When I tell my friends about this blog, they often want to know more about how it’s constructed. So I thought I’d talk a bit about the wordpress.com software that I use, and some tips I can pass on after seven weeks of using it.
First of all, it’s important to distinguish between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. WordPress.org is an open-source project for the wordpress blogging software; you can download it, and then set it up on your own web-server (it typically costs $7/month to set things up with a web-hosting company) and you’ll have full control over everything in your blog. WordPress.com is an easier alternative; they’ll host your web-site for you for free, but you don’t get absolutely complete control over what you can do. You can learn more details about the differences here.
I chose to use wordpress.com, because their features were basically what I wanted, but I wanted to use my own domain name (nerdwisdom.com) instead of the default nerdwisdom.wordpress.com. That extra feature costs $15/year; for that price, wordpress.com pays for your registration and handles redirection transparently. I recommend this option, because it means that if you ever want to change the way you do things later (e.g. switch to wordpress.org or some other service, which is not so hard because wordpress.com lets you “export” you entire blog as an XML file) you won’t have to change the url for your blog.
A nice bonus that happened when I paid for this option was that wordpress.com walked me through the process of setting up a Google Apps account for nerdwisdom.com. This is quite nice; I actively use Google’s Page Creator application, and there are other useful features and applications including Gmail accounts with the nerdwisdom.com domain.
Building your blog on wordpress.com is done through a web browser; you won’t need to download anything, and you can work on multiple computers with multiple operating systems. I recommend that you use the Firefox browser, it is better supported than the others. You write up your posts using an editor that can display either a WYSIWYG interface or your HTML code; it’s pretty easy to use if you have any experience with HTML, and I’d guess it’s not too bad even without any such experience. WordPress.com comes with a whole lot of different “themes” for changing the look of your blog, but I’m pretty happy with the default theme.
You can buy some “upgrades” with wordpress.com that give you some more control over your stylesheet and let you store more than 50 MB of data. At the rate I’m going, I’ll need to spend $20/year for the extra storage once I’ve done this for a couple years.
There are a few important restrictions with wordpress.com. Probably the most important is that you may not run advertisements (wordpress.com says this may change in the future). If you want to run ads you probably want to either use Google’s blogger.com service or wordpress.org or maybe typepad.com. You can also run advertisements on wordpress.com (and get other benefits) if you are a “VIP” blog, but to get that service you need to pay $300/month and have in the neighborhood of 15,000+ page-views/day, which is a lot.
I experimented just a little with blogger.com, and it seemed quite clunky to me in comparison with wordpress.com, but maybe that was just because I was already used to wordpress.com. My impression from what I have read is that wordpress.com is the more powerful system. I don’t have any experience with typepad.com at all. Apparently, blogger.com and typepad.com were the first entries into this field, but wordpress.com has now surpassed typepad.com in popularity, and is the second most used blogging software, and gaining on blogger.com.
One nice feature of wordpress.com is that they will put your posts on their front page if they think that they are high quality. I have no idea what algorithm they’re using to make that decision, but my posts are showing up pretty often, which drives some extra traffic my way. Speaking of traffic, you can access pages which give you a lot of information about how much traffic you’re getting and where it’s coming from.
Another nice thing about wordpress.com is their FAQs and forums. I use the FAQs a lot; nearly every time I have had a question, it’s been answered there.
Now a couple of tips for people already using wordpress.com. I found that Windows and Mac OS X browsers were using different fonts for my pages (the Mac OS X fonts were smaller than I liked), but you can fix this by using the HTML code “<font size=”2”> …. </font> in all your posts. I am also a big fan of the text widgets that let you put all sorts of things in your side-bars, because you can include HTML code.
You should also make sure to turn off the very annoying Snap preview feature, which is on by default.
If you’re interested, it’s easy as pie to set up an account and give it a whirl. I’m happy with the choice I made.