The Technical Side of Blogging; May I have the Excedrin Please!

By Robert Mark on January 22nd, 2007

People often wonder if I’m a pilot first or a journalist and for the life of me, I’m never quite sure. Answering “both” never seems to be quite enough for anyone though and yet at times each seems just as significant an influence in my life.

A potential client asked me last week whether I was technical enough to learn a new piece of software for a contract we bid on at CommAvia and I hesitated with my answer because until I started blogging, I thought I was fairly computer literate. I can fly a jet, I can program a Flight Management System when they change the arrival into LAX on me, I can send e-mail … of course I should be pretty decent with a computer.

Then I attended an excellent seminar on blogging in San Francisco last fall and got all wrapped up in this need to share my two cents with the world on all things related to aviation, communications and marketing. Of course, I realized by the end of the seminar that the only blog possibly good enough for me would be one with its own URL. Jetwhine.com was born a few weeks later.

The evolution of this blog has been far from painless however.

And as I’ve been reminded again over the past few days, anyone who wants a blog free of a WordPress or Blogspot name in the address had better be ready for more than a few irritating moments dealing with the computer software and hardware.

First there was the need to find a company to host the blog, one that owned servers with the SQL language already programmed in. Found one at Laughing Squid. Easy enough to set up the basic service, but when it came time to install the “free” WordPress software, things turned a tad ugly because as I came to realize, a software designer or a web host technician’s definition of computer savvy and mine were vastly different.

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the concept of what was happening since I decided to do all the work myself, because I did.

What I came to realize is that technical people skip lots of details along the way assuming everyone either does or should know them, like where to find the docs folder on the server, or what to do when the easy as pie blog editor that is sold with no documentation doesn’t run because it generates a “post error” that’s not explained anywhere, or that the WordPress backup script won’t run on a server and everyone points the finger at everyone else. Often, it was something as simple as a space added somewhere it shouldn’t be or a simple click I missed.

I was lucky enough to find a couple of blogging experts that helped me over many design and software hurdles … Michael Pollack at Solostream and Brian Groce at Watershed Studios. Working with these two guys taught me quite a bit.

First they taught me that there’s no shame in crying for help when you’re trying to make blogging hardware and software work. These guys know their stuff and make it all happen in a tenth of the time it would take me so I can spend my days taking care of clients.

What they also taught me though is that as my friend friend Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal has been saying for 15 years, personal computers and much of the software associated with them are still too much work to use.

Since I stroke out over spelling and grammar errors and want to be able to add photos easily at Jetwhine, I purchased a copy of Anconia’s Rocketpost as a better way to edit text off line. It sounded like a match made in heaven … a hundred bucks gave me a professional look to everything. Of course I needed one of my tech gurus to get the thing up and running because there was no documentation of any kind.

But then the error messages began, not something I blame the software designer for quite honestly. The problem was – and still is – solving the problem to make the darned thing run.

That’s when I learned that support from Anconia is spotty at best, vague e-mails that offer even more vague solutions. Promises came and went undelivered other than a note that I could purchase premium support for some extra cash. I even asked how much and that note went unanswered as well.

Rocketpost still doesn’t work as of this moment and I have no idea whether it’s my machine or their software. When the software works, Rocketpost is pretty neat, but you’d best be ready to go it alone. Sorry, but in this day and age, we shouldn’t have to go through all this agony to make a product work. Sounds like it’s time for a call to my tech gurus. Thank goodness I can pay them through PayPal!

On a tip, I installed Performancing though Firefox. Then, after restarting the machine, nothing happened and I had no where to look since there’s no support for that program either. Then, and only by chance, did I see this little tiny icon – maybe 1/4 inch square – in the lower right hand corner of the WordPress software.

Now I ask you. How would anyone know to look there? This is a Firefox add-on, so most people would have looked there for the icon, I think. I don’t need tons of hand holding, but a nudge in the right direction every now and then would be much appreciated.

And while you’re at it too, if you decide to run WordPress, be ready to spend enormous amounts of time trying to decipher their support site as well. WordPress is a great product. They just make me work too hard to find answers when those inevitable problems show up.

This all has to change.

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2 Responses to “The Technical Side of Blogging; May I have the Excedrin Please!”

  1. Norman Rhodes Says:

    Absolutely concur Rob, I have even burst into print in support. I have been fooling around with themes and plugins and got myself into a bit of a tizz in the process.

    My next area for research is trackback urls.

    http://www.thedigitalaviator.com/blog/?p=215

  2. The technical side of blogging at The Digital Aviator Says:

    […] On reading Rob of Jetwhine’s piece on the technical side of blogging I felt compelled to dash out a line of support. […]

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