Archive for the 'Techy Stuff' Category

eMoms Comparison Guide to Blogging Platforms and Hosting Companies

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

As many of you know, this blog is powered by Wordpress - I migrated my blog from NucleusCMS back in June (’twas no fun!). I [heart] Wordpress, by the way, and I really can’t imagine blogging with any other platform. It’s world-class, and it’s free!!

Comparison Guide to Blogging Platforms and Hosting Companies

I know my blogging needs are not the same as everyone else’s on the planet. I have had to do a lot of research since the beginning of my blogging days, and even more recently as I begin laying the groundwork for a few other blogs I will be launching (Oooo… she just dropped the hint!! Yes, more on this to come!!)

Though I am sticking with Wordpress, I don’t like messing with the server installation. Thankfully, many hosting companies are now pre-installing the database and Wordpress software so all I have to do is click a few buttons and I have my WP ready to roll.

I have collected this info over the months, knowing full well some of you would probably need it yourselves as you start or add to your own blogging efforts. So I [very!] painstakingly have put together a rather large table to compare the following blogging platforms. (It will open up in a new window and I broke it down into sections to keep it easy to read).

My focus in the table is on business blogs, or blogs that need customization and will likely carry advertising. Platforms included are:

  • Movable Type
  • TypePad
  • Blogger
  • Expression Engine
  • Squarespace

I’ve also dug around to find a few hosting companies to recommend - I’ve tried all of them but one (and hope to give that one a whirl sometime soon). They all have the blogging software and database pre-installed. If you are up for your own server setup for Wordpress or Movable Type, your hosting options open up - just check the fine print for server specs before you start.

Features on the comparison chart include:

  • Hosting company support, if applicable
  • Costs
  • User help features
  • Ability to add/customize advertising
  • Statistics
  • Various sidebar features
  • Domain mapping (use your own domain name)
  • Static page creation

Please drop me a line or a comment and let me know if it helps, or if you would like to see another feature/platform added for your comparison needs. I’ll be happy to add more info as needed.

This project has taken a while to finally get published - I am SO dang relieved to have it done! Phew! Happy Blogging Everyone!!

Comparison Guide to Blogging Platforms and Hosting Companies Table

The recommendations, if you want to hear them:

If you are just starting out and have no site already, just buy a hosting plan with GoDaddy. They have super-simple Wordpress set up, free podcasting tools, their interface is super user-friendly, and they are also super-competitively priced. Plus they will give you a great site hosting package with a ton of free tools. (I use them and love them!)

If you already have a site and don’t want to mess with the database set up (or switching hosting companies), use TypePad - they can even make the blog appear as though it sits on your domain name (very, very important for a professional appearance!). (I don’t use them, but know enough about them to recommend them highly - if Wordpress wasn’t around, I would go to TypePad in a heartbeat!) Hosting & Servers


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Windows Live Writer and Newbie Blogging Questions

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Well, I’m posting this entry from my newly downloaded version of Windows Live Writer - which I must say at first blush, is a bit on the impressive side. I had to download and install the .NET Framework before I could install Live Writer, which made me incredibly nervous. [I installed a Windows Update once that had a conflict with the Compaq computer I had bought - and it basically ruined the entire system.] But this was fairly harmless - didn’t even need to restart my computer, and I am now up and running.

Using this nifty little tool is the perfect excuse to answer some questions my friend Steve sent my way recently. He’s rather new to blogging, and asked some really common questions in regards to getting his blog set up.

First of all, Steve wanted to know what cheap or free blogging platforms are out there to use. The stipulation is that they are available to use on his own domain name (this is because he listened to my advice to blog on his own site rather than on a hosted solution. Good job, Steve!! :) ).

Free blogging options that you use on your own site are really only Movable Type and WordPress. There are certainly others, but these two are the most robust, most widely supported, and have the most extensive online help. Technically, Movable Type should only be free for personal use. Commercial use requires a license fee (on the honor system). I have little experience with it, because I use WordPress, and LOVE it.

In regards to hosting, I use GoDaddy , who I also LOVE. I also buy all of my domain names from them, which I say because Steve was wondering that too. But to use GoDaddy also requires that you be willing to set up WordPress yourself. [ Update :: GoDaddy now has WP preinstalled too! ] It’s really not that hard, but not for the technologically faint-of-heart. You need to create a SQL Database, upload some files to your server, and then configure the blog (which is done simply in your web browser).

For those who aren’t so technologically savvy, Yahoo! Web Hosting and BlueHost offer WordPress setup via just a few clicks. I have not been entirely thrilled with Yahoo (and am considering switching back to GoDaddy), and I don’t have any experience with BlueHost, though have heard good things generally about them.

Now I had mentioned to Steve that even though I am a raving fan of WordPress, it isn’t exactly the right platform for a content-heavy site, especially if you need different layouts for different pages, or some more advanced functionality. It sounds as though he is also considering adding some eCommerce components to his site. If that’s the case, then WordPress isn’t his solution. Joomla is. I consider switching to it every now and then - and would have for sure had eSelfHelp not gotten hijacked by eMoms at Home. Joomla is also a free open-source CMS (Content Management System), and all of my research tells me it’s got THE most functionality for the price ($0). Actually, more functionality than even some paid resources, for that matter.

Steve also asks about posting to a blog. He wants an easy tool he knows well, like Word or Photoshop. Technically, you can’t post to a blog from either of these programs. And whenever I copy and paste out of Word into my WordPress entries, all havoc wreaks loose in my blog stylesheets. I then have to go and copy the text into NotePad, then back into WordPress to strip the text of the bulky formatting tags that Word automatically adds to document.

This brings me full circle to the start of my post, Windows Live Writer. You can download this nifty little tool for free (it’s in Beta). And it’s about as close as you can get to posting to your blog from Word. You get full WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing, and some added cool tools such as map insertion, better control over text formatting, and… KICK BUTT! I just discovered it has SPELL CHECK!! I know EVERYONE will be grateful for THAT!! :)It does lack my auto-smileys, though… my bad - they are there after publishing as long as you have them set up on your blog already!

Oh, and Steve, you also asked about creating newsletters. Don’t do it in Word. There are way too many CAN-SPAM requirements that you need to be in compliance with, and it would take you forever to research it all. Just head over to Constant Contact . It’s free until you get your mailing list established, and they have an online interface that makes it easy as pie to create your newsletters CAN-SPAM compliant. I highly recommend them.

Ah - I did just notice one thing I don’t like about Windows Live Writer - no Technorati Tags. Use them lavishly in your blog to ensure you get lots of great targeted traffic - and for now, they will have to be added back in the WordPress interface. Beta2, anyone?!

I [Heart] FeedBurner :: Grab My Feed!

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

It’s been drama week for the hungry consumers of the eMoms Feed this week!

First a feed plugin brought my whole blog to it’s knees.

Then another plugin broke my feeds that weren’t directed to FeedBurner

Then I requested permission to edit my htaccess file from my hosting provider to fix my feeds. They told me no. :’(

So I finally found a solution. I got rid of the rest of my feeds.

I hope I don’t lose you in the process. If you click on that cute little orange square in my sidebar, you’ll get the right feed. Promise.

Can I just say again how much I love FeedBurner? They were SO helpful while my feed pitched temper tantrums. I can’t even tell you how many emails I swapped with their tech team to get it straightened out. But I believe my feeds are now behaving like good little children.

I Heart FeedBurner. :)

I Think I’ve got Feeding Issues

Monday, August 7th, 2006

No, I’ve not suddenly put on a lot of weight. I installed a plugin on Friday that was supposed to forward all of my feeds to my FeedBurner Feed. But I just heard back from the FB tech support guys (who are really GREAT, I might add), and I tested it. 3 of my four feeds are broken :( .

Until I can get things fixed, you can update your feed by using the following URL:

Or you can wait patiently for me to figure this darn feed thang out!

My apollogies for the interruption!

Database Scare and Tracking Feeds

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Today I added a WordPress plugin to enable me to direct all of my feeds to FeedBurner, because I like them so darn much. WordPress was generating 3 feeds, but FeedBurner was only tracking one of them. I was getting a lot more hits on the other feeds - so the good news is that I have a lot more subscribers than I thought. Woo Hoo!

The bad news was that this particular plugin completely crashed my blog for an hour. Turns out it attempted to make an edit to my htaccess file on the server, and Yahoo Hosting wasn’t too happy ’bout that. The person I spoke to at Yahoo actually told me I would have to restore my database or reinstall WP. (I HADN’T BACKED UP MY DATABASE IN THE LAST 3 WEEKS!!!).

I thought my blog was gone, sunk, kaput. I panicked. Big Time.

But thankfully Sarah Lewis came to the rescue and did the most obvious of things - deleted the plugin from my site via FTP. And all was well.

*I’m breathing again*

Big hugs to you Sarah!!! :o )


PS. I found a better plugin, by the way. FD Feedburner Plugin 

Problems with Technorati Lately?

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Ever since Technorati rolled out their very pretty redesign, they stopped responding to my pings. Every day I went there, and every day it got worse…

“Updated 1 days ago”
“Updated 2 days ago”
“Updated 3 days ago”
“Updated 4 days ago”… I start pinging them manually…
“Updated 5 days ago”… I comb their Support FAQ’s, thinking perhaps maybe, just maybe, they have ADDED a “Q” to explain why they aren’t indexing my prolific posts for the week.
“Updated 6 days ago”… I’m tempted to write Tech Support
“Updated 7 days ago”… I start pinging them incessantly ………
“Updated 8 days ago”… I cave in and actually fill out the form and send it to Tech Support

I should have done it so much sooner. They got back to me right away - within a couple of hours. They fixed the problem on their end easily and immediately (gotta love them for that!).

Meanwhile I lost out on a week’s worth of traffic from my top referrer. Silly me. I have been learning to speak up a lot more lately (more on this to come). But for now, my lesson learned :: ask for help early and often.

Joomla! Alert

Friday, July 21st, 2006

Well, for those of you who have been reading about my decision to use Joomla! to rebuild eSelfHelp, I just found a note on Rosalind Gardner’s blog in regards to ensuring the version you are using is up to date due to some security issues…

Building a Site :: Using and Choosing a CMS

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Well, I am beginning to realize the constraints of how I have built to date. So far, I am just creating individual pages and ftp-ing them to my site. The drawback to this is that if I need to make a site-wide change, I need to do it on every single page I have created.

Since my site has a lot of content, and because I already need to make global changes, I am migrating the site to a content management system (CMS). I don’t take this decision lightly, because I will have some serious things to contend with:

  1. A defininte learning curve to know how to use the CMS
  2. A huge chunk of time to convert my existing content to populate the pages of the new site
  3. For major changes it will be absolutely necessary to hire a programmer. I can handle simple html, but not php.

I’ve done some research already and have compared the big CMS systems out there. I’ve extensively compared Xoops, Joomla, Mambo, Drupal, Serendipity, and WordPress thanks to a blessing of a site called the CMSMatrix. All of these platforms are free via GPL/Open Source. Even though I LOVE (and I really mean love!) WordPress, it isn’t the best choice for a full blown site. Serendipity and Drupal didn’t have nearly as much functionality as the rest. Mambo is a somewhat lighter version of Joomla, so I was left with the first two.

There were some compelling reasons to go with both of them.

The strengths of Xoops included load balancing (to speed up the site) and content staging (I assume to keep content in the system but not live on the site). But Joomla can also function as a full eCommerce site, has surveys, and email verification. The eCommerce portion was enough for me to make the decision to go with Joomla.

Now here are the advantages to making the change to a CMS :

  1. Navigation is fairly automatic and consistent throughout the site.
  2. I can have my users assigned to interest categories and tailor their content accordingly
  3. I can make any page a social page, open to comments, user reviews, or let users add their own content
  4. I can add pages as easily as it is to post to a blog.
  5. The pages I add can automatically display the appropriate ads
  6. I can track ads across the site and pull impression and click-through reports
  7. I can track where my users go more accurately so that I can understand what THEY want to see more of on the site
  8. I can track affiliates that come into the site, without having to pay to join an affiliate network (which can run into thousands and cost an additional $500 a month)

These are all things I could have in any web site, but not with MY level of programming experience. The set up is as easy as Wordpress, but the customization may take me weeks. I’ll post progress as I go, as always!

Hosting Transfer Complete!

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Well, the transfer from to is complete, and here are my tips and lessons learned:

  1. GoDaddy is a great hosting company. I would have preferred to keep both of my sites on the same server. But since it might have been keeping me in the Google Sandbox, I decided just to make the move early rather than later when the site is more established.
  2. Yahoo Hosting has it’s plusses too. I really, really like the easy WordPress setup. That made it much easier to switch.
  3. This may be obvious, but move everything to the new server first, make sure it works, and get everything set up before you actually switch hosting servers.
  4. I didn’t really know what to do about the new URL of my blog. I have some established inbound links and don’t have the knowledge of how to change the URL of the new WordPress blog. So I created a very comprehensive “Page Cannot be Found” page, with a list of links to every single blog entry with it’s new link. You can check it out here:
  5. Get your nameserver information and make the nameserver change yourself if possible. Although the full switch took about 36 hours, the www. site was live on the new server right away. Next the site went live without the www. Lastly, the email server got switched, at the very end. If you have to wait for your hosting company to switch your nameservers, that can definitely add time to the transition process.

All in all, the switch was a bit of a pain, only because I had to do it at all. But once in the process, it was easy and I’m so glad I did it. I am thrilled with WordPress – which is just so much better than Nucleus for my uses (read:: I don’t know enough PHP to customize Nucleus in order to get it functioning as well as WordPress). I now can recommend more products based on usage, and there was definite value in going through the transition. Hopefully the info will help others now too!

Buying Domains

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

I’m excited about growing my affiliate sites. I decided I wanted to give my husband an opportunity to get involved. So what better way than to give him an excuse to research and test HIS favorite products?! So I got absolutely lucky and bought today, and will plan on putting all sorts of fun stuff up there on boating, camping, RVing and hiking. What a great domain name!

Although I use a variety of companies to purchase web products from, I only buy my domain names from can’t be beat, and their domain management tools are super-simple to use.

The best part of buying from GoDaddy is that they have a great built in suggestion engine. You tell it the domain name you want, and their suggested alternatives are actually really great suggestions as well. And the list they provide is usually over a 100+ domain names. I usually start with a domain I think is likely taken (it usually is) and then let the suggestion engine find me something similar. I found that is available, but decided on my first choice. CatchNature is not only a great domain, but I wouldn’t have found it without GoDaddy.