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.

Roll my own news site

My attention span has been somewhat divided lately, as I have started a new blog to summarize the news from my town and region.

I grew sick of not having all the news I want to read in one place and of my local news outlets not having the sense to syndicated their content with RSS feeds so that I could roll my own little Yahoo Pipes feed. Also, Google News is worthless for Bozeman, Mont. It mostly pulls in all the news I’ve already read and misses half the stories I might find by looking just a bit harder.

So I started a simple little blog called the Bozeman Post. I read the news and write little summaries of it – no longer than three short paragraphs. Add a link to the original and voila! A spiffy little news site – no ads, no images, RSS and a simple layout. It’s just what I wanted.

Oh, and if you’re a local or if you’re just interested in reading it, take this into consideration: I have a job and a life. I’m maintaining the site as a hobby, so sometimes I might not update it. Oh well.

Oh, and another thing. Yes, I am thinking about using a social bookmarking service like Delicious to do this automatically in the form of a link roll or something like that. So far, I haven’t decided whether I want to do that or not. It might be easier than what I do now, though I’d still have to spend the time writing the summaries.

Comment snobbery

Do you comment more on blogs that make it easy to comment? I think the answer to that question has to be yes. But as I looked at my Disqus comment list today, I realized that most of the comments I have actually made on blogs in the past month have been made on blogs that use the Disqus engine — and most of those comments have been made on Louis Gray’s blog, for some reason. I don’t know, I guess his writing is just commentable or something…

Anyhow, what I’m wondering is this: Do any of you out there in the great big blogosphere find that you are commenting more on sites that use these comment aggregation systems, such as Disqus or InstateDebate?

If you do find yourself commenting more on one of those sites, then I wonder if you also find yourself commenting mostly on sites that use that particular comment system. In other words, has the advent of such cross-site services broadened your blog commenting or narrowed it?

Disqus on iPhone

Has anyone else had issues with the iPhone/iPod Touch interface for Disqus? I can’t seem to get the thing to recognize the fact that I have unapproved comments waiting, even when I know for a fact that there are messages waiting to be approved. Even then, being able to click on the messages in the iPhone layout and approve them is hit or miss for me.

Maybe my trouble is unique. Maybe it’s been resolved, too. I haven’t checked back in a few days, but lacking anything else to write about at the moment, I thought I’d throw the question out there.

TypePad for Journalists

I received my registration code for the TypePad for Journalists program yesterday and took the time to set up my free pro level account.

I come to TypePad and the entire MoveableType system as a novice. Long ago, I made some fundamental choices when it came to blogging software, and WordPress won. For years and years I have faithfully used WordPress for every original blog that I have put together.

My fling with TypePad is just that, a fling. Let it never be said I passed up an opportunity for free stuff.

Besides, I’m not all that impressed with TypePad. It feels too polished, too user-friendly to be of any use to me. I like WordPress. I can see some of its nuts and bolts and screw with them at my leisure.

I may play with the TypePad blog for a while, but don’t expect me to be changing CMSs any time soon.

Pro tips ignored: focus

From time to time I happen upon the blogging advice Web sites, such as Problogger.net and others whose articles have been so inane that I didn’t bother bookmarking them. Mind you, I’m not out there seeking “help” or “advice” on blogging, but sometimes one of those sites’ headlines catches my eye in a Google search or linked via some other site’s RSS feed.

That happened the other day. I read an article by some “professional blogger” telling me how to increase the traffic to my site. I put “professional blogger” in quotation marks because I feel like that term represents a particular set of the blogosphere. The pros are in it to win it, so to speak. They are the ones worried about search engine optimization, the number of readers they have, advertising dollars and, well, making a living off of blogging. That’s why they’re pros; for them, blogging is paid work.

I am not that kind of creature. I don’t make any money blogging. (Though if some advertiser wanted to pay me an exorbant amount of money for an ad on this site, I would oblige. I have student loans to pay off, you know.) In fact, since I pay $10 per month for Web hosting, I actually pay for the privilege of writing a blog that only a handful of people know exists.

Though I’m not a pro, one idea from the pro’s article did stick with me through the reading. He urged those bloggers who want to be successful bloggers to specialize, to focus on one thing and give that one thing really deep attention.

I like this idea, in theory. If I choose a “beat” or “speciality,” I could generate some pretty good ideas, given enough time to research and read. I could tailor my RSS subscriptions to suit my focus and read only those things important to my research. Ideally, this is what I should be doing as a pseudo-academic — there was a time I would have called myself just an academic, but I’ve been out of school for long enough that some of that previous fervor has died.

But something prevents me from choosing a focus. Namely, I don’t know what to focus on. Chalk it up to my dispassionate and impartial nature (I should have been a judge.), but I don’t get really fired up about anything. Sometimes I get mildly obsessed with things, for a while. Like CSS and playing with WordPress. That absorbed an inordinate amount of my attention for weeks; I didn’t feel like writing about my experiences, but it was entertaining. World of Warcraft catches my attention in spurts, especially since the expansion. Sometimes good, old fashioned reading catches my eye too. It just depends on the time of year or the alignment of the stars or something like that.

With so much out there to draw my ever more valuable and precious attention and free time, how can I possibly specialize? I’d feel like I was missing something.

Blogging is dead; long live blogging

The Economist put out a short article on Nov. 6, commenting on Jason Calacanis’ retirement from blogging. Calacanis founded Weblogs Inc., and the Economist compares his retirement from blogging to Michael Jordan leaving basketball. It is, in other words, a big deal. Continue reading