Blogging as a Mode of Thinking

I’ve updated my WordPress blog software to version 4.9 and in doing so thought I would try their latest default theme. So the website looks a little different but all the content is the same as it was last week.

While doing the update I messed up something with the server permissions and everyone was locked out. This is something of a test post to check we’re back to normal.

Over on another eponymous blog, Austin Kleon writes about his experiment in daily blogging. This observation feels true to me:

I had forgotten how wonderful blogging is as a mode of thinking. Blogging is, for me, more about discovering what I have to say, and tweeting more about having a thought, then saying it the right way.

Indeed. Blogging is iterative writing. Continue reading “Blogging as a Mode of Thinking”

Why I wrote my WordPress plugin

Strike one item off the bucket list: I’ve written a WordPress plugin.

Paragraph Level IDs is available now from the WordPress plugin directory, and I’ve created a static page on this site to explain the detail. But in essence, the plugin adds lots of little anchors into the HTML of your blog posts, before each paragraph.

This means that the author and users can link to specific paragraphs in a piece of online text.

This functionality is extremely useful when dealing with long screeds of text. Someone may quote a bon mot, but if you follow the link to where the writer says the quote came from, you often have to trawl through many paragraphs to find the quote and check the context. If a site has anchors, or id attributes embedded in the HTML, the person creating the link can send the reader to the exact paragraph in the text.

This is a very old technique, one that has been present in HTML since its earliest incarnations. But few people use it routinely on their webpages. This plugin offers an easy way to alleviate that inefficiency! Continue reading “Why I wrote my WordPress plugin”

I was using WordPress before it was cool

Yesterday was the 10th birthday of WordPress, the blogging platform from which these words that you are reading are delivered to your glowing rectangle.1 Here is an interesting infographic, showing how dominant the software has become.

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg has typed a love letter to his anthropomorphised project.

I’ve been using WordPress since September 2005, or eighty percent of the platform’s lifetime.  I have used every version of the software since the antiquated version 1.5.  When I began blogging, WordPress had been downloaded 538,514 times.  According to the infographic, that number has risen to more than 66 million.  This puts me comfortably into the earliest 1% of users.  I was using WordPress before it was cool.

When I began, the default Kubrick design had only just been introduced, and there was even an option to activate an older ‘classic’ template.  There were no options for uploading images (you had to do that via FTP or ‘hotlink’ from an existing image online) or integration with social media, and there was no way to change the look and feel of the site unless you knew some CSS and PHP.

However, the two core pieces of functionality that make WordPress so useful were already in place back in 2005 – themes and plugins.  By uploading small pieces of stand-alone code, you could change the look (themes) or functionality (plugins) of the site without messing with the core code.  That was not a unique feature of WordPress, but I am sure that the simplicity of the way it was implemented contributed to its success.

That, and the fact that WordPress is OpenSource, meaning anyone can edit the code and create themes and plug-ins.  I was very impressed when, in 2010, Mullenweg transferred ownership of the WordPress trademark to a non-for-profit company, meaning the platform cannot be sold to an Internet giant, as Tumblr was last week.

Other sites in which I have a hand that use the WordPress platform include The LIP Magazine archive, The Word of an Insignificant Woman, Liberal Conspiracy, and English PEN.



1.  Unless, of course, you’re reading this at some point in the near or far future when I have, in an ironic twist, abandoned WordPress for some other software and imported all my old posts.

Recommendation request for e-mail delivery system

Dear Internet: please recommend an online service that can help me automatically distribute computer files via e-mail.

At English PEN, we have begun to produce e-Books as part of our literary campaigning.  Our recent Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot is a good example of this – It puts more literature and creativity into the world, in response to an act of censorship.

In that project, the e-Book was available free with a voluntary donation.  But we wanted to capture the e-mail addresses of everyone who downloaded it.  I used a tweaked version of a WordPress contact form plug-in to ‘reveal’ the download links after a person entered their e-mail address, but this was an inelegant method.  If downloaders wanted to revist the page, they had to enter their address again. And there was no validation of e-mail addresses.

Are there any online tools that manage the distribution of documents or computer files?  I need a simple system that will take a person’s e-mail address, log it for me, and then either send them a unique download link, or simply e-mail them a file.

I imagine that the Shareware Developer community must have some kind of solution in place for this task?  Can anyone recommend such services?  Or is there a WordPress plug-in I have missed.  Obviously I have a preference for free services, as the projects I run are all not-for-profit.