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Why I set up my WordPress blog like this

Now that I’m following a bunch of people on Twitter, I’m getting a lot of article links.  A lot of them recommend this or that WordPress plugin, or more likely, “The 50 WordPress Plugins Most Likely to Curl Your Hair and Shave Inches Off Your ….”

So, I thought I’d just explain what I’ve done here, and more importantly why, in case anyone cares.

I blog to remember my life.  I grew up at a time where people took photos using cameras that had removable stuff inside called film.  My family liked slides, so we kept Kodak in business making Kodachrome film.  I remember setting up the slide projector and screen and then boring our friends with endless projected images of places we’d almost forgotten.  So my blog is about memories and about keeping handy the things I want to have handy.  I think this is important – you will make selections along the path to blog enlightenment based in large part on where you’re going.

I started blogging with iBlog, a Mac-only piece of software that created a really nice blog with little dynamic software on the server.  But, the company stiffed the people that paid for the vaporware upgrade (including me, and I should have known better but I was becoming desperate to upgrade to MacOS 10.5, Leopard, and the release version of iBlog didn’t work on Leopard).  I found some instructions for moving iBlog to WordPress.  The hard part was finding a copy of Agitprop which extracts iBlog text and images to an intermediate format that can be read into WordPress.

The first thing I did was try a site on wordpress.com; that’s a really good solution if you want a simple, somewhat canned blog.  I imported my iBlog data into a wordpress.com area, and updated my Mac.  I wanted to learn how to install and customize WordPress, and I wanted better themes, so I checked out my ISP, which is GoDaddy.  They have improved their services tremendously in the last couple of years, and they supported everything I needed.

I found a 5 minute installation guide specifically for GoDaddy hosted services.  I downloaded the kit from wordpress.org.  The installation went really well; it took about 10 minutes to get the software installed and the database hooked up.

Next I needed to find a theme I liked.  I tried three or four, and finally settled on inoeren.  I liked this theme because it was mainly two tone, two columns that splits into three, with the top part of the right two, widget, columns having a tabbed interface to a selection of four useful widgets; that would save screen space for me since I knew I’d want a lot of widgets.

I had to customze the theme heavily because it had bugs (all software has bugs, just get used to it and either use wordpress.com or learn enough PHP to be dangerous).  The biggest change as to update the color scheme; I like neutral colors for my web sites, so I picked a creamy brown and blue combination (my wife’s an artist and she liked the brown/blue thing I had going on – asking other folks for their opinion is a good thing).

Here are the plugins I use, along with why:

  • Lyric Wiki Search Widget – I, and some friends, look for lyrics
  • Akismet – Spam control; I actually started getting spam comments, surprised me since I wasn’t looking for an audience
  • Automatic Timezone – Update the timezone automatically; I need the right timezone for the Twitter Tools plugin with my patch, and any work savings is a good work savings when you run a blog
  • BM Custom Login – If you end up at the default WordPress login page, it’ll have my logo on it
  • del.icio.us cached++ – Display del.icio.us links
  • delicious-plus widget – Ditto, and I can’t remember which of these I use (using lots of plugins has the downside of maintenance and of performance of the site)
  • del.icio.us – Bookmark this! – Adds a link to all my posts to bookmark the post on del.icio.us
  • Embedded Video – Makes it dead simple to add video content from YouTube and all the other major services; I got a video camera finally and wanted to keep videos of my family and dog (I guess he’s family, hum)
  • FeedBurner FeedSmith – Improve the RSS feeds using FeedBurner
  • Google Talk Widget – Add GoogleTalk to the blog so people can IM me if I’m online
  • Google XML Sitemaps – Create and update my Google Sitemap for the blog so Google indexes my site right (and it does)
  • Hello Dolly – Puts a quote from the play on all admin pages
  • Plugins Used Plugin – Creates a page (not a post) that lists the plugins; I used it to help make this page
  • PingPressFM – Send a messsage via ping.fm to all the social networking sites I use when I write a blog post
  • Ping.fm – Ping this! – Allows visitors to use ping.fm to let friends know about a post
  • runPHP – Run embeded PHP code in posts and pages (this is really geeky, don’t try this at home)
  • SEO Title Tag – Make it easier to add SEO friendly tags to blog posts
  • Social Bookmarks – Add a button to pop a message about a post to almost any social network a visitor belongs to
  • Sidebar Login – Login into the blog right on the sidebar instead of going to a separate page
  • Twitter Tools – I had to patch this one because the author is a jerk; this is what creates the daily list of tweets to a blog entry; I think that’s really sweet
  • tagaroo – Simplify tagging
  • Tweetbacks – Identify tweets about blog entries and make comments from them
  • Twitter Friends Widget – Shows my Twitter friends as a mosaic of small images
  • WP SIMILE Timeline – Creates a clickable graphic timeline for my admistrative posts
  • WPBook – Create a Facebook application of our blog
  • WP-PageNavi – Provides the page selection at the top and bottom of the multi-entry pages; my theme required this to work right, and I still need to fix search
  • wp-Table – A simple table manager
  • WordPress Mobile Edition – Create a mobile-friendly theme on the fly if you browse from a mobile device – this is very cool
  • WordPress Database Backup – You simply HAVE TO DO BACKUPS, so I use this along with a script I run every week from home to backup the software
  • WP Greet Box – If you land on my site from Google or Twitter or a few other sources, you get a one-time custom suggestion to do the default thing for publicity on that source

So that’s my story; I think I have a nice blog where I can write short posts and drop in images and videos pretty quickly and easily, while still using my main web site for heavier lifting, for example multi-day travlogues.

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