My problem with WordPress.com blogs

Don’t get me wrong. WordPress.com is awesome. It’s got features oozing out of its ears that the self-hosted version of WordPress can only dream of. That’s what you get when the entire system is centralized and you control the flow of feature updates.

I should like writing here. I really should. It’s a smooth operation. But I don’t. I don’t and I can’t get over it.

WordPress.com: It’s not you; it’s me.

I have been raised to believe in the philosophy of the self-made Internet. Chalk it up to following people like Dave Winer, Cory Doctorow and Craig Newmark, guys who just build stuff all the time. If it doesn’t exist, they build it; and if it does exist, especially in a commercial application, they question whether it is something we’d be better off doing for ourselves.

In general, the answer to that investigation is that it’s almost always something we’d be better off doing ourselves. And such is my entrenched position about WordPress, which I have self hosted since that time back in, like, 2003 when I realized that manually updating an HTML document was not an efficient way of publishing lots of material online.

I have other blogs. I have my own hosting, a couple of domains. I have Becker’s Online Journal and Hypercrit. I only really update BOJ and that’s mostly for work, so I need to be more professional in what I post there.

I also have a Tumblr account, which is cool and all but feels like a waste of time since finding stuff is really hard to do on Tumblr. Then I have a development blog and newsroom blog hosted on the Chronicle’s CMS.

Nowhere do I post purely personal views. Perhaps that’s what the WordPress.com version of BOJ could be for…

Now cue the archivist in me who says you should not split up the databases. You should designate a new category in your self-hosted blog and post personal stuff there. Keep it all together. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.

But I want the flashy features that are built in to WordPress.com. I want them despite the ads it puts on my pages. I want it and don’t want to have to install a bucketful of plugins on my self-hosted site, slowing the site down more than the flashiness is worth.

So what am I to do? Dilute my audience and split my database? Hold to my ideals about a self-made Web?

I don’t know. I just don’t know what to do about my pressing first-world problem.

Facebook is the path to Krypton

Will Richardson posted an interesting link today. The link tells us that Facebook is growing by 600,000 users a day and that a lot of those user are over 25. Many are over 55.

Thinking about how many people are jumping into social networking — which is, in a way, a substitute for real world networking — got me thinking about the planet Krypton, Superman’s homeworld.

If I’m remembering my lore correctly (and recent plot lines in the comic series may have changed this), Krypton was a barren and cold place whose inhabitants isolated themselves in their homes, eschewing physical contact with other people. Physical contact and even meeting in person was distasteful and only done when necessary. (See also E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”)

Is Facebook a gateway to this? Will we become so distanced from our natural world, so lost in the virtual one that we forget our connection with the world around us and eventually let mad scientist/dictators destroy our planet, leaving only a single survivor rocketing toward safety on some distant, habitable world where he will grow up to become a champion for truth and justice?

I’m just saying it’s possible. That’s all.

Optimism for a change

Jim Stovall at JProf is an optimist when it comes to the decline of newspapers and the rise of new news media.

His recent post tells us that we can expect the new crop of editors and publishers to recognize that news is decentralized and that it will have to respect its audience more if it wants to attract an audience in the digital age.

He also writes that journalism will improve, as the need for quality reporting and writing will only improve when the market become saturated with thousands of competing news sites.

It’s refreshing to hear an optimist, but then again, Stovall doesn’t even approach the topic of money in this particular post. How a news organization will pay for itself remains a question firmly up in the air, if that can even be a phrase.

The 24/7 newsroom in a small city

I’ve been reading articles lately, especially one by Steve Yelvington, that say that once a Web-focused newsroom wakes up to the idea that news happens day and night, there’s no going back.

But I wonder whether that is true for newspapers in small cities. I know for a fact that my local 18,000-circulation paper is starting to think about the Web as its primary source of news; the newsroom is taking its first steps anyhow.

Say that my paper does become Web-centric, posting stories online as they are done and using the print version as a digest of all the online work done the previous day. Can this work in a city of this size, where offices actually close at 5 p.m. and there just aren’t any sources to talk to much after nightfall?

In other words, can the 24/7 newsroom operate in a small city that doesn’t really operate 24/7? Is there any point to a 24/7 newsroom in that city? Is there any point to a Web-centric newsroom — the benefit of which is quick dissemination of news — in such a city?

“Coraline” review dust-up

The “Sunday Paper,” a weekly paper based in Atlanta, Ga., likely didn’t expect the Web traffic that its site has received this weekend. It’s all thanks to a movie review by Editor-in-Chief Kevin Moreau, in which Moreau draws a few too many connections between the movie “Coraline” and director Tim Burton. The problem is this: Tim Burton isn’t connected to “Coraline,” not at all.

Neil Gaiman, the author of the book “Coraline,” noted Moreau’s review in his Twitter feed, which has been filled with “Coraline” release notes lately — basically Gaiman writing about how tired he is from all the promotions and parties and premiere events he’s had to attend. Gaiman’s Twitter fans took one look at Moreau’s review and started filling its comments section with “uh… FAIL” messages and jokes at the expense of Moreau’s writing experience and the paper’s fact-checking thoroughness. Continue reading

bbPress experiment

Well, you know, I’m a sucker for anything that’s related to WordPress, so when I found out that they’re working on forum software, bbPress, I had to try it out.

I’m playing with theming a bbPress site right now, though if anybody has toyed with it in the past and can offer any tips, don’t hesitate.

Oh, and don’t think this has anything to do with adding forums to this site. I don’t think my dozens of fans readers are clamoring for a place to air their opinions on Hypercrit.net. This is just for fun.