Returning To The Fold


Iowa Morning

f/13, 1/80, ISO-400, 34mm

I believe I will return here, and give up on my self hosted site.

I’ve been struggling with self-hosting since I started two months ago. What I thought at first would be a breeze has turned into a nightmare of maintenance. The experience has taught me a few key things about blogging.

  1. I don’t have enough time for it. Self-hosting is, for me, nothing like managing a blog at wordpress.com. It requires constant supervision, care, coddling, cajoling, massaging, updating, and who knows what else. This is above and beyond the mere publishing of a new post every day or two. There are software updates to be decided on, research to be doe to make sure it’s a safe update, and all manner of other minutia that I simply cannot devote the necessary time to. Running the site was taking more of my time than photography was, and that’s not why I started a site.
  2. I don’t have the brains. A brutal statement, but an honest one I think. Understanding the settings of WordPress in general, let alone the custom settings for a high-quality theme, may seem obvious to some of you, but they leave my head whirling in many cases, and often I was only aware of the effect a change might have when someone emailed to complain that my site was broken (which I then have to deal with – see point 1).
  3. I don’t have the money. I found a great deal on a service provider, and for the money they’ve been really good to me (iPage, if you want to know). There’s been some down periods, but for what I’m paying I don’t expect 99.9% uptime. They have good tools and, all in all, their interface was in many regards easier to understand than WordPress’. WordPress itself is free. What’s to afford? Well, all the plugins for one. Want decent spam protection? I’ve discovered the free ones aren’t going to cut it. They block the comments you do want and let through many of the ones you don’t. So  I’d need to pay for a monthly spam service. If you’re  going to have a “real” website, you want a top quality theme don’t you? There are many adequate free themes out there, but the ones that are really going to set you apart from the rest and make you look really professional – those are going to cost. Not a lot in some cases, but not free. Then there are all manner of other plugins you’ll need to “finish” your site and theme. The OK ones are free. The ones that behave as you expect cost.
  4. WordPress is broken. I did as much research as I had the time for before upgrading to WordPress 3.5. It  seemed OK. I clicked the button. The install happened in moments and there was nothing to indicate that anything had gone awry. Until I tried to post my next photo, and discovered to my horror that wordpress would not post anything other than a 150×150 thumbnail. Looking deeper online I now discover what I didn’t have the time to discover before – WordPress 3.5 is badly broken. Exactly how (or whether) the problems will manifest on individual sites seem to be subject to the whims of the gods, but there are complaints such as every link on a site no longer working, and many others. I don’t know how to fix the problems on my site or even if it’s possible until WordPress issues a patch (see point 2). I have read of a downgrade solution which many say is very easy but looks very difficult to me (again see point 2) and I haven’t got the time to research all the steps to make sure I do it correctly (see point 1).
  5. I don’t have the justification. Creating a self-hosted  site, often referred to as a vanity site, is just that – vanity. I have no business case to have a self-hosted site. I do some pretty good photographs, but honestly, there are at least two dozen photographers in a 30 mile radius around me, with a population density of about 35-40 people square mile, all of whom are as good or better than I am. And it’s at least safe to say that every one of them has better equipment than I do. It will be a long, long time of constant work at little to no remuneration, before I can compete with these guys. A vanity site is not going to raise $1 for me as a photographer – only my photographs will.

Self-hosting has been a difficult, frustrating experience from the start, all the way back to when I first started and attempted to import my wordpress.com site into it. It didn’t go smoothly and rather than take a photo walk that day I fought tooth and nail with the import process.

So I’m giving up on it. I will probably be contacting my service provider as soon as they let me (they have forgotten my password, evidently. I click the reset password link and they promise to send me an email with a reset password link. The email arrives two hours later with a link that says it is good for one hour – so it’s already stale). The point of the contact will be to see how painful it will be to cancel my account and to discover how much, if any, refund I can get on the 18 or more months I have left on my current contract.

Meantime, I’ll try to repost here some of the content that’s been exclusively posted to the other site.

Thank you all for listening to my rant and hopefully I’ll be welcome back here.

14 thoughts on “Returning To The Fold

  1. I decided against self hosting a while back, and after reading your post, I know I made the right decision. I don’t want a website cutting into my creative time. It’s so much easier just to have a blog, and WordPress.com can be very professional looking if that is how you want your blog to look. For me, it is more like an informal studio where I put up works in progress or just some thoughts or things I am messing with at the time.

    Anyway, welcome home! :)

  2. I’m very ignorant about it all and managed to pay a bit to someone I know to work out the best template to fit what I do – through trial and error. I started for my own publications then realized I would rather simply scour things I came across that I liked in order to develop the many themes that interest me to explore and enjoy. Ocasionally I will post my own stuff amidst this or some thoughts. This has brought me into communication with wonderfully interesting and talented people and I have enjoyed the exchanges. I can JUST keep up with the slow flow of new people following me.. just enoughto check out what they are doing and usually respond or post something of theirs – but I desparately want to go back to the earlier ones people’s sites I have lost track of. I suppose for me the difference is summed up as Joie de Vivre. Once I lost the need to succeed I began to get a real fulfilment from creating a pastiche of meaning and beauty from people I have learned to value. When I seriously go for publication I guess I will have an interesting potential community to bounce things off. I love your banner photo – still – second to none! Best wishes http://Johndwmacdonald.com

  3. Reblogged this on johndwmacdonald and commented:
    I’m very ignorant about it all and have managed within wordpress by paying a bit to someone I know to work out the best template to fit what I do – through trial and error. I started for my own publications then realized I would rather simply scour things I came across that I liked in order to develop the many themes that interest me to explore and enjoy. Ocasionally I will post my own stuff amidst this or some thoughts. This has brought me into communication with wonderfully interesting and talented people and I have enjoyed the exchanges. I can JUST keep up with the slow flow of new people following me.. just enoughto check out what they are doing and usually respond or post something of theirs – but I desparately want to go back to the earlier ones people’s sites I have lost track of. I suppose for me the difference is summed up as Joie de Vivre. Once I lost the need to succeed – I began to get a real fulfilment from creating a pastiche of meaning and beauty from people and their sites I have learned to value. When I seriously go for publication I guess I will have an interesting potential community here to bounce things off. I love the banner photo of VisualJourneyPhotography – still – second to none!

    • Getting someone to manage the site for you seems like really the only way to go about it unless you get this stuff naturally. Unfortunately, I have to scratch and crawl for every bit of knowledge gained, and it’s just not worth it to me.

      • Yes I agree I even need someone to set up the wordpress template and then change it for a different one as this developed and show me how to do things like set featured image. Peoples talents lie in different areas and technical difficulties can easily destroy creativity and sponteneity, dont you think?

  4. Welcome back ! I can certainly understand your struggles in trying to be a free agent. I actually looked into do that as well, and very quickly deduced that leaving the support wordpress.com offers was silly. I also don’t need to be putting that kind of work into it, and there is plenty that can be achieved here to accomplish your goals.
    Appreciate your follow on Twitter and thrilled to see your return. Emily aka Bella

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