Converting the AGO blog from Serendipity to WordPress

Hi there. Been busy, but not posting any of it here. Will attempt to catch up, somewhat. This one will be about some recent work on the Art Gallery of Ontario blog, Art Matters.


The Art Gallery of Ontario blog was running S9Y, and it was rough. You could tell when someone was entering a post because they’d start cussing. Myself included. It seemed to me the platform was handicapping the project and needed to be upgraded.

Because of the legacy data that needed to be migrated, this project was really about using Technosailor’s Serendipity importer for WordPress. This plug-in made the whole thing feasible.

Our installation hadn’t been upgraded in years, so the first thing was to upgrade Serendipity to the version the plug-in likes (not the latest one). Fine. There was some tweaking to do of the plug-in code, as discussed in the documentation/comments. Fine.

The big hiccup was that the importer had trouble with special characters in the posts. When it came to a non-validating character it would just stop and skip to the next. Also, it lost the authors and the category assignments.

No doubt, these issues could be fixed and the plug-in could be made to run like a dream. But for the number of posts I had I decided it would be quicker to just do it by hand.

Even so, the plug-in was essential. It created entries for everything with timestamps and, importantly, migrated the comments. Post bodies and categories (author assignments were irrelevant) were a matter of a couple hours copying and pasting.

(If you’re thinking, “copying and pasting?! What a lightweight!” well, you know where the comment box is, big shot.)

The last part was forwarding the permalinks and feeds, which was solved with a library of case statements.

While the process was less elegant that it could have been, I’m very happy to have made the move. Skinning in WP is more nuanced than in S9Y, and of course there’s plug-ins for all functionality under the sun. The content editors are happy with the interface, and we’re moving more and more features to the blog. On that front we’re just getting started, and the WP platform makes it possible.

Posted April 2009

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