Why I chose WordPress over Roller

I thought I’d kick off this blog explaining my tech choice. I had planned on using Roller, because it’s written in Java, and many large, multi-blog systems (JRoller, Sun’s employee blogs, others) use it. I thought I could mess with the code if I felt like it, maybe learn a few things. Per my usual M.O., I donned my trusty loincloth and went on a info hunting/gathering expedition. The short of it is that Roller just wasn’t meant to be used as a personal weblog you host yourself. [Actually, it was conceived as a demo program for an article on how to harness Java FOSS to build apps.] Just look at the installation requirements and you’ll understand. It’s pretty much expected you’ll just sign up for a blog on JRoller or Java Lobby, which is admin free, and maybe you get a little exposure. Well, I felt that Java wasn’t my main topic, so I didn’t want to get lumped in there. [At some point I’ll write why I think King Java will lose it’s crown within 5 years.] And I wanted my own domain (which is awesome, you’ll agree).

I went through something similar with the last blog I set up, looking for a content management system with all the features I wanted. I got very hung up on all sorts of security requirements, probably because my day job involves tons of that in our web apps. That and my fear that a potential client or employer will discover I actually have opinions, and decide I’m too much of a risk to hire. Then I remembered that public content was the whole point of a blog, and if you don’t want your mom reading it, you probably should just leave it – or your real name – out of your posts. Another time saver: remember that as long as basic usability is followed, users (readers) don’t really care about presentation. I’m lauching a blog, not WiReD Magazine or the next social networking service. [I might also launch those things someday, but not today.] Back then I settled on Movable Type for ease of use.

Now I’m settling on WordPress for ease of use. I’ve set WP up several times now, and I’ve got it down to about two minutes, now that the database is set up. First time installation was five minutes (had to read the docs). And WP actually has way more features than JRoller, and a thriving plugin and theme development community. And unlike MT, it’s free . Not that MT is expensive, mind you, but my math skills have not deteriorated to the point where I can’t see a bargain when it bites me on the nose. It was so good that I converted the other MT blog to WP with reasonable success. [Note to those considering: do not skip the step where you convert the file to UTF-8 with iconv. All “special” characters like apostrophes turn into question marks. Very uncool.]

So if you’re setting up a blog for yourself, think hard about whether hacking its source is a necessity or just a phantom requirement. And if you believe it’s a necessity due to some missing feature, I bet somebody already wrote a plugin for it.