To myself and my fellow bloggers…

I’m no expert, but I have learned a few things for myself about blogging.

I decided to blog my trips as a way of sharing my experiences and augmenting my poor memory.  I’ve  tried other ways, movies, slide shows, and photo albums.  Here’s my slideshow/movie of our Costa Rica trip.

I’m pretty happy with the video, but blogging is better, in my opinion.  There are downsides, of course.  First, a blog is quite a commitment, especially if you consider your trip a vacation.  During the day I’m dreaming of what pics I’ll need, and most nights I’m composing and editing instead of simply relaxing.  I enjoy the process, but if you don’t, forget about blogging.  For some people, it’s just work.  Second, blogging may cost you some money, depending on how you decide to host your blog.  Third, and most important to me, is that a blog is not permanent.  You should not assume that the blog you spent so much time on will remain available online indefinitely, and it’s not easy to capture your blog in a more permanent form.  Outside links will begin to fail.  Hosting services will come and go.  Video and audio formats change.  The entire structure of the web continues to evolve.  Archiving internet based information is a serious problem.  Got any old family videos on VHS tape?

Despite the problems, I still choose to blog.  Here’s a little history of how that’s worked out.

I started shortly after New Year’s 2016, on our trip to Barcelona.  I chose a free WordPress hosted blog because I had heard good things about WordPress as a platform, and free is always attractive.  Here are some of the things I learned.

First, you can’t add custom plugins to a free blog on WordPress.  This bothered me a lot, though I’ve since learned to see this as more of a feature than a drawback.  Things start simple and stay simple.  There are no mysterious glitches.  You learn to exploit the strengths of the tools and work around their weaknesses.

For example, the image processing is not fancy.  Nevertheless, it’s rock solid, and has very good facilities for collages and groups of images.  The lightbox support works great.  The big drawback is getting images into the media library.  For me, Google Photos is by far the best place to store my pics, but getting them from Google to WordPress is an extra, annoying, time-consuming step.  I did discover a trick for simplifying this process.  On my Android phone, I use Google Photos to select images, then use the share button to send them to my WordPress media library.  It’s the easiest, quickest way I’ve found.

I also learned that the KISS principle definitely applies to blogging.  I spent lots of time trying to flow text around images in my early posts.  It’s works, but no way is it worth the time and frustration.  I think it’s best to find a simple, efficient way to write posts, and then stick with it.

My free WordPress blog finally ran out of space about a week before our trip ended.  This caused a small emergency for me, as well as some inconvenience for readers.  I decided to purchase some private hosting on Siteground, an internet host I’ve used in the past.  My idea was to make a new blog that looked just like the old one, and continue with all new entries on the Siteground blog.  The last entry on the WordPress blog would simply point readers to the new blog.

This plan worked, kind of.  The SG blog offered lots more customization, but also lacked some of the image handling features I’d grown to love on the WP blog.  Nevertheless, I was able to continue blogging the rest of the trip, but  I really didn’t want to have two linked blogs.  I planned from the start to merge the old WP blog into the new SG blog.

When I returned home, I started playing with new features and customization, as well as trying to merge the old blog entries into the new blog.  How hard could it be?  Both used the same WordPress software.  And that’s where I learned some new lessons.  First, merging the old entries was not so simple.  The image support was a little different, and all the posts needed to be retested, and many needed to be fixed, an extremely tedious task.  Second, as I started exploring new plug-ins and templates and all sorts of whiz-bang features available on the SG blog, bugs and weirdness started showing up.  I like technical stuff, but this was really just a huge distraction with little to show in return.  I learned that the further you wander into the woods, the harder it is to find a guide to get back out.

I never did get the SG blog working to my satisfaction, and the time for the new Valencia blog was getting uncomfortably close.  So, I changed course.  After the old free WP blog ran out of space, I had only made seven additional posts.  Rather than trying to fix all the SG bugs, I decided to pay WordPress the small fee for more storage on the original site.  That meant I only had to migrate the seven posts and I’d have a fully working Barcelona blog.  I used the automated tools to do the migration, and just as before, I had to manually debug the posts and pics.  But, debugging 7 posts is lots less work than debugging 50.

So, the SG blog is now defunct, but the whole Barcelona blog is now working better than ever on WP.   Click the picture to see it.

So, what to do about this year, the Valencia blog?  I decided to experiment with Google’s Blogger because of its easy integration with Google Photos.  Handling pics has been very time consuming for me, so this is a huge plus.  My real question was could a Blogger blog look as good as a WordPress blog?

I started experimenting with Blogger custom templates, since I thought the standard templates would not be up to the job.  After spending a week playing around, I learned something again.  Don’t start with something complicated and try to make it simple.  I was back in the same hell I found with complicated WordPress add-ons.  In frustration, I tried using the most basic, simple Blogger template, and working within its limitations.  In a very short time, I had something acceptable, and with a bit more polishing, I’m almost ready to blog.  The right idea for me was to start with something simple, learn just how flexible it could be, and customize it into what I wanted.  Working from simple toward more complicated was much easier.

So, those are my lessons.  I hope they can save you some time and frustration.