Geek weekend, geek post

Those of you who follow the TV, eh? site closely might have been wondering “What the hell is she doing?” this weekend. I actually had an out-of-town visitor and we had tons of fun in the brief time she was here, but in the times she wasn’t, I put on my pseudo-geek hat.

The short version of the story is that I changed the site from the free WordPress-hosted blog to the open source WordPress software on a paid host. It’s something I’ve thought of doing since launching the site because of the limitations of free blogging solutions, but didn’t want to spend the money on an external host for something I started more or less on a whim.

You’ll notice that the site looks a little different, but that was a side effect of the switch — the templates for the free version are different from the hosted version. The hosted version allows for much greater customization of the templates, though, which is a huge bonus. I don’t know quite enough HTML or CSS to make full use of the freedom, but I know enough to be dangerous and tweak things.

WordPress thank god has great instructions for installation, because while the words were all English, they were strung together in ways that made no sense to me, and yet I still managed to upload the files to my host, create databases, install the WordPress software, and launch the site with only a few episodes of banging my head into a cyberwall. I also managed to automatically import most of the posts and sidebar information from the old site after a little more headbanging and some deletions to get the import file down in size. The first month or two of posts from the old site now don’t exist, and I need to recreate the schedule page, but it seemed like a small sacrifice for less aggravation.

The one thing that always bugged me about the free WordPress hosting is the JavaScript ban, which leads to limited web stats. WordPress has built-in stats which let you see what sites and search words are referring to the site and which pages are getting hits, but the information isn’t connected — you don’t know what referrals are landing on which pages, and there’s no information on who these visitors are. To supplement that, I used an HTML-only version of StatCounter, which tells me where my visitors are from and when they visited, but none of the other information the fully functioning JavaScript StatCounter would give you. So I don’t know what page the person from CanWest in Calgary landed on or what someone searched for to get to a particular post. That information isn’t crucial, but it is helpful for site marketing purposes and curiosity-fulfilling purposes.

JavaScript plus the private hosting also allows me to put up the Amazon ads you’ll see now, and maybe accept other advertising I’ve until now had to turn down because the free WordPress hosting didn’t allow for commercial activity of any kind. I know no visitor is going to say “Yay, ads!” but it’s not like I’m going to start soliciting for the porn marketers (“but it’s Canadian porn”) or creating pop-ups. The Amazon ads let me point people to where they can buy Canadian TV products while hopefully helping to pay for the hosting and domain fees. I’m guessing there’s no one on the planet retiring from Amazon Associates revenue. I kind of doubt most people can pay for hosting and domain fees from Amazon Associates revenue, either.

The switch was not without problems, though. I set the new site up on my personal unused domain name for testing before switching over the tv-eh.com domain, but then had a bit of a scare post-switch: for some people, some of the time, www.tv-eh.com didn’t work but http://tv-eh.com did. After some supremely unhelpful support from my domain name registrar and much more helpful support from my new hosting company, it seems the most likely cause is the user’s cache, and it should be a temporary problem. I’m not entirely confident that’s the actual cause, but the randomness of the problem makes me think that shrugging is as close as we’re going to come to solving it.

I’m still working with the hosting company on why the tv-eh domain only shows up on the home page, while the domain name I don’t want visitors to see shows up on the other pages. I have faith it will be resolved soon.

When I first launched the site last summer, it was with the free domain http://canadiantv.wordpress.com. That address was doomed to die with the switch … but it’s only a little dead. WordPress support insists there’s no way to redirect from a site hosted by them to one hosted externally, so I figured I’d just have to rely on people changing their bookmarks and links manually. Which is true, but it turns out I have some more grace time. Post-launch I opted for the paid feature in the free WordPress version to have my own domain, tv-eh.com, map to canadiantv.wordpress.com. Now that tv-eh.com points to the new site, it in effect acts as an automatic redirect. WordPress doesn’t seem to want you to know it will work that way.

A more serious problem that made my heart sink was to find out that the new site had a different way of naming pages and posts than the old one. Now I get server stats too, which give all sorts of bizarre data I won’t care about. But yesterday, seeing all the “unfulfilled requests” from people getting 404 messages from dead search links made me question my decision to switch for the first time. I thought it was something I’d have to live with until Google indexed the new site and gave up on the old, but it turns out there’s an option hidden in the depths of the WordPress software to select the kind of post naming that the old site had. So now the new post names match the old post names and all is good in Googleland.

I’m guessing the pain isn’t over yet. The site’s Google juice might be affected at first, though maybe not. I have a feeling some RSS subscribers might be left behind. I’ll be unable to prevent myself from spending way too much time fiddling and tweaking. Other glitches will come to light, I’m sure. But I know more geek secrets now than I did before, I have a shiny new toy to play with, and the site now has more possibilities than it did before. So all in all, despite the headbanging, I’m satisfied with the switch. So far.

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3 Responses to Geek weekend, geek post

  1. Nancy says:

    Hi, Diane. Thanks for sharing your pseudo-geeky story; it’s interesting and inspiring for other pseudo-geeks! The new site is beautiful, too.

  2. Corien says:

    So, what does it say about me that I read the whole post, and understood all of it.. nothing wrong with being geeky, right?
    (sorry – I don’t regularly visit the “eh” site, can’t get any of the shows).

  3. Diane Kristine says:

    Thanks!

    Corien, as someone who turns handwriting into fonts, I think you have a not-so-inner geek yourself 😉

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