New site software

I’ve been doing a lot of work in Drupal 5.1 in recent months. I’ve liked Drupal since I first tried an install of it about three years ago. It’s got an active community and improves markedly with every release in terms of front-end usability, back-end code quality, performance, and the ease with which one can do custom development of the software. It’s also got a very well-documented API, and the methods of extending it to make it do more things than it does out of the box really make good sense to me.

My experience with developing for WordPress, which I’ve used as a blogging platform for upwards of three years now, has been somewhat different. I haven’t tried it out in a while, and things have likely gotten better since I did, but my impression upon thinking back on it is that writing plugins for WordPress was like building a popsicle stick house, where extending Drupal is like using a Construx set with pieces that snap nicely and tidily into place. I don’t do much custom development in Drupal for my own site, but I do frequently prototype things at some domain or another that I’ve got hosted, and I’ve decided finally, with the improvements that have gone into Drupal 5.1, to switch over for my own blog.

For every-day bloggers, WordPress wins out hands-down. It’s great software that makes blogging easy, even if you want features that don’t exist in the default install. The hosted version is very nice as well, and though I’ve never engaged very heavily with the WordPress developer community, I understand that it thrives. So my shift here shouldn’t be construed as a slap at WordPress. I’d recommend it over Drupal for anybody who just wants to run a personal blog. I guess I’m switching because I’ve just personally grown to feel at home in Drupal.

Along with the new software comes a new design (if you can call it that). I haven’t checked it out in IE yet (not sure I can bear to try). It uses the (slightly-modified) markup of the default “garland” theme that ships with Drupal, and I’ve added some graphics and tweaked the styles a bit. I’m not sure the green sidebars work. I’m not sure any of it works, but that’s why I write code for a living instead of pushing pretty colors around the page.

In theory, all the old blog posts will link up as they did previously, though I suspect there are some images for old (pre-flickr) posts that I didn’t pull over. I wrote some code to pull my WordPress posts, tags, and comments into Drupal that I’ll make available to anybody who asks, with the understanding that you get what you pay for, minus any guarantee of support or any assurance that it won’t delete your whole blog and break up with your girlfriend in a most crude and cruel way. I found an importer or two that just didn’t do the trick for me, so I wrote one that you just run at the command line and that seems to work pretty well within its limited scope.

To emulate the functionality of my old blog, I installed the following Drupal modules that aren’t shipped in core:

  • Akismet (spam control)
  • Archive (doesn’t come with a calendar, and I wrote a custom sidebar block for it)
  • Pathauto (for auto-generated friendly URLs)
  • Tagadelic (to show the tag cloud in the sidebar)

So, there you have it. If you’re a regular reader and something’s broken, please do let me know.

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