Quick Guide to WordPress migration

I’ve recently migrated multiple blogs from WordPress.com to my own domain+server (WordPress.org).  In my research, I did not find much by way of how-to guides that could tackle some of the common problems one encounters in such a migration.  Therefore, I thought it would be useful to share how you can go about it in a quick-and-easy manner.

Before we tackle the migration process, if you are new to blogging and wondering what blogging platform to adopt, I wholeheartedly recommend WordPress.  I have extensively used Blogger, Typepad, Squarespace and few others, and have yet to find a better, more robust solution to my blogging needs than WordPress.  Since it is among the most popular blogging platforms on Earth, you also enjoy a lot of development support and plugins (for selft-hosted versions), all for free!  If you’re not quite clear about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, read this support page or this one, to know more.  The short version is this:

WordPress.org is free blogging software. With WordPress.org, you can install themes and plugins, run advertisements, edit the database and even modify the PHP source code. Anyone can download the software for free but it must be installed on a web server before it will work. If you mismanage your web server, you can lose your entire blog.

WordPress.com is different. You do not have to download software, pay for hosting or manage a web server. When you sign up for a WordPress.com blog, you will get a URL like “andy.wordpress.com”.  What you can do on WordPress.com is blog for free.

Now, let’s get right down to it.  Bear in mind that this is the quick-and-dirty guide, and not the full-and-comprehensive one involving PHP script codes and server-side modifications.

You would assume that moving your blog from WordPress(.com) to WordPress(.org) should be completely straightforward and hassle-free.  The truth is it’s mostly hassle-free and pretty straightforward, but there are a few things you should know.

1. Search engine rankings – If your WordPress.com blog has lived on the web for a while, it would have probably accumulated page-ranking currency thanks to Google et al.  When you move, your blog’s domain name will change and your page-rankings will be reset to zero.  (Note: This does not apply to those of you who have paid for “wordpress credits” on your wordpress.com blog, and already mapped your own domain name to your blog.)

2. Images – A lot of you run wordpress blogs with a number of image files included in your posts.  The import/export tool of WordPress now enables “Import with Attachments”, but this is not a feature I have much experience with.  In my case, there were just a handful of blog posts that included image files, and I found it simpler to delete any references to images from my posts, after I’d migrated them to their new location.  (I did this by opening up the exported XML file in Wordpad, doing a “find” on any code referring to <img>, and simply deleting those references.)

3. Posts, Pages and Comments – This is the juicy stuff that your blog is made of, and also includes the Categories, Tags and Comments.  WordPress-to-Wordpress migrations are done via its built-in Import/Export tools, found under the Tools menu on your left panel.  You login to your WordPress.com blog, click Tools/Export, save the resulting XML file on your desktop.  The Tools/Import process is typically non-messy if you watch out for a few things before you login to your new WordPress blog and import the XML file:

a. There is an upper-limit of the filesize that can be “imported” into WordPress.  It should suffice for most of you.  My blog had more than 500 posts and comments, and I didn’t reach any where close to the limit.  Anyway, stay within it and you should be fine.  Exceed it and you may need help from your web hosting provider to find a way around it.

b. You need to ensure that the Author or User Role defined in your old and new blogs states your name and nickname in the same way, else the Import/Export process will create duplicate or mis-mapped entries.

c. Permalink structure – This is the most important aspect of the migration to ensure any internal links and search-engine references are intact.  Your WordPress.com blog follows a specified permalink structure to generate URLs for each posts.  The default setting on your new WordPress blog may not match with this, and you will need to modify it in Settings/Permalinks to ensure it matches your old permalink structure.  This needs to be done before you import all your entries.  Read this support page for details.

d. Modifying your XML file – After you “export” it from the old location and before your “import” it into the new one, there are some things you need to change in your XML file for smooth running.  Open it up in Wordpad or any text editor of yoru choice, “find” all HTML references to your old domain (say, andy.wordpress.com) and “replace” it all to your new domain name (say, www.andygates.com).  If your permalink structure is the same in both locations, every thing else should work, and all your links should point to the right posts.

That’s it!  Now, all that’s left to do is to import your modified XML file into your new WordPress.com blog, and see it in action.  When you see it all nice and ready, you can use Google’s AddURL and RemoveURL features to update your search-engine listings, so that the old ones get removed and the new ones get indexed.

The above process should also work, in principle, for all migrations to and from WordPress, where either the source or the destination blogging platform is not WordPress (with some limitations, of course).

If you anticipate you will need help in installing WordPress on your new hosted server, choose a hosting provider with cPanel and Fantastico bundled.  cPanel is the easiest “control panel” for server management out there, and Fantastico provides easy-to-use installation scripts for many popular softwares, including WordPress.

For more help on WordPress.org, go to its support pages.  If you already run an old self-hosted WordPress.org installation and are looking to upgrade, go here for instructions.

Happy blogging!

Update:

As of Sep 2012, I’ve moved both my blogs from my self-hosted platform (WordPress.org) back to WordPress.com. My primary motivator was reduced technical maintenance needed to run my sites, and also to reduce the spam I was getting in my comments. I also took the opportunity to move my photoblog from Pixelpost to WordPress.com, thanks to an excellent script by ElevenTwentySix, which needed just a few minor modifications to make it work its magic. Your mileage may vary.

Slowing Down

Thanks to a link on Rajesh’s blog, I discovered a brilliant essay published on the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Not So Fast“.  The WSJ describes it as a “Manifesto for Slow Communication”, and in it, John Freeman makes a very good argument on how the breakneck pace of modern day Life is adversely affecting our relationships and our general well-being.

Here are some excerpts…

The speed at which we do something – anything – changes our experience of it. Words and communication are not immune to this fundamental truth. The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our com­munication will resemble traveling at great speed. Bumped and jostled, queasy from the constant ocular and muscular adjust­ments our body must make to keep up, we will live in a constant state of digital jet lag.

We need to protect the finite well of our attention if we care about our relationships. We need time in order to properly consider the effect of what we say upon others. We need time in order to grasp the political and professional ramifica­tions of our typed correspondence. We need time to shape and design and filter our words so that we say exactly what we mean…

Continuing in this strobe-lit techno-rave communication environment as it stands will be destructive for businesses. Employees communicating at breakneck speed make mistakes. They forget, cross boundaries that exist for a reason, make sloppy errors, offend clients, spread rumors and gossip that would never travel through offline channels, work well past the point where their contributions are helpful, burn out and break down and then have trouble shutting down and recuperating. The churn produced by this communication lifestyle cannot be sustained. “To perfect things, speed is a unifying force,” the race-car driver Michael Schumacher has said. “To imperfect things, speed is a destructive force.” No company is perfect, nor is any individual.

There is a paradox here, though. The Internet has provided us with an almost unlimited amount of information, but the speed at which it works – and we work through it – has deprived us of its benefits. We might work at a higher rate, but this is not work­ing. We can store a limited amount of information in our brains and have it at our disposal at any one time. Making decisions in this communication brownout, though without complete infor­mation, we go to war hastily, go to meetings unprepared, and build relationships on the slippery gravel of false impressions. Attention is one of the most valuable modern resources. If we waste it on frivolous communication, we will have nothing left when we really need it.

A large part of electronic commu­nication leads us away from the physical world. Our cafes, post offices, parks, cinemas, town centers, main streets and commu­nity meeting halls have suffered as a result of this development. They are beginning to resemble the tidy and lonely bedroom commuter towns created by the expansion of the American interstate system. Sitting in the modern coffee shop, you don’t hear the murmur or rise and fall of conversation but the con­tinuous, insect-like patter of typing…

This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, work­place meltdowns, and unhappiness. How many of our most joyful memories have been created in front of a screen? 

I can only hope this makes you reach for the ShutDown button on your PC, instead of taking you to another email!

Love at First Sight!

Chances are that most readers of this blog can’t do without Email and the Internet, today!  And, chances are you’ve never ever heard of Pine or Lynx.

So, is Lynx just a wild cat?  According to its Wikipedia entry :

Lynx is a free open-source, text-only Web browser for use on cursor-addressable character cell terminals.

Browsing in Lynx consists of highlighting the chosen link using cursor keys, or having all links on a page numbered and entering the chosen link’s number. Current versions support SSL and many HTML features. Tables are linearized (scrunched together one cell after another without tabular structure), while frames are identified by name and can be explored as if they were separate pages. Lynx cannot inherently display various types of non-text content on the web, such as images and video, but it can launch external programs to handle it, like an image viewer or video player.

Because lynx does not support graphics, web bugs that track user information are not sent, and emails can be read without the invasion of privacy of HTML enabled web browsers.

Speaking of web browsers, here’s a bit from the Univ. of Washington on Pine :

Pine – a Program for Internet News & Email – is a tool for reading, sending, and managing electronic messages. Pine was developed by UW Technology at the University of Washington.

The guiding principles for Pine’s user-interface were: careful limitation of features, one-character mnemonic commands, always-present command menus, immediate user feedback, and high tolerance for user mistakes.

Read those descriptions again to try and understand what these state-of-the-art technologies came with.

Back in those days, (I’m talking about the mid ’90s here!) you had to be a University student or a geek to see one of these in action.  Those from India may also recall VSNL’s “shell account” as another affordable way to hop on to the Internet and use one of these beauties…

Pine was the first email client I had the pleasure of using, and Lynx was the browser using which I first set eyes on the World Wide Web…  And, it was simply love at first sight!

Choices We Make

My favourite Technology blog – The Technium – has a habit of churning out thought-provoking, well-researched posts on a variety of aspects dealing with Science and Technology.  That said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a very humane element hidden inside one of its recent posts entitled ‘Chosen, Inevitable, and Contingent‘.

Somewhere in the essay, Kevin Kelly recounts a funny but true story on the evolution of Technology, to drive home the point that history matters:

There’s an old story that is basically true: Ordinary Roman carts were constructed to match the width of Imperial Roman war chariots because it was easier to follow the ruts in the road left by the war chariots. The chariots were sized to accommodate the width of two large war horses, which translates into our English measurement as a width of 4′ 8.5″. Roads throughout the vast Roman empire were built to this spec. When the legions of Rome marched into Britain, they constructed long distance imperial roads 4′ 8.5″ wide. When the English started building tramways, they used the same width so the same horse carriages could be used. And when they started building railways with horseless carriages, naturally the rails were 4′ 8.5″ wide. Imported laborers from the British Isles built the first railways in the Americas using the same tools and jigs they were used to. Fast forward to the US Space shuttle, which is built in parts around the country and assembled in Florida. Because the two large solid fuel rocket engines on the side of the launch Shuttle were sent by railroad from Utah, and that line transversed a tunnel not much wider than the standard track, the rockets themselves could not be much wider than 4′ 8.5.” As one wag concluded: “So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of two horses’ arse.”

But, elsewhere in the essay, he also takes the time to explain that, when it comes to human behaviour, we’re as much the product of our genes and our environment, as the choices we make:

Who you are is determined in part by your genes. Every single day scientists identify new genes that code for a particular trait in humans, revealing the ways in which inherited “software” drives your body and brain. We now know that behaviors such as addictions, ambition, risk-taking, shyness and many others have strong genetic components. At the same time, “who you are” is clearly determined by your environment and upbringing. Every day science uncovers more evidence of the ways in which our family, peers, and cultural background shape our being.

Lastly, who you are in the richest sense of the word – your character, your spirit, what you do with your life – is determined by what you choose. An awful lot of the shape of your life is given to you and is beyond your control, but your freedom to choose within those givens is huge and significant. The course of your life within the constraints of your genes and environment is up to you. You decide whether to speak the truth at any trial, even if you have a genetic or familial propensity to lie. You decide whether or not to risk befriending a stranger, no matter your genetic or cultural bias. You decide beyond your inherent tendencies or conditioning.

What I found most interesting, however, is this paragraph in which Kelly describes what he thinks is most memorable about us human beings :

Curiously, this freely chosen aspect of ourselves is what other people remember about us. How we handle life’s cascade of real choices within the larger cages of our birth and background is what makes us who we are. It is what people talk about when we are gone. Not the givens. But the choices we took.

Not the givens, but the choices we took… Something to think about, isn’t it?

Seeing is Believing

Back in my college days (way back in the early ’90s), suddenly the entire city seemed to have taken a fancy to the then-new phenomenon that was called “3D stereogram”! 

Every one seemed to be showing off their private collections of these colorful pictures that you couldn’t ‘see’ until you learned to really ‘see’ the images embedded within it.  It was like a new currency for popularity on campus, and the world was soon divided into those who got it and those who thought the others were simply faking it.

Something made me recall those images, a few days ago, and I googled it to see if the wise old Internet had any.  And, sure enough, it did!

If you haven’t seen one already, you simply must.  It can be a lot of fun to be able to ‘see’ a 3D image staring you from what seems like just noise.  Here are some tips from the stereogram website, to help you get started…

  1. Pick a spot on the picture (the middle seems to work best) and just stare at it.
  2. Allow your eyes to relax, don’t just stare AT the image, try to stare THROUGH it. You’ll notice your eyes will go slightly out of focus. This is normal.
  3. Keep staring, don’t give up, once you begin to see the first image, it gets much easier.

What a trip down memory lane…