Migrating a large Ning site to WordPress with BuddyPress

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I’ve recently finished a rather large Ning migration to WordPress project so thought I would share the end result for those interested in seeing what can be achieved with the Ning archiving tool and a somewhat tortuous data cleaning and manipulation process.

This local newspaper site for a beautiful island just off of San Diego in California was hosted on Ning for 7 or 8 years. The owner of the site was a long-time client who had hired me to firstly work on his Ning 2.0 design and then his Ning 3.0 design (in readiness for a migration path that never arrived – thanks Ning!).

The community was a 9000 member, 8500 blog post, 700 video, 9000 photo, 130 ‘page’ behemoth and although the social networking aspect was going to be ditched in favour of Facebook and Twitter communities, the owner very much wanted his site to grow into a newspaper full of awesome local content. Thus, getting every single post, video and photo over to the new WordPress install was vitally important.

I’ve written before about my use of the Ning to BuddyPress Import tool, and how, frankly, it doesn’t really work. In part it doesn’t work because the JSON data from Ning is pretty much always malformed and invalid, but it also doesn’t even claim to be able to import videos or photos. I used it for importing members and that was it.

My solution for the rest of the data was to firstly go through the blog, video and photo JSON files and validate them before converting them to CSV files so we could import them using the WP All Import plugin. I had some tricky v-lookup functions to apply to the csv files to get usernames/authors to match up to posts (retaining authorship was key, despite dropping the social aspects of the site) and the additional theme requirement for modal lightbox effects for images meant classes had to be added to each image anchor tag. In order to separate content (posts, images, videos), I used the WP post format taxonomy in addition to categories so we could style videos and images in a unique fashion if required.

The process was a lengthy one, taking over two weeks for data migration alone and there were hitches along the way, but the site is now live with the content copied over and looking resplendant. See what you think here.

What they say...

We recently hired Richard to help migrate our Ning powered website to WordPress.  This was no small project.  We have been using Ning since 2008 and amassed tens of thousands of all types of content (blogs, photos, videos, members, etc.).  Richard was able to migrate the content from the Ning platform over to the WordPress platform with amazing accuracy.  He also was part of the design process to ensure that the flow of the new website matched our expectations.  Richard is a rare talent that can solve both back end and front end obstacles with efficiency and intelligence.  We would highly recommend Richard and absolutely use him again on our next project.

Steve Johnson
Publisher, eCoronado.com Newspaper

Richard Pettet
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Richard Pettet

I'm a professional website designer who specialises in Social Network and community website build and design work. Expert with Ning and BuddyPress.
Richard Pettet
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