Goal for the day was to install and test WordPress and TextPattern, see what the options are. My last blog software roundup was the feature I wrote for MacWorld last year. Things have changed since then — new apps are gathering momentum, old ones becoming mired. mneptok encouraged me to also give TikiWiki a shot and see how it stacks up.
WordPress: Not prepared for something this polished and smooth. Documentation still a bit immature, but everything is in plain English rather than manual-ese. If you’re used to waiting for MT rebuilds on a large site, it’s a treat to have content just slip into a database and become immediately available. Of course, true dynamic pages also means a database request for every page access, but with the speed of modern servers and MySQL 4, it’s a negligible concern compared with the benefits. Haven’t heard of much in the way of a comment spam problem with WordPress, but just in case, comment moderation options and other safeguards are built in. Another unexpected treat: Posting via email — set up a secret mail account, send mail to it, and have a cron job send a wget command to a hidden mail posting URI – emailed post goes live right on schedule. Generates hairy mod_rewrite directives ready for pasting into .htacess. Welcome bonus: WP is compatible with ecto, a blog posting/editing app I’ve come to rely on. Haven’t yet experimented with migrating posts from MT, but the buzz is it’s pretty easy. No multiple blog support yet, but the dev notes make it sound like this is a top priority. I’m sold.
TextPattern: Off to a good start; again, super-simple setup UI. Also has comment moderation, and can disable comments after a specified period of time (another effective spam comment-fighting technique). Built-in tag builder alleviates need to read docs – tags for common mechanisms (e.g. “build a tag for a linked category list, or to link this article title to the next article in the database) are constructed on the fly. Default template is completely raw – you’re expected to be able to handle your own CSS; fine by me, but probably a turnoff for many new users. Built-in traffic logging, nice. No obvious means to build monthly or other custom archives. Couldn’t get permanlinks to work — also seems to be based on mod_rewrite, but it’s not doing its thing and there’s little in the way of documentation. Support forums were down when I tried to visit. Sorry, I’m sure TP is very good, but I don’t have time for this. Granted, the current version is still a gamma release, so I take its shortcomings as such; but I got the feeling it needs time in the cask to become a contender.
TikiWiki: Despite the name, TikiWiki is much more than a Wiki — more a portal app with tons of built-in modules: blogs, articles, polls and surveys, quizzes, file browsers, forums, etc. Really quite amazing how inclusive it is. For the right kind of site, it would be great to have all of this under one roof. If I were building the J-School intranet again from scratch, I’d consider an all-in-one package before piecing things together and writing custom code to fill in the gaps — the benefit of using a single login alone would be worth a lot. The inevitable downside of throwing the kitchen sink at the problem is that none of the modules are as sophisticated or as well-cared-for as the more specialized apps I’ve already got filling those roles. For publishing a single blog, it’s a matter of swatting mosquitos with an elephant gun – 95% of the app will go unused, and the blogging module will never have the care or momentum you get from an app backed by dozens of coders dedicated to doing a single app right. Nevertheless, TikiWiki feels nicely put together, and got me thinking about the possibilities of using an integrated portal app like this for other projects.
WordPress it is, for this blog anyway. I’ll try and chip away at template conversion in the background as soon as a time window opens up. I’m still excited by the possibilities of TikiWiki, and will likely move hosting.birdhouse.org to Tiki once this blog’s migration is complete.