What Blog Software I Use

I have been getting asked two questions with increasing frequency: (1) What blog software I use; and (2) How to build a successful blog. Since the first question is far easier to answer than the second question (because it is entirely factual) I’ll give that a go today1.

Blogging platform

I use a self-installed and self-maintained version of WordPress. This is as opposed to the commercial WordPress.com. Why do I use a self-installed version? Because I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to things like my blog and website and I want complete and total control. This means that I do have to perform my own maintenance: upgrades, tweaks, plug-ins, etc., but keep in mind that I am a software developer in my day job and have been doing this kind of thing for going on 20 years. And actually, the blog requires very little in the way of regular maintenance.

WordPress theme

I use a heavily customized version of the SubtleFlux theme. If you check out the theme in themes directory, you’ll notice that it hasn’t been updated in a couple of years. That’s okay because when I first installed it I made tons of changes to it to get it to look and behave just like a wanted. By “tons of changes” I mean I modified just about every style sheet that came with the theme, and more than a few of the page templates. My sister designed my page banner. I have it looking just like I want it and everyone is happy.

Plug-Ins

One of the big advantages of a self-installed version of WordPress is that I can install whatever plug-ins I want. I don’t need a special plan with my host or with WordPress. I’m given just enough rope to hang myself.

At present, I have 27 active WordPress Plug-Ins. I’m not going to list them all, but I’ll call out a few that have been particularly useful:

  • Akismet keeps my blog comments spam free. Don’t believe me? This year alone, Akismet has identified over 142,000 spam comments. You never saw one of them. Neither did I–unless I wanted to review them–which I periodically do. Bottom-line, it keeps the comments on this blog nice and manageable and distraction-free.
  • JetPack performs a whole bunch of utility functions on the blog, including managing subscriptions to comments, giving me access to statistics, and letting me do cool things with my sidebar widgets.
  • Picasa Express allows me to manage the images I display on the blog in Picasa. Very convenient since I already have a lot of images over that way.

Writing posts

I wrote the majority of my posts from the WordPress web interface. Many of the posts are pre-scheduled but still written via the web. When I am away from a computer, I write posts on my iPad using the Blogsy app, which is about the best app I’ve found for writing and editing posts for WordPress sites on the iPad.

Backing up my site

That’s right, I back up both the site and the database every day, and best of all, it is done automatically. These backups have proved useful on two occasions already. Back when I was with my old host, they had a database corruption issue that brought down my site. They fixed their problem, but not without some data loss. However, a very quick restore of my database from the last backup meant I lost almost nothing on the blog–in fact, I lost 3 comments that had come in between the last backup and the crash.

Also, when I moved my site to my new host, having the full backup–pages and database–made it incredibly easy.


So there you have the blogging software that I use. Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can put together a few points to answer to the more difficult question: how do you build a successful blog.


Notes

  1. I’ve had a persistent cough lingering after a cold that I caught from the kids and its got my pretty wiped out today.

8 thoughts on “What Blog Software I Use

  1. Hello Jamie,
    You have an abundance of highly useful tips. I can learn a lot from you. Please keep on writing.
    Just to report, I have started learning Scrivener. Unfortunately I find that this is something like an Academic approach. I hope it is worth the pain. If you have some additional tips I would appreciate those. E.g. what about equations and dictation?
    I wish you a happy new year!
    Delf from Hamburg

  2. Thanks for the post. Perfect timing as I am thinking of making some changes to my blog. One thing you could tell me is how you get your blog to email the actual post, rather than notification there’s a new post, with a link to it, which is what mine does (WordPress on my own site too)

  3. Thanks for this post very useful. I agree with you for Blogsy App even if Poster is now a serious contender.
    For the backup of your site and your database, do you use a plugin ?

    1. Elizabeth, sure, I use IDrive for all of my cloud-backups. The product backs up all of my home machines. It also makes a plug-in specifically designed to backup WordPress installations. The WordPress plug-in does a daily backup of the underlying MySQL database, as well as any changes to the files in the WordPress file structure. Actually, on their website, it says the Plug-in is no longer supported, but it still works and I still get a daily email notification about the site backup (database and files). I’ve done restores twice on the site and both have worked perfectly.

      1. Interesting. It makes me nervous that they say they no longer support the plugin, but if there’s one company doing this, there must be others. I’ll poke around.

        Thanks!

  4. I notice that this blog was on Livejournal from 2005-2010. What caused you to switch off of that? How difficult was that migration? If I’m considering a similar move, what tips or caveats do you have? Was the experience a positive or a negative?

    1. Ryan, I think I wrote briefly about reasons for transitioning way back in early 2010. Looking back at that post, I think it captures most of it. I wanted more features, and more control over the software. What isn’t stated in that post, but what I’ve considered since, is my feeling that LiveJournal was a platform designed more for online journaling than the kind of blogging I was thinking about. It seemed, then at least, to cater to a completely different audience from what I was trying to reach.

      If you have some decent tech skills, the transition isn’t difficult. You export posts from LiveJournal, import them into WordPress. I use a self-installed version of WordPress (WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com) so I have full control over every aspect of my installation. That helps.

      Overall, I think it was pretty straight-forward, and my experience with WordPress has been great. I’ve never looked back, or regretted the change.

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