The Mad Sweet World of WordPress

Margaret Dornbusch is leading our Byte of Texas panel on WordPress Plugins. She answered a few of our questions ahead of this weekend’s conference.

Tell us a little about your history using WordPress.

I have used WordPress since its beginnings in 2003. For my first attempt at blogging, I used blogger.com (before Google bought it). However, I wanted more control, so I bought my domains and went to self-hosted blogs. At that point, I used an application called Greymatter. It was slow and clunky, but it worked.

After much research of the various blogging software out there at the time, I decided to go with the recently released WordPress for my second blog. It was a little clunky, too. You had to install and configure it manually, including learning how to set file permissions in UNIX, but gave me much more flexibility than Greymatter.

I’ve used WordPress ever since. I took a hiatus from blogging from 2009 to September of last year, but I was strongly encouraged to reenter the blogging world last year to share my fudge recipes. Thus, madsweetworld.com was born.

While I was on hiatus, WordPress made some huge strides. Compared to early versions, the current package is amazing. The dashboard is fantastic. And all the themes and plug-ins! Wow! I was blown away when I installed it last year.

In addition to madsweetworld.com, I manage a couple of private WordPress-based blogs for my partner, and I help maintain the technical communications recruiting blog for my company (austin.weekinthelife.net), which also runs on WordPress.

What are some advantages (or disadvantages) of using WordPress for blogging over other platforms?

It’s easy to install. Most hosting companies have scripts or control panels that you can use to install it automatically. Some hosts even keep it updated for you, although WordPress can now update itself.

WordPress is flexible and yet extremely powerful:

  • Themes! Pick a theme or create your own.
  • Plugins!  Lots and lots of plugins!

The biggest disadvantage is that, depending on how much you want to customize your site, you may still need to dig down into the PHP files themselves at times. (PHP is the programming language WordPress is written in.)

Give us a teaser about one plugin you’ll be talking about.

Want to stop comment spam? You need to enable this plugin!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog but doesn’t know where to start?

Use a free hosted blogging platform for a while. Don’t spend the money to buy a domain and set it all up yourself at first. Try it out. See if you have the motivation and energy to keep blogging on a regular basis. There are plenty of free hosted blogging platforms out there to try, such as wordpress.com, blogger.com, or tumblr.com.

Can you give us a personal story or anecdote about being a blogger?

I started madsweetworld.com to share my fudge recipes. I’ve been making fudge for years, and I’ve even won awards for it in cooking contests at work. Every time I make a batch, people ask for my recipe. Last year, a coworker (one of my beta tasters) strongly urged me to start a blog about fudge. So I did.

Since its inception a year ago, I have published 11 fudge recipes. However, I recently noticed that my most-viewed recipe is not one of my fudge recipes, but my chili recipe (http://madsweetworld.com/2014/01/04/not-wick-fowlers-chili/). Go figure.

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