Thoughts on blogging

This ‘Dressing the Lines’ blog is two weeks old now.   I’ve had over 1400 visitors in that time (thanks folks).  Hopefully all your first visits were pleasant enough experiences that you’ll come back from time to time.

As I mentioned in my first posting, I am totally new to this blogging thing.  Sure, I have developed and run a number of static wargaming websites for years (see the links to the right), but never a blog.  And so I’m learning as I go.  This means that from time to time I have questions which I then have to search for answers – and some of those answers are not easy to read for someone who has no idea what, for instance, RSS, Atom, Google Reader etc exactly are. 

For example, some of the questions and thoughts I’ve had about blogging over the last two weeks include:

  1. I go to considerable effort to write and illustrate my postings.  But today I suddenly had a terrible thought – how permanent is this work?  With my websites, I always have a local copy of the site on my hard drive.  So even if the site was removed from the web host server, I would still have it for posterity.  But with this blog, there is no local copy.  It all just gets typed into WordPress.com’s dashboard.  What can I do to ensure that I can keep my work, even if WordPress.com suddenly disappears?  This is actually a considerable worry for me , and if I can’t solve it, I’m going to be less keen to put effort and time into posting.
  2. You might have noticed that while I have listed my own websites in the sidebar to the right,  I have not yet added a blogroll (or list of other blogs).  This is because the blogrolls that I find most useful are the dynamic ones which show when a blog was last updated and which bring the latest updates to the top of the list, and I can’t make a dynamic blogroll with WordPress.com.  The blogroll on Steve’s Random Musings on Wargaming is an excellent example of what I would like –  I visit it all the time to catch up with what  is happening in wargames-blog-land.  But with WordPress.com, I can only make a static list of blog addresses, with no automatic updating or re-ordering. [Update 22 February:  Following ChicagoTerrainFactory’s suggestion made in the comments to this posting, I have now added a list of blogs I follow, by using RSS feeds.  However, it is still not the type of blogroll I was after, particularly because it does not tell you the name of the blog each update comes from.]
  3. Speaking of WordPress, it wasn’t till after I started this blog that I realised that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two entirely different things, and I don’t really have enough functionality on WordPress.com.  To get this functionality, I should have gone for the more complicated WordPress.org.  However, I checked with my ISP, and they don’t have the mimimum requirements required for WordPress.org.  So I’m stuck with WordPress.com (unless I cough up and pay for web hosting elsewhere).

The above may sound a little negative, so perhaps I should add that I’ve enjoyed the experience of the last couple of weeks.  I love how much quicker and easier it is to post to a blog than to do a website update with Dreamweaver, FTP etc.  And even though I used to think blogs were ugly (remember, I’m very aesthetically-inclined!), I’m happy enough with the overall look I’ve been able to achieve here within the tight constraints.

Anyone who has got answers or comments about my thoughts, please do feel free to leave them as comments here.

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9 Comments

Filed under About this blog, General

9 responses to “Thoughts on blogging

  1. You can back up your blog as an XML file on your own hard drive by going to tools Export.

  2. Thanks for that, Derek … that’s going to be a relief.

    I have just tried the Export tool now. I notice the resulting XML file is only 129kb, whereas I would’ve thought the site by now should be a lot bigger in size than that, what with the big pictures and all?

  3. You might want to consider jumping to blogger, which has the “blog roll” feature that’s used on the Steve-the-Wargamer site as well as mine. My first blog attempt was made using the Apple website service and I made the jump to blogger as it seemed to have more features and was much easier to use. The transfer was a bit tedious as I did a “cut and paste” for each entry but it was worth it.

    Blogger is a free site, but that does mean you really don’t own the IP of your postings. For me that not such a problem as who would really want to own my ramblings.

    I do like your blog and enjoy reading it.

  4. I’ve been using WP for 3 years now – love the system and would not think of moving to Blogger.

    The XML export is just text – no photos.

    You can build a dynamic blog roll using the RSS widget & Google Reader. Use reader to re-package all of the feeds you are reading into a single RSS fead. Then paste that feed into the WP RSS widget. Email me if you want step by step instructions.

    • OK, I’ve tried doing what you suggested, CTF. But as you can see from the result at the bototm of my sidebar, it doesn’t show the names of the blogs these updates come from, only the titles of the latest postings themselves, which is very confusing …

  5. Nice website Roly. Both blogger and WP have their pluses and minuses. The biggest minus with WP was I thought the lack of a dynamic blogroll.

    I was curious CTF, how can you make a WP blog dynamic on my blogger website.

    John

  6. Google makes it easy to have a dynamic blog roll on Blogger – go figure, they are from the same company. Google RSS reader has an option under manage subscriptions for “add a blog roll to your site”. Hit the button and it will generate the java script to cut/paste into your blog.

  7. Hi Roly – thanks for the mention… :o)

    For blog backups I use a free tool called WinHTTrack (from http://www.httrack.com/) – nothing like knowing that all you work will be safe should the unthinkable happen!

    W.r.t. blogroll – I think being on Blogger has made it very easy for me… I use GoogleReader to browse the blogs you see on my webpage – the blog roll is then generated direct from GoogleReader. All very incestuous, but also very easy – and that’s what it’s about… I’ve had static web pages too, and blogging is a whole lot simpler!

I hope I've given you something to think about - please do leave a comment with your thoughts or reactions.

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