Moving Back to wordpress

I failed. but I had fun trying and learnt things, so I’m happy. For this blog I tried to use a static site generator, I thought it would make my blog simpler and allow me to post faster. I thought it would make my blog easier to host and easier to secure with no database to run. Here I am, installing WordPress again. So what went wrong? It turns out I really like the ability to log into a place to create content and post. Sure, I could create static content with markdown formatted text, but I had to remember the file format, remember how to link images (and upload them somewhere), then remember where I saved the generator script, and after all that, I didn’t get around to posting. The trigger to reinstall WordPress was actually needing something for my business site ( We were hosting with Squarespace but I was finding it was slow delivering pages and Google’s webmaster tools were telling me we needed to better ‘or else’… Anyway, installing WordPress was a breeze, a day of setup to manually copy all the content from the Squarespace pages to new WordPress pages. Then another day of optimisation and I went from a page speed score of something like 60/100 to 95/100. To be fair to SquareSpace part of the issue was linking to YouTube videos, which in turn requires a large amount of JavaScript download. I found a WordPress plugin called WP-youtube-lyte that grabs the video thumbnail and makes it a clickable link to YouTube for visitors that press play. Once I had WordPress for work, it was trivial to add WordPress alongside it for this blog, so I have, and here you are. As for the old content, well I *might* put that back into the wordpress database but for now and probably until the next code overhaul there\’s an archive folder of the static pages that survived the migrations.  I had a backup, so restoring the old site and adding the one static generated page into turned out to be easier than I expected.

Moving from wordpress to a static site generator

A long time ago I created my own website and created each page by hand in Windows notepad. I probably even used some server side includes and I certainly used Apache as the web server. I don’t have copies of that site. In 2004 I moved to a blogging system called MovableType

In 2012 I migrated from Movabletype to WordPress and today in 2020 I’ve migrated my blog to static files, much like the very first pages I created. I’m not writing every page by hand, but using a static site generator that takes simple content files and combines them with templates to make the site as you see it. The generator manages turning formatted text into links, for example

[blogging system called MovableType]({filename}/

generates the link that you see in the paragraph above to my first ever blog post, or at least, the current generated version of the original blog post.

The biggest motivation for me to switch was the hassle of keeping PHP, WordPress and all the WordPress plugins and templates up to date to limit the chance of my server being compromised by bad-people(tm). I don’t post here as often as I used to and having a nice web interface to write in really isn’t important to me. I’m comfortable writing in a terminal then running a command or two to generate new pages. This means I don’t need PHP, or a database. It also means I can no longer host comments (although that is possible through third party systems, so perhaps I’ll add them back)

Of course, there’s a time and effort cost to setting up and learning new software but so far most of it has been intuitive or very similar to things I’ve used before. I chose to use Pelican which is written in Python. Although I’m more comfortably in Ruby, I’m currently working on my Python skills. Actually I haven’t needed to look at any of the Python code! Pelican had clear an easy to follow instructions, I found a template I liked called Flex which I haven’t had to touch at all (although eventually I’ll turn the default red links into my preferred default of blue). There was a plugin that took my WordPress XML backup and extracted all the old blog posts and generated the static files. I’ve also had to use a WordPress plugin to get a list of WordPress URLS to create Nginx rewrites so that people coming from search engines to old pages land on the new pages.

All in all, this has been a pretty straight forward migration. There are a few issues to resolve. Several of the images have broken links and I know that some pages have artefacts to fix (and some of those related to the 2012 migration and I never got around to fixing them).

Speaking of images, here’s my first image embeded into a page, a screenshot of the old WordPress site

and for good measure the same page on the new SITEURL

Goodbye MovableType, hello WordPress

Finally I’ve got around to updating my blog from MovableType to WordPress.

Steves original movable type blog
How the old blog looked

If you’re looking at this today (and maybe for another month.. or year) you’ll see the template is still the default WordPress template. Eventually I’ll update it but for now at least the content from all the old posts is still visible.

The move has come about because of a number of reasons:

1) Spam. There was too much comment spam. Most didn’t get past the spam filter but every attempted post was a load on the server. At times the server was overloaded by spammers trying to post.  The anti-spam features stopped almost all of them but it was annoying me.  I say this knowing there’s probably even more spammers trying to break WordPress….

2) Server Migration.  The old server is being retired.  My web host has introduced a new service where instead of having a fully managed ‘virtual private server’ (VPS) they run a ‘platform’ they call ‘simplehost’.  Simple host has a number of advantages

  • It has a built in web cache for performance
  • They keep all the software up to date (PHP, Mysql, etc)
  • It costs less than their VPS (less than half for roughly equivalent performance)
  • It scales easier than a VPS (in the unlikely event one of my posts becomes popular I can up the power for a short time to handle it and lower it once the world moves on)

It has a number of disadvantages

  • I don’t get full control. Limited control of PHP settings, limited Cron options, no Perl, no Ruby, no Nginx.  It’s just plain LAMP (Linux Apache Mysql PHP)
  • Each vhost can only have one domain pointed to it. Although I’ve got the WordPress Network working by using symbolic links and actually this might make my spread of domains and subdomains being used somewhat neater (I have lots of vanity domains pointed here,
  • I only get one login (so where I used to host a few friends and gave them SSH access to upload their files, I can’t do that any more because they could access all the sites and accidentally break something. Note that only applies for those that need to upload things, where they login through a web interface like with WordPress I can still host that for them, or they can send me the files they want uploaded like my sister in Australia does.).

3) If I put my blog on the simplehost service I no longer have Perl which is the software MovableType runs on.  Wordpress uses just PHP so that’s another motivator to switch

4) A lot of friends are using WordPress for different things.  I’ve had to use it for a couple of community/charity projects I’ve been involved with so I thought I might as well learn how to use it full. I actually had it running on the old server too but just as an experiment a year or so ago.

Which is best?  I honestly don’t find much difference between them so far.  Although any code alterations I want to do should be easier in wordpress (I’ve coded PHP in the past but never Perl) I found there was always an open plugin that did the job and that’s been good enough for me.  After all, I’m just typing rubbish for my own benefit anyway 🙂

Next post – some notes on the migration method.