The Anatomy of My Blog: An Amateur’s Tale (and Tips!)

(Feel free to skip this post if blog housekeeping bores you. This is all about how to set up and deal with self-hosted sites.)

You might have noticed a little spring-cleaning around here on the blog.

For one, the blogroll on the right has been slimmed down to a daily blogroll. The exhaustive list is now consolidated in a dedicated page under Links located in the header.

I’ve added in other widgets to the sidebar that are long overdue: RSS feed, blog subscription, a multi-language blog translator should you want to read the blog in Swahili. ( 现在你也可以用中文来读<街头故事>!) and a tag cloud. My favourite addition has to be the social bookmarks widget at the bottom of each post, so you can share the love for the blog more easily!

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that wordpress.com (and other major blogging platforms) is intermittently blocked in China, I would never have considered a self-hosted site. WordPress.com for me was simple and elegant but if you want to reach out to a wider readership in China, this is the path you have to take.

I’ve decided to list in detail the anatomy of my blog. I can’t be sure if it’s a taboo thing, but websites that have done so have been enormously useful for my reference.

In fact, I believe I am the best person to give advice. Why? I had no (and still lack) knowledge of HTML, code etc. I am a tech-tard, if that’s a politically correct term to use, and computers in general scare me. I usually end my questions to my webhost with “Please explain (it) to me in simple terms, am computer/code-challenged.” However, with help from friends, the great Google shek and countless wordpress.org forums, I’ve figured some stuff out.

So if you’re a newbie, perhaps my layman talk might be useful. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome. After the jump, details of my webhost, plugins etc.

Webhost: I use Webfaction.com which was recommended by John Pasden over at Sinosplice. So far, I’ve had my queries answered on time and helpfully. I will add a caveat that I’ve had to migrate my wordpress.com site to a wordpress.org site which was a nightmare. Katya came to my rescue and her genius helped sort most of the kinks out. Consider a self-hosted site from the beginning if your audience is a China-based one; it will save you a lot of  grief.

Plug-ins: Plugs-ins are what make your blog tick, in addition to content and the theme layout of course. I don’t know how to write code, I simply search for the best plug-ins that give me what I want. Download, activate and viola! Of course, there are always hiccups, so backup before experimenting. On wordpress.org, there are plenty of reviews, always make sure they are compatible with your wordpress version. Many of these options are also available for wordpress.com users, they are not known as plugins but can be found under Options.

Writing posts

Photo gallery: I use NextGEN Gallery for my photo slideshows. I’m not entirely convinced by it and wish I had something more user friendly. However, I chose it because the frame is free of clutter, and easy for the reader to click through.

If you’re not sizing your photos accordingly, you can use NextGEN – Resize which automatically resizes images within the presets while uploading them into NextGen Gallery. I downloaded this to rectify the problem of blown up photos in RSS.

Related Posts Thumbnails is something I have at the bottom of each post to introduce readers to my related archived work. I absolutely love it. **If your theme does not support “Featured Image” which is what you need to activate the thumbnail feature, you need to add a line of code in the theme functions file. Instructions here.

Social bookmarks are enormously helpful for sharing your work. I use Sociable for WordPress 3.0. It allows you to pick and choose which bookmarks to add. I like it because it’s small and neat.  This is a helpful list of the best social bookmarking plugins.

Update: Thanks to Woods, I’ve added Subscribe to Comments so readers can be updated after leaving comments!

Sidebar Plug-ins

RSS Feed (In your widget folder )
http://EXAMPLE.com/?feed=rss (text only)
http://EXAMPLE.com/?feed=rss2 (has pictures)

Blog translation: I use GTranslate which can allow readers to translate the blog with a simple click. The quality of translation is well, Google quality, enough said.

Email subscription: Subscribe2 also comes with a Subscribe2 widget when you set up the format. This is the best guide I’ve seen so far.

Blogroll: Link Library has nifty options. If you had an existing Blogroll and are looking to transfer them neatly into a separate page, WP Render Blogroll Links was useful for me.

Contact Form: Everyone needs an elegant contact sheet, so I recommend Contact Form 7

Stats: WordPress.com stats. You need a wordpress.com account, but it is straight forward. I initially used Jetpack by WordPress.com which has more bells and whistles and may be used to phase out the former plugin. For now, both should be fine.

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4 Comments

  • Reply March 29, 2011

    Woods

    I’ll throw a couple of more things in here, if you allow me. ;)

    For photos, many people use NextGen gallery but the embedded image management in the latest wordpress version is now good enough for me. I use jQuery Colorbox plugin to display images in full size without refreshing the page and Faster Image Insert plugin to be able to upload photos right from the post page. I couldn’t bear having to go through so many pages before I could go and add my photos to a post.

    One other plugin you might want to add is Subscribe To Comments, to allow users to see new comments by mail. I personnaly like to use it when I give my point of view on a blog post and want to see reactions or others point of view.

    拜拜!

    — Woods

    • Reply March 30, 2011

      Sue Anne

      Thanks a lot for the input! I’ve added the Subscribe to Comments plugin and will look into the jQuery Colorbox plugin!

  • Reply December 4, 2013

    Cintia

    Greetings from Panama! Very beautiful new look! Easy to navigate. Love it. :)

    • Reply December 4, 2013

      Sue Anne

      How lovely! When you back in Shanghai?

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