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Seattle Talk on November 14th: From Domain to Fame

WordPress has that famed five-minute install, right? Right. And with most modern web hosts, it’s much quicker than that by using their control panel.

But installing WordPress is but one step in the overall process of launching a new website. Regardless of whether your new online venture is for a hobby or a business, there’s a lot more ot launching a new site than just making WordPress run.

That’s the topic for a talk I’m giving in a couple weeks at the Seattle WordPress Meetup. Join me on November 14th at TechStars.

Seattle Skyline as seen from Gas Works Park

Before the launch, you’ll want to think about how the site is structured and the design. You’ll need to plan for the initial content (both static and dynamic) that should be ready to go while still under wraps. And there should be some preparatory work to ensure that when you launch, someone knows.

On launch day, several things need to happen, and if they’re done in the wrong order it’s not hard to make a potentially embarrassing mistake.

Immediately after the launch, you’ll want to be ready with additional content and promotional steps to bring folks to the site and convert them in some way… whether that’s to a subscriber of some sort, a buyer, someone who’s sharing your content, or whatever other action it is that you hope for your visitors.

We’re going to walk through this in Seattle. Be there… or don’t. :)

Writing Workflow Resources from WordCamp Seattle

A few resources that I mentioned during my talk today at WordCamp Seattle about my writing workflow. Once the video of my talk is online at WordPress.tv, I’ll share that as well so you can have the complete picture.

Roughly in the order they should’ve been mentioned during my talk:

  • Field Notes – notebooks that I carry everywhere for idea capture
  • OmniFocus – task management application based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done priciples.
  • Evernote – note taking and capture application
  • Dropbox – easily synchronize your plain text drafts (or anything) between computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
  • Markdown – markup language for easy writing for the web
  • Markdown Field Guide – iBook by David Sparks and Eddie Smith with a huge quantity of information about learning Markdown including a bunch of audio interviews and screencasts
  • Byword – Mac, iPhone, iPad text editor with excellent Markdown support
  • MarkdownPad – Windows text editor for Markdown
  • Markdown QuickTags – WordPress plugin for editing Markdown in the WordPress post editor
  • Publish Confirmation Plugin – WordPress plugin to ask you if you’re really sure you wanted to mash that Publish button
  • Editorial Calendar – WordPress plugin for a, um, editorial calendar
  • Dashboard Scheduled Posts – WordPress plugins to show scheduled posts in a widget on the WordPress admin dashboard
  • Sprout Social. – Social media management system that, among other things, allows for queued and scheduled social media updates

Feel free to comment with any questions. A couple of the links above are affilate links and I’ll get a tiny commission if you buy something.

Speaking About WordPress Writing at WordCamp Seattle

WordCamp SeattleI’m excited to announce that I’ll be in Seattle on June 8th to speak at WordCamp Seattle, a conference for writers, designers, developers, and others using the WordPress platform.

First, if you’re anywhere in the Pacific Northwest and use WordPress and haven’t yet purchased a ticket for the event, go do that now because it’s on the way to being a sold-out event. Then come back here, and read more about the fact that I’m speaking about

Writing Workflow for WordPress

Having blogged for over 12 years, a majority of that time with WordPress, and having written thousands of articles for a variety of websites, I’ve figured out some tips, tricks, and methods for ensuring a relatively frictionless writing process that produces pleasing results.

This talk will be aimed at intermediate and advanced users who are already familiar with WordPress basics such as posts vs. pages, installing a plugin, adding images, and other fundamentals.

My talk will encompass a look at how I write articles for the online world. From a process standpoint, this flow will include:

  • capturing and prioritizing ideas
  • drafting articles
  • preparing an article for publication (proofing, adding media, etc)
  • post-publishing promotion and followup

I also plan to dive into specific tools for the process, including:

  • writing in Markdown (why, how to learn, and tools)
  • managing scheduled posts (plugins that help)
  • a system for ensuring steps in the publishing process aren’t overlooked
  • a quick look at article promotion tools that don’t involve spamming or sleaze

Attendees should walk away with several ideas for increasing the efficiency of their writing and publishing process using a WordPress platform.

Uncategorized / Untagged Content Penalties

As bloggers, writers, journalists, and other Google Reader users search for a solution to the disappearance of Google’s ubiquitous feed tool, one of the most popular alternatives is the NewsBlur service. Offering web, iOS, and Android portals to one’s feeds, NewsBlur provides a clean interface and supports quick keyboard navigation for power users.

Training NewsBlur

Another neat feature of NewsBlur is that you can “train” the software about which topics, authors, and feeds are of most (or least) interest. Power RSS users often subscribe to hundreds of feeds… in my case I have subscriptions that include:

  • individuals’ personal websites/blogs
  • news websites (both general news and niche news)
  • company blogs for products or services I use
  • blogs and websites of my competitors

The list goes on… while I subscribe to all of these feeds, some are of more importance than others. RSS is not email; it’s not critical that every item be read in a timely manner (or at all). Some topics are of more importance however. NewsBlur allows a user to indicate which tags, categories, authors, or keywords are more or less important, and it provides an interface such that if I’m quickly dipping into my feeds, I can easily view only those items that match my “most important” indicators.

Categories and TagsYour Untagged, Uncategorized Content is Going to be Overlooked

What I’ve discovered since I’ve started tagging is that there are a lot of folks leaving tons of posts as “Uncategorized” and there are quite a few content management systems that aren’t serving up categories or tags at all. This means that I’m not going to see these items and feeds if I’m using NewsBlur’s priority system to view my feeds. If, for example, I’ve told NewsBlur that I want to prioritize things in a WordPress category, or tagged as having to do with Flickr, your unmarked content won’t be caught.

Help me to indicate I might want your content. Categorize and tag appropriately.

Facebook as the Walmart of the Internet

I’ve been thinking about Facebook lately. The recent Instagram terms of service kerfluffle reinvigorated my thinking, and this week’s events have made it clear that Instagram is definitely operating as Facebook at this point.

I’m thinking that in many ways, Facebook has become the Walmart of the internet[1].

Similarities

Walmart attempts to be the store with everything. Whether you need groceries, clothing, toys, or ammunition, your local Walmart has it. They won’t have as broad of a selection as a specialty store for any of these things, and the staff won’t be as knowledgeable, but they’ve got enough to get by.

Facebook attempts to be a self-contained version of the internet. They’ll let you send messages, chat in real-time, share photos, play games, buy things, and write lengthy notes/posts. None of these features offers the same breadth of options or flexibility as dedicated websites or apps that perform similar functions, and I wish you luck on getting any help if things go wrong, but they do have a basic set of tools to interact online.

Walmart has a reputation for moving into towns, building a big store, and offering good-enough goods at a lower price than local retailers, causing some of those local retailers to go out of business. Facebook has expanded into some new areas, offerering good-enough software that has made it difficult for some niche software players to compete.

Walmart restricts some material from being sold in its stores, with a history of only stocking “sanitized” media where offensive language or themes have been removed. Facebook has a history of restricting topics of discussion, at times drawing the ire of groups such as breastfeeding mothers when some photos have crossed Facebook’s line of acceptable content.

Walmart’s position in the retail world allows it to do as it pleases, with employees, consumers, and suppliers stuck with the results. When there’s a public relations flare-up about a particular move, Walmart will back down a bit, but not entirely, leaving customers in a worse position while still appearing to save face[2].

Facebook’s position in the social networking space allows it to do as it pleases, with users and advertisers trailing along as Facebook chooses the path. If there’s a big outcry about something, Facebook will back off slightly, leaving users with something worse than before but not quite as bad as originally feared. This week’s Instagram changes are a good example, where the most offensive language has been removed from the terms of service but users are still left in a position with more of their content and personal data being subject to uncontrollable third party use[3].

Small businesses close, suppliers lose control, and consumers lose choices as Walmart moves forward.

Users lose privacy of their information, Facebook becomes more intrusive across the web as developers depend on its API, and Facebook is able to force unpopular changes upon its users as it strives for increased revenue.

It’s Not All Negative

Walmart and Facebook aren’t entirely bad.

It seems that that Walmart has a “low prices regardless of what we have to do to get there” mantra, and low prices mean that lower-income families can often stretch a dollar farther by shopping at a Walmart store.

Facebook’s attempt to bring a wide range of internet services onto their virtual property means that less-tech-savvy users are able to participate in a broad set of online experiences without having to discover, set up, and learn a variety of distinct independent web services.

I know good people who work for Walmart and make interesting things such as Walmart’s new mobile in-store shopping app. I’ve met and talked with smart Facebook employees who do good things like contribute Facebook code back to open source projects.

There Are Alternatives

For most people, there are alternatives to shopping at Walmart. One can choose to patronize a local business or a different chain store that might engage in less aggressive practices. Low prices are often the only factor that might seemingly lock someone into Walmart.

Plenty of web services offer alternatives to Facebook. Whereas price locks a small number of folks to Walmart, the overwhelming percentage of internet users that are on Facebook is the lock-in factor for the big social network.

If you’re not among the demographic where Walmart’s prices or locations are the only option by which you can survive, there are choices. Many consumers actively refuse to patronize Walmart based on the business’ practices, even though those consumers might pay a few dollars more for their merchandise.

If your internet friends and associates know how to use computers beyond Facebook, there are choices. These choices often provide more privacy and control of your data. Independent blogging platforms, photo hosting services, game systems, and other such applications and utilities are available for your use, even though your ability to connect with others might require a bit more time or effort than if you’d chosen to use Facebook.

Much like retail customers can take a stand against Walmart’s business practices by shopping elsewhere, internet users can take a stand against Facebook’s business practices by choosing not to share their personal information, text, photos, and time on the website.

My Position

I’m fortunate in that I don’t feel dependent on Facebook’s services. I’ve maintained a personal profile there, and have a couple business pages setup for two arms of my photography ventures.

From a personal standpoint, I’m mostly connected with folks on Facebook that I already engage with in other places online: blog comments, Twitter, Google+, instant messages, or topical communities. There are a handful of folks who I follow on Facebook that to my knowledge don’t have any other meaningful internet presence. It’s these few connections that trouble me the most about my Facebook social graph… do I maintain these relationships with others purely at the whim of Mark Zuckerberg?

From a business angle, to my knowledge I’ve never booked a new client nor sold a print based on Facebook activity. I’ll admit that I haven’t expended a large amount of effort on Facebook marketing, but for the time invested I’ve seen far more benefit from other marketing activities. I do realize that ongoing Facebook presence holds some networking and marketing value even if I can’t directly trace a specific client or deal to Facebook.

I don’t agree with how Facebook conducts business, so I’m going to choose not to use their services. Tonight I’ll share this article over there and encourage folks to connect with me in other places. Over the next few days, I’ll delete my now-unused Instagram account (I’m continuing to share photography on Flickr and Google+). I’ll be reviewing my Facebook friends list to ensure that I’m following folks elsewhere. Once I’ve reviewed my connections, I’ll shut down my Facebook account.

There might be a vital reason why someone chooses to shop at Walmart or actively use Facebook and Instagram. Given that I don’t have any of those reasons, I’ll be patronizing outfits whom I can feel better about.


  1. I’m not the first to use this phrase. John Sanchez did so in August 2010 and Tiffany Prince used it in August 2012. I think my take is a little different.  ↩

  2. a recent example would be adding a layaway fee, then reducing said fee after an outcry  ↩

  3. here’s a quick summary, one of many articles in the news  ↩

Using Jetpack Means You’re Restricted by the WordPress.com Terms of Service

JetPack logoThis isn’t breaking news, but it’s something that was news to me (and I suspect I am not alone in my former ignorance):

If you use Jetpack, the WordPress plugin containing bits for

  • WordPress.com Stats
  • Jetpack Comments
  • Jetpacks Publicize and Sharing functions
  • Photon (a free content delivery network – CDN)
  • After the Deadline (grammar checker)
  • Infinite Scroll
  • all of the other things on this page

then you must comply with all of the WordPress.com terms of service. Do a search for “Jetpack” on that page and you’ll find that it’s quite clear that the TOS applies to Jetpack users.

If you were not using WordPress.com because your content falls outside of its terms of service, note that you shouldn’t use Jetpack either.