It pretty much goes without saying that if you want to be successful as a consultant in the field of emerging technology these days it’s important to create a public profile for yourself, and arguably the best way of doing this is by maintaining a blog.
Of course this isn’t necessarily always the case, as there are other arenas, such as academia for example, where being part of the blogosphere doesn’t appear to be a necessity. There seems to be other criteria for being successful in that arena, such as having tenure, being published in academic journals, and having “Dr” in front of your name seems to help too!
But I digress…
For many reasons, which I may elaborate on in a later post, it has been somewhat of a struggle for me to develop a blogging practice.
Of late, as I explore my new-found interest in virtual worlds, I have a renewed vigour and motivation in sharing my thoughts with the world, hence a renewed interest in blogging. This is partly due to engaging in a topic I feel passionate enough about to be willing to engage in the public arena, partly due to a willingness to put in the time and effort required to blog, and partly due to a new found confidence in my opinions and viewpoints.
I’ve been commenting on a lot of other people’s blogs of late and as I’ve found myself wanting to participate more and more in the conversation my need for my own blog has grown more urgent. I’ve also had several experiences lately that have brought home to me how frustrating it can be when you are at the mercy of other people’s commenting systems, as opposed to the control you have when publishing to your own space.
So I recently made the decision to do some searching for a blogging solution.
In the past Wikispaces has served well as my online portfolio. I loved the simplicity. But what I write there isn’t getting picked up automatically by those tools such as Google’s blog search and Technorati – tools that would push me into the blogosphere. The Wikispaces RSS feeds only announce changes to pages, so they don’t work as feeds people can subscribe to in order to keep abreast of my publishings.
I thought of using Blogger, as I already have an account there, and have used it in the past for project blogs. Because of its popularity and relative ease of use I’ve recommended it to teachers I’ve introduced to blogging. The ability to tweak the template with Blogger is a big plus, as I ultimately want to be able to turn my blog into a Personal Learning Environment (PLE), complete with integrated Web 2.0 goodies.
But Blogger has let me down… the mail-to-blogger feature just stopped working one day, and I have no idea why. And my attempts at seeking support have only resulted in automated responses of no value.
I’m a bit over Blogger anyway. As much as a fan I am of many of Google’s services (I’m in love with Google Reader and Google Notebook) Blogger has turned into a bit of an impersonal behemoth. It’s time to move on.
So I had a bit of a think and a look around, and I decided that ideally I wanted a self-hosted blog solution using the highly customisable blog software that is the choice of geeks everywhere – WordPress.
I have a web host (that I have never really used) but I’ve had trouble coming up with a domain name, blog title and theme that I feel comfortable with.
I bought seanfitzgerald.info and seanfitzgerald.org years ago, but I’ve never used them as someone else owns seanfitzgerald.com, which means he dominates the brand, and trying to use one of these would only cause confusion.
I do own a domain name I like – I’ve actually owned it since 2001 – but I don’t think in my current state of personal and professional development that I am ready to use it yet, for personal reasons I won’t go into here.
So anyway… after a bit more investigating I took a look at WordPress.com.
There are several things I like about WordPress.com:
- A hosted solution… there is something to be said for letting someone else look after the back end so I can focus on the content.
- It uses WordPress. As mentioned before I like the idea of using this very popular, highly customisable open source solution which is supported by a huge developer community. And there are heaps of templates, plugins and hacks for it. As a control freak geek I love that level of control!
- It will give me the opportunity to become familiar with the WordPress interface.
- When I do decide to move over to my own host, exporting posts to my new WordPress blog will be a cinch!
Of course since WordPress.com uses WordPress MultiUser they don’t allow hacking the templates or even the CSS (without a premium upgrade), so you are stuck with their widgets, which aren’t bad, but don’t give me the flexibility I would ideally like.
They do have deals with several services, such as YouTube and Google Video, which means I can add these to posts with special code, but there is no BlipTV, no SlideShare etc.
Then there is the irony that WordPress.com doesn’t offer posting to the blog from email at all… ironic because this is one of the main reasons I decided to move from Blogger!
I’m a perfectionist, so I could faff around forever looking for the perfect blogging solution, but being dissatisfied with every offering is a great excuse for avoiding writing and taking the risk of ‘putting myself out there’.
So as frustrating as these limitations with WordPress.com are, I’m not going to let them stop me from starting to blog.
The important thing is that I just start blogging. I can work out the other issues as I go along.
So, for now at least, this is where I’ll blog. I hope you subscribe and join me for the ride and I hope you get some value from this blog as we go.
And yes… I’ll tweak the header into something a bit funkier and less ‘off-the-shelf’ when I get a chance. We can’t have an emerging technologies consultant’s blog looking like it’s ‘straight out of the box’ now, can we? 🙂
(Image by Roland Tanglao)