Blogging, galleries, and code authorship

Sometimes I feel I can’t leave well enough alone.  The obsessive compulsive tinkerers out there will understand what I’m talking about.  Oops, I did it again.

Part 1

For better or worse, I enjoy the behind-the-scenes fiddling of my blog at least as much as the publicly visible blogging of my blog.  That is to say, I’m a code junkie.  I love code.  I don’t always understand it, but I do love its deterministic predictability.  And web development is not a stranger to good source code.  There’s plenty in its bowels to make one such as me happy.  For the WordPress platform, there’s PHP, MySQL, and of course CSS and HTML.  More than enough acronyms for everyone.

Well, recently I got all excited about streamlining my blogging approach.  I noticed that I wasn’t blogging much, if at all, and began to wonder if maybe the way in which I was doing it was getting in the way.  Being a tinkerer, it was entirely possible that this was so.  In other words, it’s not an unusual thing for me to get distracted by the minutia and lose sight of the bigger picture — the forest (blogging) for the trees (code, plugins, formatting), as it were.

And surveying the past several years of my online writing habits, it quickly became apparent where to focus my attention in this streamlining effort.  I came up with this outlined approach:

1. Strip out the complexity.

a. Remove as many plugins as possible.

Plugins are great.  They are so fun, with all their gleaming virtual knobs and switches.  The sheer power that can be harnessed by plugins is unmistakable. If you are like me and love to tweak things for optimal performance, then you probably also love WordPress plugins (assuming you blog on WordPress).

But they can also gum up the works.  If you spend more time working with the plugins than blogging, then you have a priority imbalance.  At present count, I have 33 plugins active.  Wow, writing that number makes me want to revisit this bullet point and try some more pruning!

b. Don’t get bogged down by photos.

My blog is not a photoblog.  I’m not a photographer so I might as well not act like one.  I do, however, understand the value of the occasional photo to paint a valuable picture (particularly in my project posts, where 1,000 words just aren’t cutting it).  To this end, I sought out a new solution.

Once upon a time, I was using the Gallery 2 software, embedded into my blog. Gallery 2 is a complete photo blogging database system, which offered way more horsepower than I needed (not to mention more maintenance).

Then I migrated all of that (not a small task) into the fine WordPress plugin, NextGen Gallery. But that is a more robust photo blogging tool, very full-featured.  It had many more features than I really needed and, again, more maintenance than I was willing to provide.  You can see a trend forming, right?  If I may be so bold as to state an axiom:

The size of a software’s feature set is directly proportional to the upkeep required to maintain it.

In the end, neither of these photo tools were the right ones for the job, as they got in the way of the work. {1} The key problem with those other two solutions was that they were essentially separate from WordPress.  With Gallery 2, it was its own system entirely.  One had to work hard to embed it into WordPress.

NextGen was a plugin, with its own database tables, keeping track of all the photos.  WordPress’ own attachment system has now finally matured to the point of usability.  But having a separate plugin (NextGen) containing some photos, and WordPress’ builtin system for others, was very problematic and counter-intuitive for me.

It was finally time to simplify — return to the core, and use WordPress’ native tool set to streamline my blogging.

Next time we’ll continue with my solution and more blogging thoughts…

Footnotes:

  1. That’s not to say that they can’t work fine for other folks; in fact, NextGen remains one of the most actively supported WordPress plugins, not to mention most active user communities. []

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