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