All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

Moving to Perch Runway

Anyone who had read my previous post about crashing my bike, followed by about a year of silence, could reasonably conclude that I suffered some sort of underlying and undetected injury which crept up and took me from this world in the night shortly thereafter. The reality is far less dramatic, and is, as most things that trouble me are, entirely down to software. As gauche as it may be to blog about your blog, indulge me for a moment or two while I do just that.

When I launched this site in March 2003, it was on a brand new system called Textpattern. So new at that time that it was still in beta. That suited me just fine, as I was still in beta, too. After a good few productive years of posting (check out the archive) the rate of new entires slowed as life got busier and excuses, excuses, excuses. In 2009 we launched Perch and life got even busier still, but at least I felt like I had some interesting things to talk about.

But I didn’t talk about them. My site will still running Textpattern, which was beginning to show its age. It was also mildly embarrassing that I wasn’t using my own software for my own site, although that probably only bothered me. I made multiple attempts to rebuild and migrate 12+ years worth of data to a new site, but kept to getting distracted by more important tasks and never managed to finish anything. Finally in November 2014 I took a long train ride from Bristol (oh, I live in Bristol now) down to Brighton for a conference and on the way made a concerted effort to migrate my site.

Turns out migrating the data from Textpattern to Perch wasn’t too hard at all, and just required a little bit of fiddling in that Textpattern used the database’s auto-incrementing post IDs as part of the URL. I wrote a script to export Textpattern data to a WordPress-format XML file, which Perch already knows how to import. So that was the data carefully migrated and pristine… and then my train arrived and I got busy again. The fact that the data had already been migrated meant that I couldn’t post to my site without it getting out of sync. So I didn’t post.

Over the last few months I’ve found more and more things that I actually wanted to post about, and so was starting to get annoyed with not having my site usable. The old site was also looking more run-down by the day, and the layout wasn’t even responsive. I also felt like I was missing opportunities by not dog-fooding my own software. The feedback loop involved when trying to perform real tasks with your own software is incredibly tight. Even writing this post I found a small bug. From noticing the problem to it being fixed took about two minutes. I need to do this more.

I chose Perch Runway over Perch because I think I’d always pick Runway over Perch for my own projects, even for a small site like this. Runway is like a Developer Edition – the approach is a bit more sophisticated (e.g. dynamic routing to centralised layout templates, rather than file-per-page) and generally does things in the way I’d expect them to be as a programmer rather than a less technical user. It’s the version of Perch I’d always wanted to build for me, rather than for other target customers.

So over the last month or so I’ve been grabbing a hour here or there to try and get this site back into shape. It’s missing a home page. In fact, it’s missing just about everything apart from the bare posts, but that’s okay. I know have something to work with an incrementally improve.

If you spot anything amiss, please let me know. I’ve done my best to maintain a dozen years of accumulated crap, including old posts which are shockingly poor and I wish no longer existed. But they do exist, so they’ll continue to exist because I’m not a animal.