November 17th, 2008
I have been using Serendipity on my blog for some time now. Overall, I’ve been pleased with it, but the conversion was a pain.
Serendipity is a simple blog engine, and has a wonderful built-in plugin system. It can detect what plugins need upgrading, and install those upgrades, all from directly within the management interface. There’s no unzipping stuff in install directories as with WordPress.
On the other hand, Serendipity has had some long-standing issues. #1 in the list is spam protection. I’ve been using the Captha system, but as some others have commented on here periodically, it can be a hassle for legitimate humans. The Serendipity implementation in particular, I mean.
Another issue was with the plugins themselves. Because the software does updates itself, and plugins tend to write things in the install directory, your Serendipity install directory has to be writable by the webserver. Morever, it is difficult to keep track of local changes — forcing me to use git on the tree, and even then, it’s difficult.
Finally, there has been some long-standing weirdness with the RSS feeds.
I switched to WordPress over the weekend. It doesn’t solve everything, but it is a nice improvement. It has a ton of themes available, though many of them are not as high-quality as the themes in Serendipity, and it is hard to pick out the good ones quickly.
WordPress has a larger development community and seems to be getting new features and improvements at a more rapid rate than Serendipity. I particularly like how it automatically saves drafts as I’m typing. That is a wonderful feature. I can’t tell how many draft posts I’ve lost by accidentally clicking on the wrong thing.
Serendipity has a ton of plugins as well. I looked for Twitter plugins today. There are maybe a dozen of them. But there is no central tracking of them, so I have no idea which ones might be nicely peer-reviewed and which ones might rm -rf / on my server. Also, I don’t know which ones are going to be supported and upgraded over time.
I’m happy with the way most WordPress themes work nicely with widgets. Though I am baffled that some WP themes hard-code in things like the calendar or archives when they could just let people insert a widget for it.
The Conversion Process
This was a real pain. I started with a Serendipity to WordPress converter. But alas, it only supports Serendipity databases in MySQL and mine’s in PostgreSQL. I used SQuirreL SQL with the DBCopy plugin to convert it. This worked… sorta. A few tables didn’t convert, but I didn’t need those. Some others had indexes that wouldn’t convert, and after re-trying it enough times, it went.
Then I ran the converter. Alas it had some bugs and had to be fixed up with current table names and some things like that. Also I hacked it to preserve ID numbers. So eventually this migrated over the posts and categories.
It did not preserve the category hierarchy. It also didn’t recognize when nl2br was disabled, and munge the post appropriately. And it didn’t migrate over tags, so I wrote a Haskell program to do that.
Then it was a matter of crafting a bunch of RedirectPermanent and RewriteRule entries for Apache to try to redirect the old article pages and RSS feeds to their new locations as much as possible.
I’m glad I did it, and I don’t plan to do this again for a long time.