Category Archives: blogging

Posts about blogging

Combining free blog hosting with your own domain name.

Hosting a site on a free service like WordPress.com has some advantages. For one thing, they really keep the blogging software up to date, with constant improvements, new widgets, etc. You never have to lift a finger to upgrade. The problem is that you are limited as to disk space, bandwidth, etc. This is why this blog is not run on WordPress.com – I wanted to go beyond the services that WordPress provides for free. I have a rented server account with Dreamhost.com, on which I can host as many domain names as I need, with tons of bandwidth and storage.

I recently started a new skateboarding blog called “concretelunch.net“. I plan on using a lot of photos and videos on the site, which will require both disk space and bandwidth. I purchased the domain name, but I’d rather host the blog — which will be the “homepage” — for free on WordPress.com. At the same time, I want to use my Concretelunch.net domain name (so I can just refer to “concretelunch.net”, rather than “wordpress.concretelunch.com”) and also use that domain to host and serve large files, run other applications, etc.

Here is a nice way to make it all work. I set up the blog on WordPress.com. Then on my server, under the domain concretelunch.net, I deleted the existing index.html file, replacing it with index.php . The index.php file contains only the following code — a simple redirect to my WordPress.com blog:

<?php
header( ‘Location: http://www.yoursite.com’ ) ;
?>

The nice thing about using a redirect like this is that I can use WordPress.com’s free service for low bandwidth stuff, but if I want to point to something like a gallery URL, like “concretelunch.net/gallery” (which doesn’t exist yet), I can do that easily. Of course, this only works because the server I host my domain name on runs the PHP scripting language. However, you could easily find a PERL or JavaScript redirect script to use instead.

Remind me not to upgrade, ever again

I upgraded my blog software, and it killed all my old images and videos. Not just the code, but my actual files are gone. Shit. Actually, it was my fault, but I’ll blame the upgrade process anyway. It required that the blog directory be empty, and I forgot that the images and videos were stored in a subdirectory.

 Ughh. This makes me want to just go back to coding everything with plain HTML.

Blogging, WordPress themes, and Good People

Now that I’m running this site on my own server (having moved from WordPress.com), I have a few things to say:

1) WordPress is bad ass. What a great blogging system to get for FREE. Killer. I love it. Why do I love it? Well, I’ve mentioned the spam control — that is huge. I also really like the availability of lots of themes, and the total ease with which those themes can be used. Did I mention that all this stuff is free?

2) In my blog roll, you’ll see Manton.org. This is the blog of my one-time coworker, Manton Reece. Manton is an independent Mac software developer. Besides being a cool guy and married to a very cool former classmate of mine, Manton knows lots of cool people, and he’ll often point to them in his blog posts. For example, this Red Sweater Blog. This is the blog of another independent Mac software developer. Why do I point to this site? Well, I really like the simple but effective layout of this blog. Like Manton’s blog, the layout is simple, attractive, and totally lacking in bullshit. It works.

Having searched for simple, effective WordPress themes, I can tell you that most are neither. A lot of developers want to show how crazy they can get, resulting in some seriously jacked themes. Red Sweater Man didn’t make this mistake. His blog looks good. It is readable. Me likee.

Manton’s blog has, again and again, pointed me to interesting and useful information. So Manton, if you’re reading this, thanks!

3) So I’m in the middle of moving all my other websites to dreamhost.com. Let me say this: moving large sites is a huge pain in the neck. Particularly moving — arrghhh — phpBB message forums. Moving large galleries of photos isn’t fun either. I have a pathetic DSL line here at home, and the upload speed is just snail-like. Can’t wait to get into a new house and get a nice, fast connection.

4) I’m seriously thinking about moving all the old videos from Bob’s Trick Tips over to this site, setting them up on an archive page, and shutting BTT down. After 8 years this is hard for me to do, but a) it simply isn’t making enough money to keep me interested, and b) I’m just not that interested in it anymore. I still want to do some trick tips videos, but I want to make them more advanced, as befits our current age of broadband internet access. Well, we’ll see. If I can move BTT with a mininum of headache, I keep it going. If it turns into a problem, it will evolve into part of this site.

Spam magnet?

That last post about Campisi’s has attracted over 20 spam comments in less than 24 hours. Interesting. Normally this site, with fairly low traffic, might get about 2 or maybe 3 spam comments per day, which are all caught by Akismet. I wonder what in that post got the spammer’s attention. The built-in Akismet antispam application here at WordPress has killed off about half of them, but the others initially go through. Weird.

YouTube.com and the death of a website

A little lunchtime blogging. 

In 1999, when I created bobstricktips.com, bandwidth was expensive, few people had broadband, fewer people had camcorders, there were not really any free video hosting services on the web, computers didn’t come with video editing software, and blogs (as they are known today) didn’t exist.

Until this year, my site got about the same traffic every day and every week, regardless of my infrequent updates. This year my traffic took a huge hit. Why?

I have some theories. First, almost every computer you purchase now – especially Macs – comes with good video editing software. Almost every family seems to have a digital camcorder. So it is easier than it has ever been for any skateboarder to create a pretty cool video. I’ve seen videos by kids with virtually no training that look nearly as good as a professional job.

But once you have a cool video, how do you share it? In 1999, you needed your own website. There was no YouTube.com to slap your stuff into. And if your video content was popular you needed massive bandwidth, which at the time was expensive. BTT was pulling about 9 gigs a day of bandwidth at one point, which is a lot for a one-man show. Youtube has solved the problem for the average web-user.

But YouTube has gone beyond simply supplying bandwidth and storage space — it has created a social-network/search mechanism. Not only can you put your videos there, but if they are good you have an instant audience. Pretty neat. My own experiment with social networking involved putting a phpBB bulletin board on BTT, but after over a year I removed it. The quality of the conversation detracted from the overal quality of the site.

Back then it was even a little harder to create a website. You had to get an account with and hosting service, get your domain name, create the site, and upload it. You might even have to know — GASP — HTML.

Now free services like this (wordpress.com) allow anyone with two functioning brain cells to create a site, have a domain, upload images, link directly to Youtube videos and other content — pretty much without knowing any HTML or CSS at all. Perhaps best of all, WordPress takes care of controlling comment-spam for you, keeps the software updated, adds new features, etc.  Amazing. If your are a photographer, you can upload photos to a Flickr account with the same kind of built-in social network. With the nearly global change to digital cameras, you don’t even need a scanner.

So when I look at the traffic decrease at BTT in the last year, I can’t help but think that all these factors have come into play. And that’s really OK. I built BTT to teach some basics of skateboarding and it continues to do that very well. Everyone has a limited amount of time, and as the marketing people might say, there is just more competition for the same number of eyeballs now.

For me, if I want my traffic back, it means I’ll have to provide more than a kid with a camcorder and a YouTube account. I’m not sure what that is. Longer, better quality videos? Probably. I kept my videos short back then because bandwidth was expensive and connection speed was slow. Neither of those conditions applies anymore. whoisadamcolton.com, a site run by Adam Colton, contains great videos — high quality, long, well-thought-out, and entertaining. A site developed under the current conditions, unlike BTT.

I guess this is all a long way of saying I have been sitting on my lazy ass while my site slowly fades to obscurity. The question, I think, is whether it is worth my time to really re-invent BTT or leave it there, serving its original purpose, and move on to a more modern web-project.

I imported some entries

I’ve been writing about my Aikido learning process on another blog. Today I imported all those entries into this blog. I’ve decided to keep all my blogging stuff here. The advantages of having a free server, free updates and spam protection, etc, etc, are hard to beat. I also think the user interface is great. I might do some work on customizing a theme — we’ll see. WordPress just keep adding cool features to this system. I like it.

aikido, life, and other stuff

It’s been a while since I posted here. I’ve actually been experimenting with a blog on my other website, writing mostly about Aikido, which I started last month. The weather has been horrible, so no skateboarding. I’m taking the 2nd part of beginning Spanish at the local community college. That’s twice a week and Aikido twice a week. So I’m busy.

I’m still sort of torn between continuing to use WordPress and this free blog environment or go completely back to my other Moveable Type stuff. The nice thing about WordPress is the spam control. It really works well. I also like the built-in community here and stat tracking. I also like the “blogroll” feature here. On the other hand, I am really good at customizing Moveable Type, and I prefer its categorization system. Overall I think the convenience of WordPress my outweigh the customization of MT. When I find the time I may download WordPress and install it on my server and see what I can do with it.

Blogging on the decline?

I haven’t been making a lot of posts lately, mainly because I just haven’t had that much to say. I’m trying to avoid the “what I had for lunch” type of posts.

Anyway, a coworker sent me a link to this article from Information Week, which discusses a report from the Gartner Group predicting that blogging will peak in the first half of 2007. I’m not surprised. Hell, I kept another blog for 2 years, and posted regularly, but a few months ago I decided to try to focus my efforts on specific subject areas. With concerns about online privacy growing, I think people will be less inclined to put up a lot of personal experiences, at least not without more anonymity.  There are so many other choices for online socializing too — flickr, tons of subject-specific message forums, groups, myspace — the list goes on. Then there is the fact that young people are increasingly using text messaging and other mobile technology to keep in touch rather than email and the web.

So I’ve been reading — or really just skimming — a lot of books about blogging from the last 2 or 3 years.  Seriously, I haven’t found any that were particularly interesting. The best one I’ve found is Blog!: How the Newest Media Revolution is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture. This book has interviews with a bunch of different, “sucessful” bloggers, who do lots of different kinds of blogs. Political, social, technology, personal, whatever. Nice thing about this book is you can pick the ones you are interested in, read one in 10 minutes or so, then do something else. Much like reading a blog.