Hosting FAQs on WordPress

Overdue for a thorough going-over of the Hosting FAQs, but before I dove in, wanted a clean publishing back-end for them (I’ve been maintaining them through phpMyAdmin out of laziness — the thought of building yet another CRUD back-end fills me with dread). Also wanted to build in a search engine for users. Flirted with the thought of making the FAQs a Movable Type site, but decided to try something new and employ WordPress as a CMS instead.

Quickly realized that hacking an existing theme to match the current templates was more work than it was worth. Started from scratch with the theme docs and built a fresh theme from raw ingredients – no content on index page, entries grouped by category, no comments or RSS, clean URLs. About half a day’s work, and I had a clean CMS. Another four hours to clean up all the content and write a couple new FAQs (Managing Mail Quotas and Traditional FTP), and we’re live.

Interesting to learn how template inheritance works in WP – it’s not at all obvious from studying template code which parts of a site will be handled by which templates. For example, a link to a content page will be handled by the index template unless a single.php template is present, in which case the exact same link will be handled by that template instead. And so on. Unintuitive at first, but it’s part of what makes the system so flexible.

Biggest hangup was in trying to properly format content that included HTML or PHP snippets (text formatting options in Movable Type are much better at handling this kind of thing). Solved with Priyadi’s Autoescape plugin.

Anyway, an interesting learning experience. Also currently working with another WordPress site: Dan Gillmor recently launched the Center for Citizen Media out of the J-School, and I’ve been working with him on that.

Music: John Lurie :: Nose Punch (Short Version)

4 Replies to “Hosting FAQs on WordPress”

  1. Have you looked at pmachine’s Expression Engine at all lately? Extremely powerful out of the box (now includes a free version!), — — layman’s data modeling– and since you know php you could make it sing and dance just about any way you wanted with it’s plug-in AND module architecture.

    Great documentation for the user, administrator, and developer, too…

  2. pMachine is truly excellent. I’ve never understood why it doesn’t have more traction. One of the Birdhouse customer sites,, runs on pMachine’s big brother Expression Engine, and they love it.

    I personally haven’t spent a lot of time with it – part of the reason is that a CMS is a form of data lock-in, so when I adopt one I want to know that it has legs for the future. It’s never been clear to me that pMachine is going to stick around — I must admit I didn’t expect them to last this long!

  3. I don’t think its ever been a question of staying around. There is an active user community, within the last couple of years, that have grown to two full time inhouse developers, a marketing/documentation person, 3 dedicated support staff members, along with a professional network of developers and programmers that have done amazing web sites and custom programming work. Their hosting section has grown by a number of staff members, and Rick Ellis even launched an open source php framework called CodeIgniter based on under pinnings of ExpressionEngine which is gaining quite a developer following for some really great projects. Just because a company is smaller than other competitors does not mean its bound to fail, as many have found being bigger does not always make you better. ;)

  4. Steven, thanks for the link to CodeIgniter – very RAILS like! Will be looking forward to checking this out.

    Just because a company is smaller than other competitors does not mean its bound to fail,

    Couldn’t agree more – you don’t have to win to succeed!

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