Tag: wordpress

The Monday Morning Haiku #16

It is amazing
how kids suck up your free time.
Just like Google+.


 

Yes, it seems this week I’ve traded one time-suck for another. My wife took the kids to go visit my folks in PA this week, but I unfortunately had to remain behind because of some work commitments.

Basically, I’m home alone all this week, which would ideally put me on the side of productivity, including such gems as mowing the lawn, cleaning the bathrooms, straightening the garage, etc. In reality, it means I’ve spent all my free time checking out the new social media powerhouse that is Google+. I managed to snag an invite near the end of last week from one of the early-early adopters, and within the first 3 days of using it, have decided it is most definitely my preferred social media network. The privacy settings are everything Facebook/WordPress/Tumblr lack, the integration with existing Google services is fantastic, and I can’t help but think that it is only a matter of time before I mothball/delete my Facebook account and switch over 100% to Google+.

If you’re not yet on Google+, invitations open periodically and I’d be happy to invite you so you can see what all the fuss is about. Just let me know what your email address is so I can send the invitation your way. And if you’re already a G+ flunky, you can find me and add me to your circles at http://gplus.to/rossruns . Catch you over there!


Goodbye Vox??? (aka How to Pack Your Bags and Regroup)

NOTE: This was a post over on Vox that I’ve exported over since the service is shutting down.

Edit: Upon re-reading my post, I realize I sounded a little bitter and accusatory of SixApart.  I am sure their decision to scrap Vox and move everyone out is not one they made easily or without consideration for the dedicated members of the Vox community.  The efforts they have gone through to provide export tools to TypePad and Flickr shows that they do care about the people that made Vox great, and they hope that those folks will have enough faith in them to follow them over to the platform that they DO plan to focus their attentions on.  I’m revising my post below to be a little less negative and try to focus more on what people can do to keep their content, wherever they decide to go from here.

I’ve been away from Vox for quite some time now, for work reasons and family commitments.  In fact, I probably wouldn’t even be posting this today if it wasn’t for the announcement that Vox has decided to close its doors and bulldoze the community that has been slipping away quietly in dribs and drabs as people became dissatisfied with what in the recent years has become a sort of pariah of the SixApart group.  As support for the Vox platform declined, so did the number of users who cared to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the tools, poor server loads, and influx of spam comments.  But now even those who stuck around through it all will need to make a decision.  The word is out folks, and it’s time to pack your bags hit the road.  Luckily, there’s a lot of handy tools and helpful instructions out there to insure that you don’t lose your content, and can hopefully transition on to bigger and better things on another blogging platform.

SixApart’s primary suggestion is that you transition your Vox blog to TypePad, another one of their blogging products, and one which, based on Steve’s recent post and comments below, looks to have A LOT of good people and support behind it to make it a fun and worthwhile product.  Although I have not used it (and thus really can’t express an opinion on it), I do recommend you give their Export to TypePad tool a chance and see what all the hooplah is about.  If you don’t like it, there are other export options that you can do that I’ll go into more detail about.

Right now, your options to export your Vox blog are as follows:

1) Export your blog (posts, photos, and audio) to a free TypePad blog
2) Export your photos and videos to a Flickr account (free or paid Pro)
3) Export your blog (posts, photos) to an alternative service such as WordPress or Posterous

Note: These are not mutually exclusive – you can export your blog + photos and audio to TypePad, and then export your photos + videos to flickr, and do another export of your blog to WordPress or the like)

Vox has #1 and #2 covered in pretty good detail – while logged in, go to www.vox.com and read the info there to see the links to export to TypePad or Flickr.  Also, more info can be found at closing.vox.com – including details of when you’ll not be allowed to post anymore, and when you’ll not be allowed to get your data any more.

As for #3, my suggestion?  Export to a WordPress blog.  Even if you don’t think you’re going to use WordPress, they will automatically import your Vox blog (posts and pictures – sorry, it still doesn’t do video or music) using their import tool.  Once there, you can easily export your entire blog contents to a single file that can be imported to almost any of the big named blogging platforms out there (there’s either direct import or conversion tools).  Plus, your pictures will be hosted by WordPress until you can find somewhere else that you want to host them.

Please note that you can either do a WordPress.com blog (i.e. they host it there) or a self-hosted installation of WordPress on your own site.  If you want to import to a self-hosted wordpress blog without any intervening steps, follow the instructions here to install the import plugins on your self-hosted installation and go to it.

If you’re not a WordPress fan and don’t want to try TypePad, you can also check out Posterous.  Vox has details and the link to export to Posterous here.  There are also tools that will allow you to import a WordPress blog into Blogger, if that’s more of your thing – just export to WP and then use one of those tools to transfer over.

I’d love for my Vox neighborhood to leave me comments to this post for where I can best keep in touch with you.  Just because I’ve been absent from Vox doesn’t mean I want to lose touch with those folks I used to converse with regularly.  It’s still going to be a little bit before I’m back in the office and around a computer all day (and thus have time to start posting again) but I’m not giving up on blogging and don’t want to stop reading everyone else’s funny, insightful, and entertaining blogs just because SixApart decided to nix Vox.

If you guys want to find me, I’ll be porting my blog over to http://rossotron.com .  I’ll transfer over any comments from this post, too, so if you want to use this as a reference for where to find people, you can check for the related post over on that site to see where people think they’ll end up, at least in the interim.

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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!

_

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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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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Another One Bites the Dust?

So yet another of my Vox neighbors has decided that the crap Vox and SixApart has forced us all to deal with lately for the last 6 months or so is not worth the benefits of sticking with the Vox community.  He's going to be missed, but at least he'll be blogging elsewhere, so you can keep up with his posts, if you are so inclined.

One of the main reasons I first joined up with Vox was for the community aspects.  I had heard interesting things about the varying privacy levels of posts, photos, and media, and when I came and checked it out and saw all the connections and communication that were driven by the Vox neighborhoods, dashboards, etc., I jumped on board.  I got a great kick out of being able to quickly and easily take a look at all of my neighbors' posts, comments, photos, etc., and join in on some conversations and easily share my own posts with others in my neighborhood.  However, as the number of folks in my neighborhood grew, the means of interacting with them through Vox's interfaces seemed to shrink, until now I find it a pain to try to keep abreast of even the most prolific writers in my neighborhood unless I read their posts in my RSS reader.  Only occasionally do I venture onto the site and navigate the blank screens and laggy loads to seek out the neighborhood-only posts from those I haven't heard from in a while.

For the moment, I'm still sticking around here.  I haven't posted a lot recently because of my busy work/home schedules, but that also has the quasi-beneficial side effect of not allowing me to get too pissed off with Vox (yet) to want to ditch the buggy servers for another service (or my own personally-hosted site).  I can see such a move coming, however, if things don't improve here when I do end up having more time to write.

I'm still working on my Vox export tool to allow someone to back up (export) their entire public blog archive to an .xml file that can be imported into a WordPress/Blogger blog.  I doubt it'll be the web tool that will cause a full-scale diaspora of Vox users to other utilities, but hopefully it'll be useful for the more-than-a-few folks who are abandoning ship for another service that appears a bit more stable and still appears to be trying to innovate, rather than just grab all the advertising money it can while it's still afloat.

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