Migrating from Wordpress to Sculpin

Some time ago, on January 2014, I decided to start writing a blog.

Seemed like a good idea. I might be able to show my skills and learn new ones at the same time.

I didn't wanted to use a very complex tool for this purpose, or to create one of my own (why to reinvent the wheel?), so I decided that blogger or wordpress could be the right options.

After weighing the pros and cons of both options I opted for wordpress, because it seemed more customizable, and having a VPS could ease the self-hosting task.

At the begining it was a good solution, but finally proved to be hard to control. Not easy to customize the layout, very resource consuming, hard to optimize, etc.

I looked for alternatives and found an interesting one without all the previous problems, Sculpin.

We discussed the tool in the Symfony Zaragoza group, and I really loved it from the begining.

First approach to Sculpin

In the Github era, many static site generators have appeared, because Github allows us to host static sites for free. Those generators allows us to make a "dynamic" website which is compiled into a static site.

There are many alternatives. From Jekyll, the Github official static site generator written in ruby, to Pelican, another python-powered alternative.

The problem is that I'm a PHP developer, and I'm not as confortable with those languages as I am with PHP, so I looked for a PHP alternative and Sculpin appeared.

Sculpin uses Symfony components, and is fully integrated with composer. I like both tools so I finally decided to use it.

For more information about how to use Sculpin, it has a very good documentation.

Migrating from Wordpress

There was a few features in wordpress that I didn't wanted to loose and are not easy to implement in a static site, like comments, built-in search and RSS feed. I also didn't wanted to loose the already indexed content, so I needed to keep the old URLs, at least those pointing to the articles.

Luckily for me, there is a Sculpin Blog Skeleton in github with many of the work already done. It includes an atom feed that is refreshed every time you compile your site.

To get comments in my static blog, I have used disqus. It uses a very easy javascript api to host your comments which are associated to the article's unique URL. Also, they allow to import comments from wordpress, so I could also keep the old comments.

There are other platforms like this, but they don't look as good as disqus.

The built-in search was one of the hardest features to implement. I have used lunr.js, a javascript full text search engine, but I was not sure how to deal with it, so I finally found a Sculpin blog using it, and copy-pasted the needed code. Thanks to Andrew Shell for his code.

After this I just needed to get the articles from wordpress.

Sculpin uses twig templates and/or markdown to write articles, so it's easy to copy-paste html documents on them. That's what I did. A little customization and done.

Keeping the URLs was easy, because I was using the y/m/d/foobar form in wordpress, and the Sculpin skeleton uses that format by default.

Finally I was considering to host the blog in Github, but I decided to use my VPS, to use some htaccess tricks, like some rewrite rules in order to redirect old URLs to new ones and set a customized 404 page.

The result is the blog you are now seeing.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that a dynamically generate static site is a good solution for a personal blog. It loads superfast, is very SEO friendly and is easily customizable, but it has an important problem. Only advanced users can use it.

The lack of WYSIWYG editor makes users with no experience on HTML/Markdown (at least) impossible to deal with this kind of sites.

Also, the site needs to be deployed every time a new article is written.

Apart from that, as I said, It's a good solution, and Sculpin is a really good tool. If you are curious, you can see the pre-compiled version of this blog in github, here.