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After initially solving my database character encoding problems by ignoring the specific strings in the wp-config.php file, I was finally forced to alter the characters in the database during a recent reshuffle. Whilst there are two automated solutions available via plugin, namely g30rg3x‘s UTF-8 Database Converter and the Modified UTF8 Sanitize Plugin, sadly neither worked in my particular instance, and indeed the former is no longer supported for current versions of WordPress, though reports on the WordPress support forum suggest there should be no issues.

Fortunately, an excellent guide was available on Alex King’s blog. For more information and follow-up comments, you should definitely read the full post, but here’s a summary of the method that worked for me.
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With the latest 2.7 release barely out of the door, the WordPress team are already looking to set out the roadmap for 2.8. The recent update had an impressive mix of tweaks, fixes, features and a nice interface overhaul, and their little survey has a list of tasks to prioritise for the next release. Unfortunately, however, the one thing I should really like to see doesn’t make an appearance, that being some simpler ways to create a multilingual blog built into the core. At the moment there are a number of plugins out there that offer to do just that, and whilst they may do exactly as they say on the tin, the potential for a plugin to become outdated and fall behind the current WordPress release could create a lot of work sometime in the future, not to mention the fact that each plugin goes about creating a multilingual environment in its own unique way. Whilst I’m not alone in calling for at least some standardised framework, I can’t see any progress being made in the near future.

WordPress

Plugins can be a major boon. They can add variety to a site, integrate third party software, collect feedback, improve navigation, or add features. Occasionally they may become integral to the way a blog is run. But they can also become a burden or a major stumbling point. The recent WordPress 2.5 release made a large of plugins for the software incompatible, and outright broke a few. In those cases where plugins simply provide some added extraneous functionality, such breakages might not be a problem, but where they form an integral part of a blog the potential changes can bring a site to a halt.

Yet some downtime during a WordPress update is not the only worry when it comes to plugins. Whilst major updates often accentuate the problems, there is no guarantee that plugin authors will continue their work to cope with bugs and software changes. The small WPPA plugin currently used on this blog was recently broken by the WordPress update, but the author considered that the features introduced in the recent version might make his plugin obsolete, and only touched up the plugin to work with 2.5 (so far). Since I hardly post any photographs, such a change makes little difference to this site, but for many others migrating to another plugin could prove a major job if automated tools aren’t available. Others may have experienced such changes when moving between multilingual plugins as the features and support changed, from Language Picker, through Polyglot, to Language Switcher or WP_Multilingual. Such a migration might involve moving media around, altering themes, or having to change tags or syntax within WordPress posts.

How do you approach using plugins on WordPress? Do you consider WordPress should avoid leave extra features to the plugin authors rather than implementing features already well covered (e.g. tags, photos)? Should plugin authors attempt to implement migration tools or leave it to end-users to do the necessary conversions?