I started thinking about changing the software that drives the blog back in the late part of summer. I can’t recall exactly what it was that made me start looking, but I do know that I landed on this wordpress option pretty quickly, but never had time to really take a good look at it. I want to be able to make an easy-to-follow list of things to accomplish with the blog, so I’ll know if it’s even worth it to switch.
Let’s start with what I want to do on the web and with the blog:
- Easily post to the blog anytime, anywhere. Before tikiwiki, I was using MS Publisher to create a site, and whenever I wanted to make changes, I was overwriting virtually every file and had to upload a “new version” of the site daily. I could really only work from home, where the site was saved and I had enough bandwidth to move it.
- Make it possible for people to interact with the blog, at a post-level, if they like. When I read stuff on the web, I usually don’t feel the need to comment on ti, but sometimes I do. If it’s a simple matter to do that, I will. If it’s a hassle, I say ‘screw it.’ If people want to say something back to me, I want it to be easy.
- Have room for more diverse content. I have pictures that I’d like people to be able to see. I have some old videos that should stay on the web. I have a few other things that may not fit into the format of a “blog”, but I want the site to be flexible enough to include them easily.
- Make it simple for people to read the blog in a syndicated format. I get the majority of my blog fix through RSS. If that’s how people want to read what I have to offer, it should be easy to subscribe.
- Make it look nice. If people come to the site, I’d like them to have a pleasant visual experience, plain and simple.
That’s a basic plan. Now, I should probably give a look at what the current soloshootsfirst site is doing, and evaluate how it’s helping me reach these five goals. I should be brutually honest, but also accommodating to its purpose and intended audience. Here goes:
- Meets Goal 1 very effectively. Anywhere I have access to the Internet, I can be writing a blog post. A couple minor complaints about the interface have been the less-than-outstanding performance of the authentication system (I always have to try to log in twice, and lately I can only do so through Internet Explorer, and everyone else has problems trying to log in), and the relative ease with which I’ve “blown away” entire blog posts because I accidentally hit a ‘back’ button or delete or something while I’m writing. Because of that, I’ve taken to drafting posts in a Notepad window, then copy/pasting to the blog itself.
- Meets Goal 2, albeit with difficulty. It’s possible for people to comment, but the problems with authentication make it really difficult. Even once you are logged in, the interface for commenting is sort of clunky, and I never found a way to make comments appear right below the posts (you had to click into another link to read them). This is something I would really like to improve.
- Meets Goal 3 with flying colors. Image galleries in the tiki wiki are simple to upload, navigate, and interact with. Creating new pages for different stuff is simple. There are a wide variety of modules that can do different things– I even used the ‘Quizzes’ module in conjunction with a class project once. Tikiwiki has built-in discussion forums, although, once again, they are not used that much. The extensibility of TW seems fairly limitless.
- Meets Goal 4 quite well. RSS works. Feeds generated automatically. I wasn’t able to nail down how to isolate a feed for one particular blog (versus ALL blogs), but that didn’t really change the user experience, as far as I know (most visitors would want to read all the blogs anyway).
- Meets Goal 5 to my satisfaction. The available themes aren’t fantastic, and the layout of the site itself isn’t exactly “beautiful”, but I think it’s easy on the eyes and simple to navigate.
Some other general comments about TikiWiki:
Now that I’ve worked with this format for some time, I’m pretty well equipped to know what its strengths and shortcomings are. TW is, as I mentioned, a fantastically extensible system for community generated content and interaction. When I first started using it, this was the direction that I thought the site could take– a web community of people in my life, who, theoretically, have a lot of things in common and would want to interact with one another.
Since that time, we’ve seen substantial growth of larger social-web-portals (like Facebook and MySpace), and the Googles and Yahoo!s of the world have expanded their capabilities within that realm, too. Simply stated, there’s not a good reason for people (even people I know) to come to my site for things other than reading the blog and checking out what’s new with me.
TW is also large enough that its administration can get sort of complex. I mentioned some of the minor issues that I’ve experienced with it, and I’m sure they would be solvable with some time and energy to put toward it. Quite honestly, I’m looking to put equal or less effort into site administration with comparable or greater results. I really want to be able to focus on content.
That brings up a larger question– why not just direct my URL to a Blogger page or something like that? The answer gets at another Goal for the site that I didn’t think of until now: I want the site contained within my own server, which lives at my own house. Blogging with Google or Yahoo! or somebody else might be really simple to do, but my data security paranoia won’t let me go there. And that’s not to mention the fact that there is just something more satisfying about being able to do it yourself.
OK, I think this is a good spot to begin.