Blogging Tips and Things That I Learned While Setting Up This Blog

2010-12-30 Updated

2010-01-20 Initial Post

>> WordPress seems to be the most popular self-hosted blogging platform, so stick with it since there are tons of resources available to help you.

>> Go with a host that has an automated WordPress installation wizard. I chose BlueHost mainly because they're listed as one of the recommended hosts by WordPress. They have the SimpleScripts installation wizard for installing WordPress.

>> For possible future expansion and "enhanced security," I changed the default WP SQL database table prefix name. If I ever install another instance of WP in the same database, there won't be any issues with table name prefixes. It's easier to change it before installing WP rather than trying to change it after you've been using WP for awhile. It doesn't hurt anything anyway--it just adds a few steps to the pre-install process. See these two links for more info: http://codex.wordpress.org/Editing_wp-config.php#table_prefix and http://tdot-blog.com/wordpress/6-simple-steps-to-change-your-table-prefix-in-wordpress. Note that this can be pretty advanced for someone who has no programming or sys admin experience.

>> I installed the Revision History plug-in since I wanted to have links to older versions of postings. This didn't work as well as I had thought it would because WP, for whatever, reason, automatically makes at least two revisions of a new posting. So Revision History ends up showing links to two revisions even for postings that were never really revised. I'm sure WP will offer something similar as a  standard feature some day (I'm surprised they haven't already done so). I have since deactivated this plug-in.

Posts can be backdated. You can do this before or after posting. I needed to do this since I have years worth of notes that I wanted to post, and I wanted to keep the dates of when the notes were created. It looks like backdating will throw off RSS feeds since the feeds only look for newer information. I haven't looked into a workaround for this yet.

>> I prefer to use Firefox to manage the blog since it has a built-in spellchecker (when is IE going to have this???). WP has a spellchecker as well, but Firefox is my primary browser anyway--I only use IE when a particular site doesn't work well with Firefox.

I just installed the Feed Statistics plug-in to get stats on feed subscribers. I edited the feed-statistics.php file so that the count would show up as Subscribers: n instead of n feed subscribers. I also fudged the numbers by always adding 24 to whatever the actual number is =]

>> Back up your blog regularly, especially before making any major changes to either the layout or the data. To clarify, a (WordPress) blog basically consists of two major components, the layout and the content/configuration.

  • The layout is basically the actual HTML and PHP files that present the content. This component deals with how the blog viewers see the content (colors, font sizes and styles, etc.). The PHP files are scripts (small programs) that do certain things such as dynamically generate the layout and manipulate content in the blog's database.
  • The content/configuration consists of your blog posts data (what you actually wrote and uploaded) and misc. configuration data (user account information, blog statistics, etc.). This data is stored in the (MySQL) database.

With BlueHost, you'd log on to your account and on the main page go to Files --> Backups or Backup Wizard. According to the instructions, a full/system backup backs up everything, but "you can only use this to move your account to another server, or to keep a local copy of your files. You cannot restore Full Backups through your cPanel interface." Based on that, I perform individual backups using Home Directory Backup and MySQL Database Backup. I save the backup files to my home computer. There are other backup options, but I haven't looked into them. Note that if you move to a different hosting company, you can perform a backup of your current blog and restore it to your new blog at the new hosting company.

>> I started getting a lot of comment spam after I added a link to this blog on all my forum/newsgroup postings. It got annoying enough that I installed a CAPTCHA plugin for the comment and registration forms. There were a bunch of CAPTCHA plugins, but I chose SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam v2.2.9 since it was the most downloaded one on the first results page of one of the WordPress plugin sites. I had to use Unlimited FTP to upload the entire si-captcha-for-wordpress folder to /wp-content/plugins/. I had used File Manager to upload previous plugins, but that's because those plugins were just single PHP files. File Manager can't upload entire folders, so that's why I had to use Unlimited FTP.

>> 2010-12-27: A few months ago I spent some time trying to figure out how to widen the theme that I use on this blog (WordPress Default 1.6, based on Kubrick). I saw a few postings that mentioned editing style.css so I had looked in there and messed around with it but there weren't any clear instructions so I never got it working and eventually changed everything back to default. I'm really surprised that the theme doesn't have a setting in the admin GUI where I can just select the width and it takes care of updating all the configuration files. I do like this theme, so I don't want to find another theme.

Last week I decided to look into this again. I spent over an hour and got the main page wider, but it wasn't centered and the sidebar didn't line up. Again, I couldn't find any clear instructions, but I was determined to widen the theme since it was getting annoying. Fortunately, I found Default Wide theme, which is basically the same default theme, but widened along with some other miscellaneous changes. I installed the theme and it looked nice, but had to spend some time to edit the 8 files below to add the scripts for the Amazon and Google ads, and to customize the sidebar. Eventually I'll get around to getting new new ad scripts because, IIRC, those scripts were based on the width of the old theme.

  1. archive.php
  2. footer.php
  3. header.php
  4. index.php
  5. page.php
  6. search.php
  7. sidebar.php
  8. single.php

>> 2010-12-30: Yesterday I decided to look into how to put formatted code into my blogs. I had gone to this blog the other day and noticed how the PowerShell code blocks were nicely formatted and it got me to finally look into how to set that up here. I looked at the source code for that page and saw this code right before the code block: <pre class="brush: powershell. I figured it had something to do with formatting that code block so I Googled for <pre class="brush: powershell and that eventually led me to the SyntaxHighlighter plugin.

So now I know that what I was trying to do is called "syntax highlighting." I installed the SyntaxHighlighter plugin plus a third party brush and wrote about the experience here.

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