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« Solving Das XBox Problem | Main | New blog: IT|Redux »

Dec 19, 2005

Comments

Anil

Jeff, it's probably worth noting that we've had full support for import/export in Movable Type and TypePad since day one, something that's not true of other platforms you've considered. There's a lot of reasons that I think you should consider staying with Six Apart platforms (though it may well turn out that something like Movable Type on Yahoo web hosting is the right choice for you) but if this is an important consideration, then that may well require crossing other platforms off your shortlist.

Let me know if you'd want more information or to continue the discussion around this. We've been leading the standardization/interoperability conversation for years now, so we have some pretty strong thoughts.

My key points are that we support multiple databases and operating systems for running Movable Type, which isn't true for other platforms; We support exporting all your data into the format that's become the defacto standard, which isn't true for most other platforms; And finally, we support full interchange through the IETF standard Atom format and API, which is as strong a standard as HTTP but hasn't been unequivocally embraced by other platforms.

I'm glad to have the conversation come up, because when people get more facts (such as our better standards support, or even our higher uptime than other services) it makes TypePad and Movable Type seem more compelling.

jeff

Anil,
The other day I bought a license for MT. While I think Wordpress has some fine features I like the management console in MT for managing a portfolio of blogs.

PXLated

Jeff...I know that Expression Engine can import from the MoveableType format. A lot of exMT'rs in the EE forums. In fact, one of the key forum moderators is a convert so there's plenty of help there if you want to make a change.
(Not associated with the company by the way)

Jason

Jeff, I've done quite a bit of converting between weblog systems -- I wrote a custom suite of scripts to move myself off of Userland's Manila a few years back (and in so doing have become a de facto point person for others doing the same, having now moved about two dozen others off of Manila), plus quite a bit more converting to and from WordPress and TypePad over the past year or two. I can say that there really isn't any weblog system that gives you a few-step process by which every single bit of your content (text, images, templates, XML, etc.) is packaged up nicely and ready to plop down elsewhere. That being said, the closest anyone's come is Six Apart; there's a reason that most other systems read and write the MT import/export format.

Feel free to contact me offline for more info, and more stories of how hard some of the older weblog systems made it (and STILL make it, despite the public bluster of their founders and proponents) to get data out of them.

Steve Borsch

Complete and total backup is one issue. It makes it simple to create an independent archive. What's really at stake is the ownership and control over the content we've each created.

The kicker is that now -- after one year of content creation on my blog -- I've strategically painted myself in to a corner. While Typepad does allow export, it's text as you described.

Also, I have wanted to create a complete look-n-feel-by-page output as a way of capturing and archiving my blog for the future. Currently there is a 3rd party service that can output in book format, but it's text only. I can save a page as a "web archive" which still requires fetching content from the server. So there isn't any way to capture my blog.

If I was at Typepad I'd do what they're doing: making it kinda, sorta easy to output a blog...just so long as it's not an actual duplicate and/or one that could be exported and then imported in to another package like MT or Wordpress. Keeps switching costs *really* high.

As a Typepad user, I want the freedom and flexibility to manage, own and re-use my content in any way I see fit. If I get disgruntled with Typepad and want to switch, I should feel free to do so.

Jason

Thinking about this more, it's pretty clear how hard it would be to provide a 100% solution for weblog export.

Take templates, for example: what should a weblog system do with tags that are specific to that system when it's exporting its templates? TypePad and Movable Type have specific tags that direct page layout and content inclusion; WordPress has PHP function calls that do the same. How should these get exported?

Similarly, take images. TypePad lets me upload images in a standard location for my weblog, but also lets me put images anywhere I want using the File Manager. How does an exporter know where I've stashed my images?

Just thinking out loud here... but also thinking with the perspective of having written in the past a converter that had to try to map dissimilar concepts to each other between weblog systems, and try to convert in a way that kept as much functionality as possible.

jeff

wow, a lot of really good comments. To be clear, what I want from Typepad or any other hosting provider is a mechanism to create a complete image of my blog that is portable to another platform. This is radically different than the export function they currently offer.

As Steve pointed out, I own my blog content, and that content is more than just the text.

Jason

Jeff, to ask a question: how would content providers give you that without there being a common language spoken by all weblog services? One small example: to output the content of a single post in WordPress, a template designer calls the PHP function "the_content()". To output the content of a single post in Movable Type and TypePad, a template designer uses the $MTEntryBody$ tag (and perhaps the $MTEntryMore$ tag, if there's a more-inside section). Add the layer of complexity of how each system iterates through a list of posts that are to be displayed (e.g., display a certain array of posts on the home page, another array of posts on the page for category X, etc.), and you quickly see how it's virtually impossible for any one weblog system to be able to offer what you want without there being some intermediate language they all share in common... and that's just when we're talking about the templates through which your weblog is displayed. Layer on each additional complexity (like the fact that all weblog systems have different filesystem layouts when it comes to where posts, images, templates, XML files, and the like are stored), and it becomes clear that what weblog system authors *can* provide is a way for us to get our raw content out -- our text, our images, our templates -- and then leave it in our hands to translate them to the next system we choose.

jeff

RosettaNet does it for much more complex and diverse systems than blogs...
http://www.rosettanet.org/RosettaNet/Public/PublicHomePage

I don't buy the argument that it's "virtually impossible" because any system can be deconstructed and then put back together. I think this is a real opportunity for a new category of third party management tools. We already have third party statistics/analytics, blogrolling, advertising, and posting tools, why not third party backup/recovery/migration.

We have already accepted that the content can be moved (although my experience here is mixed), so why not map images/files to a new directory structure and edit the backup file to reflect that, after all you know where the files are located based on the url references in the backup file itself. taking the CSS templates to a new host should not be difficult and any special formatting edited to reflect what the new host can and cannot handle.

Your solution is dependent on all the major providers getting together and agreeing on a set of standards. My suggestion is that there is an opportunity for a third party to do this because the vendors themselves won't likely do it themselves.

Matt

I wrote a plugin about a year ago that could be helpful for your transition:

http://downloads.wordpress.org/plugin/cache-images.zip

Basically after you've imported all your Typepad content this will go through all of your posts, transfer images from domains you select and upload them to your server, and then update all the links to those images in your blog posts.

Jason

Certainly, Jeff, I agree with you -- if you read what I wrote closely, I said that it's "virtually impossible for any one weblog system to be able to offer what you want without there being some intermediate language they all share in common," so it follows that if such an intermediate language were to arise, it would become much more possible.

I also agree with you that it's a ripe area for a third-party vendor -- and as an explicit corollary, I very much think that this is a function each individual vendor can *not* be expected to perfect. There's no way that TypePad users can expect that Six Apart will provide them with an export mechanism that outputs picture-perfect WordPress weblogs, or Blogger blogs, or [you name your system] blogs, because there are too many of them and too many disparate notions of what content belongs within the management purview of each weblog system. This speaks to your statement that any system can be deconstructed and put back together, a statement I'd only agree with if we're talking about systems that all share identical components. In the world of weblogs, though, that's far from true; weblog system A provides a mechanism for metadata that weblog system B doesn't have any room for, weblog system C provides TrackBacks while weblog system D doesn't, ad infinitum. So while it's trivial to break any one weblog down to its component parts, when you try to reassemble them in a new system, you might find that you have a few parts left over, and a few others missing altogether. (Ah, memories of the results of Ikea shopping trips!)

I guess you and I fundamentally agree, but I'd caution you to remember that there is no one standard for what a weblog is, and from that fact stem all the problems surrounding how one gets data into and out of any specific implementation of a weblog system. It's also why a standard like Atom -- which tries to form explicit standards for the content publishing side of weblogs -- is so important.

jeff

Jason,
We are in violent agreement, I love it when that happens!

Your points about this being complex when you get into the details are noted and well stated.

Matt, thanks for the note on the WP plugin, I wasn't aware that that existed.

TQ White II

Here's my advice. Add programming to your hobby. Figure out a language (Ruby is getting good marks for high acceleration learning. I use php/mySQL. It's fabulous.), buy a domain, and write a blog.

That's what I have done and it has many, many great virtues in addition to being MINE. I wrote it so that I have a whole bunch of blogs for different reasons on one page. I wrote it so that the posting methods are just what I like. I wrote it so that I can own it, love it and be happy.

I don't have to wait for someone else to change things. I don't have to worry about who owns my stuff or how I get it back.

And, programming is a great thing to do. I see pictures of my dad holding a carburator in his hand from the fifties. He loved hacking cars. Can't do that anymore, they are too complicated. The happy thing is programming provides most of the same fun but you don't get all dirty.

Join in babies. Programming is the greatest!!

tqii

David Mercer

The following wget command (available on Linux, Unix, Mac OS X and even Windows via cygwin) will back up a site, convert it to have all relative links, and not download anything outside of it, into the directory 'MyOldBlog', in a form suitable for posting on any static webhosting space:

wget -nH -E -k -m -P MyOldBlog -k http://MyOldBlog.url.com/

And no, I don't expect normal users to have figured that command line "spell" out, as the wget options list is indeed daunting and vast. Hence my posting of this tid bit.

Hope that helps!

-David Mercer
Tucson, AZ

jeff

David,
That is a really good tip, my new blog (still in testing mode) is on a hosted server so I will be able to take advantage of this.

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it's seems how hard it could be to providie a 100% solution for weblog export.

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