Blog Server, Part Deux

So it turns out that I launch a very beta version of our new informatics blog server on Software Freedom Day, which makes sense given that we are moving from the MT Server that has been up for about a year and a half to WordPress. There isn’t a pretty blog on the front of it yet (I’ll save that for tomorrow), but I have a setup that installs blogs for students in a new directory.

When I put it that way, it sounds pretty easy. And, in the end, it really was. It took a while to iron out, in large part because I was sort-of learning PHP at the same time. The problem, of course, is that WP notoriously doesn’t do multiple blogs. But the truth is, I didn’t really want multiple blogs. Blogs already have external ways of interfacing with one another (RSS, trackbacks) that to my mind are more interesting anyway.

So, although I didn’t find it until I was done, basically I have automated Burningbird’s approach. A user provides her name, email address, and desired blog url, and the script copies in all the appropriate files, sets up the (shared) database, and emails the user an initial password.

My initial approach was to do a lot of that with symbolic links, but as the (far more experienced ) Ms. Powers has discovered, WP gets a bit freaky when you try it. The only symbolic links now are for the images, and that doesn’t really save a lot of overhead.

The biggest problem with this setup is security. I won’t go into details, but anyone familiar with the setup will quickly see that there isn’t any. These are all grad students using it, and we know who they each are, so hopefully this won’t be a problem. If anyone has suggested solutions, that won’t take three man-years of time to implement, let me know on- or off-blog.

If anyone wants a look at the code, drop me a note. I’m not releasing it openly only because I’m embarrassed by the mess it might be in and because it isn’t ready for public consumption. Anyone foolish enough to make use of my start on it may find that it isn’t much better than starting from scratch.

This was the most important part of the process, since school starts on Monday. I need to add some bits and pieces that will make monitoring and deleting blogs a bit less cumbersome. Also need to do a lot more in the way of user guides.

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One Comment

  1. John
    Posted 11/29/2005 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m trying to set up a similar system for auto-replicating wp installations for teachers. I don’t think WPMU is ready for prime time yet, and I like the automated approach you took. Would you be willing to share code, however much of a mess it may be?

    I guess I’m foolish enough to not start from scratch. My biggest problem is how to handle plugins that want hard-coded directories.

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