I need to ditch WordPress, but for what?
January 19, 2017 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I've been running WordPress on my personal domain for about a decade, if not more, and lately it's been getting worse. I want to replace it with something, but I don't know what, since I haven't been keeping up with what the cool kids are using to blog these days. (Something about static blog generators?) Special Snowflake Stuff inside.

Okay, so, there's a few prerequisites I need to establish for whatever the hell I jump ship to.
  1. Has to be self-hosted. I'm not switching to Medium or Squarespace.
  2. Has to be installable on DreamHost. I'm not switching hosts, at least not yet.
  3. Has to have some way to import my WordPress posts
  4. Ideally has a decent enough theme engine that I could essentially reuse my existing WordPress theme with a minimum of fuss.
I'm at a loss. I'm tech-savvy enough to go through hoops, but I'm time constrained and lazy enough to not bother. If WordPress hadn't just made me absolutely apocalyptic trying to fix a bunch of errors due to failed plugin updates, I wouldn't even be looking to change.
posted by SansPoint to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What features are the plugins providing that you'll need on your replacement blog?
posted by circular at 5:53 PM on January 19, 2017

Response by poster: circular: Two-factor authentication, podcasting support (which I'm not worried about maintaining), disabling comments, Google Analytics (which I can safely lose, too), database backup, and a Linked-List Post plugin are the big ones.
posted by SansPoint at 5:58 PM on January 19, 2017

What's the two-factor authentication for? Access to update/edit your own posts, or something else?

It kind of sounds like something simple without the plug-ins would work for you, provided the content from your current plug-ins would transfer over. Is this true?
posted by amtho at 6:21 PM on January 19, 2017

Response by poster: The Two-Factor is just login protection for the admin area. The only plugin that involves content is the podcasting one and I don't care if I lose that as I don't do the podcast anymore.
posted by SansPoint at 6:22 PM on January 19, 2017

Jeckyll is one of the static blog generators that is one of the things the cool kids use (or at least was, it's been a year or two since I really looked at the options). It has a Wordpress importer. If you're just publishing and don't need stuff like comments, static sites are way lower server overhead. They are more complicated for the average person to set up.
posted by Candleman at 6:29 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was looking into this a while ago, and although I wound up sticking with Wordpress, I liked the looks of Pelican. Note that getting Pelican up and running will not be remotely like the one-click install for Wordpress, but the process of getting Pelican on Dreamhost has been written about extensively.
posted by adamrice at 6:39 PM on January 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

I get that you're frustrated with the Wordpress world, but have you considered just de-installing the plugins?

I admit I've avoided plugins, mostly because I wanted to avoid this kind of frustration; I'm not familiar with the possible side-effects of just removing them.
posted by amtho at 6:59 PM on January 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I successfully imported hundreds of Wordpress posts into Pelican by exporting them to HTML and then converting to Markdown. It was kind of a pain in the ass with a lot of manual hacking but it worked. There might be a easier way. I did lose all my comments though as I never did get them into Disqus.

I love Pelican - no database at all and no app security issues. Just your server account password to worry about it.
posted by COD at 7:22 PM on January 19, 2017

Response by poster: amtho the plugin that's given me the most trouble is Jetpack, which is basically the WordPress plugin. Without it, I'll need more plugins to do stuff like post links to Twitter, block spam, convert from Markdown, and even (I think) just do basic API stuff now.
posted by SansPoint at 7:26 PM on January 19, 2017

...so you're just assuming that all suggested replacements you find will do this stuff too? Just clarifying.

And do you want commenting or not? You mentioned the ability to disable comments -- is it OK if you just don't have commenting as an option?

OK, so it sounds like your requirements are:

- can write posts using markdown

- no commenting

- [Twitter linking thing that is not described in detail yet]

- less of a pain than Wordpress

- not provider hosted - either can be hosted by DreamHost or super-portable

- reasonable security protection for admin access

- theme available that's very close to current Wordpress theme

- can import current Wordpress posts

- can import/host podcast stuff (which I think you should do if you can - based on your writing, they're probably worth preserving)

It looks like you're a writer with a significant body of quality posts, which is awesome, and also means that you should absolutely take this seriously enough to make something future-proof. So, maybe add:

- avoid fiddly bits that will break in the future (like Wordpress plugins).
posted by amtho at 7:38 PM on January 19, 2017

Response by poster: I do not want commenting. One plugin I use on my WordPress blog is to make sure comments are off and stay off. (Despite that, I still run Akismet, because fucking WordPress Spam knows no limits.)

My WordPress theme is custom, so I'd like to just be able to slap whatever templating code is needed into my pre-existing HTML and be off to the races.

Ghost looks intriguing, but runs on Node.js, and I can't use that on DreamHost.

sigh I give up. I'm just gonna use WordPress forever and hate everything.
posted by SansPoint at 7:43 PM on January 19, 2017

You're only explanation of what's wrong is "lately it's been getting worse". What trouble are you having?

There's nothing wrong with an up-to-date, optimized, hardened install of WP. WP is better than ever. You've been using it for a decade, is your install a decade old? I've never even installed JetPack. WP runs fine, safely, without it. What does "basically the WordPress plugin" even mean?

If you can put down the rage quit for a mo', what trouble is it you're having?
posted by humboldt32 at 7:56 PM on January 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think the static site publishers could be a good thing to look into -- although I'd want the mechanism to be server hosted too, with the ability to make a backup locally. (I'm interested in putting together my own AskMe question about this if you want to collaborate, which I think could be cool, but I'm kind of a stickler for clear details; know what you're signing up for if you decide to collaborate with me.)

Maybe don't require that you solve this in two hours or never :) I think there's a market for an article about this, probably, too, if you're willing to do some research.

Sorry I couldn't be of more direct help, but being able to spell out your needs well will help you next time you decide to take a look. In the meantime, maybe look at one static site publisher per week, taking good notes, until you find one you like.
posted by amtho at 8:00 PM on January 19, 2017

I agree with humbolt32 above in the fact the problem is probably NOT wordpress, but YOUR wordpress. WP can be a very good system if used responsibly, frequently updated, hardened, using well-patched high quality plugins and only keeping the plugins (and themes) you need installed. Think of it like a web browser -- if you're using an older version of IE with a dozen toolbars, of course it will run like poo.

It sounds like Wordpress is, according to your list of requirements, the platform you want. There's a reason WP powers 25% of the web currently. It might be time to start over from scratch with a clean install though, especially if this same blog has been running pretty much as is or close to it for a decade.
posted by cgg at 10:19 PM on January 19, 2017

Another vote for Pelican here, and static site generators in general! I've used Pelican, it's great, and there's no worry about somebody else logging in because you do all the editing and uploading from your computer - not in a web browser (I guess you could do it on the server in a SSH client, too). Pelican's got a great, documented template/theme engine (though I hear Jeckyll's is better), you don't need to have comments if you don't want to, and you write your posts in markdown. If you want to test before you commit, I believe both will work with GitHub Pages.

With WordPress there's just so much to worry about, and I truly believe it's overkill for a personal site.
posted by destructive cactus at 2:41 AM on January 20, 2017

Response by poster: Okay, it's probably too late now, since I had to go to bed, but here's the situation.

I host my site on DreamHost shared hosting. This is not likely to change as I need to host another site that GitHub would not work for, neither would blog-specific hosting. I don't know if my hosting choice is related to the issues I've been experiencing, but if it is, fine. We'll take it from there.

My WordPress installation is set up to be generally hands-off. I have a custom theme, and various plugins to provide useful functionality. Some are activated but not used. Here is a complete list: Admin Color Schemes, Akismet, BackUpWordPress, Bad Behavior, Custom Post Limits, DF-Style Linked List, Disable Comments, FeedPress, Fluid Video Embeds, Google AdSense and Google Analytics Remover, Google Analyticator, Jetpack by WordPress.com, Medium, PHP Execution, Redirection, Seriously Simple Podcasting, Smart Archives Reloaded, Theme Check, Two Factor Authentication, WordPress Editorial Calendar, WordPress Notification Bar (Deactivated), WP Super Cache, WP-Bigfoot, WP-DBManager, WP-Footnotes, WP-Markdown, WP-Piwik (Disabled), wpautop-control, WuPhooey

Among the various symptoms I've experience, starting in the last year, are clicking links in the Admin area only to be presented with my 404 page. This will also happen when I make a post. If I'm posting via API, I'll get a 400 error in the app, but the post will update, populate RSS, etc. This is an annoyance, but not enough to make me want to quit WordPress. Lately, I've had issues with plugin updates failing as well. Jetpack is a notorious offender.

Typically, plugin updates are automatic, but when I do log in to the Admin area, and updates are available, I'll install them manually through the WordPress Updater. At least when I update this way, when something fails, I'll be able to catch it right away. Last night, I went to check on my site and saw an automatic plugin update had failed in some form, specifically Yoast SEO. I logged in via FTP and removed it, and when I tried to update Jetpack from Admin, it failed again, which is why I am ready to just throw it in on WordPress.

It doesn't look like switching is a feasible option, for various reasons relating to budget ($120/yr for shared hosting is all I can afford), time available (I work full-time, and really don't have the energy or willingness to engage in a multi-hour process installing a programming environment and a static blogging engine to run on top of it), and general apathy about doing this whole fucking blogging thing any more in the first place (but that's a personal issue and not part of the discussion.)

So, fuck it, I'll just stick with WordPress. Maybe I'll export my posts and try a new install, but I really don't care anymore. Thanks for the help, but I give up.
posted by SansPoint at 4:21 AM on January 20, 2017

I've been pretty happy using Jekyll on Github Pages. There's a pretty nice fork called Jekyll Now that got me started. I basically keep a personal site around as a place to store a few pieces I wrote ages ago that I want to be online still, and to occasionally write the odd update, so this combination works beautifully for that.

If you are publishing very regularly, it might not quite suit your needs. But it's trivial to test it out. If you're comfortable googling how to make pagination work in your archives and rooting around in the notes on a Github fork, then you can totally use this setup. Also it's free apart from the domain.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:24 AM on January 20, 2017

Response by poster: Happy Dave: I really am not going to switch hosts. Whether I fix WordPress or switch to something else, switching hosts is not an option. I have three sites I hosts on DreamHost, and switching to Github Pages means either dropping two of them, leaving a friend in a lurch, or having two separate hosts, and I really prefer keeping everything under one account for simplicity's sake. I get that Jekyll and GitHub Pages is pretty easy, but it does not suit what I need.
posted by SansPoint at 4:31 AM on January 20, 2017

It seems to me you're dealing with a poorly tuned and poorly attended to WP install. Pretty typical and has nothing to do with WP and everything to do with how you're running WP. I've been a web developer for over 20 years and I pretty much only do WP these days, so I'm going to try to give you some advice, or at least my take on this. But, since you still seem more intent on raging, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it. I have WP sites to work on, after all.

Ok, plugins. I'll start by saying that I have a site that has a couple dozen plugins, but all of them serve a purpose and I stay on top of the site daily. That being said, the very first plugin on your list is over a year since it's last update, and is only certified compatible with WP 4.4 (current WP is v4.7), AND is purely cosmetic, adding "personality" to your admin area.

Wash and repeat.

Ok, updates. With those plugins, and a custom theme you should be running all your updates manually, AND in a test environment first. Autoupdating keeps you up to date, which is good, but doesn't check if you're breaking your site or admin, and puts that out of your mind which is worse. You should also have "define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );" added to your wp-config.php file, IMO.

All that being said, it sounds like WP isn't for you and some of the suggestions here should be considered, Pelican for example.

You say that switching hosts isn't an option, but switching to WebFaction will give you the same functionality, way way way better support service, and better shared server performance over DreamHost. I've used many hosts over the years, including a couple sites still at DreamHost. I'd say DreamHost is a distant second to WebFaction.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:13 AM on January 20, 2017

Response by poster: humbodlt32: You might be right about a poorly-tuned WP install, but (forgive me here), it's a blog. I'm not running a company on it. I'm not even running WooCommerce. My theme extremely simple: a menu, a loop, that's essentially it. I can't imagine why something this simple, despite a slight excess of plugin stuff, is causing this much trouble.

I did just disable that theme plugin, though. I guess I'll go through and get rid of anything else I might not be using. Some of these plugins are legacy because older posts (at least three or four years worth) rely on them.
posted by SansPoint at 6:27 AM on January 20, 2017

There’s nothing stopping you from using Jekyll with your existing web host. All Jekyll does is generate the html.
posted by pharm at 7:00 AM on January 20, 2017

I can imagine that it's because you've taken that simple thing and made it complex by adding extensions and then not properly maintaining the more complex, no longer that simple thing. I'm not trying to come down on you, but you're not being reasonable. You could install WP, fire up Akismet, disable updates and it'll run rock solid for years. After all (forgive me here), it's a blog.

Like I said, maybe WP isn't for you. I think a static site is probably better.
posted by humboldt32 at 7:20 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: humboldt32: What about security, though? I've already had my WordPress blog hacked once, though on a different host many years ago. I keep up on updates because I know that there are, or at least were, a lot of vulnerabilities on WordPress that are regularly patched with each core update.
posted by SansPoint at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2017

Right, for security you want to stay updated. I wasn't saying disabling updating is the smart thing to do. I was trying to point out that describing your setup as simple is not quite correct, and that the more simple you keep it, the less potential for things to go wrong. That a stable working WP install is actually quite simple and easy.

Add WordFence to Akismet in that simple setup and follow WP's hardening guidelines and you've eliminated 99.9% of your security risk. You could probably even ignore updates for a while.
posted by humboldt32 at 7:51 AM on January 20, 2017

There’s nothing stopping you from using Jekyll with your existing web host. All Jekyll does is generate the html.

I recently converted one of my WP sites to Jekyll on dreamhost. Jekyll is great, it was fairly easy for me, I think a static site generator is much, much better for a site where there's no commenting. In my case I'm generating the site elsewhere and simply uploading it over scp. Advantages: It works with markdown natively (I see that in the list of plugins), security issues reduce to dreamhost's security, it's faster, nothing in the actual site install can go stale the way a plugin can (well, off-site js of course), it's fairly easy to customize once you get the hang of its setup. It is a completely different paradigm though, requires a bit of knowledge of ruby to do anything non-trivial, and requires some patience on the initial setup because things are so different. Also, I mention this because some easily googleable tutorials want you to do this, it would be pointless and excessively annoying to actually install jekyll on dreamhost, just install it locally. The github-pages thing is a side-issue, except that one easy way to try out jekyll without having to install it somewhere is via github-pages.

I want to echo that a wp install with 30(!) plugins and a custom theme (I guess you mean customized by yourself) is neither "simple" nor plausibly "hands-off" though, that's a ton of potentially interacting code of various ages and quality for things to go wrong. I think you might need to readjust your expectations a bit.
posted by advil at 8:20 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: advil: I mean _custom_, not tweaked. Running Jekyll locally is not ideal, however, because I do a lot of posting from my iPad or iPhone, and not just from my computer.
posted by SansPoint at 8:22 AM on January 20, 2017

Your needs are simple, but you have made your Wordpress installation very complicated. It isn't your fault at all, since the whole system is designed to seem clean and simple and as easy as snapping together Lego bricks. However, all those individual bricks are full of who-knows-what and now the overall structure is showing weaknesses.

You want to go to one brick, if you can; that's the way to have a stable system that will just be there for you when you need it. There's still who-knows-what inside (unless you're a programmer who has examined the code), but it should be much much better.
posted by amtho at 9:24 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can use Jeykyll with GitHub Pages and this app to post to the blog from iOS (iPhone / iPad). Keep running your other site on Dreamhost.

Job done.

Backup via git & a cron job & then when / if GitHub goes away / changes business model shifting to another host as a git push away.
posted by pharm at 1:03 PM on January 21, 2017

Or just use the Working Copy iOS App (which speaks Markdown just fine) directly with a Jekyll git archive hosted on GitHub or your own Dreamhost server. Either would work fine.
posted by pharm at 1:06 PM on January 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older should this special snowflake break up with her...   |   Flaky pressure cooker Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.