A little bit about Blogging…

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I got an interesting email from Jason Haag of [Conform2SCORM](http://www.conform2scorm.com/) today, asking me about if I had recently switched blogging services because he noticed that the theme here on Flash for Learning has changed *again* as is my wont. I responded that no, in fact, I merely switched the **theme** which is the term that [Wordpress](http://www.wordpress.org) users use to describe the *skin* or template used in the blog. Since it’s easy as pie for me to switch themes, I do it whenever I fancy which I’m sure has either helped or hurt readership depending on how much anyone likes a given theme.

On the topic of switching blogging engines, though, I guess it may help some of you who are thinking about blogging to at least give you some context behind which blogging engine I use, what else I’ve tried and how I came to WordPress.

Back as far as 1998, I had a my first Web site *surgeweb.net*. I used a hosting service that got bought out by some other company which in turn was bought out by someone else. Since I had registered the domain name through them, though, I lost it. And it angered me quite a bit to have to pay insane hosting fees for a 100MB web space. In 2001, when I was working at now-defunct content house *Learning Insights*, I went into a small LLC partnering with my two bosses on a consulting service (we saw the end coming). I started hosting *surgeweb* through them, and it was a royal pain to switch the registry provider, but my friend, Justin helped me do it, and I turned out a fairly nice Flash portfolio site for the time (and my lack of graphic design talent). If you want to check out the [Internet Archives](http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://surgeweb.net/), it might take a while for the flash to load (if it loads at all), but there’s stuff there.

Well, having my own Web site was all fine and good, but in the summer of 2002, I was getting ready to buy a dog, and I wanted a Web site where I could post daily or weekly pictures and stuff about my wife and I with our first baby. So even before we brought the dog home, I had the Web site up: [http://www.mr-chompers.com](http://web.archive.org/web/20020914103444/http://www.mr-chompers.com/). Blogs didn’t exist back then; there wasn’t a shared engine that could be templated… blogging was something you *did* (it was a verb, not a noun). I built my own engine in PHP and MySQL — complete with an admin system, membership handling including threaded messages, themed games. Basically, I created and harbored for a small time social community around the dog. I had big dreams.

And they crashed šŸ™‚

It was just too much work. Add to that I took a job a year later in Johnstown, PA working on this little thing called SCORM… well, I needed something automated. Enter Blogger.

I played with Blogger for a while starting in early 2002. I wanted to have more of a professional journal of what I was experimenting with. At the time, I was fairly active on the [Flashcoders] mailing list and all the cool guys (Brandon Hall, Phillip Kerman, Ben Forta) all had sites of their own devoted to their experiments. So I was playing with Blogger so I wouldn’t have to think about it, and I opened up a domain for [aaron21.com](http://web.archive.org/web/20020727145148/http://aaron21.com/). Turns out, I didn’t really have much to say, but I experimented with Blogger enough that I got a free sweatshirt from them before they were acquired by Google. After the acquisition, I played around with it a bit more, but I never found it flexible enough for me to modify or hack with for what I wanted to do… and the automagic parts weren’t quite automagic enough (though it’s pretty solid for a instamatic blog now if you want one).

In early 2004, I had a slight falling out with one of the partners from our LLC. We were all really good friends. I should’ve manned up… but I had a kid coming and I was a solid 350 miles away in Pennsylvania on my own. At any rate, I took my personal sites off our shared host and was convinced by a co-worker at the time, Phil, to get on the [Dreamhost](http://www.dreamhost/) bandwagon. In preparation for the baby, I bought a license for [Movable Type](http://www.movabletype.org/) so I could get the updates free for a year. I read and hacked my way through figuring out how to do the Perl and CGI-BIN settings to host it myself. It was very powerful, easy to administer. I loved it… until I had to upgrade it. I’m not very knowledgeable about Perl or working with the whole CGI-Bin. I’m a scripter, not so much a hardcore programmer. PHP/MySQL? I can at least read PHP and figure out what’s going on. I had (have) no patience for Perl.

And in 2004-2005… there were ALWAYS upgrades to be done. And if you let it go, you’d have to do successive upgrades to keep up (you couldn’t just install the most recent version to patch as a cover-all). I’d have to set permissions manually. I’d have to adjust for comment spam all the time. I grew to hate it. In a fit of fury, I came across an article about WordPress and its growing popularity and it planted a bug in me. I attended FlashForward 2005 and heard O’Reilly talk about the social revolution at his keynote, and he talked about the rising tide of APIs — and named WordPress as the new titan in blogging.

That was about all the pushing I needed. I started Flash for Learning encouraged by the friends I made at Flash for Learning to created a collaborative site devoted to learning and Flash. Unfortunately, I was not a very good collaborator and just charged ahead and did it on my own, so it never quite became the collaborative vision I wanted for it.

I can’t provide any excuse for my gumption at the time, but the move to WordPress for Flash for Learning was so pleasant and drama-free, that I switched [mrchompers.net](http://www.mrchompers.net/) to it, also, and have since launched both a podcast and another ranting/opinion blog through Dreamhost — which now offers WordPress as a one-click install so I have even less work to maintain it.

WordPress, being open-source, also has an incredibly large community of plug-in and theme developers who release the majority of their work as open-source. That’s why you can digg posts here, or add them to your del.icio.us account… all without me having to touch a thing extra other than upload the plugin files and turn them on in the administration system.

So… there’s the long of it. If you’re looking to get into blogging for yourself or for your organization, there’s plusses and minuses to the three systems I’ve mentioned, and I’ll be happy to share insights through comments or email.