I started this blog in 2005, and back then, it was pretty much either WordPress or Blogger. WordPress seemed more customizable, especially since I had a hosting plan where I could host my own blog and dive in to the underlying PHP if I wanted to, so it seemed like the right platform for me at the time.
As the micro blogging platforms emerged, I realized that they were more appropriate for most of my posts (many were little more than a link with a short blurb on why I thought it was important). Furthermore, I could reach different audiences via different channels: Facebook for friends and family, Twitter for quasi professional exchanges, Del.ico.us and Google Reader for sharing important articles, etc. I’ve tried them all, and in the process have created a very fractured online identity.
It was starting to get out of hand, so I finally decided to take advantage of all the modern APIs and syndication formats to wrangle my content into a central repository, but where? I could immediately rule out most of the services that I was such as Facebook, Twitter, Del.ico.us, and the Google services (Profiles, Buzz, Picasa)as they simply weren’t up to the task of incorporating all of my content. Those services would be the source of content, but I would I need a real blogging platform to bring them all together under one branded site. Below are all the options I considered along with some pros and cons of each.
ASP.Net Solutions: BlogEngine.Net, and Orchard
Although I develop for many frameworks, .Net is the one that pays the bills and therefore the one I spend the most time developing in. So, it makes sense to have a my blog powered by .Net, right? Not so fast. I’ve had a rocky relationship with ASP.Net WebForms since the beginning. As far as ASP.Net goes, the only joy to be had is in MVC, Razor, and now WebPages, and I want any under the hood tweaks I do to my blog to be fun for me. After all, no one will be paying me for them. So, while BlogEngine.Net is indeed a mature platform with an active community developing themes and plugins, I just can’t bring myself to type <asp:… in my spare time.
I was looking for an MVC alternative to BlogEngine.Net when I found out about Orchard. The idea of a content management system written in ASP.Net MVC and Razor really piqued my interest, but the platform was still in beta. Since it launched I revisited it to see if it was ready for prime time. I think it would be great for an ASP.Net developer starting a new blog, but it’s just too new, and lacking too many features for my needs. I plan to get an Orchard site going soon so I can participate in the evolution of the platform and most likely I will eventually move all of my content there.
Hosted Solutions: SquareSpace and Tumblr
SquareSpace seems to be the most customizable of the hosted platforms out there. The catch is that it’s not free and I couldn’t justify the extra cost with free alternatives out there.
Tumblr, like WordPress.com and Blogger, offers free plans that fill the middle space between Facebook and Twitter and hosting your own blog. While none offer as much customization as SquareSpace, they do offer a lot. Tumblr seems to be particularly good at integrating your content from other feeds (exactly what I’m trying to do) and as a bonus it works really well on mobile devices (both for display and posting). It almost won me over, after all If it’s good enough for Rob Conery, it’s should be good enough for me, right?
The problem with all of these hosted solutions is that I couldn’t find an easy way to bring in content from my old blog. Tumblr was good at brining in tweets and Del.ico.us links day forward, but I couldn’t find a way to bring in older content. Furthermore, I wasn’t sure I wanted to since Tumbr integrates all of those into one feed. What I really wanted to display the different sources of content as either sidebar or their own pages.
Back Where I Started, Hosting My Own WordPress Blog
Stick with what you know, right? I’m already happy with my decision. The WordPress platform has evolved a lot in the 6 years since I started this blog. It was easy for me to find a clean, simple (just the code ma’am) theme that uses HTML5 and CSS3, as well as a dozen new plug-ins to handle everything from incorporating my content from other services to simple SEO tweaks. When there wasn’t a plug-in available to something, I have been able to write very simple PHP code to do it (more on that later).
More importantly, I had fun finding all the clever themes, widgets and plugins and even more fun whipping up a few lines of PHP code here and there to make things just the way I want them on the site.