Don’t Do Something If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you may know that I used to run things on the Blogger platform.  Very early on, I actually started the blog on WordPress, but when I gave some thought of giving up blogging, I migrated over to Bloggers since that was free.

It didn’t take long for me to renew my interest in blogging, but I stuck with Blogger for a couple of years. I always had a mind to get off of it and over to WordPress, but it took a couple of years for me to do anything about it.

Finally, I found a new hosting company and got everything signed up.

The Grand Plan: Build In The Background

After I made the decision to switch, I wanted to make sure that I did things the right way.  I had what I thought was a decent amount of users, and so I didn’t want to switch the blog over and build it at the same time.  So, I came up with the grand idea to rebuild Money Beagle in the background.  I am savvy enough to know how to add a DNS record at my registrar, so I registered test dot moneybeagle dot com to point to my new host.  This, I figured, would let me set things up exactly as I wanted, then just flip the switch once I was ready.

Seemed pretty simple, right?

Well, not so much.

Problem 1: The Immediate Crash

I did get things built.  I got pretty much all the content transitioned over, I made sure everything worked since some of the URLs changed format, I got a theme I liked in place, and everything seemed ready to go.  So, I changed the setting that I thought would be needed in WordPress, I told Blogger that it was no longer the destination for Money Beagle, then I went over and redirected my site through my registrar.

And, I immediately got locked out.  I could not access the site, and certainly couldn’t access the administration tool.  I was dead in the water for over an hour.  Eventually, I figured out how to go in through my host providers control panel and modify the files using a text editor.

It seemed to work

Problem 2: Images and links were broken

I found out that although I switched stuff over, many of the internal links I had to images and other links within Money Beagle were still using the ‘test’ domain.  I spent many hours going through trying to cleanse things, but it took a long time and every time I looked, I found something new that was still using the old address.  Finally, I think I reached a day where I had cleansed it all, though I’m still not convinced I won’t find something.

Problem 3: One of the main links was broken

I was probably a couple of months into my ‘new’ site when someone let me know that if you just typed moneybeagle dot com (without the typical ‘www’) that it was re-directing to the test.  That means that I was basically splitting my site in half, and that sites that assign metrics (such as Google Page Rank, MozRank, or Domain Authority) could see it as two different sites.  Metrics like this are one of the keys to growth for a blog, and if the tools saw that I was splitting it in two, it could have been devastating to my blog.  Not only would it have basically cut my authority in half, it probably would have gone down further as they could have perceived that I was duplicating my content, which is a big no-no in the search engine world.

A few clicks and I had that fixed, but it was around this time that I was beginning to realize that I had probably bitten off way more than I could chew in terms of setting things up as a test site.

Problem 4: My Own Access

I use a dashboard in WordPress to run the blog.  Anytime I want to write a post, approve a comment, install a plugin, or other administrative functions, I need to log into my dashboard.  This typically works such that you log in, and you’re good for a while.

Every so often, I noted that I was having some minor issues, but mostly they were just annoying.  I found that if I was logged out, clicking the button that essentially logs you back in didn’t work.  It resulted in an error. This was annoying but not a big deal.  I also found that when I was logging in, it was taking me to a different sub-domain (not test, but it was the non-www domain).  This was causing some random issues that would lead to links within my own dashboard not working.  For awhile, they were troublesome but not a big enough deal.  Then, some WordPress update must have changed something because suddenly this became a big issue.  I started getting logged out of my own site after just a couple of minutes.

Troubleshooting this took a couple of hours, and the cause was likely due to the changes that I mentioned when I locked myself out after the first transition.  I had to go into the actual database tables to find some values, and also go into a couple of files that I had likely modified.  Finally, after finding the magical combo, the dashboard works perfectly.

I made this correction last week.  The blog moved over in December 2011.  That was fourteen months after I had made the move that I was still troubleshooting issues.

Problem 5: Who Knows?

I’m hoping that was the last of my issues related to my migration strategy of trying to get things set up beforehand.

The thing is, I’ve done some digging and there are plugins and tools that would have done exactly what I was hoping to do, and I could have easily accomplished this without any of the heartache that I’ve put myself through.

But, at the time, I was so focused on the Blogger to WordPress migration that I didn’t even consider any potential issues from essentially migrating from WordPress to WordPress, which if you think about it, was what I was doing.

I’m disappointed in myself because I’m a project manager by trade, so I completely ignored some of the very tenets which make me successful at my day job, namely to identify potential risk issues and come up with plans to mitigate risk.   I’m very risk averse in life and in my job.  This serves me pretty well in my job, because I spend a lot of time managing risk, which many other project managers tend to gloss over, but this generally leads to less issues arising throughout the course of the project.

I guess I need to apply more of my job principles into real life issues moving forward!

21 thoughts on “Don’t Do Something If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing”

  1. I am not a very tech savvy person so wouldn’t begin to know how to make a migration that you are describing. Fortunately for me, I haven’t had to do that and started out with WordPress when starting my blog.

  2. Back in the day, I ran a parenting site that started on Blogger and had to be transferred over to WP. It was an exhaustive effort, and after six weeks, I hired someone to finish (er, correct) what I had started (er, messed up royally). I’m pretty sure I would have had to pay the professional *less* if I hadn’t messed it up before handing it over to her!

    • I knew just enough that I did it without too much catastrophic. It was just the little things that have kept popping up since.

  3. I did something pretty silly when I was transitioning domain names. Once I had the new site launched, I wanted to do a forced redirect so users would be directed to the new site even if they click a link going to the old site. Without thinking, I set it up so EVERYTHING on the domain would be automatically redirected to INCLUDING MY CONTROL PANEL. That was dumb.

    • That’s pretty much what happened to me when I changed the domain name but didn’t do inside of WordPress first. I ended up having to go into my cPanel and modifying the config file manually, which then led to the ongoing issue that I mentioned toward the end, that just got resolved last week!

  4. There are so many things to think about when migrating a website. I did this with my ecommerce site when I was migrating from one shopping cart to another. It was a nightmare and I learned a lot when doing it. I am comfortable enough now with WordPress, php, and mysql that I don’t think I would have issues, but I won’t be migrating platforms anytime soon.

    • Yeah, I would imagine that e-commerce would add a whole extra layer of complexity given all the extra security you have to have in place. At that point, I likely would have outsourced from the very beginning.

  5. About 2.5 years ago, I accidentally wrote over all of my BFS files when I tried creating my second site, Crystal Clear Thoughts. Ever since then, I’ve paid Jesse, my tech dude, $20 to get new sites started for me. I also paid $150 back in 2010 to go from Blogger to WordPress since I has zero knowledge in that arena. Overall, I’ve probably wasted over $500-$1000 in the blogging world on services I could figure out eventually…but that’s okay to me since I know that I don’t know what I’m doing in the tech stuff and I really don’t want to spend the time to learn.

    Hope you have easy sailing from here on out!

  6. I always say it’s better to pay someone to do a job right the first time than to know it’s above your pay grade and end up having to pay someone even more to fix the blunders. It’s also what I tell clients–you do what brings in the money and go to others who do the other things for a living. Knowing when to delegate and give up control is important in everyday life as well as business. I’ve learned some of those lessons the hard way, but thankfully I now know when something just isn’t worth trying on my own.

    • It’s probably why I could never really be a business owner, I would look at every cost and evaluate whether I could do it myself, probably ignoring the question of whether I *should*

  7. A lot of times you need to jump in and do things even if you don’t know what you’re doing. Grad school, my post doc, and my current job have all been exercises in jumping feet first into something totally new. Most people do very linear training. I opted to change fields entirely each time. Makes for a wild ride.

    I haven’t yet tried to move my site, but I hope to move it to (from .com) one day. I will make a point to read extensively about it before actually doing it.

    • Let me know if you have questions, I’m sure I could fill you in on a few things to do and a few things NOT to do 🙂

  8. Yup… been down this journey although was amplified by changing hosting providers too and the previous host was not being managed by us 🙁 it was a very painful transition for us too and if we had planned it maybe a bit longer than jumping in head first to make the transition we could have found a lot easier ways of doing what we did. Although I will say, we learned from that mistake and now take a bit more forethought at the get go!

  9. Luckily I only had a couple of posts on blogger before I made the switch to WordPress. I didn’t have any experience with domains prior to the switch and there were a few hiccups, but I am glad I did it anyway.

  10. odearodear…just LOOKING at this before even reading it got me all tensed up!!!!!

    So, sooo glad I hired Mrs Micah (before she sold the business) to switch my site over to WordPress and to get it monetized and then Jesse Michelson to wrangle the thing on BlueHost. I’d lose my freakin’ mind if I’d had to cope with even one of the things they and you have confronted. Jesse (cf. Crystal, above!) charges a flat flee per quarter to ride herd on the techno-craziness. Some things are worth the price.

    • At some point I would agree, I know that right now I’m able to stumble through, plus I’m too cheap to outsource just yet 🙂

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