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First steps

Posted October 13th, 2008. Filed under Sandbox

In this post, I will discuss the preliminary design decisions involved in setting up a WordPress-powered blog.  I will not, however, take the time to discuss “WordPress Dashboard 101”.   If you’ve never seen or used the WordPress dashboard, here is a great place to start.

Why WordPress?

For me, step 1 was installing WordPress via the fantastic Fantastico script.  For most, the 5-minute installation will do the trick.  In either case, WordPress should be installed with all of the default options and the default theme enabled.

Every blogger has very individualized reasons for choosing one blogging platform over another.  I started blogging with Blogger, moved on to WordPress.com, Tumblr, and finally WordPress.org.  For me, a self hosted solution with the power and flexibility WordPress provides was the ideal solution.  So, WordPress is installed and ready to go.  Now to move from a “Hello World” installation to a blog.

Theming WordPress

Kubrick, WordPress’ default theme, is quite nice.  It is simple, minimalistic, and it presents text posts in a very legible and pleasant fashion.  Unfortunately, as a default, Kubrick was once overused in the extreme.  While this is no longer the case (Kubrick blogs are pretty rare in my opinion), very few bloggers make the concious decision to stick with Kubrick.  The vast majority of bloggers make Step 2 of the WordPress process the hunt for the perfect theme.  A small percentage of those theme hunters make the decision to install one of the many Sandbox themes and build something unique and personal essentially from the ground up.  It is with these brave few that I’m hoping to classify myself.  My Sandbox is here.

Planning

The WordPress codex suggests following this basic formula for planning a blog.

Answer the following questions:

  1. What am I going to do with this?
  2. Who is going to read this?
  3. What kinds of information will I be posting?
  4. Why am I doing this?
  5. Who am I doing this for?
  6. How often am I going to be posting and adding information?

Now, compile this information into a paragraph so it looks like this:

This website will be dedicated to X, Y, and Z, and cover the topics of A, B, and C. The audience will be __________ ________________ _______. I will be adding posts every _____________ about ________ _______ ______________.
I am doing this because _____________ _____________ __________________.

Here are my results:

This website will be dedicated to the things that interest me and things that I’m working on and cover the topics web design, open source software projects and communities, and things of a more personal nature such as my favorite music, movies, websites and blogs, etc.  The audience will be friends, coworkers, colleagues in various communities of which I am (or will be) a member, and users of the websites and software projects in which I am involved.  I will be adding posts as often as seems necessary to remain relevant and on-topic without posting filler and fluff.  My hope is that this means posting at worst 5 times a week about all of the aforementioned topics.  I am doing this because I am involved at a core level in projects that I will post about and I, therefore, hope to have valuable and timely information to share.  I am also doing this because it is a means of sharing with my friends and colleagues what is going on with my personal and professional pursuits.

This mission statement of sorts will likely become my “About” page.

Configuring WordPress

My first configuration step will be creating Categories.  I intend to devote a separate post to this topic, but for now, here is some good reading material.

Spam prevention is step two for me.  I’m going to put up a few test posts, and even though they are only test posts, I don’t want them tainted by spam.  WordPress comes with the Akismet plugin installed by default.  Akismet is certainly effective and many users tend to stick with it.  Spam Karma 2 is the other popular spam catching plugin.  Akismet is occasionally accused of generating false-positives, so I’ll go with Spam Karma 2.  Either choice is fine, though.  Some bloggers choose to use both.  I see this as overkill, but it certainly won’t hurt much beyond comments taking slightly longer to successfully submit.

The next major consideration is deciding what other plugins to install.  The anti-spam plugin is important enough that Akismet is the only functional plugin that comes preinstalled with WordPress (ignoring Hello Dolly, of course).  There are over three thousand other plugins that can be used to add virtually any desired functionality to a WordPress installation.  My approach to plugins is that they should only be installed as needed to facilitate a specific design decision.  I have not yet reached the “design decision” stage, so I will install no further plugins for now.

Other settings are completely a matter of personal choice and taste - blog title, tagline, permalink style, etc.  After setting up these basics, you are all set and ready to blog!

Note: This is the first in a planned series of posts detailing the step by step development of sandbox.kwjr.com.  For all such posts, follow this link.

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