by Brandon Butler
Growing up is hard to do 9/19/2020

Over the last week I’ve been transferring Pizza Emoji onto a new blogging backend and a new server. You may have seen some errors over the last few days, but I’m glad you didn’t give up on me and the site.

Welcome to the new Pizza Emoji.

I knew Pizza Emoji couldn’t last long with the current setup: a half finished PHP script and no MySQL database to speak of. Technically you can build a site with just PHP, but it’s a struggle to get automated features, like an RSS feed, working. And posting was a mostly manual process. For the last few months I made equal efforts in adding in a SQL backend and also looking for an entirely new, off the shelf blogging platform. I wanted something under active development, affordable for a small, low trafficked website that doesn’t make money, and was lightweight and simple. I found the first two in WordPress, but WordPress is anything if lightweight and simple. Still, it checked a lot of my boxes so I spun up a new server and installed WordPress.

After a few hours of tinkering I discovered I could simply copy and paste a significant amount of HTML and CSS from my old design directly into WordPress’s template system. Even the JavaScript for the mobile menu just worked. And some little headaches, like Favicons, were completely handled by a quick drag and drop into a WordPress window. This really impressed me, and I began to understand how WordPress works. This understanding, as basic as it was, provided me with a lot of reassurance that I’d be able to figure the rest of this stuff out with a little effort. (Learning some basic PHP on the old site also really helped ease the transition.)

Of course, some bits of WordPress didn’t let me do exactly the thing I wanted (at least, not that I could figure out) like sizing my images for the [Features] page, but WordPress lets me add in those kinds of images by switching to an HTML editor and typing the HTML tags in directly.

I also discovered functions.php, which is like a WordPress configuration setting page. This lets me make a lot of changes to how WordPress works, from disabling its built-in emojis to customizing page titles and even getting some basic Google Analytics running (sorry, more on that below).

By Sunday night I decided WordPress would be the new backend for Pizza Emoji. And it helped that I’ve watched Jason Snell at Six Colors and Bruce Schneier at Schneier on Security both very recently make the switch to WordPress — that kind of “I use it myself” endorsement holds a lot of weight with me.

Problems appeared Monday evening as I was trying to move the domain — WordPress’s admin page doesn’t like Cloudflare’s flexible SSL and was stuck in a redirect loop for a few hours. Then I accidentally broke MySQL and had to do some reinstalls. Once I felt the new server and WordPress install were working as intended, I began the long process of manually copying in my old posts into the new backend. This gave me an opportunity to review old posts, fix old links, and take a look at what I thought was working and what could be improved for future blog posts.

It took about a week of part time work to import everything, but we’re now fully running on the new server and WordPress backend. Phew.

Some fun facts for the original Pizza Emoji:
The entire site’s code, images, and first year of posts could fit on a 1.4MB floppy disk.
The “engine” of the site, from the first bracket to the final </HTML>, was 143 lines, including comments (I use a lot of comments) but excluding CSS.
The stylesheet was another 366 lines, or one line (that’s a joke for you web designers).
The original color scheme of the site had three or four colors; the attempt was to make it look like a pizza, with a brown background for the crust, and the words the cheese, naturally. This was an eyesore and I quickly settled on a minimalist three color scheme: white background, black font, and a nice orange for the header and logo.
Pizza Emoji has been on four servers in it’s slightly longer than one year of existence; two of the previous servers were abandoned when I broke some core Debian/PHP/MySQL function. I learn best by breaking things; backup your data!
The logo was created by me in the great Mac app Acorn. The original logo was the HTML tag &#9787; or this:

And as always, thanks for reading.