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Move to WordPress

Think that Robert Shvern is only a force for evil in the Williams community? Untrue! Thanks to his legal shenanigans, we are preparing alternate hosting arrangements. As all good Eph technologists know, backup is your friend. A side benefit of that effort is that we can try moving from Movable Type to WordPress. Why do you care? You don’t! Unless you want to suggest new features for EphBlog or share with us your experience with WordPress. Ramblings below.


1) We have discussed WordPress in the past. It seems like the obvious choice going forward. It is free, open source and has an active user/developer community. All the cool kids seem to use it.

2) We want to integrate multimedia features more easily. Note how easily this audio interview with Ethan Zuckerman ’93 is presented and played directly from the web page. (See the comment thread for the details of how that works.) We want this. At some point, we will have our own collection of Eph podcasts and videos.

3) We want an easier mechanism for handling our Eph Blogroll and Eph Planet. These are important services that get a lot (?) of use. (Perhaps Eric can comment on whether or not that is true.) But they are a major bother to maintain. For example, I need to modify the html template by hand in order to include, say, Daniel Ohnemus ’04 excellent blog in the blogroll. But that does not provide for automatic inclusion in Eph Planet. Eric needs to go modify another template by hand to make that happen. There must be a simpler way.

4) By the way, EphBlog is always looking for volunteers. Interested in helping out? Please let us know. For example, it would be great to have someone else take care of the blogroll, as well as writing entries which highlight new and interesting Eph blogs.

5) We need more flexibility in dealing with categories. For example, some categories should be sorted in chronological order, others in the reverse. It would also be nice to have a way to rearrange categories more easily. (Although maybe categories aren’t used very much and we don’t need to worry about them.)

6) We need a notion of different “views” onto EphBlog. For example, I (and classmates) will be blogging a great deal in preparation for our 20th reunion. Some of our classmates will want to read only about class of 88 news, not about Nazi-hunting and the like. We need a URL which gives them that view. One way to do this is by having a 1988 category (sorted in reverse order). They could then just click on

http://www.ephblog.com/archives/cat_1988.html

That’s not a bad answer. But an even better one would also show them a different sidebar, with class of 1988 specific links and the like.

7) It would also be cool to have user-defined views. Let’s say that a couple classes (say, ’58 and ’88) are blogging here. Someone in the alumni office might want to see posts from both classes, but nothing else. If there isn’t a category for this, how can she roll her own?

8) We need better mechanisms for drawing people’s attention to high quality writing. Which was the best post on EphBlog in the last month? Which was the most widely read? Since fewer people read the comments than the main page, how can we bring high quality comments to everyone’s attention? For example, Jonathan Landsman often writes thoughtful comments far down in the thread, where few see them. I sometimes copy and paste them into a new post. I often try to cajole/pressure him into placing them on the main page himself. But there must be an easier way. We need to give readers the ability to “digg” a comment or a post and then provide everyone links to the most interesting stuff, ideally with some sort of context.

9) Discussion forums are a whole other topic. Does anyone have experience with forums which work well with WordPress? I am still hoping that Evan Miller builds the necessary infrastructure at Ephtown. A blog thread, while fun, is not the best way to organize a useful conversation. What would a decent platform for cross generational learning look like? I’ll save that for another post.

To our readers: What do you want to see in EphBlog 2.0?

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Comments Disabled To "Move to WordPress"

#1 Comment By K.G.A. On May 3, 2007 @ 12:59 pm

PunBB is a nice piece of kit.

#2 Comment By Eric On May 3, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

PunBB is what we were using for forums. We still have the DB for it, but purposely not the code – we can put it into place in the new setup.

It is a question of whether or not we want to tie in every blog post to a discussion board post, or have them be totally separate, or some variation (or have it at all – when we had it, about 5 people signed up and there were like 3 posts).

#3 Comment By Sam Jackson On May 3, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

Yay for WordPress! Welcome to 2007 guys. You’ll not regret it.

#4 Comment By NotAnEph On May 3, 2007 @ 4:24 pm

#2) The WordPress audio plug in player on the page you reference can be installed and configured in, oh, about 1 minute. Plus it’s free – you just point it to an audio file like this . . .

[http://www.mysite.com/audio/myaudio.mp3]

that’s it. You can embed any other video directly. You might want to have fun with somthing like HipCast (http://www.hipcast.com) which, for about 5 bucks a month, would allow you to automatically post MP3’s with a simple phone call. Great for onsite reporting etc.

You can also install one of many comment editing plug-ins. Most of these are “time limited” so people can’t go back and erase history but they’re valuable for little typos etc.

#3) Blogroll editing is automatic and easy in WordPress, do you really have to do it by hand in MT?

The WordPress K2 theme has an interesting concept of “Asides” that allow you to write about something that is marginally interesting (say new Blogs etc) and display those posts in the sidebar rather than inline.

I don’t think that you can get differential sorting of categories without hacking the PHP but who knows.

#6) is easy to accomplish with categories as you suggested. Changing the sidebar based on categories is something I’ve never explored.

#9) I would suggest keeping comments focused on the blog posts and not splitting them into a discussion board. If you want a discussion board, fine but don’t move the blog discussion over there. I tried it, it interrupts the flow too much. I would think long and hard about adding discussion board functionality at all, for me, it distracts the focus of what the blog is. If folks feel you aren’t discussing relevant topics they should become an author and post it themselves rather than dilute the discussion by moving it to a message board.

These thoughts are backed by about 18 months of running a very high traffic WordPress site with thousands of people commenting. My brain is full of it – ack.