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I'm working on an open-source software project and hoping to move and combine some disparate sites that it's on. Currently there is a main info/code site. Then there are two blogs for implementations of the project (it's used in developing countries, right now there's a blog for two different countries).

I was planning on simply using a single instance of WP to drive the CMS - have the main info site and create the appearance of two separate blogs by having a category label for each of the two countries. I'm realizing as I start implementing that we'd want to have sidebar items like Archives unique to each of the two "blogs". Relatively easy to do with a plugin that only shows a sidebar item only when, say, the URL contains category/country1*. However, when you look at a specific post, I lose that customization.

What's a simple way to implement this? I could probably use a few more plugins and (I assume) write some code to display different sidebars based on post category. Or would it be better to create a network?

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you could use custom post types to keep them separate. or check in_category in single.php and load additional templates:

if( in_category('country1') ) include (TEMPLATEPATH . '/single-country1.php');
elseif( in_category('country2') ) include (TEMPLATEPATH . '/single-country2.php');
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