Tag: tool

Vox Exports to Self-Hosted Blogs Now Even Easier

VoxPress?A couple months ago, I wrote about a new ability developed for WordPress.com that allows you to export your Vox blog to a WordPress blog. I was really excited about this at the time, because I’m always in favor of services allowing you to take your data with you when you want to leave – nothing is more frustrating than devoting time/energy to a project/blog/site and then finding yourself with the choice of either staying locked-in to your current situation or giving up all your work and starting over fresh.

At the time, I mentioned that the only way to port from Vox to a self-hosted WordPress blog (i.e. on your own domain, not a WordPress.com sub-domain) was to use WordPress.com as an intermediary – exporting from Vox to WordPress.com, and then exporting a WXR file and importing it into your other blog.  While this technically works (I tried it out), it’s a little messy and leaves all the pictures hosted on the WordPress.com domain site, instead of pulling them into your self-hosted site.

Brian Colinger, a developer of WordPress.com and WordPress plugins, contacted me a few weeks ago to let me know that he’s now developed a WordPress plugin that you can install on your self-hosted domain that will do the same export functionality as before, but this time directly to your self-hosted blog.  Yep, now there’s a Vox exporter to self-hosted blogs!

The process itself is pretty easy, and Brian’s post gives step-by-step instructions, so I won’t repeat them here.  You have to install the WP_Importer base class plugin first, and then Vox Importer plugin.  Pretty soon, you’ll be pulling all your posts over to your own self-hosted WordPress blog!

Just like the ability on WordPress.com, this importer should:

  • Imports posts AND comments.  Comments are captured exactly as left on Vox, and the link to the commenter goes back to their Vox blog URL.
  • Imports photos from Vox into WordPress.  Yes, photos will be native to WordPress, so they won’t just link back to a photo hosted by Vox.
  • Imports tags from your blog.  No option to turn this off, but all tags are carried over and used as tags on the WordPress blog.
  • Imports ALL posts, not just those made “public”.  Adjust privacy settings before or after you import to account for the fact that WordPress doesn’t have all the privacy modes that Vox does, but you get all your content carried over when you import!  NOTE: If you don’t want a post to be public on your WordPress blog, make it visible to “YOU (hidden)” only before you export/import.  Then it will show up as “Private” on your WordPress blog. All other privacy settings (neighborhood only, friends and family, etc.) will appear on your new WordPress blog as public, accessible-by-anyone entries until you change their privacy level from within WordPress.
  • Maintains formatting from your Vox blog – bullets, numbering, centering, font colors, etc all carry over 1:1.  This may cause some minor issues on your WordPress blog if the layout doesn’t support (e.g. white font on a white background), but you can edit this after the fact to suit.

Hat’s off to Brian for another job well done! Stop by his blog and leave a comment for him on the post if you end up using the plugin, and let him know how it went.  Also, if you have any further questions/bug reports, be sure to let Brian know so he can fine-tune this plugin for all the folks out there that had no choice but to remain with Vox, lose their work, or laboriously copy it by hand to another platform!


So Much for VoxPort – WordPress.Com Imports Vox Blogs Directly!

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A few folks have emailed me or left comments on various posts on my blogs letting me know that WordPress now supports Vox blog imports directly.  Seems the code wranglers over there were tired of waiting on my slack butt to get things ready and decided to go ahead and just do it on their own!  And you should probably be glad they did, because my work schedule ended up being something I wouldn't wish on anyone, and left little-to-no free time for me to do anything, let alone work out the kinks in the alpha/beta versions of the tool I was working on.  (Luckily that's pretty much past for now, so I'm returning to the keyboard and back to the blog starting with this post!)

So anyway, WordPress.com blogs can now import from a Vox blog.  Once you have a blog set up over on WordPress.com, you can go under the "Import" tab of the Tools menu and choose to import from a Vox blog.  You enter your blog hostname, your user ID and password, and they pull ALL of your posts and comments over into your WordPress blog.  Private posts are kept private, but I believe everything else becomes public (so you'd want to go through and change privacy notifications if, for example, you have everything on your Vox blog set as neighborhood-only).  The service will even email you when the import is complete, so you don't have to sit around and check the status of the import continuously.  Once it's done, you can go in and configure the settings how you'd like, modify entries, delete comments, etc – everything you could do when the content was on Vox, but now over on WordPress.com.

The importer has some great benefits, such as:

  • Imports posts AND comments.  Comments are captured exactly as left on Vox, and the link to the commenter goes back to their Vox blog URL.
  • Imports photos from Vox into WordPress.  Yes, photos will be native to WordPress, so they won't just link back to a photo hosted by Vox.
  • Imports tags from your blog.  No option to turn this off, but all tags are carried over and used as tags on the WordPress blog.
  • Imports ALL posts, not just those made "public".  Adjust privacy settings before or after you import to account for the fact that WordPress doesn't have all the privacy modes that Vox does, but you get all your content carried over when you import!
  • Maintains formatting from your Vox blog – bullets, numbering, centering, font colors, etc all carry over 1:1.  This may cause some minor issues on your WordPress blog if the layout doesn't support (e.g. white font on a white background), but you can edit this after the fact to suit.

There ARE some caveats to their importer, though:

  • Does not import media except for pictures (videos, audio, books, collections don't seem to carry over).  You'll notice in the WordPress blog that these simply link back to your Vox blog where they are still hosted.  If you want to do a true transfer over with any of these, you'll actually have to download all your files (or have saved the originals) and upload these into WordPress directly.  It's very nice that the pictures carry over, but you may need to adjust some formatting on posts where pictures are involved to get them to wrap and/or fit in the borders of your layout since the entries will still have the Vox picture formatting.
  • May screw up your formatting.  I have heard from some others that it worked fine, but at least in my case the formatting on the WordPress blog made it so there was a carriage return at the end of every line so that instead of wrapping naturally, it cut off each line and added some strange line breaks in the middle of the posts – something that I didn't purposefully put in my Vox blog when typing up the entries.  Not sure where this came from or whether it's a parsing issue, but means that I would have to manually hit up each entry in my history and correct to make it appear to be formatted correctly, which sort of defeats the point of an export.  I've followed up with a guy from Automattic who was in touch with me about Vox exports last fall to see if there's anything he can do about this, and he's looking into it.
  • Only works for WordPress.com blogs (for now).  The latest revision of self-hosted WordPress.org blogs still appears to not have an option to import from Vox (if it ever will).  This is probably not a deal-breaker though, as you can import into a temporary blog on WordPress.com, and then export from there to a WXR file and import into your personal WordPress installation.  The biggest issue here is that most self-hosted installs only accept .xml files up to 2MB in size, and your export may be much bigger, in which case you'll have to manually split it up into smaller files that can fit the import process.  Again, the guy from Automattic is looking to work this into self-hosted installs, but it may be later rather than sooner due to development cycles and trying to get stuff like this included in the base code.

Overall though, it looks like the folks over at WordPress/Automattic did a VERY nice job of creating a means for locked-in Vox users to export their blogs to another platform.  From WordPress.com you can go to self-hosted WordPress blogs, Blogger, and any other blogging platform that can process the seemingly ubiquitous WordPress WXR export file.  So whether you're looking to jump ship or just back up your blog somewhere a little more….reliable….I'd recommend you give this exporter a try. 

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A Call for Alpha Testers for My Vox Export Tool

EDIT:  Thanks for all the volunteers – I think I'm set on the alpha testing crew (who I will be contacting as soon as I can get the front-end tied to the back-end and make sure it's not going to break when you type in your vox address).  If you missed your chance to volunteer for testing – don't fret; I don't think the testing process will take all that long and I'll be opening it up for general consumption just as soon as I possibly can.

Okay, I'm not actually quite ready for alpha testers just yet, but soon I will be initializing the alpha version of the Vox export tool to those willing to help me test it out prior to making a formal release to the masses.  I wanted to get names of people interested in helping now, so that as soon as I'm ready I can contact you individually and get you started on the testing process.  Please read below and if you are interested in alpha testing the tool, please email me at VoxPorter@gmail.com .  I NEED A VALID EMAIL ADDRESS from each alpha tester so I can be in communication about updates, bug fixes, and requests for more information if I'm trying to figure out what went wrong in your setup.  I will NOT be communicating this through Vox comments or PMs, so if you're not willing to email me, please don't volunteer.

Testers should:

  • Be willing to try out the tool (possibly multiple times if bugfixes are required)
  • Be able/willing to import the resulting file into a WordPress blog (instructions may be provided if you don't know how) (free WordPress blogs can be created at WordPress.com, or you can set one up on your own server if you know how)
  • Be able/willing to review the resulting blog for problems/errors in the import process (i.e. checking to make sure content imported properly, blog post titles, dates, and tags appear correct, etc)

and most importantly:

  • Be able/willing to inform me of any problems you experience or notice, as well as provide comments/questions about using the export tool, the process as a whole, and any specific areas you think need improvement.  You won't need to be available to run the tool the same day I send you notification, but please only volunteer if you think you can support the testing in a timely manner (i.e. within about a week of getting a notification for testing).

Again, if you are interested in alpha testing the tool, please email me at VoxPorter@gmail.com . I'll select testers based on my current needs and the number who volunteer.

Oh, and FYI, the current planned Alpha version of the VoxPorter (name still in flux) tool includes the following:

  • Export all publicly viewable blog posts from a user's blog to a WXR .xml file (WordPress import file)
  • Importing this file into a WordPress blog will import blog titles, posting dates/times, content, and tags from posts to the new blog (note: links and media [pictures, music, videos] will still link to their current Vox enclosures for now)
  • Select whether trackback pings and comments will be globally enabled or disabled on all imported posts

Future improvements planned once this version is tested and available in a steady-state form:

  • Option to also export post comments (would show up under each blog post, just like they do on Vox)
  • Automatic splitting of WXR file on the fly into 2 MB sections for blogs with massive archives
  • Secondary tool to allow you to quickly and easily download your entire uploaded photos library for use on your new blog
  • Secondary tool to allow you to quickly and easily see what other social media services your Vox neighbors use (along with links to their individual accounts) so even if you decide not to stick with Vox, you can still stay in contact with your 'hood through other apps or sites

Other improvements possible but less likely (given the time I have to work on this):

  • Converting Vox links to your blog posts on the fly so they link to other posts in your new blog
  • Converting to other blog formats besides WordPress (Blogger, MovableType, etc)
  • Automatic widget/banner creation that you can post on your Vox blog to point people to your new blog location

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State of the Vox Export Tool

Note:  The post below is extremely geeky and probably not interesting to anyone except those who would like to follow along with the progress of HOW I'm implementing a Vox export tool.  If you're just interested in hearing when I'm done with it, this is not the post for you – that'll come soon. 

I'm more laying this out for my own thought processes than in any sort of attempt to educate on how the export tool is going to finally work.  The good news is I have a tentatively working solution that will theoretically import a full Vox blog onto a self-hosted WordPress installation.  The bad news is that the solution in mind will NOT work for (free-hosted) WordPress.com installations, so I'm still trying to figure out an alternative for those.  Preferably one that does not involve someone having to find a friend with access to a self-hosted version to do an intermediate conversion for them.

After countless hours (days? weeks?) of half-assed research online, here's a summary of what I've come up with regarding exporting from Vox (VoxPorting?  Anyone got a better name for the eventual tool I'll be posting?)

  1. Blogging services SUCK at normalizing on an export standard.  Every single one of them is different.  Likewise, almost all of them try to trap you into their service by only allowing you to import their export types and/or only export a type that will be incompatible with other services.  This means people have to get crafty if they want to jump from one platform to another, especially if they do it more than once.
  2. The big contenders for free (hosted) blogging services out there seem to be (in no particular order): Vox, LiveJournal, Blogger, and WordPress (hosted on WordPress.com).  Yes, MySpace and its clones exist, and no, I'm not going to even try to get content over on to them.
  3. Additionally, you've got WordPress (self-hosted) and MovableType (self-hosted) which are free, but require you to host them somewhere.
  4. Paid services exist (TypePad, etc.) but since they require you to front money, I'm not focusing on trying to export to them.
  5. That being said, looking at the free services, I've found the following:
  • I'm not looking to import into Vox, since that's obviously contrary to the whole point of a Vox export tool.  I believe there are easier ways to migrate content from one Vox account to another than exporting/importing.  That being said, if you're just trying to back up your Vox blog, you can either use BlogBackupOnline (to back up online only) or Simon Wistow's VoxSlurp (to back up to an .mbox file) – more on these in another post.
  • Apparently exporting to a file to import to LiveJournal is out, as LJ doesn't even appear to be able to import its own export files.  Unless you're planning to repost every individual post on LJ, probably not an option.  I'm not even considering this at the moment.
  • Blogger only imports "Blogger export files".  There are solutions out there that seem to use Blogger APIs to get around this limitation, but this looks like A LOT of work.  I looked at what the Blogger export files look like and don't know that I can forge one to duplicate a Vox account onto a Blogger blog.  Holding this out as a last resort option, especially as there seems to be an alternative (see a couple bullets down, below).
  • WordPress (self-hosted or on WordPress.com) seem to be the most likely choices.  I've had success importing an RSS feed from Vox to a self-hosted WordPress blog.  It would be fairly trivial to expand this to create a custom RSS .xml file to encompass a full Vox blog, and import that into a new WordPress blog.  HOWEVER, WordPress.com blogs (free-hosted) do NOT have the "import from RSS" as one of their options (for some bizarre reason, they don't offer this??)  Instead:
  • WordPress.com imports from WordPress export files, called WXR (WordPress eXtended RSS).  Both self-hosted and free-hosted solutions export to WXR files, and both can import from the other (I believe).  Furthermore, once you've got a WXR file, you can use a solution to convert this into a Blogger-compatible format to import to Blogger!  Sounds like the winner, if I can figure out how to properly create a WXR file from a Vox blog.  Except documentation on the WXR format seems to be pretty much non-existant, so the only way to figure it out is to analyze an existing blog's export file, the WordPress import code, and experiment.  Not the ideal way to make sure I'm doing it correctly, and definitely a way that's going to take more time to get to complete.
    • One added benefit to doing a WXR file – if I set it up properly, I could actually scrape the Vox blog posts for comments, and forge new comments to be imported along with the blog posts – this way, not only would you be importing your hard work to a new blog, you'd be carrying along the comments (which oftentimes are as informative/entertaining as the original post!)  Currently the plan is to do the first pass with just blog posts, and then once I get that up and running, consider devising the import w/ comments.  The big problem is my approach to getting the content off the Vox blog will vary tremendously depending on whether or not I'm capturing comments – if I am, I have to do the much more tedious (and much slower) page-scraping, as opposed to taking advantage of the Vox RSS feeds that I would be using for the other non-comment method.  I'm not sure I'd want to commit to doing a page-scrape for every Vox export – I currently am doing that for my Picture and MP3 backup tool and it takes a bit of time – this would be even worse, given that some people have thousands of posts on Vox.
  • Movable Type also seems to be able to import WXR files.  Definitely looks like WXR is the way to go, and then provide that file to the user for their use in importing to WordPress or MT (directly) or Blogger (via the converter).

Since I know you CAN import to a self-hosted WordPress blog from Vox and then export that right back out to a WXR, the cynical part of me says I should post this solution and then people who self-host can go ahead and import, and people that don't can find someone to do it for them.  Heck, I might even go ahead and do this as an intermediate step to the final soltuion.  But in the end, I don't want to create half a solution and have most of the users have to fend for themselves.  People shouldn't be penalized just because they signed up for a free blog on Vox and now want to have a free blog somewhere else instead.

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QotD: DJ Me

    What is (or would be) your DJ name?

Actually, the correct tense would be 'What WAS your DJ name?'  And in my case, I'm ashamed to admit I didn't have one.  I'd just introduce myself as Ross when I was backannouncing.  A couple of the other folks at the station had kickass DJ names – like one gal called herself NJ Gauthier (pronounced NJ Go-tee-ay), and of course we had our resident electronic music spinner, DJ Audiorapture.  I was just Ross though.

That didn't prevent me from acting like a true DJ though, picking my own music and filling some requests when I could.  We used to get collect calls from the nearby prison inmates requesting songs.  The call would go something like this:

"You are receiving a collect call from:" "Anything by Tool except Schism" "would you like to accept the call?

(At which time you were supposed to hang up and decide whether you were feeling generous and could fit in something for the poor inmates, who probably were listening to the radio while lifting weights or some other boring activity.)

Unfortunately, at the time, Tool's "Schism" was on the heavy rotation list, so it got played a couple times a day.  Since local station guidelines prohibited us from playing anything by the same artist within a certain timeframe, I don't think I was able to help out with this request.  Not that I would have minded – most of the Tool songs off of the Lateralus album are over 5 minutes in length…which means an extra long break for the DJ.

I feel a little bit guilty about not being able to play some Tool that day…so here's some for all you inmates with computers out there…and I've made sure it isn't Schism.  Enjoy!

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