Open Toolbox – Blogging etc.

tools that I use since my move to the Mac. At that time there were some requests to write about blogging tools. Since I know many of my readers have their own blog, or at least often think about starting one, this post will be about blogging tools.

I use WordPress hosted on Siteground. This is different from the wordpress.com website. If you are starting out, I would strongly recommend going with wordpress.com or a similar service. When I got my son Naren started out with his blog I opted for the free version of wordpress.com. When I started blogging in 2005, I opted for typepad’s similar service.

But I soon started hitting roadblocks. It wouldn’t let me do this or that. Completely understandable for a multi-tenant SaaS business model, but it didn’t work for me. So I moved my blog and all its content to a self-installed, self-managed WordPress implementation. At that time WordPress wasn’t as evolved as it is today and on a day to day basis I had to muck around with filezilla a lot. I don’t miss that at all.

I am on WordPress 3.x now. I can’t recommend WordPress enough. It manages to be feature rich, extensible and rock solid at the same time. I have also run my company website on WordPress where it played a combined blog-cum-CMS role and it did quite well.

Yesterday, I cut over to a new WP Theme. It is the official theme from WordPress itself called Twenty Ten. It is clean, elegant and works for me. I like stuff to be simple. Fancy features that get in the way, don’t last too long with me (although, I am a sucker for trying them out!).

I know how to make changes to the CSS and templates and have done so extensively to my older themes. But in general, you don’t want to go overboard there. Customizations to software take time and effort to make and maintain. Plus they make the website unstable. So far I have made just one CSS change to Twenty Ten. I hope I can keep it down low for a long time.

The header image, by the way, is of a sunrise at Mendocino, California. The photo credit is in the footer.

Plugins are what make WordPress extensible. I use several. And there are many more that I have used, but don’t anymore.

To control comment spam I use both Akismet and Bad Behavior. Even then, a lot of it gets through. Recently, I have started seeing comments that are clearly being written by a human being. I believe these services are being offered out of India. Comments with link backs are supposed to raise the Google rank of the websites they are promoting. I guess its a legitimate business. I just wish the comments made more sense. I just delete them.

I use plugins for Archives (Smart Archives), Google Analytics (Google Analyticator), Feedburner (Feedburner Feedsmith) and Sharing (Share This). Since most of my readers read my blog in an RSS Reader, I tinker around with Feedburner a bit too.

For Twitter, which I have started in earnest only recently, I found a pretty good plugin (or set of plugins) called Twitter Tools. Every blog post automatically goes out as a Tweet. Also, on a weekly basis, the week’s Tweets are posted to my blog. My Twitter handle btw is @basabp

For my Contact Form, I used the plugin Contact Form ][ for a while and it works fine. But I love Wufoo for forms of every kind. So my current Contact Me form is from Wufoo. It is not a plugin it needs to be embedded into the page.

I used Intense Debate for comments for a long time. I haven’t been happy with it. But the theme I was using till yesterday did not support nested comments. Yesterday, I retired Intense Debate after moving to my new theme. The social networking aspect of Intense Debate is bunkum. Nobody cares if your comments are aggregated across the blogosphere. Plus they seem to have lost on market share to Disqus anyway.

I used Gravatars for a while too, separately, and then because it was built into Intense Debate. But my readers are not the types to have gravatars. So instead of having empty boxes all over the comments section, I just discarded it.

Another thing that went away yesterday was the related posts that you saw at the end of every post. These related posts were generated automatically by a plugin called Yet Another Related Posts Plugin. It worked well. But I don’t know if people noticed it or found the suggestions useful. At times, the suggestions degraded to where they were just visual noise. I might bring it back, but for right now its inactive.

I tend to write long essay-like blog posts, sometimes over multiple sittings. I could do that in WordPress – the Admin panel is pretty easy to use and auto saves. Actually, it is worth mentioning that the WordPress Admin is one of the best designed pieces of complex software that I have used. Thanks to Happy Cog.

Anyway, I got into the habit of writing up my blog posts in Evernote before I bring them over to WordPress. Evernote takes care of the auto save, and the archival to the cloud, in case something were to happen to my WordPress database.

I use images frequently, for which I use Skitch – free image manipulation software for the Mac.

Would love to hear from other bloggers out there who run their own blog.

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3 Responses to Open Toolbox – Blogging etc.

  1. Patrix says:

    If you are interested, I’ve published the tools I use on my colophon page. I try to maintain a minimalist experience; at least for the reader so my choices may not be for everyone. I have been using WordPress for the past 5-6 years and also use a Mac so let me know if you need any help. I’m no techie but have learnt some tricks thanks to my techie friends 🙂

    Like

  2. stat arb says:

    As is the answer to every question, it depends what you want to do.

    For bloggers who want to start running *now* with no learning curve, postero.us and tumblr are the simplest. And you’ll get something that looks nice.

    If you want something customized to be more than a blog — like PassionForCinema.com, then WordPress or Drupal or Concrete5 will do you. Be prepared to spend not just days, but weeks or months learning technical stuff, especially if you want to be thorough.

    In my case I set up a tumblr and every few months change some of the CSS so it grows to look like my original vision. Eventually I will want a static page that organizes the old content (I worked enough hard on it!) and that will take a lot more work, but still could be accomplished in tumblr. (Notice some of the photo sites like — sorry, there’s no other way to say it — fuckyeahmath.tumblr.com.)

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