Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What Is This Thing Called Blog?

I'm talking with Alan about the idea of converting S&S into a WordPress blog. From what I can see, it sounds like a rather large and complex undertaking, at least to do it in a way that meets my exacting blog standards. See, I would never want to stick both my readers with a second-rate product.

The potential advantages of such a move seem to cut right to the heart of the two-part question, "What is a blog, and why keep one?"

It's a good question. I answered the "why" previously. Anyway, I think I did. But it still remains to consider what a blog actually is. Is it a news site? A diary? A gossip sheet? A confessional? A résumé? A way of saying, "Hey, world, look at me"?

The answer is yes. It's all of these things, and more. At different times. Which is one of the key advantages of WordPress, in my mind: the ability to create and read posts according to defined categories. I've long wished Blogger could do this, but it can't. Or doesn't, at any rate.

There are noticeable patterns to what I typically write. On days I feel newsy (which is not often), I post Stupid Beer News links (usually graciously sent in by Verd). When I'm feeling artsy (work with me here), maybe I'll post a photo. Then there are the times I'm feeling ranty, and a long diatribe against DRM or superficial women results. And so on.

Categorizing is important to me because, as Alan himself said, in a different context, "It all scrolls off the page." There's no simple way to find one of my previous gems of wisdom. Well, there's the search engine thingy, but that's just so inelegant. Also, one of my readers might be interested in pictures of Ann Arbor but not so keen on the ongoing chronicle of neglect and rejection that is my love(less) life. Categories would help ensure this purely hypothetical reader never missed a potentially Pulitzer-nominated shot.

WordPress also allows for a "recent comments" feature. Right now, if someone blunders, usually via search engine, across an old post and wants to weigh in with a comment, there's no way to ever know about it. A recent comments feature would alert me, and both of my readers, to a new comment, even if it's regarding a post from six months ago.

Those are the upsides. But I have a lot of concerns, too. Despite how it looks, I put quite a lot of effort into customizing this Blogger setup. It's probably time for a slick re-design, but so far none of the WordPress themes have really captured my imagination. I don't want the site to suddenly look completely different, or to lose any of the nifty widgets I've added. Or, worst of all, to just look ugly.

I'd like to transfer all of the three years' worth of bollocks on this blog over to the new blog, instead of just abandoning it here. Maybe, over time, go back and retroactively categorize everything too. Also, retaining comments from HaloScan would be nice. I know one guy at least wrote a script to do this, but I don't know how well it works. Then there are the issues of links, images, and alerting the thousands of other sites that link here that I have a new web address. And I worry about an increased potential for comment spam. Plus there's the idiot (me) factor: Is it easy to maintain and use once it's set up?

But Alan says to trust him. He knows servers and software and all of that stuff. I don't. I just write dumb things on the Internet. Let's kick this WordPress idea around, see where it goes.