It wasn’t until my recent search of old posts did I realise how long I’ve been writing Office Jotter. My first entry was for 23 September 2002.
Blogs had been around well before then, of course, but I still felt adventurous when starting out. (Scott Rosenberg relates one version of the history of blogs here.)
In the beginning, I used the free Blogger service from Pyra Labs. Google bought the company a year later. Another two years on and I had become exasperated with trying to use Blogger. Here’s what I said at the time:
I’ve given up trying to keep pace with its (frequently unpublicised) changes in working methods, support arrangements and capabilities. Like almost every other piece of software, it started out simple and functional but has got increasingly complex as it’s gone on. It’s now at the stage where I can’t even access my editing pages and Blogger’s support desk doesn’t know why.
My ISP was offering WordPress ready loaded, so in March 2005 I switched to that. It was a change worth making. As I reported at the time, editing and administration were much easier and the whole system more responsive.
Since then, I have swapped ISP once and changed the look of the blog several times. Both actions were simple and quick, as have been any changes behind the scenes.
When I was preparing to leave Blogger five years ago, there were fewer choices than today. One I considered was the Movable Type system, which several blogs I admired were using. At the time, if memory serves, one had to pay for this, which seemed pointless for an essentially loss-making activity. (I’ve never gained any direct income from blogging and expect that always to be so.)
Another possibility was to use the WordPress service at WordPress.com. I have some trial blogs on there but prefer the wider options and choice of domain name that the ISP-hosted version gives. Some of those constraints would be eased if I cared to pay.
Having an account on WordPress.com is still worth it, as it provides the statistics I see for Office Jotter and another, private blog I run. It’s also a good place to learn the basics of using the package. Over a quarter of a million people find it adequate for all their blogging needs.
Office Jotter’s current stylish appearance dates from this month. I’m not boasting here, as my only hand in its design was selecting its theme — The Erudite. Matt Wiebe of Soma Design did the hard work, and he has my gratitude.
Like much else from and for WordPress, The Erudite is free. There are nearly 1,300 other free themes on the main site, with more elsewhere on the Web. If you’re prepared to pay, often not much, or to have sponsors’ links, you can get designs made or tweaked for your purposes.
Supplementing these basic designs is a huge number of add-ons (“plugins”). These are also predominantly free and add function to your publishing system. There are nearly 12,500 of these on the WordPress.org site.
The 15 plugins I use do such jobs as intercepting spam (the excellent Akisment), backing-up the database, hyphenating text and sending notifications to various social networking services. They all work together without hitch and I was able to install most of them just with a few mouse clicks.
The combination gives me a sophisticated, yet easy to use, Web publishing system with no financial outlay. I’m even able to write and edit blog entries from my BlackBerry ‘phone.
There is a cost in time, as you’d expect. For all the user-friendliness of WordPress’s design, I’ve had to invest many hours learning how it and its adjuncts work and how to get the system as I want it.
I’m no techie, so have often had go to lessons at Internet school to learn why some things are important. Fortunately, this school is also free, with (mostly) friendly teachers, and is open all hours. The school gates say “Google” on them.
A little background info
There are two organizations involved with running WordPress. One is Automattic, a commercial entity that owns and runs WordPress.com and several plugins, including Akismet. It was founded by Matt Mullenweg, who was one of the creators of the original WordPress program.
Mullenweg is also an active member of WordPress.org, which is the collective that produces and maintains the ISP-hosted program (technically a script), which is Open Source. Wikipedia has a comprehensive history of the project here.
WordPress’s software is suitable for commercial as well as personal use and will run on an organization’s own servers. Here is a sample of businesses that use WordPress.
If you are looking into blogging software for your own or your company’s use, WordPress should be on your shortlist.