talkabout.cf

Blogging Software Nightmares, But All Hope Is Not Lost

The single casualty of my recent server OS update and control panel migration is my WordPress blog. Restoring the database, even to a clean install, results in an unexplainable "critical error," and floods my error logs with messages about function calls with either too few or too many arguments. I was able to get the RSS feeds for both my posts and all comments since my migration to self-hosted WordPress roughly 10 years ago, but importing them even into a fresh WordPress install fails because the RSS importer plugin they have me install from my admin dashboard is incompatible with the latest version of WordPress, and appears that it has been unmaintained through all 5.x versions of the core software. It also crashes out with a "critical error" as soon as I upload the feed to be imported, and even immediately sends me a nice little email telling me all about it.

Looking for replacements, I have tried everything from static site generators such as Nikola, Pelican and Hugo, flat-file CMS software such as Grav and even alternatives that use a database such as Chyrp Lite. None of these seem to be able to both import my RSS feed and give me a halfway-decent commenting system.

Nikola was hands-down the best when it came to importing my feed. It retained every link, every word that I posted since 2012, and didn't really even break a sweat doing it. So now I have a very well-organized grouping of posts, complete with my categories and tags and all, in separate static HTML files that I can easily store anywhere. Nikola will even make it possible to sync up to my NextCloud for backup purposes, and I can even deploy my site over rsync after adding new posts to it. The huge problem is the same that I found with other static generators: they support very few comment system providers, even less self-hosted systems, and the self-hosted systems they do support require tons of proxy/reverse proxy/Docker and other esoteric kinds of things. I did everything to try to get one of them working, and it left me scratching my head, with an empty comment section and no form to speak of anywhere.

So I tried to go the flat-file route. No database makes for extremely easy backups, and my control panel does these backups without difficulty every day, although for the first time ever, my databases are now also backed up right along with my websites and email accounts since the migration. Still, I like having several copies of things without having to screw around with database dumps that ultimately still can cause problems like what happened with WordPress. The best and most up-to-date flat-file CMS seems to be Grav, and it has a quick installer in my hosting panel, so I gave it a shot. It even has plugins that add comments to my posts, and they can be enabled and disabled per page route. But now I'm having problems with the comment plugins, and didn't even try the RSS import. One comment plugin, just called Comments, doesn't allow me to moderate comments at all. I mean I'm not trying to keep humans out under any circumstances. Say you hate me, even threaten me if you like. If you're human, you have the right to your opinion on my blog. But I do want to take some steps to deter bots or delete their spam comments, and even when I deleted a comment's text from the .yaml file corresponding to the page where the comment was left, it didn't ever disappear from the page until a new comment was left. There is a newer, as in the latest update is just 3 weeks old, plugin that is called Better Comments, and it allows me to approve or deny comments from my admin dashboard, or even delete them altogether. But although the latest update is 3 weeks old, it doesn't work. Using the Comments plugin, I filled the form with a test comment and I immediately received an email notification that a comment was left, and on the page where I left the comment, I received a "Thank you for your comment" message and could see the comment posted right below the form. Better Comments however just stopped after sending the email. No "thank you for your comment" message appeared, no comment appeared in my admin dashboard, and the .yaml file corresponding to the page where I posted my test comment was even written. So I guess I found a bug, but all this stuff is on Microsoft GitHub, and I don't want to have to get any account controlled by Microsoft just to report a bug that is not related to Microsoft in any way. And all this was just running the samples and tests, no real content at this point, as again, I didn't even attempt the import of my posts feed.

Lastly so far, I tried Chyrp Lite. But instead of using MySQL or Postgres, I decided to give SQLite3 a shot. The real beauty of SQLite3 is in its simplicity. My database is actually a file, so there is no HTTP request even to localhost in order to access it. I stick it in my private folder where php can see it but no one else can get at it, and I can even copy it over to have in several places in case of a failure. And you can't beat no copyright public domain code either. BUt this time, I never even got to the comment system. I simply can't import my feed. First of all, Chyrp Lite wants an Atom feed, and what I got from WordPress, or rather from the Wayback Machine, was RSS. I checked it, they never captured the Atom feeds, only the RSS feeds for comments and posts and the posts, comments and pages themselves, right down to the comment forms. The Internet Archive was extremely thorough, but not thorough enough to get an Atom feed. So I tried importing the RSS feed into Chyrp Lite just to see what would happen, and as expected, the result was an error stating that the post export file was invalid. I looked all over for a converter that would take my RSS feed and output an Atom feed, and eventually came back to Nikola, which did such a great job splitting my post RSS feed out into separate categorized and properly tagged HTML posts. I was able to take those separate and well-organized posts and get Nikola to turn them into one big Atom feed, no problem. Worked like the proverbial charm! But then when I took that Atom feed and tried to upload it into Chyrp Lite, I ended up with the same "The post export file is invalid" error. There was no explanation, no mention of what was in the feed that should not have been there, or what wasn't in the feed that should have been there, just an invalid file.

So now that I've tested all these things, I guess I have several options. The most appealing right now is to redeploy my Nikola site and just leave it up for historical purposes only, especially since I haven't really touched it in about 6 years except to update the software, which ultimately caused its downfall. I'm more active on my Talkabout social network anyway, and it pretty much works like a blog of a sort. Another thing I could do, which would take much time indeed, is to rebuild a brand new WordPress site using these properly categorized and tagged posts that Nikola gave me. I know that it is possible to change the publishing dates on new posts, so they will definitely show up where they need to be. But again, I don't really feel like dealing with the headache, especially since WordPress fell down and went boom after 10 years, so it could just as easily happen again. And I really mostly stopped blogging when I tried to post using my Markdown editor and found that I couldn't use it anymore, and I don't think there is a replacement for it now. I also never fully understood the concept of blocks and all that stuff when all I really want to do when I get ready to write a post is exactly what I'm doing here; I just want to sit down and write, in something as simple as Markdown, which is easy to write and easy to read, and the structure doesn't get in the way of either the writing or the reading. Of course the other option is to keep looking. I'm sure I've missed something somewhere. Hopefully in that case I will find another self-hosted blog where I can allow or deny comments and also import my feed to retain all my old posts, and I can still sit down and write a mind-blowing post in simple Markdown, complete with links and text styling and all. There's no end to Markdown renderers out here, but the other stuff seems to be near impossible to find, especially when I'm specifically looking for software that is less than two years old.

AND THE LIGHTBULB COMES ON! I just remembered that I still have a very old Tumblr blog. It appears that it actually retains all posts going even further back than just the past 10 years, probably going back all the way to when I switched off of Posterous before it got switched off. I was able to get signed in and everything, though I had lost my password and had to reset it. I can't believe that site is even still up! So my journey begins again. I know that WordPress has a Tumblr importer if I want to try that, assuming it still works with the latest version of the core software. If not, I do know that other software will in fact take a Tumblr blog and import it. And maybe I can even get a feed. So here goes nothing. Talkabout is my main place to do my posting at this point, but I did have I think it was dlvr.it or something way back in the day that replicated every single post I made on WordPress up to the last one. I'm looking right at it as I write this, so all is not lost after all, since I have a whole nother road to ride down now.
Planet earth

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