Seth Godin‘s advice for people is to blog everyday. He doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it. Well, I’m finally taking his advice and I think I can offer some insight into what stands in the way.
I’ve always thought it would be a good idea to blog, but after attending a Seth Godin talk where he repeated his blogging advice, I decided to finally get going. But where to start?
I write software for a living, so of course my first thought is to set up something self-hosted because, you know, I might want to hack on the source. Being mostly a Perl guy, I started searching for something in Perl and found Movable Type is still a leading blog platform. I found the community site and the project on github. As I read more, however, I ran across the blog posts about license changes and found them all very confusing. Looking at the github project, I couldn’t find any clear software license referenced in the README. When I found the license purchase options, the minimum is a 5-user license, so it seems they are now focused on business users and not individual bloggers.
After spending a few days reading about all of this I realized I was allowing myself to get distracted from the main goal, setting up a blog. Did I really need to hack on the source? Of course not, the goal is to get up a blog post somewhere.
The shortest path is a hosted blog service. There are a wide array of free and fee-based services. I read David Pogue occasionally, and noticed he recently started blogging on Tumblr. I thought this was interesting for someone who essentially writes for a living, then I realized this was likely because of his move to Yahoo from the New York Times (Yahoo bought Tumblr last year).
The conventional wisdom regarding free services is that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. As agreements go, Tumblr’s agreement appears to be one of the better ones, with subscribers retaining rights over their content. But I was still wanted to avoid being someone’s product.
Seth Godin’s blog is on Typepad and I also use their platform for our work blog. Having a service that is 100% managed, including updates and managing security is attractive. Starting at $9 per month, and $15 per month for the “Unlimited” plan, it seemed a little much just to get something going. I also find their interface a little pushy with the “related story” suggestions.
Around this time I also caught up on some podcasts and came across an episode of InBeta discussing blogs and blogging platforms. Sadly, hearing about all of the new options out there made me even more unsure what to choose to get my blog going. Kevin Purdy’s multi-step system has the advantage of being freely hosted via github’s hosted pages, but it seemed like a fair bit of work to get something posted. The last thing I need is more barriers to getting this thing going.
Then I realized this was all another distraction. The goal is to get a blog post up!
I already had some domains registered with Pair Networks via PairNIC and Pair also does hosting. Maybe that was my next stop? I looked at the hosting plans, briefly circling back to installing one of the open source products myself. Worrying I was headed down another path of fiddling with an install, I was happy to find their software installation manager.
Most of the major hosting services have these sorts of service panels now to make it easy to install open source products. Since the products are open source, the licenses are usually clear. Using the installation managers also means you don’t have to worry about running into dependency problems on the hosting platform. They have sorted all of that out.
Pair supports Movable Type in their install service, meaning I could still work with a Perl-based platform and avoid getting bogged down in the install. There’s a fair bit on the web comparing Moveable Type to the other leading blogging platform, WordPress. Most say they are generally comparable feature-wise. I revisited the Movable Type licensing terms and still couldn’t figure out what the terms really are for the open source install. Fearing some strange licensing issues when my blog becomes wildly popular, I decided on WordPress. The other factor is the number of themes. WordPress seems to have a million out there, both free and paid.
Getting all of this out of the way, I was able to register a domain with PairNIC and set up a year with Pair hosting plus software installation manager for about $120 for the year, which is comparable to the TypePad rates. The installation manager worked great, allowing me to first install Movable Type, uninstall when I changed my mind, and then install Word Press. Since I had registered my domain with Pair, it was easy to launch the blog on my domain.
Getting this blog actually launched was amazingly easy once I finally sorted through all the options and figured out what I actually wanted to do. It’s true that having so many options is liberating, but also paralyzing. For now I’m happy with the outcome and I’m 100% in control. Now I just need to think about the theme, the layout, and topics for blog posts, but all of the distractions around those are for another post.