Changes behind the scenes

I do realise I spend more time blogging about blogging, than actually blogging.

I spent a couple hours moving away from WordPress, which was the blogging software this site has used since its inception a couple years ago. I moved to Chyrp, a new lightweight blogging engine written in PHP. Admittedly, some of this is the thrill of the new. I do like to be current. And some of this was procrastination from other tasks at hand.

I had become frustrated with WordPress. That's not to say its not very powerful, nor that I wouldn't still recommend it to clients in certain instances. But for me, it doesn't work. Sitting down and using the supplied administrative application as a writing tool has never worked for me. It doesn't "mesh" with my brain (for want of a better word). As a solution, I've tried various external clients (ecto, Flock), but they have never really worked for me either.

Much the same as that bête noire of writers out there, Microsoft Word. If there could be a prescription for drawing a blank, de-voiding the mind of all ideas and creativity, then opening a Microsoft Word window would have to be it.

Writing tools are important. I am not a "writer" by any stretch of the imagination, but I do want to get back into the action of writing (see also this post)-- perhaps in pursuit of some generalised catharsis.

For me, the fewer distractions the better. The next best thing to a piece of paper (or even better, a Clairefontaine notebook), is a simple text editor (such as TextMate using with a fixed-width typeface.

Don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily long the days of typewritten documents, or everything in Courrier New. But the WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) of Word, other word-processors, and even that pseudo-wordprocessor toolbar that you get in GMail these days, does distract.

I loved Desktop Publishing. I love using Illustrator. I am fascinated by good design. However, I would never begin to start composing anything of any considerable length directly into those programs. In all but a few cases (perhaps composing visual poetry, which alas, I have never tried), it would be an immense distraction. My mind starts to think in terms of bold, italic, size and kerning. My mind loses its focus on the words themselves.

So back to blogging. So far (admittedly its only been a handful of posts), Chyrp seems to work better for me. Chyrp follows the "tumblelog" way of doing things, which for the uninitiated (as I was, about 3 hours ago), is a short form style of blogging, with plenty of links, video and stuff like that. Great for the easily distracted, like me. Although, with any luck, there will be some longer prose here too.

I set it up to work with Markdown, a formatting syntax that is pretty easy and isn't verbose like adding HTML itself. If a particular word really warrants being emboldened or italicised then I can do so. If I really want.

The slogan of WordPress is "code is poetry". I am not sure what genre of poetry they are writing, but to me, reading there lines of code is like reading Dadist poetry. There are a mixture of coding styles (object-oriented, procedural) and lots of hacks to get account for the fact that PHP, the language its written in, can be rough around the edges (I'd be happy to justify that, if any one really cares). On the outside, it looks elegant, but navigating its innards is difficult. There are a tonne of plugins and themes available for download, but many of those I've tried, I have found to be poorly designed. In some sense, it suffers from its own success, in that popularity has brought a tonne of developers who want to use the software. But there is no quality control, and as a writing tool, it hasn't worked out.

Some of my problems were also design related. Chyrp should be easier for me to customise, so look out for some design changes over the next few days.

Update: Chyrp has, by no means, been a panacea. In fact, I've taken several months just to fix what needs fixing. A new version is out, and I hope that some of the problems I was experiencing have finally been rectified.


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