Setting up my Press, Part 1: Build or Use?

This trilogy titled ‘Setting up my press’, is definitely not a tutorial, is only an account of my decade long experience with web hosts & how I got along with WordPress. In Part 1, I discuss my build-or-use decision and WordPress PoC. People who have already read about WordPress can skip this post and move to Part 2 that talks about choosing a host or Part 3 on installation tips & must-have plug-ins.

As I’ve said in my opening post, I have wanted to set-up a blog for quite some time now. The initial plan was to host it as part of my website (that I’ve been maintaining since 1999), and since my TopCities account was closed down for non-activity, I was to anyways re-deploy at another place. In 2008, I started writing a lot of Javascript & AJAX code to create a robust framework on which my site would be hosted. It would allow me to change styles, and even the layout with little change to my JS code. Since I wasn’t doing any server-side programming, it would be easier to find a host offering place on his web server, rather than an advanced application server. But I got busy and time went by, I wanted something that could go live in no time and demand minimum maintenance.

I had set myself a target of June 1 to complete the set-up, and was under great pressure to meet it. Around that time, Arundhati suggested I try WordPress. Repeat: Arundhati Purandare is central to this kick-ass WordPress installation. I had worked a little on Joomla, heard of Alfresco & Drupal, but always compared WordPress to Blogger as a pure blogging application. I’ve used the term build-or-use instead of build-or-buy because all these packages come free – all you have to do is use! Aru was the one who opened my eyes to this monster CMS tool that was written using my favorite language, PHP. Continuing my wont, I spent enough time evaluating WP and doing a thorough PoC before I had consented. I follow this practice to assess the kind of control I can exercise, primarily in terms of customization.

First, I tried all the basic features by creating a blog at WordPress.com. Since I was new to the blogosphere, it helped me understand pages, posts, archives, comments, tags & categories. The blog allows a massive 3 GB of media uploads along with some cool themes. I was almost ready to go when I realized that I cannot extend! Meaning, I wasn’t allowed to add plug-ins. It hurts to digest the fact that there are over 5000 plug-ins to add jazz to your blog and you can use none unless you opt for a custom installation.

I then had Aru install WordPress 2.7 at a web-host for me to try out advanced features and plug-ins, and to verify whether the host supported them. I tried a couple of themes and plug-ins that update twitter, display photos, post forms to email, etc. Apart from that, I gave a first look to files that get WP running. Trust me; they’re so well organized that you can walk through them over FTP all by yourself. The ease with which I customized styles and a few generic includes promised full control of the application.

There is much more to WP than I can mention here (I’m not even attempting to), so we close by noting the following:

  1. WP is highly rated, well-documented and supported by a large community
  2. You need not be an ace with PHP to set-up or maintain. As long as you leave the code alone, your app is guaranteed to run smooth.
  3. You have access to the entire source code which is developed following design patterns making it maintainable & easy to understand.
  4. You can find plug-ins for almost anything, and even try writing your own without much hassle.
    :caution: WP & installed plug-ins can be updated through the admin panel, and WP takes enough care to restore settings.

Continue Reading: Setting up my Press, Part 2: Choosing the right property

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