Old Habits Die Hard

Over the last few years, I’ve been toying with the idea of changing my blog engine. It’s not a change I’d take on lightly: SharpMT is still my primary blog writer and that’s tightly coupled with MovableType… yet, I’ve had a less than happy feeling with MT over the last few years, mostly because SixApart keeps talking about their new hotness that I won’t be offered on my MT5 instance. Sure, they continue to update MT5 with security updates, but their updates are a nuke-reinstall-in-place which makes my feet itch, and I wasn’t keen on having to shell out Enterprise pricing for my little corner of the intertubes.

Simply put, the biggest challenge is that my blog is… old.

Over thirteen years ago, my friends and I got to talking about the strange stuff that found it’s way to the ‘net – aka MagnaArt – and how some things became very popular rather unexpectedly. In hindsight, I can honestly say this was the speculation of why something would (or won’t) go viral with the mass populous. Around the same time, a furry goat started his own blog and made mention that he saw it as a dumping ground for his ideas, that other people might find useful. It ultimately caught my interest as a means of expression.

My first blogging engine, wasn’t an engine in the now traditional sense. It was a nice bit of code from Fog Creek called City Desk: it kept all of the blog posts stored locally and then pushed up a delta to whatever kind of server you wanted. In my case this was an IIS/ASP service because it allowed me to do some service side coding in C# when I wanted to. It was also great to be able to write posts offline – and without Word trying to change my quotes to smart quotes – as I was taking a train to work everyday, in the dark ages of no public WiFi.

Over time, I got to a point where I didn’t want to have The Machine With The Bits to write a post which lead me to want a server based solution. Something that enabled me to blog from my HPC device. My guess is the ‘goat discovered MovableType and proven that with some hoop jumping that it would work fine with a Windows based ISP, so I changed engines. As part of this move I found that I had two major challenges: how to keep my nifty layout that I worked hard on in 2002 and how to write posts offline in 2003 before stable writing tools were available.

The tools question was easy: I wrote a basic app, grew it over time as I developed a need for more things, and kept improving it as more people sent me feedback. Ten years later and I still install it on every machine I have because it still works. The style was harder to deal with; MT had some semblance of themes at the time but unless you went with their designs, you used them as a template and went your own way. The danger with this is that it’s hard to keep up with changes to the architecture, unless you plan to stay with stock themes or invest in regular updates… I didn’t want to do either, so I kept my templates on life support for years.

And I mean, literally for years. According to the Archives, my layout hasn’t changed much since 2002. With a blog, the content is the more important than the format; with RSS feeds, I figured most people didn’t see the layout anyway.

Over the years, I’ve been tempted to move from MT as an engine, but it between cross-post linking, permalinks from referring sites/search engines, and all of the subtle things that would need tweaking by hand… it felt like what I would think a sandpaper condom would feel like on a humid day. I didn’t want to do such a thing… even after looking at the myriad of transfer content tools, it still felt like the tools would only get me part of the way; leaving me with thousands of posts to troubleshoot. Yeesh. I’m not even opposed to the work, but some of the things I was seeing were having to choose between two bad choices… made me want to not bother with the change at all.

Yet, here we are.

The layout has changed and the blog is running on a new engine. I’ve left a shell of an RSS feed at the old URLs so people can find the new locations; I’m pretty sure that all of the links across posts are active as well. All of the download and FAQ links should still work. And since I’m using stock themes now, I’m likely going to change the look of the site from time to time. There was finally code and plugins that have made a majority of the challenges viable, provided that I gave up the original layout… after 13 years, I decided I was OK with that, when I looked at all of the goodness I got from the migration, not least of which is solid support from my current ISP… they love making WordPress maintenance really easy.

What happens to SharpMT? A long while ago, it was proven that the bits allowed for a successful upload… it could be that there’s are just a few tweaks that happen to happy to make it SharpBlog v4 or some crazy thing. Either way, the source code is still out there for other people to iteration on, so it should continue to have a life of it’s own – I just won’t be using it as much as I used to.

Ever forward.

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