Steve recommended Textpattern, but that’s proprietary, and I think if I go back to a proprietary system it’ll be Movable Type. Except for the spam. Ack.