> Is this the right way to go about this?
> Is there a less time-consuming way to do this in 1.8?
Nop. (none that I know of; if anybody knew, and give feedback through forums, they would say here...
> Do I need to upgrade to 1.9?
Definitely, (welcome to 1.9.x (much better)
> Is 1.9 stable enough for a doofus like me to manage?
Yes,so it was for other non-computer scientists to upgrade... It's more safe (and higher % that there are not unpleasant surprises) if you have sheel access to your server, and execute the upgrade script with the -force flag (-f). I.e.:
mysql -f -uuser -p databasename < upgradescript.sql
But for simpler 1.8.x tikis, I beg you don't have any trobule upgrading from tiki-install.php interface...
Good luck! ;-)