Musings on WordPress (and how far we bloggers have come)

When I first started blogging regularly in 2003, Radio Userland was one of the most popular solutions. This tool ran as an application on your local PC and had to transmit your posts from a locally stored database on your computer to wherever your Web site was hosted, translating it into HTML on the fly. Most of the time my posts would not go live until I had turned publishing off and on again, a process I dubbed the “jiggling the handle” method. The problems multiplied until I abandoned Radio for Movable Type about few years later, when I renamed the quickly conceived Gamestay site into the more targeted and resonant Busy Gamer News.

Movable Type is an impressive blogging tool, and I’ve invested a lot into it. I love the promise of community features, though I haven’t had the time to keep up with all of the updates that would enable these (they have to be manually installed and sometimes reconfigured). Also, price is a consideration. When I last checked, the richer community tools were targeted at corporate clients who invest $10,000 or more into their site. Too rich for my little labor of love gaming site.

Last Friday I launched my effort to move our The Writer’s Bloc business site from a collection of standalone pages to a blog where we can post articles and musings on the industries we work in. I had set up Philanthropy Northwest on WordPress a couple years back and, while the experience wasn’t problem free, I liked what I saw and thought it would be helpful to keep up with another blogging platform. 

My hosting provider, Westhost, offers a Web-based interface for easily installing WordPress with just a couple of clicks. That was easy! I even had to upgrade a dependent PHP app first, but even that took only a few extra seconds. WordPress then auto-detected that there was a newer version available than what my host installed, so I clicked a link and installed that too. I browsed and found a theme that I liked and spent a little time customizing it. I might move to something flashier later, but this works for now and already looks nicer than the old site. I then used the WordPress plug-in auto-install feature to add some social networking/sharing links, a CAPTCHA with a built-in audio playback for form protection from spammers, SEO options and more in-depth stats tracking including Google Analytics. I still need to improve my old contact form (which I hastily ported to a WordPress page),  but really that’s not bad for half a day’s work.

It’s early to wholeheartedly recommend WordPress, but thinking back to the months it took to get CAPTCHA working on Movable Type a few years back, I have to say that so far I’m impressed. When things calm down, I’ll spend a day upgrading Movable Type and see if it has gotten any better than the early v4 build I’m using.

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