On April 30 I set out to migrate this blog from Blogger to WordPress. I had several reasons for wanting to do this:
- Blogger (Google) had announced that as of May 1, it would no longer support FTP accounts, and mine was an FTP account. This meant I was going to have to migrate from terrillthompson.com to terrillthompson.blogspot.com, which I really didn't want to do.
- My Blogger account had already stopped working a week or two prior to the May 1 deadline. I couldn't submit new blog posts, and when people posted comments they just disappeared into oblivion.
- I had put some time and effort into making my Blogger blog accessible, and I feared that migrating to Blogspot would jeopardize that. Call me cynical.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
WordPress seemed to be a good alternative, and many other folks in the accessibility community have WordPress blogs, but which WordPress should I use? There are two options:
- Download the free WordPress software from WordPress.org and run it on my own server. This would give me complete flexibility to do things my way. It's open source, and written in PHP which is a language I'm comfortable with. So I could tweak the source code if needed, create my own fully accessible theme, or download an existing theme and customize the CSS. Or, I could...
- Host the blog on wordpress.com. It's the same software, but they maintain it on their server. A basic account is free, but some of the services I needed had an extra cost. For example, if I wanted to map terrillthompson.com to my WordPress.com blog, it is possible to map an existing domain but it costs $9.97 per year, plus I would be mapping the entire domain, which means I would be sacrificing use of sub directories in that domain. It would also cost an additional $14.97 per year to customize my CSS.
There's more information at WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, and it's good information, but it's written by WordPress.com so there's some bias in their perspective.
For my purposes, I have mixed feelings about managing my own WordPress installation. I like the freedom and flexibility that would bring, but I'd much rather focus on content than on keeping up with upgrades, security patches, etc. On the other hand, charging $14.97 per year to customize CSS seems criminal, and that for me is what ultimately tipped the scale in favor of downloading the WordPress software.
Converting from Blogger to WordPress
Installing WordPress was a breeze, as promised on their website. They take pride in their famous 5-minute install, and I take pride in the fact that it only took me four minutes! Next, I needed to migrate my previous content from Blogger to WordPress. Unfortunately, that process, for me anyway, completely blew away any benefits of the quick n' easy installation.
WordPress can import from a "New Blogger" account, but my Blogger account is of the older FTP variety, which is not supported by WordPress. So in order to import directly, I was going to have to move my old FTP account to Blogspot. This was going to have to happen anyway as explained at the top of this article, but my concern was whether my blog, including its previous posts, comments, and style, would survive intact when migrating to Blogspot.
So, I backed up my blog to a Blogger XML file. This file included all articles and published comments, but did not include the recent comments that had never shown up on the blog at all due to apparent technical difficulties at Google. After backing up my blog, I preceded to migrate my blog to Blogspot, which was a simple process initiated via a link on the Blogger site. All of my blog posts, including images and links between articles, survived this move just fine, as did my custom CSS. However, there were no comments on any of my blogs. This was clearly much worse than missing a few recent comments. I searched the web looking for a solution, and I found plenty of people who had encountered the same problem, and a recent acknowledgment from Google that this was a known bug, but as yet there was no solution. I wasn't willing to sacrifice those comments, which meant I would not be able to import directly from Blogger to WordPress; I would have to import from my Blogger XML backup file. Unfortunately I would still lose those few recent missing comments, but there seemed to be no avoiding that at this point.
The next obstacle was that WordPress doesn't directly support an import of the Blogger XML backup files. Fortunately, there's a handy Blogger2WordPress conversion utility available that converts Blogger XML into WordPress WXR. After performing this conversion, I imported the WXR file into WordPress. All the content was there, and all the published comments were there, but there were some very strange things happening within the content of articles. On closer inspection, I discovered what the problem was:
The Blogger XML file has article content contained within <content type="html"> tags, and does not encode that content in a way that preserves HTML entities such as < (<) and > (>), which I have throughout my blog since I'm frequently sharing code snippets and such. It's important that these encoded characters be preserved as written, not converted to functional HTML. If the Blogger XML file had contained all <content> content within CDATA tags, these tags would have been converted properly.
Since no CDATA tags were used, the Blogger2WordPress converter converted all special characters, which wreaked utter havoc with the structure of my blog content.
To salvage the situation, I could have added CDATA tags to the Blogger XML file and imported everything again, but by this point I was sick and tired of the whole mess, and the sun was out, and I had recently purchased a new sea kayak (got it for a steal off of Craig's List) and was yearning to do some aquatic exploring. About that time, all the original comments were suddenly restored on my Blogspot blog, and even the missing comments had returned from oblivion and were now published. So I decided to just stay put.
But that's not the end of the story...
Since I had already installed WordPress and had taken some initial steps to get familiar with it, I decided to use WordPress for a new music blog, which I'm calling One Hand Clapping: Terrill Thompson's Sound Space. I created my own HTML5 Word Press theme, which includes ARIA landmarks and a variety of other accessibility features. A key feature of the music blog is of course music, which means I'll be playing with the HTML5 <audio> element. In fact, I've already started doing that. Check out this morning's blog post titled Audio in WordPress, and stay tuned, both here and there, for further developments.