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Where content meets technology

Dec 26, 2008

Re-platforming www.contenthere.net

If you have been playing close attention, you might have noticed that www.contenthere.net is now running on WordPress. Prior to the migration, the site was hosted on a combination of Blogger, Yahoo Store, and some hand coded HTML (managed in Subversion of course). That arrangement was fine but I ran into limitations with the integration between Yahoo Store and the rest of the architecture. There were no big show stoppers, just little inconveniences that I was getting tired of working around. Besides, I was itching to tinker - we techies get like that sometimes.

Selecting a new platform was fun because I got to be the client in a process in which I am normally the consultant. I was quite different from a typical Content Here client. First of all, I had no budget. Second, the president of the company (i.e. me) wanted the technology to be fun to program in. Third, I didn't want to choose a platform that I would recommend to my typical clients because I do not want to appear biased. Incidentally, the last point is a main reason why I have held off implementation of a content management solution for so long.

My first choice was the Django web application framework. I had done some prototyping on the platform and was really impressed with the cleanness of the architecture and how quickly you could build applications. It is a little like Ruby on Rails but in Python. Furthermore, Django has a popular e-commerce application called Satchmo. I installed Satchmo and was able to understand the code and make some quick customizations on it. What really killed Django for me was the lack of a good blogging platform. There are a number of simple django blogging applications out there but nothing seemed to fit the bill. The closest was Banjo but it didn't seem to be that well supported. There is actually a long standing discussion in the Django community about the framework's lack of mature blogging applications.

The next two finalists were Drupal and WordPress. I have built sites on Drupal and like the framework a lot. However, the commerce module always seems to be far behind the current release of the core. I also think that Drupal is a little bit more than I need for my simple site (a blog with a shopping cart).

My decision to go with WordPress started as a simple prototype. I was amazed at how quickly I could create a theme to match my old design. The commerce module WP e-Commerce looked pretty solid and I was able to quickly get it working with PayPal as my payment gateway. I also found some useful plugins to provide me the features I was missing in Blogger (like related posts, etc.). The thing that sealed the deal for me was the ease with which WordPress imported all my blogger posts and comments. I was even able to make the permalinks match the same structure as Blogger's for easier URL re-mapping (just a simple rewrite rule). Wordpress surely has its warts (there are plenty of places where the code gets pretty sketchy) but for a simple, reliable blogging platform with e-commerce capabilities, I am quite pleased.