New Betalogue: Powered by WordPress

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Blogging
July 16th, 2005 • 3:16 pm

After explaining the process of switching from pMachine 2.3 to WordPress 1.5, I’d like to address a few issues regarding this transition.

First of all, I want to stress that this was actually a triple switch rather than a simple switch. I switched from pMachine to WordPress, but I also switched domain names (from to, and providers (from Rackspeed to OVH).

In other words, it was quite an undertaking — and I am quite pleased with the fact that, all told, it happened relatively smoothly. On the other hand, I want to stress that my focus here was on these three aspects — and not on other equally important aspects, which I will start focusing on now.

First of all, my focus on switching the content of the blog, and not on preserving its visual appearance. In some respects, the visual appearance of a blog is secondary. Many people read blogs through a news aggregator such as NetNewsWire, where blogs are just feeds and their visual appearance is, for the most part, determined by the reader and not by the authors of the blogs.

This is the way it should be: the user is in control. Somebody who likes to read from dozens of different sources on a daily basis shouldn’t have to deal with dozens of different ways of accessing the same kind of information or with dozens of different ways of presenting the same kind of information. I am especially aware of this since I am still on a modem connection and every Kilobyte of data counts. For people like me, standard formats such as RSS and Atom and software tools such as NetNewsWire and other news readers are a wonderful thing. They enable us to follow numerous sites without having to load tons of secondary data of limited relevance.

That said, I still want Betalogue to look decent as a web site and to provide easy access to essential features. In that respect, the default themes included in WordPress are not as appropriate as they could be, and I fully intend to develop my own “theme” or look for the site. It’s just that it wasn’t an immediate priority and that I had other, more pressing concerns.

In other words, if you find the current look of this new Betalogue web site frustrating and inadequate, please be patient. Part of my “summer project” is indeed to revamp the site. But it’s the kind of thing that takes time.

I also intend to better organize the content. One of the benefits of switching from pMachine to WordPress is that I can now have nested categories, which will allow me, for example, to put all the posts about Microsoft’s crappy Office software in a subcategory inside my “Macintosh” category. I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to offer a “Microsoft-free” RSS feed that would not include the Office-related posts, for those who are not interested in them, but having them in a separate subcategory will be a first step. (I will, of course, have to find a way to apply this subcategory retroactively to existing posts, but I think there are WordPress plug-ins for this type of thing.)

Another thing that I am not quite satisfied with at present is the fact that there is so little French-language content on this web site. French is, after all, my mother tongue and the French language and culture are still a big part of my life. But I don’t think that trying to maintain a “bilingual” blog is a realistic option. It’s simply unrealistic to expect that a bilingual blog will be able to develop a bilingual readership. There aren’t enough of us bilingual folks out there, and I am not particularly interested in alienating unilingual readers simply because they don’t understand my other language. (I still think that the fact that so few North Americans speak more than one language is a major factor in today’s global problems, but this won’t change overnight — if it ever changes.)

In order to remedy this, I am planning on actually starting a separate French-language blog. It will still be on this web site — the domain name itself, after all, is more or less “bilingual”. But it will be in a separate directory. It will not be a French version of the English-language blog. It will be another blog, with posts in French about things that I want to write about in that language. It will have its own set of categories, and of course there will be cross-references between the English blog and the French blog. But they will be two separate entities. (WordPress doesn’t support multiple blogs with a single install, but you can install a second copy of WordPress in a separate folder and use it to run another blog on the same site. And it is available in a localized French version, so I will be able to have an interface entirely in French without too much work.)

WordPress has numerous other benefits that will become more obvious over time. For one thing, everything in this blog is now in Unicode (UTF-8, to be precise). This means that we (myself and the people writing comments) can all use accented characters, special punctuation marks, etc. without any difficulty. As indicated in my previous post, I have already cleaned up the existing posts and comments using things like the em dash (—) and the ellipsis (…). Don’t hesitate to use them yourself in your comments. (Of course, this probably means that people using really old browsers could have trouble with this site, but if you are still using Netscape 4 or Internet Explorer 4.5, you need help.)

WordPress automatically provides two basic RSS feeds, one for blog entries and one for user comments (for all posts). In addition, you can subscribe to individual RSS feeds for individual blog entries, so that you can follow the discussion on a particular topic over an extended period of time. This does not mean that I will not put some kind of “Recent Comments” box back on my home page on the web like I had on the old Betalogue web site — but with these RSS feeds, there are alternatives, at least for people who use news aggregators.

I should also note that you can now use HTML tags in your comments, including a href, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, code, em, i, strike, and strong.

I might be able to provide more goodies in the future, such as the ability for some users to upload images. We’ll see.

One Response to “New Betalogue: Powered by WordPress”

  1. ssp says:

    Sounds cool. As I said before, I blame Word Press rather than you for that layout.

    As for the bandwidth conservation and ease of use… commenting remains a big hassle these days as it forces you to leave the sane and simple world of aggregators. (plus of course that some people like to annoy others by requiring registration… ;)

    Personally I like the bilingual idea. Unfortunately my French has gotten rather bad in the past years. What I found particularly difficult about your French posts in the past is that they were mostly about films. Cultural topics just seem to require a much richer language to be written (and understood), making those post doubly difficult for me. Probably much more difficult than writing about more technical things. (I can see good reasons for splitting things the way you do, but it makes things harder – for me at least.)

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