A few weeks ago I decided that I really wanted to move the /Message blog off of Squarespace, which I had been using since early 2010 as my blogging platform.
I have been using Tumblr for several years for my other blog, Underpaid Genius (formerly Ambivalence), and I had become sold on the Tumblr model of social blogging (see WordPress Releases ‘Like’ And ‘Reblog’: We Need TumbleBacks, People). As a result, I decided to push ahead with porting to Tumblr, even though there is no automated way to do it. These are a few comments about the experience.
Tumblr does allow mapping a domain name to a Tumblr hosted blog, and that simply works as advertised. In this case I mapped ‘www.stoweboyd.com’ to ‘stoweboyd.tumblr.com’ and was off and running.
Tumblr does not allow someone porting to their platform any sort of automated help, and in particular this means that simply cutting and pasting entires from Suqarespace and posting them to Tumblr would work for the contents of the posts, but all the links that people in the outside world might have pointing to my writings would be broken. For example, if the old URL of an entry posted on Squarespace was
and the new Tumblr URL would be
and there isn’t anyway in Tumblr to create the former over again.
Since I was going to potentially break everything, I decided this would be the best possible time to change the name of my blog from /Message (www.stoweboyd.com/message) to Stowe Boyd (www.stoweboyd.com), which is something i have wanted to do for a year or so.
It turns out that Tumblr does support a redirection capability, however, which is buried in the mechanism for creating Tumblr ‘pages’. So I was able to use that to map the old Squarespace URLs to the new Tumblr URLs:
And this redirection, like the reposting, has to be done manually. But at least it is possible. There seems to be no way to automate this at present: I was informed by a friend that there are no API calls in Tumblr for creating redirect pages.
This is also made more complex by the archival URLs in Squarespace. A single post can be referred to by several URLs:
and a link from the outside world might be any of these. In general, I settled for just the first, except in a few instance where someone like the NY Times had used an archival URL.
You might wonder at this point if I had lost my mind, taking on so much manual work. But the truth is I outsourced it to a college student, Blake Harrison, once I had figured out how to do it.
There were several other major pains in the porting.
One pain is links that I have in my posts to other /Message posts. The redirection approach works in general, but we are only creating redirects for 2010 posts, or a selection of popular posts from earlier years. I expect I will be fixing those links for months — if not years — to come.
Another has to do with images. On Squarespace, I had often uploaded images onto their server, so the references to those were local. And I plan to shut down that account as soon as the porting is finished, in the next few weeks. So we had to download the images and then reupload them to Tumblr. This also helped a great deal with image presentation, since Tumblr scales photos to one of several dimensions, which match the Tumblr template model much better than a stray link to an image hosted elsewhere. I am sure we missed some. (I also discovered a nasty bug in Squarespace during this. Apparently, uploading an image file called ‘slide 1’ when there is an existing ‘slide 1’ did not lead to renaming of the second file to, for instance, ‘slide 1-1’: it led to a replacement of the image. So whenever I had uploaded images from presentations, I was inadvertently overwriting all previous presentation images.)
Both systems support tags, and we simply retyped them.
Tumblr supports setting a date for a post in the past, which we did, trying to conserve the sequence of posts. However, since Tumblr does not provide a link to the post in the editor or dashboard views, there is no simple way to browse to the page after saving to see the actual layout and to capture the actual URL (necessary for redirects). The editor preview mode doesn’t show the actual URL anywhere. Therefore, after saving a post, we would have to use the Tumblr archival URL for the date, like
which browses to a page of posts from March 3, 2010. Then we click on the specific post permalink to get the actual URL. A lot of work.
All this postdating of posts led to the discovery of a pernicious bug in Tumblr. It seems that when templates take advantage of Tumblr capabilities for moving from a given page to a previous or next page, the determination of the ordering is based on when the pages are created, not the date set in the date field. As a result, I have to avoid the use of next or previous page navigation. Hopefully, Tumblr will fix this bug in the future.
On Squarespace, I had relied on the company’s inbuilt commenting system. On Tumblr I am using Disqus, so we have cut and pasted the old comments into Disqus.
I haven’t said much about Tumblr templates, but the flexibility they offer — in comparison with Squarespace — is one of the reasons I wanted to move. I am now using Lynx created by Andrew Stichbury, and had fooled with a number of others, too.
Status And Conclusions
Blake originally was working from the past to the present, but I stopped him somewhere in 2009 to work on 2010. He’s now working backwards from the present, and is working on April posts at present. I hope he will have moved everything in the next few weeks, before going back to college.
If you have a link that doesn’t resolve, let me know in the comments to this post, and we will fix it.
The process has turned out to be workable, even with thousands of posts, although very time consuming. The redirect capability is a godsend, and solves a mazillion headaches, such as serving up RSS feeds.
I am extremely happy with using Tumblr for both of my principle blogs, and an upcoming blog project called 20onetwenty, a site that will be dedicated to my search for a place to live within 120 minutes by train of New York City.
Having multiple Tumblr blogs causes some headaches, though. Tumblr supports multiple blogs on a single account, but certain capabilities are restricted to the main (initial) blog created in that account. So I now have two Tumblr accounts, one for stoweboyd.com and the other for underpaidgenius.com (and soon, another for 20onetwenty.com). This means I have to logout and login many times a day, and this complicates the use of Tumblr’s bookmarklet. I have created a bookmark on my Firefox toolbar that links to the logout page at Tumblr, and that resolves to a login page, so the result is more or less like selecting which blog I would like to start posting to. However, it would be better if that could be integrated into the Tumblr bookmarklet, itself.