Why I Switched to WordPress After Making Such A Big Deal about Tumblr

If you’re a regular reader of my little blog, chances are you’re now aware that this site no longer runs on Tumblr as it did initially, but is now a WordPress blog. I’m writing this post to head off any people who would run up to me shouting obscenities and shaking a tear-stained printout of what I wrote when I launched this site a few months back. As a side benefit, this will also be a decent practical comparison of Tumblr and WordPress as “serious” blogging platforms.

Just to save you the trouble of clicking over and reading another post to get enough context to understand this one, here’s a very short summary of why I chose Tumblr when I launched: no plugins or theme options to distract or frustrate me, the simplicity of the platform would be helpful in keeping me focused on the writing and it was free and hosted by somebody else. Got it? Cool.

Before I continue here, I’d like to explicitly state that I don’t have any serious complaints with Tumblr as a service. There have been some availability issues lately, but otherwise it’s a very cool service that makes a ton of people happy and prolific and I’ll continue to use it for a few other little things I do. My decision to switch was based more upon what WordPress could offer that Tumblr couldn’t than any issues I had with Tumblr itself.

What, specifically, do I mean by “what WordPress could offer”? Glad you asked.

It’s important to understand that this site, while very much a blog in the strictest sense, is also a business for me because I sell a product here. My family has come to depend on the money I make selling my ebook, so I have to take the selling activity seriously and do my best to maintain (and, ideally, grow) that business. I am talking a bit about some form of advertising in a sense, but I’m also talking more about the different ways that WordPress allows me to engage with my audience. For example, it’s difficult, nay, damn near impossible to add the 5 most recent posts to the side of a Tumblr site without modifying the theme by hand each time you post something new. Non-dumb Blogging 101 has taught most of us that, if people like what they read on a blog and have easy access to more content by the same author, the chances are good that they’ll keep poking around and reading more. WordPress makes this braindead simple.

As I alluded to in a recent post describing the migration of this blog to WordPress, I’ve also become much more interested in being in control over my site and it’s environment. Since I don’t maintain every single part of the system that delivers my site (the server upon which it runs, the Internet connection over which the site is served, the air conditioner in the data center that keeps the server from melting, etc.), I’m not technically in absolute control of the site, but I’m much closer than I was with Tumblr. Precisely one person has administrative access to the server, the WordPress admin section, the MySQL instance that powers the site and all of the data that lives in all three places : me, baby.

Also, if the site goes down, I’ve got a number I can call which will be answered by a guy who works for a company that to which I pay money. That changes the game pretty dramatically since, as with most free services, you simply don’t get the same type of support. Again, it comes down to how vital this site’s availability has become to me and mine.

There are, however, a handful of small annoyances that I developed with Tumblr in the few months I hosted this blog there:

  • The post dating system is rather unintuitive. If I write a post today, but don’t post it until a week from now, there’s a good chance it will get shoehorned into the blog as though it were published on the day it was composed. I had to backpedal out of this mess a good number of times.
  • Modifying the theme is really not easy. I’m talking simple things like adding an additional sidebar box or adding some simple JavaScript — these things were rather cumbersome because the entire theme is one huge file and the pane in which you can edit said file displays it in a rather clumsy way. It’s easy enough to copy that whole mess out to a Vim buffer and edit it there, but I just found that a little tiring.
  • Site availability (which I mentioned at the beginning of this tome of a post) has become an issue. It was sporadic in the past, but has lately gone from the site being down for a few minutes to the site being offline for extended periods of time, an entire morning in one case. El Duderino can’t abide that.

I guess it boils down to about 80% of “WordPress does what I need” and 20% “Tumblr’s starting to piss me off”. Let me reiterate, though, that Tumblr is a fine service when used in the manner for which it was intended — I just don’t think I was using it in such a manner.

Thoughts? Hate me?

Photo by amy.kay