April 25, 2008

First There Was Weird Science …

… And now there’s Lulu-science 🙂 Laurie invented the term yesterday when talking about my curiosity to know how many places you are bumped up the ranks with one book sale on Lulu.

Thanks to my friend Ginosion, who bought a copy of Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog, we are well on the way to learning what the impact of one book sale is on Lulu rankings 🙂 Of course, the thing is, we probably have to wait a month for the next tabulation of rankings and so it’ll be a while before the next update on Lulu-science, but I will be sure to keep everybody posted as to how things go. (Of course, don’t let that stop you from buying a copy of my book, if you’ve been considering it 😀 Or simply download the free e-book version, see what you think of it and if you like it, then go buy the printed version …)

In other news, I am back to posting more regularly. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the switch back to WordPress or if I simply had been too tired of blogging, but I do find that I want to blog again. I do wonder if the WordPress interface has something to do with it though because in using it, I seem to find the WordPress control panel easier and more responsive than the MovableType one. Of course, this is not empirical data, just subject opinion …

April 23, 2008

Back To Pressing Word

Yes, it’s happened again :p Once upon an era ago, I used to use MovableType (MT) but I switched to WordPress (WP) when the MovableType license became too restrictive and commercialized. I switched back to MovableType when they opened up the license and at a time when WordPress development was stagnating. And now, to complicate matters even further, I have switched back to WordPress because I hate the "improvements" made to MovableType 4.0 and don’t really want to upgrade to that particular interface/release 🙂

Of course, switching back and forth between blogging applications is never an easy or fun task 🙂 The MT to WP importer included with WP is good enough if all you want is your entries (and perhaps comments, I forget now, I really haven’t used the built-in importer in a long time) transferred over. However, I usually want an exact copy of my current blog transferred over including authors, comments, categories, tags and even blogrolls, if possible 🙂 So, I had to do the work myself.

I had previously written a script to transfer most of the above from MT to WP but when I tried to use the script, I discovered that database changes had left the script behind :p So, I had to sit down and figure out the changes made to both MT and WP table structures all over again. After a couple of hours of work, I had a new script which allowed me to transfer over everything from my existing MT 3.x installation to WP 2.5 🙂 (Yes, I will put the script up for download soon …)

But that’s not all there is to it, right? I had to get my old theme converted over. But I was lucky there because I had originally converted my WP theme over to MT when I switched to MT the last time and I still had the old WP theme. So a few tweaks later, I was ready to go there. But wait … there was more to be done …

I post to my blog using my own offline blogging utility, Blog. So I had to test Blog to make sure that it worked fine with the latest version of WP. And wouldn’t you know it, there was an issue – tagging, which had worked fine under MT, was not working with WP. I had to find the issue and fix it. Then, I had to get all the plugins I wanted, configure them, check that they worked fine and then deploy them.

Finally, all the work is done. And I’m ready to get back to WordPress. So here’s Solipsistic Meanderings once again in WP 🙂

Tags: , ,
Posted by Fahim at 8:58 am  |  2 Comments

February 17, 2007

Free or fee?

I’m on this mailing list for Movable Type developers and over the last couple of days they’ve been having this discussion about how some Movable Type plugins are more expensive than some of the commercial versions of MT itself 🙂 I had no opinion on this one way or another since each developer has to work things out according to their own needs/goals and while overcharging people doesn’t sit well with me, I believe that the market will ultimately determine the price – if it’s too highly priced, nobody will buy it.

However, some of the developer reaction to this suggestion appeared to be extremely negative. They got defensive – How dare anybody suggest that prices should be moderated? Didn’t people know that they spent a lot of time on development? This I found to be both humorous and a bit annoying :p

I’ve spent over 10 years on developing (and supporting) a variety of freeware apps and I ran into the same issues that these people are complaining about. But I didn’t think of charging anybody for it. Somebody said that they had to deal with a lot of non-licensed user support issues and they were not compensated for it. So another person suggested that they use forums. The first person said that forums were ineffective. Now I’ve run support forums for several years and I’ve found them to be extremely effective. Once you build up enough answers to common issues (and have a FAQ) most of your user support consists of pointing to the relevant thread or to the FAQ. Sure, it takes a little bit of time which might be better spent coding but in the end, the end-user appreciates that time. Of course, not all of them thank you but if you develop software expecting money or thanks, then you are most probably in for a rough time.

But then again, I guess that was the crux of the matter in the discussion – what did the developers who charge money actually want? Did they want the monetary compensation? Did they simply want less support hassles by providing support to only those who paid them? Did they want to elevate their code from a simple "freebie" to something with a bit more stature because you had to pay for it? I don’t know. Each person’s motivations are different. But some of the arguments did ring hollow to me – it was as if they actually wanted to be paid but didn’t want to say so.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be paid (or not paid) for your work. Just be honest about your motivations instead of hiding behind excuses. At least, that’s the way I feel 🙂

Tags: , ,
Posted by Fahim at 7:09 am  |  No Comments

July 7, 2006

Site and Blog ….

Well, the site is coming along fairly OK 🙂 So now that the transition seems to be over and MovableType working fairly OK, I’ve been turning my attention to what MT offers and how I can leverage it.

One of the first things to fall under my searching eye was tags :p Now I’ve been talking about tags before and my efforts to implement them in a way that would work with Blog and whatever remote blogging platform that I used. WordPress didn’t actually do much in the way to support this out of the box – at least, not when I last checked. MT on the other hand, supports tags in a big way – especially in their upcoming 3.3 release.

In fact, MT supports tagging via the XMLRPC interface as well! The uploaded entry structure via XMLRPC has allowance for a tag field and so all I’d have to do from Blog would be to simply provide a place to enter the tags in the Blog interface and then upload the added tags with an entry and MT would take care of the rest. What could be more perfect? :p

The problem here is of course that I’d have to make another database change. As I’ve explained before, this is where I’m stuck with Blog at the moment. It looks as if the HTMLEdit author has disappeared again. He does this every once in a while but unfortunately, what this means is that I can’t proceed further with the current work on Blog till either he comes back or I find (and fix) the bug myself. At the moment, it looks as if the latter course of action is the only one available …

Tags: , , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 7:59 am  |  No Comments

July 5, 2006

Moving the type …

Yes, as some of you might have noticed already, I’m back to using MovableType 🙂 There is less server load, in certain ways it’s much more configurable and (as I keep saying) I do like their anti-spam options much more than I like the WordPress solutions. Sure, there are downsides. I can’t have dynamic stuff like calendars which show the current date :p But overall, I think this is a better solution to go with.

The changeover itself was fairly easy. It took me about a day to modify my old script for moving data from Movable Type to WordPress and to convert it to move data from WordPress to MovableType 🙂 The testing took a bit longer and I had to do some rewriting as I discovered issues. Somewhere along the way, I also found out about MovableType 3.3 beta and had to again adapt the script for the single relevant database change that I found there. I have put up the scripts here if anybody wants to use them.

Of course, once the data was transferred over safely from WordPress, I had to re-do the templates that I used on my site and the creation and tweaking of templates took about another day. Was I ready for posting after that? Oh, no :p I now had to test posting with Blog to see that I could post from my desktop to my new MT based blog using Blog. This resulted in further code changes. Not because Blog wouldn’t publish to MT but due to a curious problem which arose due to this particular set of circumstances.

Blog keeps track of what entries have been published to a remote server. I had already published the entries for my WordPress based blog. But the MT blog has different entry IDs than the WP blog did. So I couldn’t simply switch remote blogs. I could have wiped everything on the server and published all the entries from my desktop via Blog to generate new entry IDs but then I would have lost the comments on the server since Blog doesn’t track comments when publishing via XMLRPC (mostly because none of the APIs provide a way to download comments). So, I had to add new functionality to Blog which would allow me to synchronize existing entries with those on a remote server. Adding that functionality and testing it took some more time.

Now, I’m finally ready to post to the blog again using Blog :p So let’s see how this one goes …

Tags: , , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 6:33 am  |  2 Comments

July 1, 2006

Vacillations of the vague kind

I am thinking of switching back to MovableType once again :p The reason? I am tired of dynamic pages and the headaches they bring with them 🙂 At one point in time, when I first switched to WordPress from MovableType, I was really happy with dynamic pages and all the nifty things they allow you to do. But as time has passed and I’ve come to consider load on the server, spidering by search engine robots etc., I’m beginning to think that perhaps static pages are a much better option.

For instance, I notice that the Google spiders are hitting my WP-Cache pages. Those pages are ephemeral – they will be there for an hour today but gone tomorrow. So why are the search spiders looking for old pages again and again. How much load does that put on the system?

Being in website hosting, I know how much load is put on the server by dynamic sites which depend on database queries. I don’t really want to put that kind of load on my host’s server. I know that I don’t actually put that kind of load on their server because I don’t have a really popular site. But what if the traffic to my site were to increase? I am not sure and I don’t know if I want to find out.

Of course, there are other reasons. I don’t like the pace at which WP development is going nor the direction they seem to be taking. There isn’t that much being done about combating spam for instance. The efforts are all in the form of plugins and none of them seem to be really effective.

So, I’ve been looking at MovableType. They do have the features I want from a blogging platform. The free personal version even allows multiple blogs – something that I’ve been complaining about in WordPress for a while now :p The only snag at the moment is that I hate MT’s import feature because it relies on a text file. All of the WP to MT migration scripts rely on MT’s clunky text-file based import. I think I might have to write a new script which simply transfers the content from one database to another and I should be set to start testing the new MT to see if I can work with it 🙂

Tags: , , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 6:38 am  |  2 Comments