Time to Rewind and Move Forward

I am really looking forward to 2013 and what we can end up doing with WordPress as the engine to the new sites.psu service that is set to really take off. Honestly we’ve had it running in very quiet production mode for months now, but there is a whole new look and feel, complete with personal profiles and an all PSU activity stream, on the horizon as well as new themes that will amaze people for both websites and simple things like blogs and ePortfolios. All in all I am thrilled with our choice to return to our original vision from well before we adopted Moveable Type. What we wanted was a system that worked for each and every person for as many uses as they could dream — and we now have to add to that the ability to publish and manage from any platform and device they want. I am pleased with the progress towards that vision and it has me really excited about the possibilities. So when I saw Jon Armstrong say the following about how docce.com was being overhauled to be powered by wp it inspired me to reflect and share.

Still, for dooce.com, WordPress is the ideal choice.

via Drupal to WordPress Migration: Prologue | BLURBOMAT.

I’m Back.

“I’m back.”
–Michael Jordan, announcing on March 18, 1995 his return to the Chicago Bulls

Too dramatic? Yeah, probably, but it is almost March 18th. Over a year ago I had decided to move my entire blog existence from a self hosted WordPress platform to TypePad. I did this for quite a few reasons, the biggest two were to get out of the business of managing my own installation and to experience another platform altogether. I was so frustrated by a really slow host and what I considered a less than powerful writing environment. I really enjoyed using TypePad, but there were too many times I missed the advances happening in the WP space. I will say that in the year I was away, WP really grew and matured. In the end, there are just too many people on this bus.

So in light of all that progress and growth I’ve decided to come back. I spent a few hours yesterday migrating things back over here to my own installation of WordPress, writing under my own URL again, and am finding myself to be pleasantly surprised by the speed I am experiencing. What does this mean for other parts of my life where I’ve neglected WP? Not quite sure yet, but rest assured that the labs are cooking up something really good. We all have to stay tuned to how deep the energy flow can take our collective decision making across multiple spaces. In short, I am very excited about the potential moving forward on lots of fronts.

I’ll have to leave it at that for now. What I will say is that it was amazingly easy to make the migration. The other thing I will mention is that I learned quite a bit from using TypePad for an extended period of time … it does a few things so much better than WP. Some of those things are ideas I’ve pulled into conversations relative to how publishing platforms can better support faculty, staff, and student workflows, social connections, and participation. I am still searching for some of the more elusive pieces to integrate into my professional workflows, but by sampling a diversity of platforms I feel like I am getting closer to it. Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for Jim to leave a taunting comment or tweet.

Well, we’ll see if it sticks … I mean it took Jordan until March 28th to really be back. Now that was a killer Birthday present!

This Blogging Stuff is Slow

I am really starting to wonder what I am doing hosting my own WordPress install … I used to absolutely love tweaking things, trying out new plugins, remixing themes, and all the other things that go along with running your own install. But times have changed and I find myself more times that not fighting against my own installation. On top of that, I am really struggling with the lackluster performance and limited feature set. I know some of it is my dirt cheap shared hosting service, but even this process, you know writing in this editor just seems so outmoded to me.

The rise of one button publishing and drop dead simple services is taking its toll on my patience for the WordPress model. Every time I play with new services like Tumblr and Posterous I notice just how lame my own environment is for quickly posting and capturing thoughts, links, pictures, and just about everything else. I hate to say it, but I don’t like having to log into my dashboard and write — it feels like using a course management system. What I hate is that I come across something as I am in my normal workflow that inspires me to collect and share it. With my WP environment that means opening a new tab, going to my blog, logging in, copying/pasting a URL, grabbing a quote from the original article, writing, and then publishing. That is a lot of stuff to do and it reminds me of the world we put students in with our learning spaces — read content, log into CMS, find you course, switch to a discussion forum, write your thoughts, save, then go back to your work. That is all a bit insane and it kills flow.

I have the quickpost bookmarklet for WP in my browser bar, but it takes so long to load up and just lacks the functionality that I’ve come to expect by using Blogs at PSU, TypePad, Tumblr, or Posterous. Those are all infinately smarter and faster. I now more than ever need an environment that works the way I do and I have to say I am feeling like WP has fallen behind my needs. I’m sure it works perfectly for others so I’m looking for a blogging platform holy war, I’m just saying its model is dead to me.

Now, what to do? I have years worth of data here and it is really cheap — and I know I am getting what I pay for. I’d like to keep my domain, but I am done with managing my own environment. I’m contemplating a major switch to a new service. Right now, TypePad is the leading choice … it is a killer hosted solution that is fast, reliable, can publish to my own space, and has all the major features of the new kids on the block (killer email posting, one button publishing, and a community). The thing I want to say is that I am concerned with switching is that these new environments are coming to market so quickly and they can come and go. I need to be able to get my data in and out quickly and easily. Even if the platform space itself becomes commoditized, my content and publishing habits are not.

Getting from here to there is daunting, but I think I need to jump. Advice?

That was Easy

Last week WordPress 2.7.1 came out and my blog started telling me I needed to upgrade. I always put it off because I have bothering with it, but this time I decided to just do the auto upgrade option. I’ve never done it and was a little nervous, but after backing up my database I went ahead and just clicked the auto backup button. About 10 seconds later I saw the following … that’s the way things are supposed to be!


Looking for Some WP Help

So after a couple of years of not being happy on my host and wanting to shut down the current domain I blog from (http://camplesegroup.com), I am working to make the leap. The plan is to move this blog to another domain I have on a different host, colecamplese.com. I toyed with switching platforms to MT, but at the end of the day I think WP is the better choice for my personal needs. I am however having a hell of a time making progress on moving forward.

Here are the dilemmas … any help/advice/guidance would be greatly appreciated:

  • My database is huge! Doing a raw SQL dump works every now and then, but the new host will not allow the DB that size … and to tell you the truth, I’d like to start over. When I go through the tables there is so much stuff in there that I am guessing causes some of my site’s performance issues. I’d prefer not to do the standard database export and inset on the other end.
  • The way I’d really like to do this is via the built in XML export. I like the idea of only dealing with the posts, comments, and assets in that way. I am able to sort of make that work, but not quite. When I do an export, I do not get all of my posts. It stops giving them to me from sometime back in August. It is driving me crazy — I have posted a couple of times to the WP forums at wordpress.org, but I haven’t gotten any help there. Does anyone know what the story is with the XML export and why it might be doing this? Anyone at all have any advice for me?

The Revolution is in Full Swing

I got back from an interesting little unconference experience yesterday where Brad Kozlek and I attended the WordCamp ED at George Mason University in Virginia. It might seem strange that a couple of guys working a University wide blogging solution built on MovableType would have the nerve to go and spend the day with other faculty and staff doing the same, but with WordPress as the focus. I was convinced that the trip would be worth it and the discussion would center on the power of open publishing platforms for teaching and learning. I wasn’t disappointed. Nearly the entire day focused on the outcomes and practices being realized via a campus wide blogging platform. It was cool to see people giving up a Saturday to get together and talk.

One of the big reasons I wanted to go was to get to finally meet Jim Groom in person. Jim is a passionate educational technologist who runs the Blogs at University of Mary Washington service. His work has been an inspiration to lots of people trying to free learning content across campuses. If you read his blog you know he is really into shattering the status quo and destroying the walls that have captured our institutional content for the last 10 years. Let me just say that his presentation rocked and it pushed Brad and I to spend nearly the entire 4 hour drive back to State College talking about how we are also thinking these thoughts — and frankly how to push a little harder.

It was great finally meeting Jim Groom.

It was great finally meeting Jim Groom.

His talk was titled Permanent Revolution and told the story of how important it is that we promote the use of open publishing spaces to save the academy. He told it with the intensity and emotion of a man worthy of the nickname, The Reverend. He makes the claim that the “Notion of the Permanent Revolution” is at the core of what we are trying to do with education — we need ways to rethink the digital space we are living in and how to take advantage of the affordances inherent in instant publishing. He claims that WordPress is a platform for revolution, but was quick to point to us and say the tools don’t matter just the ways we allow them to be used. His assertion is that we must work to liberate student content — in the LMS/CMS model students must pour it in and then after the course it gets packaged up, archived, deleted, and ultimately becomes inaccessible to the creator. It isolates the contribution. In the blog world, it belongs to the individual and the individual decides how to share it with the community (or the class).

A great talk that I wish was given more time. What I really wanted to do was explore the underlying principles with his talk and walk away from any thoughts of “my platform is better than yours.” I think Jim and I were both very interested in talking about affordances of the concept, not of the individual tools. He and I are going to be joining forces with Brian Lamb, D’Arcy Norman, and Alan Levine at ELI in January to present a session on the use of personal publishing tools to drive educational practice … I can’t wait to have the conversation with he and the rest of that crew.

At the end of the day, it was a very worth while trip and one that has me thinking more critically about the notion of openness on our campus — and how much louder we need to be shouting for its creation.

CommentPress in Action

About two months ago I was spending quite a bit of time talking with Brad Kozlek about how we might more fully explore CommentPress … we had great conversations, but as the holiday approached it sort of slipped into the background. Much to my surprise I saw a great post by my friend Alan Levine that has gotten me excited once again …

Leave it to CogDog to make amazing use of the CommentPress theme for WordPress — and to do it in such an interesting and meaningful way. He worked with what looks like a couple of people to take WordPress MultiUser and integrate it with CommentPress to create a community based publishing engine … at least that is what I’ll call it. The paper is well worth a read, but the geek in me is fascinated by the implementation of the technology. With WPMU it is so easy to instantly create a new blog and by adding the CommentPress plugin it appears trivial to create a site that supports multiple documents that are easily organized and commented on. What is so interesting is that it automatically seperates each paragraph so comments are maintained within this small context. It appears to do an outstanding job of keeping everything in a very readable and structured model.

CommentPress is a WP theme dreamed up by the folks at the Future of the Book … from their webstite:

CommentPress is an open source theme for the WordPress blogging engine that allows readers to comment paragraph by paragraph in the margins of a text. Annotate, gloss, workshop, debate: with CommentPress you can do all of these things on a finer-grained level, turning a document into a conversation. It can be applied to a fixed document (paper/essay/book etc.) or to a running blog. This site is presented in “document” mode.

I can think of dozens of ways this could be used in education … and now we have a killer example of it to show off. Anyone care to share some thoughts on this?