It's Not Supposed To Be This Difficult - Blogging in 2015
Part 1 - 2015-11-03
I think I got bored over the summer and decided that I wanted to go from the relatively inexpensive Wordpress.com to the extremely customizable “self-hosted” version of WordPress (the version used by WP gurus and whole businesses built on supporting/creating these sites…). Since then I've “duplicated” the main blog, though there were about 1,000 posts that didn't seem to make the transfer successfully (requiring some ongoing hand-coding/manual transferring of the missing posts…). I created a blog specifically for my podcast, jbb’s final thoughts (instead of it being just a category on the main blog). I've attempted to move the photos/media blog over to the self-hosted service. This transfer was even worse than the other one, moving just one post and a smattering of associated images. I created a blog that was going to be about my academic work, based on papers, articles, projects that were surfaced during the scanning/digitizing process I've been doing over the past 10-months, but I haven't moved further than having my blog host create the Wordpress database/structure. Sadly, since beginning this process I haven't posted a single podcast since May and haven't posted a single blog post since August. I think getting this set up is really getting in the way of doing the thing the blogs were supposed to be just a part of, writing and creating content. Shit.
I love having all of the options in the world, but it’s not much value if the process of choosing which podcasting-plugin to go with, for example, is so involved that it can take days to do the research and then set-up not knowing if it’ll do anything better than the previous set-up. It probably doesn’t help much that I’ve been moving from one multi-subject blog to breaking out many into their own blogs, each requiring administration, upgrades/plugin management, graphics content, etc., etc., etc. After restricting myself to the narrower world of WordPress.com, I’m now not only overwhelmed by choices (not all of them Free), but also with the larger management requirements spread across multiple WordPress blog installations. Ack.
Blogging Conundrum Continued
2015-11-04 So, after the previous rant I spent more time exploring SquareSpace, Wordpress.com and my own blogging setup. In the just-ended-Wordpress.com-days I paid $13 to have my own domain name and no dot-Wordpress in the URL and then $99 for a premium account which included 10GB more space, ability to host and play MP3s and video files. I thought that previously they had several different options if you wanted just storage, or more storage, etc. But it looks like they'd discontinued that and only offer Free, $99 Premium and $299 Commercial. Not having to deal with plugins and upgrades was nice but that also meant even with a Premium account you had far fewer options than you'd have with a self-hosted (.ORG) account. Yeah, been there, done that.
So, SquareSpace is highly regarded and they changed they're pricing structure since I explored moving to that platform several years ago. Also, because I'd previously had a paid account I don't know if I can do a free-two-week test. The lowest plan, at $8, is just under what my Dreamhost bill will be after the first-year discount runs out (at $9.95 per month). This account is limited to 20 pages/galleries/blogs, but with unlimited bandwidth and storage. The next step up is $18 per month for unlimited pages, galleries, and storage, which will be twice as much as my current account will be. SquareSpace is renown for being fast, stable and very user friendly. One thing, from my brief exploration is that I'm really not too turned on by the theme selection. They seem to lean heavily on a very visual style but only if you're going to display less than a dozen images. Remember, I've been using “magazine” type themes for the past few years, with sliders and story “cubes” all over the main page. I've seen mostly giant single image styles, or textless-portfolio styles. Part of the problem is no doubt connected to not having background access to the platform and only being able to judge things based on how other users have implemented their websites. They are very not “bloggy” looking. I might have to try to do another two-week trial to really know if I can find a theme or themes that work for me. Damn, this is still taking up too much time.
Blogging Musings Continue
2015-11-06 I keep bouncing back and forth between whether to double-down on my current self-hosted WordPress blog or abandon ship for SquareSpace. WordPress.com dropped from contention primarily because it was just too narrow for my needs (as in $99 for 10GB media storage, no real choice in pluggins, etc.). I loved that they were responsible for updates, etc., but I've always tended to be an “unlimited space” kind'a guy. So, SquareSpace boasts the WordPress.com kind of easy use and stability, but it also suffers from limited choices in themes and pluggins and I'm just a bit nuts about wanting to do everything… That may be way more aspirational than practical but it does influence me when I'm thinking of where I want to host my work. The options are wide-open on the self-hosted side, but is all this “freedom” the amount of focused energy needed to keep all the balls in the air?
Up until just now writing this post I had been thinking that I needed to give SquareSpace one more try, just to verify that I can get the “Magazine” look that I favor and portfolio approach that I want with my media pages… But one thing that came up in my research is a feature in WordPress (both self-hosted and .com) to make posts in completely separate WP blogs and have those posts dynamically appear in another WP blog/webpage. I had been thinking that I wanted my various topics to have their own “feel” or theme. I wanted "The Intentional Educator" to feel a bit different than “JBB's Final Thoughts” or different from my Media/Tech Reviews. But I obviously would want those posts to also appear in the main “JoeBustillos.com” website. Previously I'd have to manually post the same entry in both places to make it work, which was one of the reasons I went to a Magazine-type theme in the first place, to allow for my varied interests to not be part of one non-distinguishable stream of posts.
But even with the dynamic posting, each additional blog would require that much more maintenance and up-keep. Ugh. Sounds too much like heading back into “tool-maintenance over tool-usage” territory. Also, having all of these blogs might also dilute any kind of “social networking” following that I might be generating. It made me think that my main JoeBustillos.com page would turn into a static “About Me” page, and who the hell is going to bother with that. Thus, given all the energy needed to get things going, this was making me even more hesitant to jump in.
But a post on the WordPress.com blog got me thinking that one solution might be to “unify” the various blogs by going back to a “topic to explore across different areas” method that I briefly tried in 2012. For example, in late May/early June 2012 I wrote four articles using the idea “Mistakes Were Made.” The first one “Mistakes Were Made: Journalism Still Faltering Making 'Digital' Work” (tech/media), the next “Mistakes Were Made: End the Black Box Fallacy & Give Teaching Back to Teachers” (education), the third “Mistakes Were Made: Being Yourself Doesn't Mean Be An Asshole” (lifestyle), and the fourth “Mistakes Were Made: On Camera” (journalism/bloopers). At the time I decided to do the four-article thing because my WordPress theme intentional only showed the four most recent articles on the home page. It was a bit exhausting because I expected or aspired to write four articles a week. And then I got sick and it all went to hell.
If I were to do this “topic” based approach again, I think I wouldn't trickle out the articles but would publish them all at once, either monthly or twice-a-month, and I might use the podcast JBB's Final Thoughts to promote the lead article and link to all the other articles. That would really push the main “magazine” themed page to look like a publication to go to to find this month's articles.
Now whether each area needs it's own actual separate blog will depend on whether this plugin I just found, Multiple Themes, that allows one to use multiple themes to work on one blog (based on pages/categories/URLs/?) actually works. Besides how well behaved my themes might be, I'm also concerned that my media-heavy posts might not work too well and bring my economy hosting plan to a “loading screen” standstill,
Okay, enough thinking about it. Time to just do it (without the Shia LeBeouf silliness).