15 Year Blog Anniversary

blogging

Today is the 15th anniversary of this blog.  As most of you know, 15 years in technology is forever.  15 years on the web is even more so.  Here are a few highlights to give you a perspective:

  • First post dates back to October 26th 2001.  It wasn’t my first blog post ever.  It’s just that the earlier history wasn’t migrated into the current archives.
  • Archives page provides access to posts of every month of every year, except April and May of 2009, which were lost during a major outage at a hosting company at the time.
  • The blog survived a multitude of migrations between blogging applications and their versions (static HTML diary, Nucleous CMS, Blog:CMS, WordPress), design changes (a dozen or so WordPress themes), and hosting companies (from a home server to the current Amazon AWS setup).
  • Way over 8,000 posts written.  Hundreds of comments, pingbacks and trackbacks received.  These varied across a large number of topics, anything from personal, work, technology, movies, photography, Cyprus, and more.
  • Millions of page views.  Hundreds of thousands of unique visitors.
  • Millions of blocked SPAM comments.  Millions of (mostly automated) attacks, varying from SQL injections and dictionary password attacks to a some more advanced techniques targeting particular pages or WordPress and its plugins vulnerabilities.
  • A variety of content reorganizations – posts, pages, categories, tags, short codes, templates, plugins, widgets, links, etc.
  • A variety of integrations – web services, social networks, automated postings, aggregations, etc.
  • A variety of monetization options – from “this is not for profit”, to ad spaces, to contextual ads, to sponsored content.

Have a look at some versions saved by the Internet Archive, dating back to 2004.

So, what have I learned about blogging in the last 15 years?  Quiet a bit, it turns out.  Here are a few things that I think are important enough to share:

  • If you don’t have your personal blog yet, go and start now.  It’s well worth it!
  • Make sure you own your content.  Social networks come and go, and when they go, chances are, all your content goes with them.
  • Don’t stress too much about the format, styling, and scheduling of your blogging.  If you do it long enough, everything will change – the topics you write about, how much and how often you write about them, how your site looks, etc.  Start somewhere and iterate.
  • Don’t go crazy with features of your blogging platform.  Sure, there are thousands of plugins and themes to choose from.  But all of these change with time.  When they go away, you will have to either support them yourself, move to newer alternatives, or loose them.  Neither one of those options is pleasant.
  • Things die.  They disappear and then they are no more.  That’s life. This happens.  Don’t worry about it.  Do your best and then move on.
  • Have fun!  It’s your personal place on the web after all.  Try scheduled posts to get into the habit.  Try planning to get a better idea of what you want to do.  But if it doesn’t work or becomes too difficult, move on.  As I said, it’s your personal place and you don’t owe anybody anything.  Do it for yourself.  Others will come and go.

Here is to the next 15 years! :)

beer

WordPress 4.5 “Coleman”

WordPress 4.5 “Coleman” – the newest WordPress version has been released (I’ve just upgraded).  Some of the changes included in this release are:

  • New and improved user interface for editing links in posts and pages.
  • More Markdown-like shortcuts for formatting text (now with code and horizontal lines).
  • Logo support in themes
  • Much improved image optimizations (initially expected in WordPress 4.4)
  • Better embed templates
  • Update for underlying libraries, such as jQuery, Backbone, and Underscore.

If you already manage a WordPress website, you’ll find the notification of the update in your admin area.  If not, then go and download it.

Jetpack annual report for mamchenkov.net in 2015

This year’s Jetpack annual report for this blog is ready – have a look.  Here’s a teaser:

blog stats 2015

It’s been a busy year, so I haven’t been blogging as much as I wanted to, but overall, I think I did good (have a look at 2014 and 2013).  Just to give you a quick comparison:

Metric 2013 2014 2015
Visitors 58,000 81,000 96,000
Posts 560 628 541

I blog mostly for myself, but it’s nice to see a slight grow in traffic. Although the fact that the most popular post in this blog throughout the years – how to check Squid proxy version – is a little concerning, yet funny.  Well, at least people still find my “Vim for Perl developers” useful, even though it’s been more than 10 years since I wrote that (and probably five years since I promised to update it soon).

But as I said, I’m quite satisfied with my blogging this year.  Hopefully I can continue to do the same in 2016.

 

WordPress 4.3 “Billie” is out

The brand new and shiny version 4.3 of WordPress is out, bringing more bells and whistles to Customizer, formatting shortcuts to the editor (looks like Markdown made its mark), and more.

I’ve upgraded and also switched this site to Twenty Fifteen theme, just to see how it all works.  No coding customization done yet – only whatever is available through the mouse clicks.

Grouped tags and categories

Just a quick update on something that I wanted to do for quite a while now – I’ve joined the display of tags and categories.  They are still separated in the back-end for me to manage the posts easier.  I just figured out that for site visitors there’s no practical difference, and thus using two user interface elements where one can do the job is not ideal.  The code snippet that helped me do that was borrowed (and slightly modified) from this Codex page.  The only two change that I did were:

  • Skip the General category (or All, as it’s labeled in this case), since all posts belong to it anyway.
  • Skip post format taxonomy (as those are already encoded with post styling – colors and titles).

I’ve also thrown a copyright into the footer and a small welcome box to the sidebar, but those are just cosmetics.

Replacing Instagram plugin

WP Instagram Digest out. DsgnWrks Instagram Importer in. The old plugin was working more or less fine, but it lacked a bit in customization and in support of the somewhat newer WordPress features.  After stumbling upon this blog post, I decided it was time to try something new.

Some of the reasons for the replacement:

  • Import each individual Instagram photo separately, rather than a gallery.  Galleries are complicated, and often doesn’t look too good, especially with narrow WordPress themes, like the one I’m using now.
  • Customize title and content of the post.  The new plugin supports Instagram filters (which I won’t use) and locations (which I will).
  • Hashtag handling – the new plugin can strip off hashtags from post titles and content, and, instead use them as tags and or categories.
  • Support for post types – having them now as Image post type makes more sense (I’ve also converted all the previous posts too).

Performance improvements

Just wanted to let you all know that I’ve made a couple of changes recently, which should result in a somewhat faster performance of this site.

Firstly, before the last weekend, I’ve moved all my DNS hosting to Amazon Route 53 service.  This should result in faster DNS queries all around the globe and minimize the potential downtimes.

Secondly, I’ve installed and configured the JS & CSS Optimizer WordPress plugin, which now results in much fewer HTTP requests needed to load the page, as well as fewer bytes to be transferred around.   I’m still tweaking the settings for this one to see how much I can squeeze out of it, but I already see an improvement.

As always, if you see any issues, please let me know.

Trying out Flounder

I’m trying out the Flounder WordPress theme for my blog.  It’ll take a few moments for me to configure everything, so please don’t get annoyed just yet.  Theme options are fine, but it looks like I have a few issues with custom post types, which aren’t matching my previous theme (Favepersonal).  I’ll update this post once I’m done – that’ll be the time to report the issues.

 

Update (April 9, 2014, 01:47am): most of it works now.  There are still a couple of small quirks for me to fix, but feel free to let me know if you see anything wrong.