Daily Archives: March 27, 2006

IBM builds cool gadgets

Some news that has been out on the web for a week or so now, but I only just heard about – the IBM Magic Block. This is essentially a tiny solid-state recording device which acts as a digital diary. It can be searched using voice recognition, and is secured via a fingerprint reader. I want one! Unfortunately these are still in development, but it looks great.

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The Eye of the Sea

Morskie Oko Mountain rise

More from my photo backlog.

Last summer, my parents-in-law took us up to Zakopane, in the mountains in south east Poland. This is one of the most spectacular regions in the country. The weather was relatively poor, and instead of crystal blue skies and clear views, it was mostly cloudy. I didn’t let that stop me from capturing some shots, though. We visited Rysy, the highest peak in Poland. The lake Morskie Oko (translated “Eye of the Sea”) is the largest lake in the Polish Tatras. 860 metres long, 566 metres wide, 50 metres deep, and stocked with river trout. The views were stunning.

How I moved home in cyberspace

Readers eager to know how I accomplished my move from Blogger to WordPress.com – this is the post for you. I’m going to talk about the practicalities, timescales, and also what I’ve gained and lost in the move.

Like Blogger, WordPress.com is a hosted service. What this means is that there’s a server somewhere, and you do all your administration remotely via a web interface. No big surprise, most blogging systems offer the same. However, in this case, if you are used to vanilla WordPress and have installed it on a server of your own… hosted WordPress is a little different. You can’t add arbitrary plugins, Javascript and embedded HTML in iframes is stripped out for security, and there’s a limited amount of customisation you can do… saying that, it is still far simpler to customise your site than Blogger makes it. If you’ve never installed and run your own WordPress server, then pretty much everything I’ve just said is irrelevant – move along.

So, first of all, let’s look at the profit and loss side of things.

Features I’ve lost Features I’ve gained
Google AdWords (due to no JS) MUCH easier administration, I mean, it’s like Blogger’s the Dark Ages or something
Technorati search box (due to no JS) Better comments system, integrated trackbacks, comment moderation, etc. etc.
Flickr badge (due to no JS, but replaced by an RSS feed of my most recent photos) arbitrary pages (see the bar at the top of the page)
Favicon / tab icon w.bloggar now knows the names of posts when I retrieve them

There’s nothing there that upsets me too much. I did waste some time trying to make things like Google AdWords and my Flickr badge work, until I read the small print and realised that they are not going to do so. I’m over it.

Now, let’s look at the sequence of events.

  1. Created the WordPress account.
    Remember that the username you choose is going to be your domain name. In hindsight, for continuity of branding I should probably have used thelostoutpost as my username, but I didn’t. I’m keeping the name for the blog, though. I’m also a bit disappointed at losing the favicon, from a branding perspective – everyone on WordPress.com gets the same icon and I can’t see a way to change it.
  2. Using the Dashboard (which is a fantastic feature and again, far better than the Blogger tools), used the Import option to move my posts over from Blogger.
    The import tools support Movable Type or Blogger only, so I guess I was lucky. It was a brilliant process – you give WordPress your Blogger credentials, and it pulls everything over, including comments, and retains all the dates. The only things I lost were a couple of bits of style information (span style tags in HTML) and Amazon Associates iframes that I’d embedded in a number of posts.
  3. Chose a theme.
  4. Setup the pages and the sidebar.
    I moved some of the information that was previously in my sidebar into pages, available from the top bar. I effectively moved my profile information and site links to the About Me page, and information on other stuff I’ve written to the Writings page. The WordPress editors make this a breeze.
    The sidebar and overall customisation was a bit trickier, basically because I didn’t understand about the lack of Javascript and embedded HTML objects. On the Presentation section of the Dashboard, there’s a nifty drag-and-drop Sidebar editor (this is what I would have expected Google could have provided for Blogger, but go figure). I added a Text widget with the disclaimer, and a couple of RSS widgets to add my Flickr photos feed, and some IBM-related feeds. I also changed the titles of a few of the existing widgets, and shuffled the order around a bit. Warning – this is so easy to do, it’s addictive. I kept fiddling around, but I think I’m happy now.
  5. Created categories, aka tags.
    As you create categories, there’s some AJAX funkiness that tries to present you with existing tags that are similar. If similar ones exist, choose them. The reason is that posts added to the categories you choose will be added to the global WordPress.com tag cloud. This is a great feature.
  6. Created links for my blogroll.
    As you add links (Dashboard -> Links -> Add Link), they will be displayed in the Links widget in the sidebar. You can also setup relationships, e.g. colleague, friend, met etc..
  7. Updated references elsewhere.
    In my case, I had to change my newsreader and email signatures; my domain redirection on www.andypiper.co.uk; my FOAF profile; my Flickr, Technorati, Plazes, Suprglu, and other profiles. I’m sure I will have missed some. I also needed to add the new blog to Flickr’s BlogThis feature, and create a new w.bloggar account (now up to 5 and counting…)
  8. Tagged/categorised old entries.
    Finally – and this was the kind of tedious bit – I needed to go back through my old posts (~90 of them) and categorise them. The other thing I did at the same time was to change any links pointing back at old blog posts, to point at the same blog posts as they had been imported here, e.g. change thelostoutpost.blogspot references to andypiper.wordpress references. This was probably the most time-consuming part of the whole exercise.

So, there you have it. A “how-to migrate from Blogger to WordPress” guide. The other thing I said I’d discuss was timescales – the initial migration took just minutes, but overall this has taken me a good portion of the weekend, with the last step taking the most time… largely because I kept distracting myself and doing something else instead of churning through all my old entries.

The final thing that is exercising my brain is how to get the new blog higher in the Google search results. It could be that Blogger-hosted blogs get a higher priority in Google’s search results. Although I’ve submitted the new site to MSN Search, Google, and others, I haven’t managed to get a single hit for entries from this blog in search results, yet. Maybe I just need more traffic. Anyway, the last entry in my Blogger blog says that it is closed… I’m not currently planning to go through and change every entry there to point at this new site, but if traffic doesn’t change, then I may do that. Some automation would be helpful, though 😦

Anyway, here I am. Looking forward to this new experience. I hope you’ll continue to read, possibly comment on, and possibly even enjoy (!) this blog.

The whys and the wherefores

As readers may know, I'd run a weblog at http://thelostoutpost.blogspot.com/ for about four months. It was going OK and has had a fair, but relatively small level of traffic. It ran on Blogger, which was bought by Google a few years ago.

I chose Blogger for a couple of reasons:

  • it seemed simple and popular;
  • it was free, and provided hosting;
  • some of my friends were already using it;
  • Google usually run reasonable services.

Over time though, I've become increasingly frustrated with Blogger:

  • no real enhancements have been happening – not what I'd expect from Google. Administration and changes to templates took a lot of effort.
  • commenting is painful;
  • trackbacks (a basic part of blogging) have to be added by a third-party service such as Haloscan (which I used, but found cumbersome).

I'm not the only one to have reservations about Blogger. There's a great post by James Governor of Redmonk (that links to other thoughts on the same subject). Sums it all up.

During last week, one of my readers suggested that I move to Roller, knowing that IBM have chosen it as our blogging platform for both our internal blogging site, and developerWorks. In order to do that, though, I'd need a host, and I didn't want to go down that route. If I had been, I would also have been slightly tempted by Pebble, because it is Java-based and I know the author (although it won't run in WAS CE, which is a major downside).

(Lee, if you're reading this – seriously, I didn't want to move to MSN Spaces, and I don't want to get into a scrap about it, so let's not go there. Each to his own!)

Overall, my personal preference was WordPress, since I've got some familiarity with it (1.x at least). It is open source, easy to setup, and easy to administer. I used to run a WordPress installation on my home server, but I wasn't sure it (and my ADSL connection) would stand up to the popularity of The lost outpost, for instance.

So, this weekend, I moved to WordPress.com. I have to be honest and say that I couldn't have read James Governor's post beyond the bit about why Blogger sucked, because I just hadn't been aware that WordPress were providing hosting as well as creating an awesome blogging platform. I knew I could download it, but I didn't know I could wander over to WordPress.com and get a free account.

There will be a follow-up post explaining how I made the move. I've just finished making all the changes I needed to get my content migrated, so now I'm able to explain how it was done.

The other question I have is what happens when a blog is moved – how quickly do search engines manage to adjust? I've built up a reasonable presence now, and some of my postings are pretty popular, depending on your choice of search terms. Does moving make it all that much more difficult to maintain this level of interest? I notice that Technorati feels that this new blog is of no interest at all, but my old one was – that is despite transferring all my old Technorati tags. I guess I need to build up some link traffic and get some incoming interest again.

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