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Taking The “A” Train

So I upgraded to WordPress 1.5 over the weekend.  Unfortunately, the “famous 5-minute installation” was, for me, about two orders of magnitude longer.  This is not really the fault of WordPress or its crafters: my site is a fairly unusual case.  I had pretty heavily modified the templates in WordPress 1.2 by changing the markup, rearranging PHP, that sort of thing, so I had to make sure the upgrade wouldn’t wreck the site.  I was also using a number of plugins, many of which I’d written, and I wanted to be sure none of them would get broken.

At first I was planning to modify the WP 1.5 files directly, but then I realized that with the new Themes feature in WordPress, I could convert my markup into a new, separate theme.  That took me a while, as I was learning the new structure of WP and figuring out what pieces of my markup needed to go where.  Had I never messed around with the original WP markup, I could’ve skipped this step entirely, and saved myself a few hours of work.  But then I wouldn’t understand the WP internals as well as I do now.

This thematic conversion was, it is to be expected, a one-time investment.  From here on out, I can twiddle with stuff in the theme files, and not touch the WP core.  This is a vast improvement over 1.2, and illustrates why themes are a huge win for power users as well as novices.  Whether you want to just install and start blogging, or you feel like completely redoing the markup to suit your own twisted ends, WP’s themes will make your life much easier.  It will also make it a lot easier to upgrade in the future.  I used to fear upgrades because of all the hacking I’d done.  Not any more.

Once I’d upgraded the core WP files, it was time to find out what it would take to upgrade my plugins.  Basically, very little.  I had some magic-quotes routines that had become redundant and needed to be stripped out.  That was pretty much all that needed to be done.

However, thanks to new features in WP 1.5, it’s possible to greatly improve the way plugins operate and to very easily extend WP’s feature set entirely from a plugin (once you fix a bug discovered last week).  Take WP-Gatekeeper, for example.  In WP 1.2, installing Gatekeeper meant installing a plugin file and activating it, adding a file to the wp-admin directory, and modifying two WP core files as well as the comment template(s).  Not exactly plug-n-play, which has probably limited its appeal to many WP users.

In WP 1.5, though, it’s possible to add administration pages dynamically—no files have to be edited—and to attach actions to comment form processing.  So even at this stage of its overhaul, my development copy of Gatekeeper requires only the installation/activation of a plugin and editing of the comment template.  By the time I’m done, it should require only installing and activating the plugin, with no need to edit any files.


All in all, despite the fact that it took so me long to line up all the pieces, I’m really glad to have upgraded to 1.5.  I suspect I’ve only scratched the surface of what it has to offer, but what I’ve seen so far has been impressive.  The combination of theme organization and plugin power makes this a much more modular, extensible, robust system.  In 1.2, I felt like I was bending and rearranging a basic system to meet my specific needs; in 1.5, I feel like I’m working within an environment that has everything I need to do anything I want.

That’s why I’ve changed the site footer, which used to say I was using a copy of WP that I’d “hacked like it was attacking my family”.  That’s no longer the case.  Sure, I’ve added a number of home-brewed plugins (most of which are freely available) to enhance various things, and yes, I’ve created my own templates.  But that stuff is all out of the core files and into separate packages, as it should be, while the core of WP is basically untouched.

Of course, I have a few quibbles here and there, as I do with just about any system I use (I’m a relentless customizer).  The Dashboard doesn’t really do a whole lot for me as it stands, and I have some things I’d like to change in both the advanced post-editing interface and the plugin management page.  This time around, though, I’m going to offer my changes as contributions to the WP code base, to be accepted or rejected as the developers see fit.

I doff my cap and bow in gratitude toward the WordPress team, and all the members of the WordPress community who have helped it grow and improve.  A good tool is now a great tool, and I can only imagine where it will go from here.

20 Responses»

    • #1
    • Pingback
    • Tue 22 Feb 2005
    • 2206
    Received from Photo Matt » Eric on 1.5

    […] ck

    Eric on 1.5

    February 22nd, 2005 7:06 pm
    File under: Asides

    Eric Meyer on WordPress 1.5, “A good tool is now a great tool, and I can o […]

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Tue 22 Feb 2005
    • 2231
    Chris Poteet wrote in to say...

    My upgrade took a little longer as well; it is a fantastic tool.

    • #3
    • Pingback
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 0148
    Received from Refuge Island » Blog Archive » Eric Meyer on WordPress

    […] « iPodless Eric Meyer on WordPress Eric Meyer has posted his review of WordPress 1.5. Go read it. (HT: Matt.) […]

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 0246
    Samir M. Nassar wrote in to say...


    Just a heads up, using Konqueror 3.3.92 (3.4 beta 2) your theme gives me about 4 px of horizontal scroll.

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 0437
    Marc Jennings wrote in to say...

    I agree with your thoughts on the usefulness of the dashboard. If it were easy to add your own feed sources through the UI, rather than having to go into the code, that would make it a lot more useful IMHO.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 0631
    Michael Ward wrote in to say...

    I’m still running a hacked up version of WP to run my site (see link) but I am currently in the process of upgrading to 1.5.

    I can now move all my code to themes files and I’m genuinely excited at the prospect of running a clean 1.5 install. The WordPress authors have graped the nettle and produced a stunning update that combines the ease of use of previous versions with some extreme power and extensibility options.

    My jaw nearly dropped when I first installed WP… it was a dream compared to the convoluted MovableType installation.

    I think this version may even deserve a 2.0 tag. :)

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 0734
    Roy Schestowitz wrote in to say...

    I already miss that funny comment at the bottom: “…albeit one which I’ve hacked like it was attacking my family”.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 0735
    Patrick Starrenburg wrote in to say...


    I’m sure you have been asked this before… but have you considered releasing your WordPress style (now theme) as a theme for others (slipping into praise mode) like me who really like your clean 2.5 column layout (end praise mode) can use it. Not obviously all the extras you have done (neat menus) but core layout with changeable pictures in head.

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 1141
    Dave Marks wrote in to say...

    Any chance of adding some rewrite rules for your old feed url’s?

    I ask becuase
    a) I only noticed you had posted, becuase i saw PhotoMatt link to this post, so didn’t know my feed needed updating

    b) To update the feed url, i have to delete the feed and re-add it, which means i lose all your old posts (I keep some unread if i want to go back to them)

    c) It just seems like a nice thing to do :)


    • #10
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 1151
    Eric wrote in to say...

    Patrick: it’s a possibility. At the moment, the masthead changes are executed by a Perl script completely outside WP, so that wouldn’t be part of the theme if I were to publish it today. Also, all the CSS is outside the WP directory structure, so I’d have to pull that in. Nothing insurmountable, but it adds up.

    Dave: I’m torn on that one. It turns out that, thanks to my not paying attention, I’d provided about a dozen different ways to get RSS feeds. I’d really like to consolidate them into one place. I’m still trying to find out what all the old URLs were so I can figure out how to harmonize everything. Meanwhile, RSS readers really ought to tell the user if a feed has disappeared.

    • #11
    • Comment
    • Wed 23 Feb 2005
    • 1306
    Dave Marks wrote in to say...


    The url I have is

    My RSS reader does notify me, by going red, and also adding a article with the error, however my reader doesn’t deal with windows hibernating very well, in that some feeds stop working until you close and reopen the app… and also some feeds go down and come back now and again, so i don’t pay too much attention

    On a sidenote, a went through a couple of weeks, where i tried using lots of other newsreaders, but none offered the simpliciy and functions that my current one has, so i ended back with it, with all it faults

    • #12
    • Pingback
    • Fri 25 Feb 2005
    • 0653
    Received from Planeta WordPress » Blog Archive » Eric on 1.5

    […] =”″> Eric on 1.5 Eric Meyer on WordPress 1.5, “A good tool is now a great tool, and I can o […]

    • #13
    • Pingback
    • Mon 28 Feb 2005
    • 0955
    Received from InfoSpaces » Blog Archive » Eric Meyer on WP 1.5

    […] Eric Meyer on WP 1.5 Eric Meyer opinion about WordPress 1.5. Wonderful This entry was posted on Monday, Februar […]

    • #14
    • Comment
    • Mon 28 Feb 2005
    • 1739
    Geoffrey Sneddon wrote in to say...

    I had been on the WP 1.5 Nightlies since the beginning of January, when I had designed my theme, I was surprised myself just how much the theme system had moved on since the alpha versions that my blog was designed with, I ended up changing quite a bit, also, some plug-ins that hadn’t worked previously, now worked, like the WP Most Commented, which is now integrated into my sidebar.php

    Also, it was far better documented than it was when it was in alpha, which isn’t surprising, so some of my changes were from thing I didn’t know existed, like page.php – to style pages, in my case I only have one, the about page.

    I was working wiith 1.2 a couple of months, on a project that I later dumped, in favour of a more powerful solution, and so much of what I was trying to achive would now be very easy in 1.5.

    My blog has become far more popular than I ever expected, but that is a different story, and one I plan to blog on the 4th March, when it’ll be 3 months old… How time flies… How many spam comments I deleted… *sigh…* Anyhow, I’ll be discussing a lot with myself in my upcoming blog post :D

    As for what colour an orange is, pink, final answer.

    • #15
    • Comment
    • Mon 28 Feb 2005
    • 2136
    AQ wrote in to say...

    I like it and all, but am so annoyed about this “spyware” issue with the firefox link which the wordpress team is not taking seriously. There is absolutely no reason that shouldn’t be in the install. I have to wonder what they have planned that they wanted to test something like this in the first place. I really like the new release, but the fact that they did this makes me feel very lukewarm to their team and their personal integrity.

    • #16
    • Comment
    • Mon 28 Feb 2005
    • 2214
    Kevin wrote in to say...

    I was reading your feed via SBC My Yahoo! ( and saw that it wasn’t up to date, so I changed to a new one:
    The feed has the curly quotes around the A unencoded, so they show up as wierd characters on the SBC My Yahoo! page.

    All of the RSS links in the Feeds section of the sidebar are broken.

    For a list of some of your urls, you can try a search on

    I miss the footer as well. It still says ubercool, though, so it’s not all bad.

    • #17
    • Pingback
    • Thu 3 Mar 2005
    • 0109
    • #18
    • Comment
    • Sat 5 Mar 2005
    • 1211
    jesstech wrote in to say...

    I get the feeling that for most hardcore WordPress users, the above mentioned ‘5-minute installation’ is nothing more than a dream on the breeze—I too, after having made countless adjustments to the core files, am finding it quite a task to upgrade to 1.5. The theme I’ve ported without issue, but it’s the Pages that are giving me a headache—I may end up having to manually edit the mod-rewrite rules in order to pass the proper variables on to selected Pages.

    The interface for easily adding/modifying Pages (and making connections to theme pages) is probably the best addition to 1.5, but I’m afraid that as far as using Pages as ‘About Me’ or ‘Links’ sections, they’re simply not good enough for dynamic content such as user profiles or poll archives. I’ll figure it out, though—I always do.

    • #19
    • Pingback
    • Wed 14 Sep 2005
    • 2326
    Received from Eric Meyer on Wordpress 1.5 at Simple Future

    […] « Bad Dreams CommonBits. » Eric Meyer on WordPress 1.5Best free blogging software from a developer’s […]

    • #20
    • Pingback
    • Sat 29 Oct 2005
    • 1901
    Received from Deep Surface » Themes

    […] ut Movable Type by installing that along side WordPress, but no longer, after I found this post, from Eric Meyer. I have three of his books on my desk at work, and they h […]

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