I recently, as in ‘two days ago’, faced the blue screen of death. A reformat of my hard drive beckoned. I’ve had to do this many times before. I dare say I’ll have to do it many times again. This time wasn’t terribly traumatic. Time consuming, yes. Traumatic, no. Traumatic would be the time I had a sudden HDD failure in early 2006. I lost a whole load of blog posts (my blog was a self produced and hosted creation back then) and several months worth of photos.
Today, all my photos are on Flickr. I did that within days of that 2006 HDD failure. Heck, I put everything in the cloud. Google’s ‘Not As Evil As The Rest’ Empire has its flaws and security/privacy issues. But I have allowed it to consume my digital life. My music collection. My mobile photos are backed up to Google the moment they are taken. I don’t bother with MS Office or any of the free variants, and just have Google Drive installed with their office suite readily available for online or offline use. My browser is Chrome and plugged into Google to save all my bookmarks and browsery stuff.
As for my blog. That was the first thing I moved onto a hosted platform. I had used Opera’s browser for years. They had a blog service called MyOpera. The community was brilliant, and I still keep in touch with a select handful of characters I met there. I stopped using the browser when it hit version 10 and broke, and Google brough out Chrome, which was slick. I stopped using MyOpera for blogging in 2009 after I had whored it doing paid posts to the extent it had become a virtual disease unto itself. I later got caught doing those ads, and was banned. Such is life. The $20,000 I earned before that happened was worth it….!
But I discovered yesterday that the fat lady had cleared her throat. She’s gonna start singing in March. The Opera experience is coming to an end. MyOpera is shutting down, and its users need to find a new home. There’s lots of genuinely good free blogging services out there. None match the built in community of MyOpera. But the platforms themselves are better, in my opinion. Tumblr is quirky, dead easy and fun. Blogger is incredibly versatile and can’t be beat when it comes to customisation. But WordPress is the most professional of the free services. It’s my choice and my recommendation. A recommendation I have passed on to my Opera friends.
To those who decide to walk this path, I welcome ye to WordPress. It’s a fine new home for your literary masterpieces/entertaining epics/rambling waffles. It’ll take a while to settle in, figure out where everything is kept and to feel truly at home. But I’m sure if you have a good play around, you’ll soon pick up what you need to know. If you get stuck, there’s a section to add comments below, just like in MyOpera. I’ll be glad to help out if I can. But I’ll try and help out straight away. Here’s a quick list of Eight Helpful Hints to start getting the most out of WordPress today….
One thing you’ll probably do straight away is import all your old posts from MyOpera. There’s instructions on doing that here. Once your bits and bytes are on WordPress you might want a way to access your archives. There’s a couple of ways to do this. You can add a Calendar or an Archive widget in the sidebar. But they are difficult to navigate. My preferred method is to create a page, imaginatively called Archive, and just type [ archives ] into the text area, but don’t leave spaces between the brackets and the text. You can look at my Archives page, or the image below, to see the result. Every post in a list. So easy to search. I wish it showed the dates, but you can’t have everything.
Are you wondering what the deal is with that [ archives ] code? Opera used BB code, if I remember rightly. And you could play with the CSS – I used to do that a lot. Those days are over amigos. WordPress isn’t the most customisable platform, unless you want to shell out of a $30 upgrade to access the CSS. But you can still add stuff. The way to do this is with Shortcodes, as described here.
You can customise the header image of your blog though. Every theme has a different sized header, so make sure you’ve chosen a theme you’re happy with before you spend too much time playing with the header images. The best bit here is that you can upload a whole load of header images and have them set to rotate. So everytime someone visits your blog, there’s a new picture at the top to greet them.
There’s lots of ways to add images to WordPress, but the Gallery function is excellent, particularly the Tiled Mosaic option. Upload a whole selection of photo, choose the option to create a Gallery then tick the boxes as shown below, to create something that looks like this.
Future Proof Images
Although I often upload images to WordPress, most of the time I embed photos from my Flickr account. The problem here though, is that if you change theme, and your new theme has a different text box width, then your old images are now the wrong size. There’s an easy cure for this. See the code below. You can see what I’ve done in red. The top set of code is the original. The bottom is the code I publish. It’s width is set to 100% and I’ve removed the height tags. That photo will now fill my text area no matter what theme I use.
There’s lots of ways you can spend money on WordPress upgrades. I’ve been tempted to buy a package and remove the ads, but never taken the plunge. But there is one upgrade I have always paid for. The custom domain name upgrade. I do remember from my MyOpera days that the inability to have a custom domain was a source of frustration for many. The wait is over folks. Go get yourself your own fancy domain name today.
WordPress comes with Akismet built in, to combat spam. But it is far from infalliable. I regularly get blanat spam getting past Akismet’s sensors. No one likes spam. There’s an easy cure for this though. See the image below. Right at the bottom is the key section – make sure you check ‘comment author must have a previously approved comment‘. By checking this box, every comment on your blog by a new user will go to the Pending tray. And it’ll stay there till you mark it as Approved or as Spam. You’ll only have to do this once per user, providing they log in to make their comments under the same name each time.
Ok, so WordPress doesn’t have the tightly knit community that MyOpera has. But you can overcome that. You probably have communities built elsewhere. Probably Facebook. That’s where Publicise comes in, sending your posts to your Facebook wall as fast as you can publish them. It couldn’t be easier.
I hope some of that helped out! 🙂