Tobacco on Trial on WordPress

We have a new weblog project up at work: Tobacco on Trial, tracking the progress of the government lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

The blog runs on WordPress, with a variation of Binarybonsai’s Kubrick for layout. I had a bit of a struggle modifying Kubrick’s stylesheet: simplifying the design, removing the need for extra background images, trimming redundant CSS declarations — Michael Heilemann’s method of CSS organization is different from mine. (Not that my stylesheets are any paragon of virtue.) The final design needs only one graphic for the title (which I bring into <#header h1> with FIR), and uses a couple of colored boxes and white background for everything else. When I have time I’ll put the template up somewhere.

This was my first serious WordPress project. It’s an excellent CMS, easy to install and run, with lots of practical, useful features where they’re needed — easily hide-able where they’re not. The admin interface is a refreshing break from the crufty, kludgy wasteland of open-source CMS interfaces. (Much more on that some other time.) “Official” support is fairly patchy compared to MovableType, as this is open-source, after all, but the forum is friendly and responsive, and the wiki is a perfect tool to gradually accrete collaborative knowledge in the absence of a paid support staff.

Probably my only complaint about WordPress is templating: you need to know PHP (or have a keen eye for find-replace) to do any mucking about with template code. Having everything in a single file means lots of large, nested if-else structures, which gets confusing. Additionally, certain template “tags” (actually just various functions called inside <? PHP tags ?>) are not particularly customizable (the_excerpt(), I’m looking at you). Gladly, WP coders know what they’re doing, and have been quite intelligent about indentation and commenting, both in the index.php template and in the WP code itself.

(I was also going to complain about WordPress making the common open-source CMS mistake of cluttering the home directory with all its files and dependencies, rather than “sanctifying” the CMS into a separate location like MT does, but, happily, that issue has been covered in the wiki.)

Conclusion: I like WordPress a lot, and I’ll certainly be using it for future blog-based projects. But we’re just friends.