Blogging platforms

Notes on different blogging platforms I took when I sought a new home for this blog in November 2013.

When I found out that this blog’s previous platform was to be shut down, I researched alternatives. Different bloggers have different needs, but I was looking for:

  • A hosted service. Self-hosting is better, but I just wanted to get back to blogging.
  • No cost option available.
  • Possible to import my data when setting up, and to export it should I decide to take my blog elsewhere.
  • Layout and features appropriate for text-centric, long-form posting.

Bonus points were given for:

  • Open source platform.
  • Self hosting option available, should I decide to step up.
  • Visitor commenting possible.
  • Integration with social media, automatically announcing new blog posts on (for example) an associated Facebook or Twitter property.
  • Integration with social media management systems such as HootSuite.
  • RSS or Atom feed.
  • File storage.
  • Helpful and technically competent support or user community.

WHAT I LOOKED AT
Just what it says on the tin. It’s not a complete list, just what I got around to looking at.

Blogger
Easy to set up and use. Hosted service only; most blogs are subdomains of blogspot.com. No cost. Has a reputation for appealing to spammers and lamers with nothing to say, so using it might not help your reputation. It’s a Google service, which means on the one hand good integration with Google’s many other services, and on the other weak documentation, no official support, and an inept user community.

Gandi
Dotclear powered hosted service included at no extra charge with the purchase of a domain name. Easy and economical alternative to self hosting when you want to use your own domain.

Google+
A social network, although it’s currently fashionable to claim that it’s also a blogging platform. Er, what? Granted, it isn’t as bad for blogging as Facebook (and we’ve all seen attempts to fit round pegs through that particular square hole), but neither is it remotely appropriate. A screwdriver might be better than a brick for opening cans, but that doesn’t make it a good can opener. Use Google+ for what it does, which is social networking, and leave blogging to the blogging platforms.

WordPress
Download the open source code and host it yourself, or be lazy like me and use the hosted service. The hosted service is available in both paid and no-cost plans. The latter is ad-supported and blogs are subdomains of wordpress.com. Import and export tools. Good documentation (start with the beginner’s tutorial) and an impressive user community. My choice, although I did find some annoyances:

  • Learning WordPress.com isn’t difficult, but neither is it drop-dead easy. This was not an issue for me (I had been meaning to learn WordPress in any case), but there are easier options for those who just want to get to blogging. Blogger in particular is lauded on this score.
  • The hosted service wordpress.com offers a subset of the features available to people who self-host the code available on wordpress.org. And people who post WordPress tips rarely bother to distinguish between the two. I’ve found that if I want help or information about wordpress.com, I’m better off limiting my search to the domain wordpress.com.
  • On some blogging platforms, incorporating the date of publication in a post’s URL is optional, and I’ve always chosen to not use it. On wordpress.com, every post’s URL incorporates the date and there is no way to deactivate this. This is a limitation on wordpress.com. If you self host using WordPress software, you can turn off the incorporation of the date in the URL, and in retrospect I should have gone that route.
  • If you are importing a blog from another platform, consider what the previous point implies about your internal links. For example, my post on installing Thunderbird links to a post on Thunderbird add-ons. Because wordpress.com changes each post’s URL by incorporating the date of publication, that means all my internal links (1) were broken, and (2) couldn’t be fixed with a global search and replace on my import file.
  • Every internal link generates a pingback or comment on the target post. I’d prefer that behavior to be limited to others and not apply to myself. There may be a way to suppress pingbacks and comments by myself, but I haven’t found it yet.

Despite these issues I’m happy to be using WordPress, but take them into account before deciding that it’s the best fit for you.

REFERENCES
Two dated but still useful articles from Lifehacker: Which Blogging Platform Should I Use? and Five Best Blogging Platforms

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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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2 Responses to Blogging platforms

  1. Frenzie says:

    Originally posted by wpost:

    A hosted service. Self-hosting is better, but I haven't the time to get self hosting going. No cost option available.

    Aren't those somewhat contradictory? I mean, where are you going to find a proper no-cost self-hosted place to put your blog? ;) That aside, setting up WordPress these days is the easiest thing you ever did. If it takes over five minutes (assuming you know a tiny bit about MySQL) I'll, um, well, I'll have been wrong but really it couldn't be easier. Many hosts even offer that Fantastico install script type stuff which even takes care of that kind of thing for you.Originally posted by wpost:

    A social network, but some users argue that it is also a great blogging platform.

    Are you trying to destroy my mechanical keyboard? I was drinking some water while I read that… :lol:Anyway, both Blogger and WordPress.com can export your data. The transition from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress is likely the easiest available, but I'm sure its data can be imported easily enough into other platforms. I'd go with WordPress.com over Blogger, myself.

  2. wpost says:

    Great observations, all. Yes, ideally I'd absolutely host it myself. Installing WordPress can't be harder than installing a LAMP stack, Joomla, and CiviCRM, which I've done several times. But I'm in the middle of a job search and need to prioritize my time. Once I get settled in to that great job I'll find, I'll have the time to noodle around with fun things like this.Yes, even suggesting Google+ for blogging is absurd. I include it in my list only to respond to the currently popular argument in its favor.Given the easy migration path from hosted WordPress to self-hosted WordPress, it looks like that's the way to go. I'll give it a try and update here.

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