SEB will be changing platforms once again.

I’ve mentioned previously that I was thinking of moving SEB off of ExpressionEngine and onto some other platform, likely WordPress, and now I’ve finally made the decision to do so. Not everyone cares, but for those who are curious as to why I thought I should take a moment and explain.

We’ve been running on the ExpressionEngine platform for the last five years. Before that SEB, and the other blogs I host for friends and family, ran under MovableType up until the release of version 3.0. I originally made the switch to EE due to the licensing fiasco that accompanied the release of MT 3.0. By the time Six Apart came to their senses and made MT licenses reasonable again we were already running on ExpressionEngine and digging all the cool new goodies it had. It turned out to be a great move as EE had a lot of stuff in it that MT didn’t and continued to add lots of cool stuff as the years rolled by and the platform built up a market for itself.

As it turns out, however, the market that the folks at EllisLab found themselves supporting was slowly becoming less and less blogger-types and more and more web application developer types. It seems that ExpressionEngine not only made for a fantastic blogging platform, but for a pretty damned impressive website building tool at a cost far less than many other CMS platforms. Being smart people the folks at EllisLab took that ball and ran with it. This is most evident in the upcoming release of ExpressionEngine 2.0, which is currently in beta testing and which I got to play around with for a bit. One of the changes that drives the point home is the fact that you no longer define “weblogs” in the system, but “channels.” Which is, if you know how EE works, actually a much better way to describe things. ExpressionEngine now drives some of the bigger sites out there and people are using it to build all manner of cool web applications and, honestly, the fact of the matter is that EE has outgrown me.

Which is exactly how I worded it in the email I sent the EllisLab folks letting them know I was dropping out of the beta test and moving off the platform. From everything I’ve seen ExpressionEngine 2.0 is going to be pretty damned amazing for the people that have the skills to take advantage of it fully, which would be the professional web developers. That’s not to say that EE 2.0 wouldn’t be an excellent blogging platform, but that’s no longer the primary focus because it’s attracted a market for which that is only a small part of what they’re going to use it for. That means some of the features I’ve been hoping to see implemented probably won’t be anytime soon. Again, not because they’re bad features, but because they’re not what the overall EE marketplace is looking for. And that’s as it should be.

WordPress has made a lot of progress since I first considered it five years ago and it now has a lot of the things I switched to EE to get, plus some of the things I’ve been waiting for EE to add. It is, more than ever, squarely aimed at bloggers and it’s enjoying a huge popularity as a result. If I had the PHP and mySQL programming skills I could easily develop modules and extensions for EE that would do all the stuff I’ve been hoping for, but I don’t have those skills. WordPress already has a lot of that stuff anyway so the sensible thing is to switch the tool I’m using to the one that best fits my needs and desires.

The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not switching because I suddenly consider ExpressionEngine inadequate. I think it’s great. It still has one of the easiest templating systems I’ve ever used considering how powerful it is. I will still recommend EE to people who are looking for an excellent low-cost CMS package that is easily modifiable and extensible with an active and helpful community behind it, because that’s just what you’d get with EE. I’m switching because the direction I want to head in and the one EE is headed in are diverging enough that it’s the right move to make. I will still be keeping an eye on EE as time goes by just as I do with MovableType. I won’t rule out the possibility of switching yet again because you never know what another five years will bring.

All that said, the change won’t be happening over night. I have already developed templates that’ll make exporting everything from EE over to WP a relatively painless process, but we will lose a few things along the way. First off is the SEBpedia, which is powered by the built-in Wiki module of EE. It doesn’t seem like it gets used all that much anyway so it’s probably not a huge loss, but I may try to find a way to preserve the data it has.

Second thing we’ll lose is the vast majority of user accounts. WordPress will auto-create accounts for people who have had at least one entry that they’ve submitted, but it won’t auto-create accounts for commenters. Those of you who do get an auto-created account will have to use the password recovery option to reset the password so you can login so be sure you have a current email address in your user account before we make the switch.

The third thing that we’ll lose is cross-links within past entries until I can be bothered to go through and fix them all. The basic URL structure will be changing so there will be a lot of broken links in old entries that refer to other entries. It’ll also take awhile for Google to re-index the site and update its database to reflect the new links as well. It’s a bummer, but it can’t be avoided easily.

The last thing that we’ll lose is cross-site user accounts. With EE if you registered on SEB then your account would work on my mother’s blog, my sister’s blog, and so on because they were all part of the same system. With WP I’ll have to have a separate install for each site so if you want an account on all of them you’ll have to register at each one separately.

Beyond that I think most stuff should make the transition. I’ll probably start with one of the freely available themes out there and then once everything is up and running I’ll work on learning how the WP templating system works. As always your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are encouraged.

11 thoughts on “SEB will be changing platforms once again.

  1. Thanks for posting this.

    As mentioned previously, I myself am sitting on the fence with regards to EE 2.0. The upgrade price is barely within my pain threshold, but since I didn’t luck out with the beta I’ll have to wait until a trial version is publicly available to see for myself if the upgrade of EE and the commercial add-ons I have will be worth it.

    I like the web application part of EE and I’d hate to lose it. I have thought about (but never implemented) a number of web applications that might be useful for one reason or another and in all cases, it would take very little custom code on top of what EE allows me to build out of the box. The one thing that really interests me is how easy it is to blend Code Igniter stuff with EE 2.0.

    On the other hand, EE has stagnated during the overly lengthy development process of 2.0. My own blogs are all but abandoned, I simply lost the motivation to write about anything on a more or less regular schedule. I can see that keeping a copy of EE 2.0 around for development purposes might be nice, but there’s no compelling reason to keep my blogs on the EE platform.

    As opposed to Les, I’m not too fond of WordPress, although it’s an alternate platform worth a thought. I still believe that if I migrate off EE, it’ll be most likely back to Drupal. And I might give TextPattern another look…

    Anyway, I hope Les has a painless migration when the time comes. And that he’ll share his templates grin

  2. Les,
    I too think it would be a good idea to share those templates. I wouldn’t need them, but other people might find use in them. I’ve been using WordPress ever since I started and found it a joy to use. The changes since first running it are truly impressive. And no matter how far behind I get in updating it doesn’t seem to have a drastic impact on my site which is nice. I have written some plugins and modified themes so if you have questions along those lines don’t be afraid to ask.

    I think you should give WordPress another shot. I’m not sure what you don’t like about it, but you may find that the changes since you last looked at it have solved the issue. Maybe it hasn’t, but if it fits your needs I say why not?

  3. I’ll almost certainly be sharing the templates. I tend to share that sort of thing anyway, but considering the trouble I went through to figure them out there’s no way I’m keeping it to myself.

  4. Before you switch, you should consider Drupal. It is more general purpose than WP. You can do nearly anything in it simply by installing a module. You can still have you wiki, though you will probably have to restart it unless there is a module that can import EE wikis. That wouldn’t surprise me since there are modules that can import WP data.

  5. Webs, three interrelated reasons.

    First, I’m turned off by the sheer number of third-party plugins people install for a simple blog. It seems like a maintenance hassle and segues into:

    Second, WP’s security track record is abysmal compared to EE and the more third-party stuff you install, the worse it gets.

    Third and most importantly, compared to EE WP seems like wearing a straightjacket. WP is a great piece of equipment, provided you’re okay with your arms being locked just so.

    Drupal suffers from the first two issues as well, but I can get by with very few pieces of contributed software.

    @Robert Grimm

    I suppose if somebody would donate professional-quality custom themes, Les might reconsider Drupal grin

  6. I have, and continue to, played around with Drupal over the years. My biggest complaint about it is the same one I have with WordPress: The theme system is a nightmare.

    That’s not what rules it out for most of the blogs I run, though. What rules it out is the fact that the back-end for it and the terminology it uses is a lot more confusing than what WP has. It’s the Linux of content management systems in that it’s very powerful, but has a steep learning curve.

    That would be fine if I were setting it up solely for myself, but I host blogs for both my parents, my sister, my daughter, and a couple of family friends all of whom I’d have to teach how to use Drupal. WordPress is at least closer to what they’re used to from using EE. I could always set them up with WP (I already have one blog converted, the templates worked great) and then use Drupal for SEB, but if I’m going to be supporting WP it’s probably best that I run WP so I know it like the back of my hand.

    That’s the logic I’m using anyway.

  7. Les, you can run whatever you want for whatever reasons you want grin

    It bears remembering that EE is a full-fledged content management framework (CMF) that evolved from a blogging tool; Drupal is best suited for a portal/community site, but runs a blog just fine; WP has always been a blogging platform that tries to branch out into CMS territory. Pick your poison, eh.

    Supporting content publishers (to put it euphemistically) is an issue I don’t have, but even for EE it’s not uncommon to have developers set up stand-alone entry/edit forms to keep publishers away from the control panel. I personally don’t see a qualitative difference between Drupal’s content creation pages and EE’s SAEF—and WP’s control panel for that matter, although WP’s terminology annoys and confounds me at times.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to running multiple platforms, like SEB on Drupal and the rest of your sites on WP. Obviously, it’s twice the learning curve and maintenance, but it also means that not all of your sites have the same security vulnerability at the same time. While I’ll always have a soft spot for Drupal, I don’t know that I would suggest running SEB only on it unless you have concrete plans to make it more of a community site—whatever that may mean. Other than “I have this here hammer, let’s look for a matching nail.”

  8. If you have lots of blogs you should consider using WPMU, the multi-user version of WordPress, it makes managing multiple blogs much easier, and lets you share user accounts between all blogs.

  9. I actually tried WPMU and I found it somewhat confusing to work with. Some of the changes from standard WP—the inability to embed YouTube videos without a separate plugin— also weren’t to my liking. In the end I went with the approach that seemed like it would allow for the maximum amount of plugin and theme compatibility. It doesn’t hurt that WP itself is supposed to eventually support multiple blogs in the future.

  10. Well, I’m pleased with my shift from MT to WP.  The Theme system is not ideal—but its flaws are largely due to the freedom that the platform provides.  Which means it pays to delve into what themes you use and figure out if they provide the support, flexibility, and features you want.

    As noted elsewhere, Les, if I can be of any assistance (now that I am off my sickbed), please let me know.

  11. I’ll be switching from EE to WP too, as soon as I work up enough enthusiasm to get started on it. I think I’ll install a WP blog on one of my other domains first just to kick the tires and play with it a bit, while I figure out exactly WTF I really want to do with…

    Glad you’re willing to share that script smile

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