My journey from .Text v0.94 to SubText by Phill Haack

In this article, I reflect on the evolution of my blog, from its humble beginnings using .Text to my decision to switch to the modern forked engine SubText.

Over nine years ago I started this blog on an open source engine (.Text v0.94). I was using one of the out-of-the-box skins which served me well for a while. Then Phill Haack picked it up, forked the source and created the engine SubText. I can’t recall when I moved over to SubText, but it was a painless move being that SubText was really just a fork of .Text.

Then sometime between 2003 & 2005 a co-worker at the time (many of you SharePointers are likely familiar with Heather Solomon, yes we cut our teeth on SharePoint together back in the day) built a custom skin for me which is still to this day mostly unchanged from the initial launch in return for me standing up her own SubText blog.

For the last few years I’ve been longing to refresh it. There are so many controls that drive me crazy (like the absurd archive control going down the left side… one link for each month of my blog… in 9+ years that’s 100+ months listed!). The UI is very dated (it’s over 7 years old) and in need of a refresh. I’ve looked at a few different engines after realizing SubText was essentially dead. Well, with some other big changes going on in my life, I’ve now got a some free time where I don’t have a single deliverable or commitment.

As such, February 2013 will be the month of change. The goal is to have this mostly done by my birthday, February 28 (maybe a few minor tasks outstanding, but nothing that isn’t feature complete to me). I’ve done a few things in prep for this migration. Plans change as you get into them, but from my research here’s the current plan:

First, selecting the engine: SubText is going to the trash and I’m going to relaunch using the popular and very healthy supported open source engine OrchardCMS. Yes I’ve looked at other engines like Wordpress, but for me, Orchard is exactly what I want. It’s more than just a blog engine, it’s a full blown CMS. And no, I don’t plan to host it on SharePoint.

Second, selecting the host: Windows Azure… as an MVP I have enjoyed a complementary web hosting & SQL Server database with OrcsWeb & I’d highly recommend them. However I simply WANT to be on Azure and like what it offers me, so that’s the plan.

Third, create a user interface: I’m not a out-of-the-box guy… the themes for Orchard are nice, but I need something that is more me. This is the only part that’s actually finished! I know what I can do, and I know what I can’t do… and I can’t do UI! I’ve already used a site called 99Designs to hold a contest for a design meeting my requirements. I then used PSD2HTML to have them chop it up complete with HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, styled jQuery UI controls, cross browser & a responsive implementation. All done, I think it looks great and works great in static HTML/CSS/JS. Now I just need to make the Orchard theme from it.

Fourth, migrate the content: this is going to be the biggest task. Over 1,800 blog posts, over 45 articles and over 5,400 comments (damn you guys have opinions!)… there’s a little work to do here. SubText can export content as BlogML, but it crashes with that much content. This is my active task… I’m not only going to export the content, but I’m taking advantage of the free time and do a lot of data massaging. I’m changing my URL scheme (no more /blog/ in the URL & making old links SEO instead of a bunch of ID numbers). I’m also going to retag a lot of content (SharePoint doesn’t exactly narrow it down for my blog… but SharePoint 2007 / SharePoint 2010 / SharePoint 2013 will), do a lot of link fix up & employ a new commenting mechanism.

So, that’s basically what’s in store for me for the next few weeks. I’m going to make a blog series out of this as even if you aren’t in the same boat, I’m sure some things I’ll deal with will carry over to others (like the URL change while preserving my search rankings… here comes some HTTP 301 & 302 fun!). Plus I’ll elaborate on some of the decisions I mentioned above, like why I like Orchard over Wordpress.

Like I said… first up: let’s get that data out and in a format that I can start importing it into Orchard!

Andrew Connell
Developer & Chief Course Artisan, Voitanos LLC. | Microsoft MVP
Written by Andrew Connell

Andrew Connell is a web & cloud developer with a focus on Microsoft Azure & Microsoft 365. He’s received Microsoft’s MVP award every year since 2005 and has helped thousands of developers through the various courses he’s authored & taught. Andrew’s the founder of Voitanos and is dedicated to helping you be the best Microsoft 365 web & cloud developer. He lives with his wife & two kids in Florida.

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