February 21, 2011
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.
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.
January 14, 2011
After the good news about themes at WordPress.com comes some bad news about themes for self-hosted WordPress sites. Siobhan Ambrose at WPMU.org wondered what she’d find if she Googled “Free WordPress Themes.” She examined themes from each of the top 10 hits for that search.
The result? Only one of the 10 theme sites was “safe.” Another was “iffy.” For the other 8, Siobhan’s advice is “avoid,” on the basis that some of the themes use Base64 encoding in order to sneak spammy links into the theme. Base64 can also be used to include malware.
The safe site is the WordPress.org themes directory. Since it currently includes well over a thousand themes, there seems little danger of a free theme shortage. Each of the themes there is under the GPL, and so is free as in freedom and well as free as in beer. In other words, you are free to modify the code of those themes.
This doesn’t mean that every source of free themes other than the official WordPress.com directory is bad. What it does mean is that, just as social media attracts spam, social media tools attract spam-producing components. It also means that some of the people who make those components also study the dark side of SEO.
January 12, 2011
Last week, WordPress.com theme wrangler Lance asked on the forums: If you could change one thing about your theme, what would it be? I was the second person to reply.
I didn’t hold my breath waiting for my request to be implemented, since Simpla is not among the newest or the most popular themes available at WordPress.com. But, if you look at a single post on this blog, you’ll see links to the next and previous posts. In other words, my request was implemented within days. I’m impressed, even factoring in the fact that next/previous links aren’t complex things, and that some believe that they should be part of the post layout of every theme.
I’m hoping that the Theme Team will write a summary of Project One Thing. In fact, I’ll head over to their recent post at the WP.com blog to suggest it.
January 3, 2011
Three news items about WordPress together seem to justify a post, especially given my intention to increase the quantity (and yes, quality) of posts here in 2011.
The first is about WordPress.com, which hosts this and millions of other blogs. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys emailed me a summary of 2010 at Changing Way. They did the same for many others. Michael at TechCrunch and Constantine at Collateral Damage each hit the handy “Post this summary to my blog” button.
I’m wondering if every stats summary sent out showed reported that “The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.” Each of the links in the previous paragraph leads to a “Wow.” That doesn’t surprise me about TC or about CD, but it does surprise me about CW. I note that two of my five most viewed posts were about Lala, although only one of them was posted in 2010.
The other two items are about self-hosted WordPress. Version 3.1, Release Candidate 2, has just been, well, released. I should install it at one of my many blogs (how many do I have? I don’t know, but probably should) even though the new features seem more worthy than exciting.
Finally, if you’re running WordPress 3.0, you should install 3.0.4, a critical security release. Hey, that means I should go and do that very thing right now…
November 5, 2010
Twitter Blackbird Pie is a method of displaying tweets as rich full content rather than as just simple URLs or images. I would include an example in this post, were Twitter not down at the moment.
Twitter Blackbird Pie is a plugin for WordPress. It’s also a feature of WordPress.com, a service with rather more uptime than Twitter.
October 12, 2010
Mashable Ben’s recent op-ed on Facebook, Twitter and The Two Branches of Social Media prompted me to ask two of my favorite questions. How does this fit in with what I’ve posted? How does WordPress fit in?
Ben’s two branches are social networks and information networks. They correspond respectively to connection and content. The correspondence isn’t exact: for example, I see connection and content as two elements of that mix in different ways in different social media tools, rather than as separate branches. I agree with Ben that the distinction between social networks (which emphasize connection) and information networks (which emphasize content) illustrates a fundamental difference between Facebook and Twitter.
WordPress is more about content than about connection in that it’s more for building information networks than for building social networks. But of course, WordPress is a platform on which you can build pretty much what you want, and social networking has already been built on top of it, in the form of BuddyPress.
October 8, 2010
In the future of blogging, “the winner will be WordPress.” That’s the way it seems to Philip Leigh, writing at MediaPost (via WordPress Publisher Blog). Philip goes on to imply that blogging will be an important factor in the future of media.
He identifies two reasons for the success of WordPress: it’s free, and it’s free. He uses open source rather than free, or free as in speech, or GPL’d, to describe the second cause of success. The first cause is free as in beer, gratis, cost of zero, etc.
I refer to the MediaPost article, not just to quote it – it’s been fairly widely quoted already – but to remark on some of the questions it implicitly raises. In particular, consider the following.
WordPress is not merely a blogging tool. It’s a platform that can lead to an explosion of new media properties capable of text, video, audio, music, animation, interactivity, online merchandising, podcasting, and even social networking.
WordPress isn’t the only such platform. It isn’t the only such platform that’s both free and free. Drupal and Joomla spring to mind. So what is it about WordPress that will make it the winner? Is it the trajectory from simple blogging tool to rich publishing platform?
October 7, 2010
I’ve recently been developing some WordPress training. This in partly in order to offer and deliver such training in the Washington DC/southern Maryland area – and beyond. It’s partly because I’m taking classes in Instructional Systems Design at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
October 5, 2010
One of the main plots in the story of the web is the replacement of scarcity by abundance. For example, you want to find restaurant reviews? Go ahead, knock yourself out, but try to finish with the reviews before the restaurants close for the night. As that example shows, abundance is itself a problem.
Abundance isn’t just a problem for consumers of web content. It’s also a problem for content creators. For example, what plugins should you use for your WordPress site?
The official plugin directory currently lists over 10,000. You can search by keyword, but that doesn’t solve the abundance problem. Searching for the keyword analytics yields 270 plugins.
So we need selection, or ordering, or, to use a currently fashionable term, curation. The plugin directory does this by sorting; you get to choose the criterion (Relevance, Highest Rated, Newest, Recently Updated, or Most Popular).
Weblog Tools Collection recently asked “WordPress Genuises” for the top 5 plugins they use in every site they set up, and published the results. I’ve been guided by those results in setting up the PTA website I’m working on.
I’m interesting in approaching plugin curation from another direction. There are several value-added WordPress hosts, such as page.ly and WP Engine. They use plugins. I’m interesting in their selection of plugins, since it provides a sort of implicit curation of plugins. I’ll contact them, and see what I can come up with.
Meanwhile, any comments on plugins and how to select among the abundance are welcome.
September 30, 2010
There are several comparisons of WordPress and Drupal here at Changing Way, the most recent being 5 months ago. What about other social publishing platforms? Well, I posted about a Smashing comparison of WordPress and Joomla at around the same time.
And what about Movable Type? That’s the question posed in a recent comment on the WordPress and Drupal post. It’s a good question, particularly in the light of recent news about MT’s parent company. I refer to Six Apart dropping Vox, and then being acquired by VideoEgg. (I didn’t post about the acquisition, but former Six Apart evangelist Anil Dash did.)
The most recent post on the official MT blog is a promise that MT is safe: “of course we will continue development and support of this platform that now has a decade of history behind it.” The same post stresses that MT is open source. In that, it is similar to WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Unlike those other platforms, it was not born free/open.
Many of the key points at the MT overview page will be familiar to those made about the other open/free social publishing platforms. MT isn’t just for blogging, it can be used as a more general tool to create websites. It can be used to build community, as well as to publish content.
So, that’s my shot at mixing Movable Type into the comparison. It may be more about 6A than about MT, but that seems appropriate at the moment. Comments are welcome, on 6A, on more technical aspects of MT, or on pretty much anything else.