I’ve had a tech blog at cindytech.wordpress.com for a little more than 2 years. A few months ago, I decided to get a souped-up domain with Bluehost at cindyroyal.net to practice some things like Ruby on Rails. It also gave me the opportunity to play around with a self-hosted WordPress installation, so that is how I spent my day – transitioning my tech blog from the WordPress-hosted site to this site tech.cindyroyal.net. It wasn’t too difficult, but I did have to spend a good deal of time adjusting things like embedded videos and Sideshare presentations, and there are still one or two things I am trying to figure out.
To get my content from the old blog, WordPress provides an Export feature under Tools that creates an xml file for you to save to your computer. Bluehost made it very easy to start the new blog. It was basically a one-button Install. I had already setup the subdomain of tech.cindyroyal.net via the Bluehost control panel, and I selected that as my host during the installation. Once the blog was setup on my server, I could then import the xml file I created from the old blog. This didn’t take very much time at all, just a few minutes.
Most items came over just fine. I spent a little time searching for a new template. When you host your own installation, you can really upload any WordPress template on the Web, and there are some good ones. I will probably continue to tweak, but I settled on one called Vesper, a two-column, fixed width layout that I could customize.
And that is the beauty of hosting your own WordPress install. With the old site, I paid $15/year to have access to the CSS. But I couldn’t change anything else, any of the templates. With your own installation, you can change any of the files associated with the site. Do so with care, though. It can be tricky, and you could screw things up pretty badly. I found it a good idea to keep copies of original files, and any time I uploaded something, I renamed the original with _old at the end. This is a great way to really understand the inner-workings of the blog.
After I got the template installed, of course, there were some tweaks. I changed the background image (you can ftp to the server and download/upload any of the images or files), most of the colors, and some of the sizing of the layout. That basically takes some patience in figuring out exactly which files control each of these things.
Some of the more difficult tweaks took a bit of time. I had to figure out why the home page wasn’t showing any embedded content, and I was able to fix that by including <object> and <embed> in a list of acceptable tags for the home page in the wp-loop.php file. That file also allowed me to put the entire content of a post on the home page, rather than an excerpt. There was a function in which I changed the number of words (default was 100) to -1 which indicates all the content.
The most time consuming thing was changing the way files were embedded. I had YouTube, Slideshare, Picasa and Slide embeds on the site – there were embeds all over the place. When you do your own installation, you can use the standard embed code. When you use a WordPress hosted site, you have to do some tricks to get it to work. The tricks don’t convert. But, it was nice revisiting some of my content from over the past two years.
There is one thing I am still trying to figure out. This template doesn’t have an Older Posts link at the bottom of the page. The user has to go to the Archives, and the archives only show the maximum number of posts allowed per page. I’m working on that one.
I’ll still continue to tweak the design, might even go with a whole different template to start later. But I feel a pretty good sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of what this entails. I am hesitant to embark on this for the SXTXState.com blog, because there were were numerous posts and so many embeds. I’ll have to think about that one for a bit. But otherwise, I am excited to continue to explore what I can do with my own WordPress installation, new plug-ins and features.