Duncan Riley> Its been out some time now and has been received strongly by the blogging community, but like many a good blogger I’m often too busy blogging to actually have time to upgrade to the latest and greatest in blogware. Last weekend after promising to do so for some time, I finally got the chance to do so, and like any change there is often a hickup or two, but so far I’m happy with the results.
First things first, my experience will be different to those who seek to install WordPress for the first time as installing fresh is always different from an upgrade, and the change from 1.2 to 1.5 was a fairly significant upgrade at that (Matt, what happened to 1.3 & 1.4??) .
The one thing that has always impressed me with WordPress is how quick it is to install fresh. I played with maybe half a dozen competitors before I went with WordPress last year, and my personal experience is that its the quickest and easiest in the business. There are, naturally, a few things you need to know, like how to setup a SQL database and how to point to it, but that aside the file structure seems smaller than some others, the FTP upload is quick and the web install prompt.
But that’s a clean install, and I wasn’t doing a clean install, I was doing an upgrade, and this is where things get a bit more complicated. But I must put this in context, I’m a habitual tinkerer and the template for the Blog Herald is strictly custom built, where as many WordPress blogs are built around standard templates (for example Kubrick, like my personal blog) . Having completed the process the complications came more from the fact that I had a customised template and CSS script, and hence didn’t fit into the standard upgrade as such, others will have an easier time of it.
One of the great things about WordPress is the excellent community and great wiki that supports it. What’s sometime bad about WordPress is exactly the same thing. There are a number of people providing advice on upgrading, and I found that each had a slight variation to the theme. However, I took the advice of most of the sites and started with a full SQL and page backup, just to be sure. As you can imagine with as many posts and images on The Blog Herald this isn’t the quickest of exercises, but it was probably all down in about 25 minutes.
1.5 works off a template system which is not unlike the systems I’ve seen in other blogware, particularly b2evolution. Strangely the way it works is basically like the custom php I had included in The Blog Herald when it was running under MT, but had dropped as I found WP easier to edit. In laymans terms its like a wall of Lego with little pieces that lock together to make a page, but you’ve got a big piece of lego in the middle in which all the other bricks click onto. Header, body, menu bars, footer etc are all components. The Blog Herald under WP 1.2 was running under one template for the lot. There are many advantages of the new template setup, including ease of use, the ability to bring in new templates more easily (there is an actual template manager) and the ability to customise templates based on categories and archives. I’ll be slowly implementing a lot of this later, but there are other things that need to be done to your old files from 1.2 when changing, presuming you wanted to keep your current look. Script needs to be changed within each core page (index, comment_popups and comment pages) which, to be quiet honest, is probably a bit much for those less comfortable with editing script. Having said this, once you work out what you need to change, you’re set. If your not comfortable with script I suggest that if you upgrade start your template from scratch: Kubrick is now standard and a great basis from which to customise.
WP 1.2 didn’t do static pages (fixed web pages that are not blog posts) natively and required a plugin. 1.5 has this built in, however none of the instructions warned me of this, and although I followed the instructions in terms of plugins I magically lost half my static pages on the swap over. Whilst frustrating and I’ve had to reconstruct a few, the new page writing feature is quite amazing and long overdue. It provides a much needed feature built in and ready to use, and quiet honestly could see WordPress evolve from blogware to CMS once non-bloggers start seeing the benefits it provides.
Spam management is much improved in 1.5, with a custom blacklist feature built in that can block posts on certain words, as well as the previous moderation feature. I’ve dropped all previous protection for the time being to see how this goes, and so far so good, and I think with time it will improve as it learns from the very few examples of spam that gets through. 1.5 also comes standard with the link=nofollow script standard to stick it up the spammers some more.
The dashboard feature has met mixed reviews from WP users and rightfully so. It provides a summary of blog content, comments, totals, links etc, but takes up most of the space with WordPress news and links to a few prominent WordPress bloggers. Whilst I respect and like those included on the dashboard, if I wanted to read their latest post everyday I’d subscribe to their RSS feeds! Perhaps future editions will allow RSS feed subscription through the dashboard, then it will become more useful, or alternatively expand the stats provided, these are a great addition to WordPress.
Again, minor thing, but WordPress 1.5 still maintains the boring colours of its predecessors. The navigation has been changed a little bit to accommodate some new features and is easy enough to pick up. I shouldn’t gripe though, the low graphic look equals quick navigation, which is a positive after all
The rest of WordPress is pretty much the same, I read there has been a few tweaks under the bonnet in relation to code but simply I can’t see it because I never really had any major problems with 1.2.
WP 1.5 builds on 1.2, which in itself was very good, so I’ve got no complaints. The static pages and spam handling abilities are definite positives, and the templating system is particularly useful for new bloggers or bloggers who’d rather not play with script too much. Would I recommend changing from 1.2 to 1.5, yes, but if you’re happy running 1.2 I wouldn’t rush, the new version isn’t an earth shattering change and I’ll personally only be rolling over my other blogs and those I’ve designed for a few others over the coming months, but I’ll add that I’ve got adequate spam protection on the others. If you’re running WordPress 1.2 and are having big problems with spam, make the move quickly. It won’t stop spam altogether, but the built in tools certainly go along way.
I’d thought I’d add a short footnote here to readers who don’t run WordPress. There are some other great blogging packages out under the GPL and other non-corporate, open source alternatives that are doing great things. WordPress was my call as the best choice at the time I left MT. To be honest I’m not in any rush to change The Blog Herald to anything different any time soon.
I promised last week to start reviewing some of the choices this year and I intend on doing so. The richness in the blogosphere is also represented in the richness of the blogware available, and the best way to experience this is to use other tools outside your comfort zone. I’ve actually played with a lot of different choices before, and will again (as my wife says: boys and their toys), so if your running Nucleus, b2evolution, serendipity or others packages don’t despair, I may even run my next blog with something different under the hood.