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A blogger’s 2010 wrapup of cool and failing services

Posted on Jan 13th, 2011 by

Kenyan women

During 2010 my blogging activity increased, up to the point where I went on a sabbatical to concentrate full-time on my social media exploits.

In the past year, I used many services available to the blogging community, both paid and free, much more extensively than ever before. I thought of wrapping up my findings of the past year in a “List of Shame” and “List of Cool”.

My 2010 “Bloggers List of Shame”:

thumbs downthumbs downthumbs downthumbs downthumbs downMy Godaddy Hosting disaster

Up to recently, most of my blogs were hosted on Godaddy, one of the world’s largest and cheapest hosting companies. Godaddy was never the fastest of hosts, but they topped it all in 2010, where many of my sites started to time-out or were slow at best. Many emails and calls to the support staff never really resolved the issues.
And then came the hackers. Godaddy suffered from major hacking attacks, aimed at shared and dedicated hosts alike. I remember sitting in a Santo Domingo hotel room, where I worked for the Haiti earthquake support, spending late nights curing my sites. Like I did not have enough work during my day-time job. At first Godaddy denied any responsibility, and blamed WordPress. Later on they continued to be evasive in actually pinpointing what the problem was.
After a flurry of long-threaded exchanges, including emails from the office of Godaddy’s president, I decided to move my sites to another hosting service.

GoDaddy: rated five thumbs down. Their hosting is not to be recommended to anyone.

thumbs downthumbs downthumbs downTumblr uptime: based on chewing gum and shoe laces

In my early days as a system administrator, we used to typify servers which went up and down like a jo-jo as “running on chewing gum and shoe laces”.

Tumblr reminded me of that. During the whole year, their servers were sporadically overwhelmed, down, or half working. Their RSS feeds were sometimes unavailable for days. Importing posts continues to be a problem.
In the end, I moved most of my Tumblr blogs off to WordPress.

In the end, why would I recommend to use Tumblr? Maybe for functions other blog platforms don’t offer. But which would these be? Being able to reblog posts by others in your blogging network, maybe? Hmmm..

Tumblr: three thumbs down. Unless if they get their act together, the competition will work them out of business

thumbs downthumbs downDrupal, too complex for bloggers

There has always been much debate as the best blogging platform, and the best CMS (Content Management System). Drupal can count on a fanatic following by web developers. Many of them also encourage people to use Drupal as a blogging platform.

I run one large Drupal site, and have been posting individual posts on different other Drupal sites. All I can say is: While Drupal is a versatile and fast CMS (see my list of thumbs-up), it is way too complex for bloggers. The web administrator’s user interface is antique. Maintenance and upgrading is an absolute drag. Publishing posts is a drag. The editor (which is an optional module, as the standard editor is HTML based) is a laugh.

Drupal has very few standard features. Plug-ins (“modules” in Drupal lingo) for bloggers are far and few in between, and often plug-ins conflict amongst each other, or with the core module.

For me, 2010 has been the year where I have been fighting Drupal’s complexity, up to the point where I gave up, and had the site overhauled and cured by two of my friends. They are Drupal experts and got it all running again for me. I could not.

Drupal: Two thumbs down, and qualified as a platform too complex for bloggers.

thumbs downthumbs downGoogle PageRank indexing lagging behind

While Google did several PageRank re-indexing cycles during the first months of 2010, all came to a grind in April. Since then it seems not a single site was re-ranked.

Consequently, anyone who started up a blog after April, did not get their blog pageranked. And that is not very encouraging for a blogger.

I have no clue as to why Google halted its reranking, and can assume they will rerank all sites pretty soon, but still, eight months is way too long for the dynamic social media world we are living in.

So, thumbs-down for Google slow pageranking!

My 2010 “Bloggers List of Cool”:

Luckily -otherwise 2010 would have been a sad year for me- the “Thumbs-up” list is longer:

thumbs upthumbs upthumbs upthumbs upthumbs upWordPress

In the past year, I have dug deeper into WordPress, and migrated more sites to WordPress than ever before. I also assisted several nonprofit organisations in revamping their WordPress sites.

WordPress has always been pretty impressive, but with their flawless 2010 release of version 3.0, they have established themselves (both in the hosted and self-hosted versions) as THE blogging platform by choice for both the beginning and advanced blogger. With version 3, they are also moving fast into the arena of CMSes, which until recently was entirely taken by the Big Boys, a la Drupal, Joomla, Plone, Typo 3 and the like.

WordPress makes blogging fun. Why? Simply because it lets a blogger concentrate on blogging and takes the load of actually administrating a blog. With a rich series of plugins and themes, a flawless administrator’s interface, and plug-and-play upgrading, nothing comes close to WordPress for as far blogging is concerned.

WordPress: Five thumbs up as the absolute topper in the blogging world.

thumbs upthumbs upthumbs upthumbs upHostgator – my new hosting service

When moving away from GoDaddy hosting, I doubted for a long time which hosting service to take. In the end, based on several good reviews I found, I chose for a VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting on Hostgator. One by one, I migrated most of my sites to the new server, up to the point where I have now about 10 blogs and websites purring on the VPS server.
The server has not hiccupped once (touch wood). The Hostgator telephone and chat support is excellent, even for issues that are not really “hosting” related, but are more linked to custom applications like WordPress, scripting etc..

Managing the server is pretty much a breeze once you get used to the sysadmin menus, and you allocate a bit of time to go through the first “how to get started” menus.

Only regret I have is… that I have not moved to Hostgator earlier.

Four thumbs-up for Hostgator hosting.

thumbs upthumbs upthumbs updlvr.it the best RSS to Twitter engine

For many of my blog-based aggregators, I use an automatic “RSS to Twitter” system, which takes the latest posts from your RSS feed, and tweets them.

In 2010, I migrated almost all of my feeds onto dlvr.it. Not only are they rich in features but their uptime is unrivaled. In the past year, where I tweeted tens of thousands of posts via them, I only experienced a hiccup once. Once!

AND they have an excellent support service response, which is exemplary in the world of “free blogging services”.

dlvr.it deserves three thumbs-up, and are highly recommended for anyone who wants to feed their RSS automatically onto Twitter.

thumbs upthumbs upthumbs upStatic file hosting on one.com

One hosting service I have not talked about before on BlogTips, but use extensively, is one.com.

In the past, I put all of my images on Flickr, with hotlinks to my posts, but since almost two years, 95% of my images for all my blogs are hosted on one.com. Much faster and far less hassle than Flickr!

For $2 per month, they host 3 gigabyte with unlimited bandwidth. And they feature a FAST internet pipe. I don’t think you will get a more competitive quality and price than that. I only experienced one hour of downtime in the past year.

I also use them to transfer large files to and from my clients, and as a simple document repository.

One bit of caution, though: Don’t use one.com for blog or website hosting. For that, they are pretty useless!

Three thumbs-up for One.com as image and file repository hosting.

thumbs upthumbs upDrupal

While I feature Drupal in my List of Shame, as I think their insanely complex user interface and suicidal upgrade mechanisms should be forbidden by law, I also have to list them as in the thumbs-up category.

Many die-hard web developers and nerds swear by Drupal for its architecture, software design, versatility and “clean code”. I have too little in-depth knowledge to judge that, but from a user’s perspective, I can say that few sites are faster than Drupal sites. Even WordPress doesn’t come near.

Two thumbs up for Drupal, the Fast and Furious CMS. If they get their user interface in order, they will get more thumbs..

thumbs upthumbs upSuperCache

And talking about “fast” . Anyone selfhosting their blog, and not using a cache, should appear in court for “blog neglect”. Proper caching not only offloads your server, but also serves the search engines and users much faster webpages.

I have tried and used various WordPress caching plug-ins, but in the end, came back to WP SuperCache in 2010, for its pre-load mode: SuperCache pre-loads all of your blog pages as HTML, so there is little or no overhead involved when a user visits a page. Result: a purring server and a happy visitor (and thus also happy search engine crawlers).

The only overhead involved is when the pages are preloaded. But then again, for many of my high volume aggregators, running on blog platforms, I hardly ever change an old blogpost, so I preload the last 20% of posts, with a very long expiry period (like 30 days or so). So preloading load can be ignored. On top of that it seems SuperCache “trickles” preloading, so pages are cached bit by bit avoiding server overload.

Donncha, the plugin’s father, is very responsive to calls for support on the WordPress forum, and that deserves an honourable mention too. Not forgetting that both the plugin and the support is for free!

I should mention also that SuperCache is what held my blogs afloat during the times where GoDaddy hosting was too slow for any visitor to endure without caching.

Thus two thumbs up for Donncha and his WordPress SuperCache.

That sums up my personal COOL and FAIL experiences, which are by no means representative for the whole blogging world.

So, my dear blogging friends, share with me your 2010 experiences: what failed the most and what made you smile the most in the social media world during the past year?




One Comment to “A blogger’s 2010 wrapup of cool and failing services”

  1. Thanks for the thumbs up for Super Cache! :)

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