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WordPress to Substack With a Medium Bypass
Why I chose to leave WordPress after all these years and how I landed on Substack
Based on 3 seconds of research, it appears I started writing on WordPress back in November 2006. My first post, it seems, was a moronic take on words:
Anyway, over the past, uh, 17 years, I’ve irregularly posted about 300 missives, ranging from cataloging interstate and international trips to tracking my year at MIT to writing about my burgeoning carpentry/gardening/farming hobbies.
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The blog actually started out as my way to update my mom what I was up to and thinking. I found writing for her was easier than telling her in our phone calls. I don’t know why — that’s something a therapist can explain.
Back in the mid 2000s, WordPress was easily the best blogging platform around. Plus, I enjoyed learning how to roll my own site and tweaking the templates. So it wasn’t just an exercise in self-indulgence (like it is now), but it was also a way for me to learn about the platform and to experiment.
Now, though, I find WordPress to be a bit of a chore. For one, the block editor is slow and cumbersome. It’s relatively slow to update media and the back-end is outdated. Sure, it’s fine for certain things, like this awesome Science Editing Handbook I edited and produced for the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, but that was aided by professional WordPress developers.
Before leaving WordPress, though, I thought maybe I could just use different, and theoretically better, tools to publish to the same site. MarsEdit, for example, is a Mac-based offline editor. But, I found it just as wonky and outdated as WordPress itself. The WordPress desktop app? It’s just an electron wrapper of the WordPress editor. And besides, it kept crashing on my Apple Silicon MacBook.
So I decided to check out some other platforms, starting with one I already had some experience with…
Indeed, I was already familiar with SquareSpace from when I set up my dad’s blog on his boat-building adventures. (He needs to update the site… he’s actually got the thing in the water now.) I like SquareSpace, but I also knew it was overkill for what I was trying to do. If I needed to set up an online store or something, great. But SquareSpace seemed like it would be just as heavy and cumbersome as WordPress and might also cause me problems in the future, since it’s not an open platform like WordPress is. And it wasn’t free.
So that led me to…
I’ve been intrigued by Medium ever since it came on the scene. It seemed designed for just my kind of thing. I set up an account and started setting up the site. All was going well until it was time for me to import my WordPress site. Apparently, that feature ended in 2018. Oh, I could import one post at a time, but I wasn’t interested in that.
If I couldn’t import all my WordPress posts, then that pretty much ended my dalliance. Also, Medium’s backstory is replete with Silicon Valley (the TV show) kind of ridiculousness that, I’ll be honest, made me less excited about using it. And it’s not like I was expecting or planning on or even considering using it to make money. I just wanted a good, free, easy publishing platform. Is that so hard?
Perhaps not, because next I tried…
I don’t know what the future holds (other than an increasingly inhospitable planet and my own eventual death), but if we can just hang on to the present, I’ll be happy. Substack has, quite honestly, been a breath of fresh air. It’s a pleasure to write in. It’s snappy. It has loads of features that are both easy to make use of and, equally important, easy to ignore. It imported my WordPress content with ease. And I love that it combines emailing my content as well as hosting it on the site.
The dashboard makes it easy for me to soothe my ego (or send it into a despair spiral) by showing me who is subscribed and how
much little traffic I’m getting.
So, I’ve made the switch and maybe, just maybe, it’ll prompt me to write more. Whether that’s actually a good thing, I leave to you.
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