Creating a Blog from Scratch, Part 9: The Conclusion

Since its inception until today, this blog was powered by code I had written myself. Some people thought this took a lot of work; to be honest, it was just a few days of simple coding. As I noted at the beginning of this series on “Creating a Blog from Scratch,” rather than using existing software or services, such as WordPress or Blogger, I wanted to write my own blog code so that I could experiment with the form of the blog. In general, I found it to be a great exercise that I would highly recommend. It helped me understand the genre of the blog, challenge long-standing assumptions of form and function (like the tyranny of the calendar, now gone on most blogs), and think about ways one might customize a blog to fit academic needs.

But starting today, this blog will be powered by WordPress, not my own code. Am I a hypocrite? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that by switching to WordPress I have had to abandon some quirks of my original blog that had made it unique and that represented the accumulated wisdom of writing my own code. No, in that I feel I’ve learned enough in the process of the last two years that I can bend WordPress to my will enough to satisfy my need to customize and adapt.

More important, I had other needs that I just didn’t have enough time to implement by writing more of my own code, and there were other features of WordPress–a terrific open-source project–that I really wanted:

  • It took two years, but I’ve decided after initially disparaging comments (sentiments echoed recently by some well-known bloggers), I actually do think they are important to a blog and that my critics were right that the blog suffered without them. So starting today I have comments at the end of each post. (My old posts will remain free of comments since I have left them in their original format.)
  • I had also worried that the blog comments would be a haven for spam, but after the release of the wonderful reCAPTCHA system–which helps the Open Content Alliance transcribe digitized books while preventing spam–I felt that relatively spam-free commenting was possible.
  • As successful open-source software, WordPress has engendered a universe of helpful plugins, modifications, and documentation. For instance, this blog is now Zotero-compatible, thanks to the WordPress COinS plugin by my colleague Sean Takats. And of course reCAPTCHA came with a plugin for WordPress too.
  • WordPress’s system for drafting and editing posts is far more advanced than the basic screens I created. Writing this post is taking me about half the time it would have taken in my old system.
  • For the past six months I have been using ma.gnolia to add small posts to my feed (and to the sidebar of my old blog under “Briefly Noted”). I now can do this just as quickly using WordPress, and plan to post much more frequently starting in September.
  • Despite my best efforts, my old blog code failed to output valid XHTML, which I believe is increasingly important in a world where non-computer devices (such as the iPhone) are browsing the web and RSS feeds. WordPress automatically writes pages in XHTML.

I suppose I should rip off of my sleeve the badge of honor from my home-grown blogging software. But I like to see the switch to WordPress as just another step in the continual improvement of this blog, and look forward to many more years of writing in this space.

7 thoughts on “Creating a Blog from Scratch, Part 9: The Conclusion

  1. Karin Dalziel

    I’m glad to see you’re using reCAPTCHA – what a fantastic idea.

    The whole thing has been a fascinating experiment- it’s been interesting to read about your experiences.

    I’m just glad I can comment now. :)

  2. Pingback: Notes on Blog Design, or Why I Changed

  3. Pingback: Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog » Blog Archive » Understanding reCAPTCHA

  4. Web Design

    Found your page while casually surfing. Must say its commendable that you coded your blog yourself. Shifting to WordPress has its advantages. I read your series and found it packed with great information.

  5. Tank

    I can understand why it made sense to build your own blog a few years ago but WordPress has come a long way in the past few years. It may have been a bit limited before but as you point out, a community of developers adding plugins and feedback have helped it grow and its really more of a CMS than the simple blogging tool it once was

  6. sweety

    I don’t like WordPress. They have too many strict rules. They don’t like Adsense, and they don’t like affiliate links such as the ones on Clickbank. I got banned once for promoting something that I really love because it was an affiliate program. My blog had great original contents, and the link to the affiliate program would usually be small text link down at the bottom of a post. Since then, I started using Blogger and loved it. They don’t have as much rules as WordPress.

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