An explanation of why maintaining your own space is so important

This is a reflection on my recent challenges associated with maintaining a blog and an explanation of why I persist in doing it.


I got talking with some of technical designers in my workplace recently. I was inquiring about the plausibility of a few ideas I was thinking about. I did not want to commit myself to something that was doomed from the outset. The question was then asked, “But you’re not a coder, right?” Technically, I guess I am not. I have developed a few solutions, in part based on code appropriated from others, but could I develop something from scratch. I guess not. This for me raises the question, in a world which coding is bandied around as the 21st Century literacy, what does it mean to code and be a coder? Is it about a broad understanding of the mechanics and meaning or is it the ability to make and do? Can these even be separated?

This problem raised its head again this week as I tried to fix a problem occurring with two of my sites. I was not receiving linkbacks from other sites. Although webmentions were coming through, there were mentions within blogs that were not even going through to my spam folder. Of course, this is not going to ‘break the web’, but it means that I am missing some of the conversations from those sending from their site.

I came upon the issue after receiving a few messages from people saying that their messages were being rejected or not flowing through. This was occurring in both directions, with my pings seemingly sending emails, but not properly flowing through to posts and comments. Here then are some of the steps I took to investigate. I share these with the hope that I can learn more about these problems, but also to record the steps for future reflection. They are in no way sequential and have been separated for the sack of representing them in a meaningful manner:


In the end, I decided to turn the Semantic Linkbacks plugin back on and see how it went. To my surprise, things seemed to work. I will continue to tinker and investigate. It is a reminder why I have a Domain of One’s Own. As Martha Burtis points out,

Learning WordPress should not just be about learning WordPress — it should also be about all the tacit lessons that go along with learning how to publish online in an open-source Web application.

I know that at anytime that the Facebooks and Wixs are waiting to greet me with open arms and every day I resist. So what about you? What have been your experiences? As always comments welcome, even more so from your own blog.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

It is coming up to a year now since I made the move from Blogger to WordPress via Reclaim Hosting. I have been asked by many about why I changed, what was involved and what my experiences have been. I thought that now would be as good a time as ever to take stock and reflect on my experience so far.


I came upon Reclaim Hosting via the generous sharing as a part of Connected Courses.

Although I received some warnings in regards to the risks involved in setting up my own space:

 

Thankfully, I am still hear and blogging away. The question though that I keep getting asked is what have been my experiences.

Here then is a list of my thoughts and reflections:

CHANGING SPACES

The first concern that I often get asked is transferring content from one space to another. The reality is it took about five minutes. The only issue I had was with tags and categories. However, tags can be selectively converted to categories using the tag to category converter.

MORE THAN MONEY

There is really no comparison in regards to cost between paying for something like wordpress.com and Reclaim. To be honest, if you were choosing the cheaper option, you would probably go with Reclaim. Not only is it affordable, but also includes free domain registration. One thing I had to consider is that the space is limited (2gb). However, this is the same with most spaces. The answer is to learn to store content elsewhere – such as Amazon, Scribd, Youtube and Flickr – and embedding it.

CHOOSING A THEME

One of the complaints that I have heard people complain about is the lack of flexibility or the requirement to pay for something that you are not even sure about. I have found that there are so many more options out there when running WordPress.org, most of which are unavailable within wordpress.com. The hardest thing is then finding the right one. Inspired by a post from Alan Levine, I went with Moesia for Readwriterespond, while in a site a created DigiCon15 I used Asteria Lite.

IMPROVING MY WORKFLOW

It is really interesting working with both Edublogs at school and my own installation of WordPress here. Although in many respects they are both the same, I have been forced to rethink many of the solutions that I have developed for my own blog. Some of the plugins that I have come to depend upon within wordpress.org include:

  • Creative Commons Configurator: This allows you to set the Creative Commons license for each of your posts.
  • Automatic Post Thumbnail: One of the catches with many themes is that they depend on a featured image. Using Flickr and Alan Levine’s Attribution Helper for my images, the plugin makes the first image used ‘featured’.
  • Jetpack: This provides a means of measuring statistics and connecting with the wider WordPress family. I must admit, I have stopped measuring the statistics , but still find it useful when connecting. Plus, Alan Levine shared that removing Jetpack wrecked his theme, so warned against it.
  • WordPress Backup to Dropbox: I must admit, I could do a better job at backing up, so a plugin that does it for me is priceless.

WORLD CLASS SUPPORT

The thing that I will say has been the best to moving to Reclaim is the amount of support. Whether it be touching base to check how I was settling or promptly responding to questions, I am always astounded at how quickly I get responses. Jim Groom recently reflected on the level that they set. What I love the most is the feeling that no question is too small and that, as Jim Groom explains, it all comes back to helping others make sense of the web.

LEAD LEARNER

All the talk at the moment seems to be about computational thinking. For some this is just another word for coding, but to me it is about developing an awareness about how things work. Not just knowing that the internet is built with code, but what this actually means. I find the best way to develop awareness is through the act of tinkering and creation. Whether it is exploring Known or exploring the limits of the platform, owning your own space is a great learning experience, what Jim Groom describes as a return of teaching and learning to the scale of the individual.

HURDLES REMOVED

Although other spaces can be easy to create, using templates and so forth, they soon become complex though when trying to co-claim that content. Not only does the team at Reclaim support you with whatever content you are bringing across, but they are just as supportive in regards to taking it out again.

SUB-DOMAINS

One of the other benefits I have found to owning my own domain is the opportunity to create sub-domains. This can include creating different sites or redirects. Alice Keeler provides a great explanation of this.


I am sure that there are things that I have missed, but this is at least a start. What about you? Have you made the move to own your own space on the web? What have been your challenges? Experience? Benefits? As always, comments welcome.

For more on Reclaim, I recommend checking out Tim Owens introduction.


If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.