A little over a month ago I blogged about how I was planning to re-launch my blog. This post is from the newly launched site! Before I say too much here I want to mention that I will be writing quite a few posts on the reasoning behind some decisions I made with the new site as well as how I did it. Since posting that I was making the move, I've received quite a few comments from folks on Twitter asking why and how so these posts will serve those answers.
When I started blogging in September 2003 I was using an open source engine named .TEXT that was run by one guy. This engine developed quite a following and another small team took it over, forked the codebase and called it SubText. I've been on SubText for over 9 years. While a good engine, the community has mostly dried up around SubText, the main guys behind it have lost interest / moved on and the engine has shown its age. As someone who lives in the content management system (CMS) space, I wanted a more robust and flexible engine. There are plenty of commercial off the shelf (COTS) products like SharePoint Web Content Management, Sitecore and Episerver, but for my blog I wanted to stick with something affordable to a single man shop, open source and something I could extend and tinker with.
My new site, including the blog, is now run entirely off OrchardCMS (www.OrchardProject.net). Orchard has a strong community following and Microsoft even pays some people as their full time job to maintain. I wanted a few videos and poked around in late 2012 and was immediately impressed. I also moved this site from the shared hosting provider I was using after having a few issues with them (nothing specific to them, specific to the shared hosting space like the inability to recycle app pools or backup databases yourself). The site is now 100% hosted in the cloud using Windows Azure Web Sites, SQL Azure Databases and Windows Azure Storage… even the mail system is hosted in Azure (SendGrid).
Another big change you'll notice when you browse to the site is that I gave the site a big facelift. I had a professional designer help with the layout and generating a HTML5 friendly & responsive design (so one theme it works from full screen on the biggest monitors down to the smallest smartphones) and I built the Orchard theme.
The last really big change to the site is the URL structure…every single URL changed (yes… EVERY SINGLE ONE). Orchard has a module that helps with permanent redirects and I've done a lot of research so I don't hurt my Google/Bing search rankings. The new URLs are much more search friendly.
Now for a short disclaimer and a "yes, I know that doesn't work": I still have countless things I'd like to do on the site. A few things are not operational just yet, the two biggest ones are that (1) the contact form for sending me email isn't working & (2) all comments are currently disabled. I'm moving my comments to an external engine and the importing of the old comments is taking a bit longer than I had hoped. If you left a comment on my old blog after mid-February 2013 it won't come across (sorry!). Hopefully these two things will be resolved in short order.
Broken links & images: You might also notice some broken images here and there. Over the last 9 years I've been so inconsistent where I've put images referenced in articles & posts from Flickr to different Skydrive folders to a folder off the root of the site. Over the next few weeks/months I'll consolidate everything into a single bucket (Azure Storage). That process has already started for many posts.
I'll write a lot more about what I've said above and much more in future posts. All these posts will be tagged using the Blogging & Orchard tags on my site (I'll also create an index on the site as well). Stay tuned and until then, if you have a question, best to connect with me on Twitter (@andrewconnell) until I get the comments turned on.