Migration project and priorities

· Migration, Salon Bloggers, Weblog Concepts

As promised last week, I am going to start migrating some of my weblogs from tool to tool. I’m not doing this just to demonstrate the processes and the problems, but because I have had longstanding plans to do so as a matter of trying to rationalize (or refactor) my web presence a bit.
My personal view of blog tool migration is that each vendor should make it exceedingly easy to import blog entries from any other tool, probably using some dialect of XML. I think it’s probably too much to expect for the vendors to bend over backwards to make you leave, but since most tools produce XML-based feeds and some even store, archive, or backup their database contents in XML formats, just having good importing should do the trick most of the time.
My most immediate plans are to move several of my Blogger blogs to Movable Type and to move Radio Free Blogistan from Radio to MT. Blogger to MT isn’t so tricky, though I will document that process. I also plan to convert my old personal journal/diary/blog sites from their engines (hand-rolled, diaryland, Blogger, and LiveJournal) and import them into my X-POLLEN blog.
The motivation of taking Bite Media and Uncle John’s Blog off of Blogger is mainly to get basic features like comments and categories enabled. I like the new “Dano” Blogger interface and I’m a paid Blogger Pro user, plus I write and speak about weblogs in my work, so I will continue using Blogger for some purposes. One possible idea is to run a simple link list through Blogger and include it as a sidebar in my other blogs.
The motivation for moving RFB from Radio to MT is more complex. The primary impetus is Trackback. I use the Blogistan site primarily to discuss the weblog phenomenon, and most of the thought leaders in that space use TB to coordinate their conversations. TB has already been demoed for Manila and is coming to Radio as soon as Userland’s priorities allow, but I’m impatient, especially as the not-Echo discussion rages and I feel less than a full participant in the conversation.
I will also continue to use Radio, mainly because I like the news aggregator and I use it to automatically assemble all my other blog posts into one place (currently the x-syndicate category here). The main thing I don’t like (and don’t understand) about the multiauthor weblog tool is the way it changes folds incoming post titles into the body of reposted entries. If I knew how to fix that, I would.
I also like being part of this Salon blog community, such as it is, and using Radio is kind of a prerequisite, at least for the stats side of things. So, I’ll be renaming my Salon Radio weblog with usernum 1111 to something besides RFB, once I’ve migrated the RFB contents to MT. I may use Salonika, or x-syndicate, or something else entirely, and I’ll probably rarely or never post to it directly but continue using it as a compendium site. What’s interesting is that people linking to the old address blogs.salon.com/0001111/ will end up at the new site and people linking to radiofreeblogistan.com will still end up going to RFB, despite its different backend.
So, this is going to be complicated. Broadly, there are three major steps:

  1. Set up a new RFB blog in Movable Type, pointed at a staging area.
  2. Adapt the current RFB design to MT’s templates.
  3. Convert the 2000 or so posts here to MT import format.
  4. Import the old entries into MT.
  5. Publish the new MT RFB blog to the rfb.com domain.
  6. Rename my Radio blog and redirect its output elsewhere.
  7. Delete the old Radio entries once they are safely and properly working in the new blog.

I think that’s about it. So far all I’ve done is (1). Converting the templates shouldn’t be too hard, even though there are conceptual differences. Radio breaks out the day and item as separate templates but uses the same home template for the home page and for archive pages. MT nests the day and item sections in one main index template but uses different templates for various archive views.
Once I’ve got the new templates set up (and I still would like to improve the design, but one thing at a time!), I’ll post a dummy entry there just to test it and to demonstrate that that step is completed. I plan to document all my procedures and note the gotchas when possible.
The big problem is converting the backed up entries to the MT format without breaking permalinks. Also, Radio stores each day as YYYY/MM/DD.html whereas MT by default puts each entry on its own archive page, with my preferred URL being YYYY/MM/DD/entry_title.html. In order not to break old links to the site, I’ll probably end up keeping a duplicate set of all past entries. That may be confusing to some, but it should minimize breakage.
Krzysztof Kowalczyk’s Migrate from Radio Userland to Movable Type page offers a Python script for accomplishing the conversion from Radio’s XML backup files. It looks very cool. I’m still figuring out how to run Python on my Mac (OS X 10.2.6), but if I can wrap my head around that, it may solve most of my problems when I get to step 3.
As I said, though, I’m impatient, and there’s a chance I may do a more crude migration in the short run, which would involve just starting to post using MT and stopping using Radio. The problem is that MT’s search wouldn’t know about the old Radio posts, but then I could continue using the Google search aimed at my radiofreeblogistan.com and that should work just fine. It’s by far less elegant to leave the entires unconsolidated in two separate data piles, but in the end I’ll do what works, even if that means taking a sloppy path of least resistance.
The Blogger-related migrations are easier, as I said, so I may just slip them in along the way, when I get the time.
I’m still interested in other tools, especially those used for multiple-user sites, such as pMachine and Drupal, so I doubt my consolidation will last.
I’m also trying to get a wiki set up at thedeadbeat.com. I downloaded phpWiki, but I’m running into problems mainly related to my own stupidity and ignorance.
Updates as they come.