WordPress.com has long provided a Custom CSS upgrade. I’ve been using Custom CSS here at ChangingWay.org ever since the blog has lived at WordPress.com and used the Simpla theme.

Custom CSS is now part of the Custom Design upgrade. Custom Design costs $30 per blog per year, twice what Custom CSS used to cost. So what else does the extra $15 buy? Well, you get more help with CSS from WordPress.com now. Back in the Custom CSS days, you paid to be able to edit CSS, and WordPress.com was explicit that it didn’t provide support to you in getting the CSS right.

But the main difference between Custom Design and Custom CSS is: Custom Fonts. In fact:

  • Custom Design = Custom CSS + Custom Fonts + Support.

Custom Fonts refers to the use of Typekit. CSS and Typekit go logically together, as I noted when I first tried Typekit. That was two years ago, before Typekit became available at WordPress.com. It would have made sense to me had Typekit been available as part of Custom CSS. After all, CSS allows you to specify fonts (among many other things), while Typekit lengthens the list of fonts you can use.

Instead, when WordPress.com first made Typekit available, it opened the Typekit door to all users, at no charge, while providing minimal support. I played around with Typekit at this blog, used it elsewhere, and responded to some questions about Typekit in the WordPress.com forums. But ChangingWay.org currently uses CSS, rather than Typekit, to specify fonts.

WordPress.com announced the Custom Design upgrade earlier this year. To recap, this means that for $30 per blog per year, you can get the combination of Custom CSS and Custom Fonts, with support for both. The combination is a logical one and, at less than $1 a week, seems reasonably priced – to WordPress.com, and probably to many of its bloggers.

But, to other WordPress.com bloggers, the bundling of CSS and Fonts into a single $30 package represents an unwelcome change. One blogger recently complained in the forums that he cannot use Typekit for free anymore (but follow the link to the thread for a way in which bloggers already using Typekit can continue to use it at no charge).

To me, Custom Design represents a doubling of the price I pay for using Custom CSS at this blog. I don’t need Typekit, and I don’t need CSS support. The price change is an input into my annual question: should I continue to pay for WordPress.com upgrades, or should I move to another WordPress host?

What are your thoughts on the Custom Design upgrade and its pricing?

Making Money From Your WordPress.com Blog is one of the most-visited posts on this WordPress.com blog. “Can I run ads?” is one of the questions most often asked on the WordPress.com forums. The short answer to that question has always been “No.” The longer answer involved an exception for certain high-traffic VIP blogs.

Enter WordAds, which exists to provide advertising representation to WordPress.com bloggers. It is a partnership between WordPress.com/Automattic and Federated Media. It is optional for bloggers. It is also optional for WordPress.com, in that bloggers need to apply. In order to do so, they must have custom domains (as this blog does). Even so, not all applications will be accepted.

The post announcing WordAds is rather curiously worded.

We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

I find this curious, because WordPress.com has for years run AdSense on blogs it hosts. The quote seems like acknowledgement of a criticism I’ve often seemed leveled at WordPress.com: that it makes money by marring its bloggers’ content with ads that aren’t, well, terribly tasteful.” It also seems like an unnecessary swipe at Google.

The advent of WordAds raises several questions. Update, two days later: Jon Burke of Automattic/WordPress.com was kind enough to answer my questions via email; hence the italics following each question. See also Matt’s reply to my comment on the announcement post.

  1. What will the terms be? In particular, how much of the ad revenue will go to the blogger? It varies.
  2. Will WordAds replace AdSense on WordPress.com? In other words, if a blogger signs up for neither WordAds nor the No-Ads upgrade, WordPress.com may run ads on the blog: but will it use WordAds or AdSense to do so? AdWords is only for blogs accepted into the AdWords program.
  3. Will there be a plugin to allow self-hosted WordPress blogs to run WordAds? Not in the immediate future.
  4. Will it be possible to run WordAds on non-WordPress sites? No plans for this.

I am fairly confident that the answer to the plugin question (#3) will be “yes,” and rather less sure about answers to the other questions. (Turns out I was wrong, certainly about timing, and possibly about the plugin itself.) If you have answers, guesses, further questions, or other remarks about WordAds, please leave a comment.

It’s time to stock up on t-shirts, and also time for a sale at Threadless. The sale end is due to end at the end of tomorrow (Monday), and the design is “Larry the Fox Doesn’t Feel So Clever Anymore.”

I see that today is the 6th anniversary of my very first Threadless order. Back in 2005 I lived in Boston and had only one kid; now I’m in Bethesda, Maryland, have two kids, and have seen a lot of other changes in those years. So has Threadless, although still has its community rate the submitted shirt designs.

Another social media site so old it can remember when Web 2.0 was a trendy term is Reddit. I see that I’ve been a redditor for 6 years. Mu current favorite subreddit is Breaking Bad, to which members submit links relevant to the excellent TV show of the same name.

The image shows one of my favorite recent submissions. It turns out that the original was sold on Etsy, “the world’s homemade marketplace”, and another older-than-6 social site. By the way, I did search for Breaking Bad t-shirts, and there are some out there, but none of them edged out the shirts I liked at Threadless.

This very blog is currently hosted at WordPress.com, which is run by Automattic, another social web company that passes the rather arbitrary 6-year test. Congratulations to the four above-mentioned veteran firms, and to other who have been around that long: it’s been a long and interesting passage of time.

iPad and WordPress

April 17, 2011

20110417-025150.jpgWordPress provides an app for those blogging with iPads, and a familiar face for those browsing with iPads. The face is actually a plugin and theme developed by Onswipe, and built into WordPress.com.

My plan was to get a screenshot of this blog with its Onswipe face on, then to include that shot in a post written using the app. This is that post.

Getting a screenshot on an iPad is easy, which is as it should be,and a refreshing contrast with getting an Android screenshot. Getting the screenshot from the iPad into this post was easy, once I realized that the app hides the photo icon under the onscreen keyboard.

I don’t see an easy way of including links while posting from the app, though. I’m editing the post now, a day later, on Windows, because including the links wasn’t easy using the iPad browser either.

As for the Onswipe theme, I think it would fit better with a blog that had an image for every post. The current post’s image shows that this isn’t such a blog.

Although I am a loyal and longtime WordPress user, and have enjoyed my first two weeks of iPad ownership very much, I am not blown away by the combination of iPad and WordPress. I refer to my own experience of the app and of Onswipe. There are of course other ways in which iPad and WordPress go together, and many other people who use both. If you are one of those other people, I’d be interested in your comment.

I have too many blogs. To put it more broadly, I have too many websites. To put it more narrowly, I have too many WordPress blogs; I even have too many WordPress.com blogs. Hence the tag toomanyblogs, and the exercise of culling some of them.

One site that will survive the cull is andrew.wordpress.com. It was my first wordpress.com site, way back in 2005. If I hadn’t scored an invite (thanks, Matt), I wouldn’t have got to wordpress.com early enough to have got such an obvious site address. It also has some interesting content, as I’ve just boasted about in my first post there in years.

When new features are introduced into WordPress.com, some of the people with WordPress blogs hosted elsewhere ask when and how the features will be available to them. The new Jetpack plugin makes a bunch of WordPress.com features available for self-hosted blogs.

Jetpack has its own site, Jetpack.me, and of course its own blog. In the blastoff post, Matt announced that some of the largest hosts have made Jetpack part of the WordPress install. There is coverage elsewhere (e.g., TechCrunch), but not as much I’d have expected.

Jetpack 1.1 (I’m not sure how it differs from 1.0) bundles eight features, including the shortcodes available at WordPress.com. It will make it easier to migrate from .com to another WordPress host. The Intense Debate comment management system/plugin in not part of Jetpack 1.1. I’m not sure whether it will be included in a future release.

I’ll probably try out Jetpack next time I do some admin on one of my excessive number of self-hosted WordPress blogs.

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

So says the NYT, based on a Pew report.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

I saw the article via a blog post, albeit one so short that it wouldn’t have been out of place on Facebook or Twitter. The post was by Toni, CEO of Automattic, the firm that runs WordPress.com (among other things).

The guy who put the Matt in Automattic responded to the article at a more traditional blog post length. He pointed out the big picture: “people of all ages are becoming more and more comfortable publishing online.” He also described the various tools publishing as complementary.

Tumblr is a particularly interesting publishing tool in this context, so it was good that an interview with Tumblr founder David Karp went online today (at TechCrunch). He admires WordPress as a tool for “long-form publishing.” David founded Tumblr for people whose dislike of writing presents a barrier to blogging.

But don’t Twitter and Facebook lower those barriers even further? They do, but they lack a strong expressive identity, argues Karp… Tumblr, in contrast, is built to be a place you can be proud to call your online home. It’s very design-oriented and you can customize your Tumblr to reflect your personality.

I think that’s a pretty good characterization of Tumblr, or at least a good motive for founding it and for using it. Meanwhile, I’m posting this on WordPress, which will automatically tell my Twitter followers about it. Hey Twitter types, and others, thank you for reading this opus.

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