Blog | Oct 28, 2011 | 8 Comments

[a blogging lesson that has nothing to do with writing]

For the past month, I’ve been learning about what’s really “under the hood”of my blog. It turns out to be even more complicated—and powerful—than I thought.

FIRST, A NEWS FLASH: We just changed the program for RSS and email subscriptions. If you used to subscribe to WagnerWrites, please subscribe again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

And now to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Blogs can be very complex organisms.

WordPress blogs are composed of four basic elements:

Blogs aren’t static sites that you can put up and forget about.

A lot on a blog changes besides the content. A lot changes outside the blog, too. (The best example of this is the new types of social media that keep cropping up. It’s important to integrate the popular ones with your blog.) Managing all of the elements and getting them to stay in synch can be difficult, time-consuming, or both. Any of them can potentially interfere with the others at any point in time. All of them are being constantly updated (improved!), which means you have to retest everything after you install an update or add a new feature.

Plug-ins are especially quirky.

Most are free, provided out of the goodness of people’s hearts—or, I might add in a very cynical way, their desire to test code for their businesses or hacking operations.  You only have the word of the developer about how well they work and their level of compatibility with the version of WordPress you’re using. And there are literally tens of thousands of them now.

Anyway, after repeated notices about plug-in updates, I started performing them using the slow process recommended by my original blog builder. Backup the blog, update one plug-in, check its functionality, “deactivate” the plug-in if it caused any problems, and go on to the next plug-in. I did this in a half-hearted way until—

I was faced with major WordPress updates. And I froze.

WordPress had two major updates that I was afraid to install because of the potential for breaking the plug-ins or even the whole blog. For months, I ignored repeated messages from WordPress. What I didn’t realize is that a lot of the plug-ins had already stopped working. Just quietly died away. The worst discovery was that the backup plug-ins had stalled out. Not backing up your blog is bad, bad, bad. I imagined losing nearly two years’ worth of writing, not having a site for clients or prospects to review, or even being hacked and having nothing to restore after the security leak was fixed.

Plus time was running out. My out-of-date blog was turning into a ticking time bomb.

Obviously, I needed some BlogAid.

BlogAid is a great resource created by MaAnna Stephenson. Here’s a direct link to her extensive list of extremely-reasonably-priced tutorial videos. She’s also available to build and maintain blogs. I won’t bore you with all of the details of our work together but when we’re finished, the blog will be fully updated, better set up for social media and subscriptions, and more safe and secure.

Next, I intend to learn more about analyzing blog traffic and interaction—in other words, how well it’s working for you. And I might want to add plug-ins to share my posts on Google+ and tumblr.

What’s the moral of this story? I had gotten lazy.

I’m just a writer and for many years, designers, production artists, and programmers “handled” my words and made them look nice in whatever media I had written them for. I wanted the blog very badly but didn’t want to work on it. Essentially, it’s as if I bought a car and drove it off the lot without either going to mechanics school or buying a maintenance contract. However, thanks to this experience, I intend to learn more. I may never be fully independent, but at least I’ll know what a blog consultant is talking about the next time I have a problem.

It doesn’t have to be this complicated for everyone, of course.

If you don’t have a blog yet but want one, you have a number of options:

Any additional thoughts about maintaining a blog? Different experiences and opinions? Share them here.

Image credit: salendron on flickr. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

8 Comments

Claire, it’s been a delight to help you get your site squared away. And, thank you so much for the kind words and links!

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

MaAnna, you deserve kind words, links, and much more. Thank YOU!

[Reply]

MaAnna

10/28/2011

Claire- Good points, all of them. I use hosted WordPress (on my own domain), so that it looks like my own blog but WordPress does all the work of maintaining the plug-ins and the WordPress code. While that does not give me as many options, it does relieve me of many of the maintenance tasks. Of course, you can never ‘set it and forget it’ exactly, you do have to keep up with things. Some weeks (like this one), simply writing a post is all the energy I have!

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

I am glad that this is a decent option for folks because I know mor people who want to set up a blog.

[Reply]

MaAnna Reply:

Anne, is your site on WordPress.com? They offer a few maintenance perks, but a few too many limitations for many biz owners compared to self-hosted WordPress.org (meaning that you pay for hosting). But, it is the limitations that keep you from getting themes and plugins that could cause conflicts or security issues.

[Reply]

Anne Janzer Reply:

MaAnna, yes it is WordPress.com, with my own domain. I think the limited options may work well for me — keep me out of trouble! There seem to be many different widgets and tools. If I were trying to run a whole business website on it, the limitations would most likely be a problem. For a stand-alone blog, however, I’m content!

[Reply]

Anne Janzer

10/28/2011

I can relate to your story. I had others make my blog and hadn’t a clue that it wasn’t being backed up beyond 7 days on my Network Solutions website provider. That’s because your blog stuff is different than the stuff on your computer that you might save with carbonite.
I just assumed I was covered. I was told by my people to write my blog drafts in word and save them. But I knew best and I just wrote my drafts in WordPress it seemed simpler.
Yeah, until I lost 20 or so unpublished drafts when we loaded new plug-ins. Probably more than one at a time. Oops.
So then I got a save everything on my blog plug in.
Then my site started to run slower and slower. Like a lobster in heating water I didn’t really notice till I died. Or in the case of my website, till it crashed.
Yeah I could have said, “hey guys is it just me or is 30 seconds an excessive load time for my site? (My blog is part of my site which is on a WordPress platform.)
So once it crashed my team quickly found that my social media sign up plug in had gone bad. They removed it and my site stared loading in 5 seconds.
Your post is a cautionary tale and I feel your pain.
My lesson, “listen when the people who I pay to advise me tell me how to do something. And do what they say or admit I don’t understand and have them explain it again.”
I’m glad you told your tale!

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Calla, we should start a support group. Thank you for sharing your cautionary tale as well.

[Reply]

Calla Gold

10/28/2011

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