Would you like .BIZ with that order?

On the post that I made earlier today I mentioned that I would be moving some things on AndyMelton.net to their own domains. Tonight I was finally able to purchase those domains as well as pay for continued hosting at GoDaddy. Let me tell you, just trying to purchase a domain at GoDaddy made me want to pay more for a domain elsewhere. I didn’t, but I wanted to. I can’t because I wouldn’t be able to afford one elsewhere with everything I was needing to purchase.

So, I’ll first tell you what I purchased and then I’ll give you the steps that I went through to make those purchases. I bought 2 domains, AndyNotAndrew.net, which will become my new Audio & Video Journal website. I purchased FatTrackBlog.com for the weight loss blog that my friends and I occasionally contribute to. I also needed to renew my domain for AndyMelton.net. Then, I also needed to pay for hosting for 12 months so I don’t have to worry about it for a little while.

OK! Let’s go and order a domain name. We of course are on GoDaddy.com and logged into our user account. We then do a search for the domain that we want to purchase to make sure that it is available. Good news, it is available. More good news. We can purchase the same domain with the following top level domains (TLD): .com, .info, .net, .org, biz, and .us! More good news! We can also purchase similar domain names. We can also purchase the domain with a TLD of .mobi, .tv, and .us. We can also purchase domains that aren’t quite what we wanted but are similar with an added word, like, “Sucks”. Don’t get me wrong, being able to show you the available options is great if the domain you are wanting to purchase is already taken, but, they just give you so many options!

So after you have scrolled through all of those options you find the “Continue” button. You click on it and you get a page that says “STOP! You’ve found a great domain. Now protect your name, increase your traffic and more!” OK! First of all, I don’t like the fact that you are telling people to STOP, it made me feel as if I had done something wrong and I am usually always nervous when I’m buying anything anyways. Come to find out, I have done nothing wrong, they’re just telling me that I can also buy the domain with a TLD of .net, .biz and .info for just a few dollars more! To top it all off, they have “Add these domains now for just $16!” already check marked. If someone was to accidentally click the green button below to add those to their order without knowing, the person would have to come back and go through the process again. SO, if you’re smart you will scroll down until you see a link, a link that’s not as large as the green button I might add, that says “No thanks. Continue to checkout.”

OK! So you clicked on “No thanks. Continue to checkout.” You should come to a page that has even more options and more places to add more stuff for super low discounts. The first row of information is where you choose how long you want to register your domain name for. Then you decide if you want it to be automatically renewed or manually renewed. Then you decided whether you want to spend $2.99 more to get the domain certified. Lastly, you choose if you want deluxe or premium email services added to your order. I might be wrong on this, but I do believe you already get email services with every domain your oder. Hmmm. They don’t tell you that on this page. You scroll down and you see a section that asks if you want to show exclusive offers to reduce the cost of your order or if you want to quit the checkout process. Your only option is to select the show special offers and click on continue.

Did you think I was finished, yet? HA! Hardly! Once you click on the continue button you are presented with another page that gives you options to customize your order even more. This page asks you to select a hosting plan, a WebSite Tonight package, MORE options for email AND a section for adding Traffic Blazer to your site. Oh, I thought I was done naming off the stuff you could add. I wasn’t: Quick Shopping Cart, SSL Certificates, Turbo SSL Certificates, High-Assurance SSL Certificates and finally, a 6-in-1 certificate. FINALLY, after you scroll through all that without checking any of the check boxes, you can click on Continue.

The next page again asks you if you want to make your domain name private. Granted, this is a great idea but I’ve already told you that I DO NOT WANT THIS! I DO NOT CARE! COME STALK ME ALL YOU WANT! (Ok, NOT REALLY!). I click on continue without clicking any check boxes.

OH MY GOSH! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT! WE ARE FINALLY AT THE CHECKOUT! This part is pretty simple. You choose your payment options, give a promo code (don’t forget Madge1, Madge2 and Madge3) and pay. I don’t want to pay just yet. I want to add the other domain name I am going to purchase and add the domain renewal. I had to go through the entire process again to buy another domain. To renew the domain it was slightly different and it kept asking me if I wanted to protect my domain name.

The other thing that I was needing to do was to upgrade my hosting account from Economy hosting to the Deluxe plan. I done this the other day, but still had some issues. I didn’t know if I was suppose to upgrade my account from within my hosting control panel or through the “front door” of GoDaddy. I emailed support and they said to do it from within the control panel. The other problem that I had was that I was not able to choose how long I wanted to upgrade for when I initially upgraded my account. I had to upgrade my account and THEN I could extend the length of my account.

So many annoyances. Why do I deal with it? It’s cheap! But it’s REALLY annoying.

Introduction to Audio Podcasting

You’ve probably been listening to podcasts for a little while now and you’d like to start your own. You’re not sure about what you need to do to get started. I am going to assume that’s why you’re here. You’re wanting to know what type equipment and software you need as well as how hard it is to get going. That’s what I am going to discuss in this article.

There are so many different ways you can podcast. There are several hardware and software choices to make. In this article I am going to discuss how you can have a podcast for under $20 or if you already have a headset microphone, I’ll show you how to podcast for free.

Have an idea

I feel that the shows that succeed have something to talk about. They have information that will help the targeted audience. The great thing about podcasting is that it is a new medium and you have the power to help define what it becomes. You are not censored in any way and can say whatever you want.

If you’re recording about your day to day life, don’t just record what is going on. Record how you feel and your thoughts at that moment. In my opinion that’s better than someone rattling on about what they did that day.

Get an idea and roll with it. Don’t be too broad but don’t be too specific either. Also, the last piece of advice that I can give you is this: Don’t make the title of your show “daily” or “weekly.” Unless you are absolutely sure you can deliver content when your title says you will be delivering it. You will always feel guilty when you’re not delivering content when you said you would be.

Recording Yourself Talk

Location

Now that you’ve got a title and an idea it is time to start recording yourself. Before we get to the actual software we need to discuss a couple of things. First, you need to be in a relatively quiet location. The cheap headset that we’ve got is going to pick up background noise. Even the noise canceling headsets will pick up some background noise. You might want to turn off the heat or air conditioning, close the doors, windows and turn off any gadget you can live without while you’re recording.

Equipment

If you already have a headset microphone then you’ll be able to do a podcast for absolutely nothing. I think this is absolutely the best way to start out. Once you get comfortable with it you can start to add in more advanced equipment, software and hosting packages.

If you don’t have the headset microphone yet you’ll want to go ahead and purchase one. I have had great luck with Logitech’s Premium Stereo Headsets. I’ve owned a few of them so far. One thing to note is that you’ll probably have to replace these every couple of years. It’s not that they’re bad headsets it’s just that they get worn out over time. I’ve experienced this with every brand I’ve owned.

If you’re podcasting from a computer that does not have analog input/output ports you’ll need to get a USB headset. In the past I have had great results with the Logitech Premium USB Headset 350.

Also, don’t think that you need an expensive computer to record a podcast. I use to record an audio journal with my Toshiba Satellite 315 CDS. It had a 200MHz processor, 32 MB of RAM and a 2 GB hard drive. It recorded audio really well. It took a little bit longer to export the finished recording to MP3 but it wasn’t that bad. Not many people have a computer that old so I wouldn’t worry about the computer you use.

If you’re going to be recording yourself while you’re out you might want to invest in a portable audio recorder. Look for something that has a line-in or microphone port. I have had great results with my iRiver iFP-895. These are great, especially if you’re out and you get to thinking about something and want to record it.

Software

Most of the software I am going to mention in this article is cross-platform. That means that you can use it on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. If you have a Mac that came with iLife then you’re already set. You can use GarageBand to record and publish your podcast. Skip over the Audacity, LAME, and ID3-Tag editing software sections of this article if you’re going to be using the iLife suite. If you don’t have iLife then I’ll help you get going with free software solutions available for the Mac and other platforms.

Audacity

To record ourselves we are going to use Audacity. Some people say that Audacity is complicated and does not offer them all of the features that they want; they want the ability to play sounds while they are recording. I think Audacity is really simple to use. Regarding playing sounds while recording; this is not an issue for me because I just add in the audio after I have finished recording. I think Audacity is basic yet powerful at the same time and I highly recommend it.

When you download Audacity I would recommend getting the beta version. It has more features and is pretty stable. Just remember that it is beta software and may crash. Though, all software is prone to crashing in my opinion. Especially if you’re not on the latest and greatest hardware.

Lame Encoder

This will allow you to export MP3 files out of Audacity. There are different ways to get it working between the three platforms. I’ll tell you how to get going with it for each platform.

On Windows: The best place to get the lame_enc.dll file for Windows is from Free-Codecs. Download the file, extract and place somewhere on your hard drive; I usually put the folder in my Program Files directory. Open Audacity and go to Edit > Preferences and then find the section that says “MP3 Export Library Location” and click on “Find Library.” Navigate to where you placed the LAME files and locate the lame_enc.dll file. It should only show that specific file whenever you are navigating through the directories. Once you find it double click on it and you should be set.

On Mac OS X: You can download LAME from the official website but a much easier option is to download the LAME library from Spaghetti Code. Download the version that will work on your platform; extract and place it somewhere on your hard drive. I like to keep this in the Applications directory inside a folder called LAME, just for organizational reasons.

Go back into Audacity. Click on Audacity >> Preferences and below MP3 Export Setup click on Find Library. Navigate to the location you placed the file, double click on it and you should be good to go.

On Linux: The quickest and easiest way to get the LAME encoder on Linux is to install it through the application repositories provided for your distribution. The Audacity website has more details.

Configuring Audacity

If you’re not going to be playing music and you don’t require a super high quality version of your podcast you should change the bit rate of the audio to 96kbps from the default 128kbps. This will keep the file size smaller and allow your subscribers to download the file a lot quicker. It may also help keep your web hosting costs down. If you want to keep a higher quality version of the file you could export it as 128kbps (or higher) for archival purposes and export a lower quality version for publishing on the web. One of these days broadband will be more ubiquitous and you might want to release higher quality versions of your old podcasts.

Also, I always change the default setting of Mono recording to Stereo. If you’re just talking you can use Mono and your file size will be smaller. The reason I always change mine to stereo and leave it is because in the past I have forgotten to change it back to Stereo when I want to add music into the recording.

Recording & Exporting

Now that we’ve gotten Audacity properly set up, we can start recording! Remember, make sure you’re in the quietest location possible (unless you’re wanting to record a sound-seeing tour), keep the microphone close to your mouth but not too close (helps avoid popping), hit the record button and tell the world your story!

Once you have finished your recording you will immediately want to save your audio file as an Audacity Project File. Doing this will ensure that if your computer locks up or the power goes out you can access your recording and finish editing where you left off.

You can now add in any audio files such as intro music, exit music, etc by using the audio import function. When you import that audio just move it around to the desired location. If you want to edit out a section of audio, use the selection tool, highlight it and cut it out. This is very useful for taking out the “Uhmmms.”

Once you are satisfied with the recording you can export the file as an MP3 (under the file menu). Audacity will ask you to enter ID3 tags which we’ll discuss below.

ID3 Tagging Software

Now that you’ve recorded and exported your podcast as an MP3 you can now start to add things into that MP3 file that will define it using ID3 tags. You can add album art, title of the show, author, genre, recording date, comments, etc. These are all things that describe the content of your audio file. This information will help your audience identify your podcast in their audio library and help them keep things more organized.

When you export a file from Audacity it will prompt you to enter ID3 tags for the file. Generally, the fields it gives you are enough information for a podcast recording. The only thing it won’t let you do is embed album art into the file. Album art is an image that will display in the media player window or on some portable media player screens while the file is playing.

If you’re using Microsoft Windows you can use a program called ID3-TagIT which will give you many more advanced tagging options. Once you have downloaded and installed ID3-TagIT you’ll navigate to the directory your MP3 file is located in. Once you’re in the directory select the MP3 file and edit the information on the left. If you need more fields click on “More.” Once you have added all the desired tags click on “Ok” and save the file.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find an ID3 tagging application like ID3-TagIT for Mac OS X and Linux. The ones that I have found don’t give you anymore options than what you get with Audacity. However, for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows you can edit ID3 tags with iTunes. Put the file into your Music library, right click on the file and click on “Get Info.” Edit the desired fields and close the window. Export the file out of iTunes (drag and drop somewhere), then upload to your hosting account. For those geeky Linux users out there you could try installing iTunes through Wine.

Content Subscription

One of the best things about podcasting is that you don’t have to tune in at a specific time and you also don’t have to remember to set the VCR to record the program. With podcasting people will subscribe to your podcast feed and whenever you publish a new episode the subscriber’s podcatching client will automatically download the file.

There are a couple of programs for Windows that allow you to create a custom feed with enclosures. The first being FeedSpring. It’s a really simple application. You download, install, create a new feed and then start adding items to that feed. Once you create a feed and save it you can upload the file to your hosting account and use it on FeedBurner or iTunes.

Another program for Windows is FeedForAll. This program isn’t freeware. I don’t have any experience with it but it does look like a good program for creating feeds. It’s also up-to-date. The latest version of FeedSpring is May 21, 2005 and the latest version of FeedForAll is from March 10, 2008 (as of this update to this article).

If you’re on the Mac you can also use FeedForAll. However, I’d also highly recommend a program by Reinvented Software called Feeder. I’ve used it for a couple of years now and think it’s a really great program. It’s not free but it’s worth every penny.

Unfortunately, for you Linux users out there I don’t have an application to recommend to you for feed creation. I wish someone would get on the ball with it!

There is an alternative to using feed creation software. This could be the option for you Linux users out there. Most blogging software now supports enclosures for each entry. With WordPress you can attach an audio, video or any other file and it will attach it to the feed. Even if you just put a link to the file somewhere within your blog post most feed readers will download the enclosure.

FeedBurner

This is an optional step but one that I highly recommend. Set up a FeedBurner account and tell FeedBurner where your feed is located. Then, give the URL of your feed that FeedBurner will give you to your listeners. The biggest reason for using FeedBurner is if you decide to move your feed later on, you can move your feed, update the location on FeedBurner and your listeners will never know and they won’t have to re-subscribe.

Also, FeedBurner makes it easier to get your podcast listed in iTunes. They also give you a lot of tools that you can use to promote your feed.

FeedBurner has some tracking abilities for your feed. In my opinion, these statistics are somewhat inflated so be skeptical of what FeedBurner says your subscriber number is.

Publishing your podcast

Once you have finished creating the feed, save it and upload it to a website somewhere. If you don’t have any web hosting, get some free hosting from somewhere and upload it there. The file will be small and the users won’t have to visit the site to get the file, if you’re using FeedBurner. Also, you’ll need to upload the actual podcast, the MP3 file you created.

Once you have the feed uploaded somewhere you can either submit it to iTunes through the iTunes Store, submit it through FeedBurner or if you’re using Feeder you can use it to submit your feed to the iTunes Store.

Web Hosting Account

The easiest way to publish your podcast is to purchase some web hosting or to use the hosting that you already have. There may be issues with this. One may be a lack of space or a lack of bandwidth. I am using GoDaddy web hosting to host all of my content. I have had very good luck with it and is very affordable. If you use a web hosting service like GoDaddy, just upload the file to the site and then in your feed creation tool, link the feed to the file on your server.

Mevio

You may not be able to purchase hosting. Don’t worry, there are free options out there. You could use Mevio to host your files. Mevio includes an ad at the beginning and end of audio files hosted with their service. It’s a decent trade off. You get free hosting and they get a little advertising in on your file. In my opinion, it’s not that bad. The great thing about Mevio is that the delivery network is great. Your files will be delivered to your subscribers very quickly.

If you use Mevio you won’t have to worry about creating the feed using a feed creation tool. However, I do highly recommend linking your Mevio feed to FeedBurner so that if you decide to host your media somewhere else you won’t have to worry about losing any subscribers during the transition.

Blogging your Podcast

Now that you have your podcast recorded, added to a feed, published and all that. You need to add it somewhere so your subscribers can have a list of previous episodes and also leave comments on your episodes. If you already have a blog, add it there. If you want to keep it separate, make a new blog. If you don’t have any hosting you can use something like Blogger.com or WordPress.com (I would highly recommend WordPress.com as a free blogging site over Blogger.com).

Promoting your Podcast

Finally! You can start promoting your podcast! Join podcasting communities. Send emails to family, friends or co-workers. Make sure they know how to listen! Tell them how to leave feedback for you! It may take a little while for you to build up your listeners so don’t fret if people don’t comment immediately. It’s really hard to get people to comment on your stuff, trust me, I know! Just keep doing it! Get better at it! Most importantly, enjoy it!

Article update: Saturday, September 27, 2008: The original title of this article was “Podcasting on Windows.” I have since updated this article to encompass podcasting on the three major platforms (Linux, Mac and Windows) using free and open source software.

Please note that this article is not meant to be a tutorial. It’s meant to introduce you to podcasting and what is involved.

Introduction to Blogging

Recently a friend of mine asked me a few questions about blogging and I told them I would write an entry about blogging. I’m thinking I may start a new category and turn this into a series of articles because there are so many things I could talk about! Let’s get started!

Blog Ideas

  • Recipe Blog – Instead of having scraps of paper with recipes on them floating around your home, why not take those recipes and put them on a blog? With most blogs you can put each post into a category. Your chicken casserole could be in a chicken category, a casserole category or both. You could post photos of the food with each entry. This is a great and inexpensive way to share family recipes. Printing costs can add up quickly.
  • Computer Maintenance – You’ve finally fixed that nagging dialog box that keeps popping up every time you reboot your system. Why not make a blog entry about it so others can read how to stop it too!

Those are just a couple of the possibilities you could use your blog for. There are a ton of ideas out there. The sky is truly the limit.

Reasons for Blogging

  • Save Time – How many times have you sent an email to someone explaining how to do something to only have someone else ask you the same question. Instead of emailing the person wouldn’t it be better or much easier to direct them to the entry on your blog where you already have the answer waiting for them? If you make an update to the blog entry every one can see the change and you don’t have to resend the information to everyone who wanted it.
  • Discussion – Blogging software and services give you the option to allow comments on your entries. Your blog entry isn’t just a blog entry anymore, it becomes a discussion. Going back to the recipe blog. Your family and friends could comment on your recipes telling you how they prepared the dish and how it turned out for them. Maybe they had to use a substitute ingredient or they omitted an ingredient and got something totally different or a disaster!
  • Syndication – Blogging software and services allow you to syndicate your entries across the Internet using using “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS). RSS allows your entries to be listed on thousands of websites across the Internet. If you’re wanting to get noticed this will definitely help.
  • Subscription – Using RSS, readers of your blog can subscribe to your content using your blog’s built in RSS feed. Every time you post a new entry onto your blog the reader will be notified. Reader’s can subscribe in a variety of ways: using RSS reader software, an online feed reader or by subscribing to the feed in an email program that supports RSS feeds. With WordPress your users can even subscribe to the comments of each article. This lets your readers stay on top of the discussion and notifies them if you respond to their comment.

Blogging Options

Free Solutions

  • Blogger.com – This service (offered by Google) allows you to set up a blog in a very short amount of time. It’s free and it’s hosted by Google. It is limited, however. Google doesn’t use categories, instead they use labels. Their themes are out of date. Their service is plagued with outages. However, for a basic blogging it’s okay.

If you have a hosting account you can use Blogger as your blogging software and have it publish your entries to your hosting account. This is a great option if you are using a free or premium hosting service and have a domain name connected to your hosting account already.

WordPress.com Administration Area

  • WordPress.com – This service (offered by Automattic) like Google allows you to set up a blog in a very short amount of time. It too is free and hosted by them. You can upgrade your account on WordPress.com so that you can customize your blog’s CSS file. WordPress.com blogs offer users a lot of great features.

If you must go with a free hosted option then I would highly recommend WordPress.com over Blogger. I use the free, open source version of WordPress which you can install on your own server (more on that in a moment) and I absolutely love it. The interface on WordPress.com is exactly like the software you can download and install.

The major reason I would recommend WordPress.com over Blogger.com is the fact that if you decide to install WordPress on your own hosting account in the future, you can easily export your entries into a backup file and import them in your self-hosted installation very easily.

Note: You can import entries from a Blogger blog into a WordPress.com or self hosted WordPress blog. The only problem is that after you have imported your posts from Blogger you have to go through all of the posts and make sure that the formatting is how you want it. The way Blogger and WordPress display entries is different.

There are other free hosted blog solutions out there. The two that I have mentioned above are the ones I have used the most and are most comfortable in talking about their feature sets.

Other services that you might want to look into include: LiveJournal, TypePad, MovableType, MySpace or Twitter.

Self hosting benefits

If you want your own custom branded, custom designed blog then you’ll definitely want to look into self hosting your own blog. Most businesses would want to do this for branding reasons. This type of scenario would require you to install the blogging software or content management system onto your web server.

There are a lot of CMS packages out there. The one I’ll be discussing in great detail is WordPress CMS. I have been using it for quite a while now and am very happy with it. I started off using Nucleus CMS and was quite disappointed with it’s features. It left me begging for more. WordPress offered all the features I wanted right out of the box. It’s continued to get even better over the past couple of years.

The version of WordPress that you download and install onto your own server gives you all the functionality that WordPress.com blogs have while giving you the freedom to customize everything about your blog. You can install any plugin or theme you want. You can customize the themes to your heart’s content. You get free support from the WordPress.org Support Forums and it’s really good support, too. Once you start learning more about WordPress you can start helping out in the forums which will help the community grow and the software to get better.

Custom themesWordPress.com offers a lot of themes that you can choose from. However, if you install WordPress onto your own server you can design your very own theme so that it looks exactly the way you want it to. Learn more about designing your own WordPress theme.

Movability – If you decide that you want to move your blog you can easily do so by backing up everything and moving it.

Branding – You can customize your website theme anyway you want. You can make it look like your current website by using the same styling and simply adding a few lines of PHP code.

Plugins – There are a ton of freely available plugins that you can install in your WordPress installation. The plugins allow you to easily extend your blog’s functionality.

Community Blogging – Want to set up your own blogging community, for free (hosting not included)? You can use the WordPress MU version and set up your own blogging community. Each member of the community can have their own blog. This is basically a free, open source version of WordPress.com

Other self hosted solutions: Joomla, Drupal, Movable Type, Nucleus.

Setting Up WordPress

The steps for installing WordPress are very similar to installing Nucleus CMS or any other content management system (CMS). Most CMS software comes in a ZIP file. You unzip the file, upload it and click the install button.

Requirements

  • Web hosting – WordPress does not require a lot of space. The initial size is is roughly 3 megabytes. Remember, as you go you’ll probably be uploading pictures, possibly audio & video files. So keep that in mind.
  • Database – Your web hosting account will need to provide you with a MySQL database. Keep in mind as your blog grows your database will grow too. Most hosting providers allow you to set up several. Set up one and write down the username and password.
  • PHP – PHP is the scripting language that WordPress is built on. This must be available to you on your hosting account otherwise WordPress will not work.
  • FTP Client – I prefer FileZilla FTP.
  • Latest release of WordPress – Get WordPress here.

If for some reason you can’t get web hosting with the requirements above, don’t fret, you can still play with WordPress. It won’t be online but it will give you some experience. You can download XAMPP and install WordPress to a local installation. This is great if you’re new to this and don’t want to mess something up on your web hosting account.

Installation Instructions

  1. Extract the WordPress compressed file that you downloaded.
  2. Rename “wp-config-sample.php” to “wp-config.php”
  3. Open “wp-config.php” and enter the database name, username, password and the host location.

    NOTE: WordPress says that you usually don’t have to change the server location, “localhost”. In my experience you usually do. Just check with your hosting provider or when you set up the database look to see what the location address of that database is. On GoDaddy it usually looks something like “servername123456.secureserver.net”

  4. Upload the WordPress files to your web server in the directory you would like to host your blog.

    NOTE: If you upload into your root directory and have another website in the root directory, more than likely the WordPress blog will be the first thing that appears. If you do have something else on your hosting account then I’d suggest creating a new folder and uploading the WordPress files into that folder.

  5. Navigate to your domain, IP adress or folder on your server where you installed WordPress and you should get a page that gives you a link to install WordPress. Use that link to install WordPress. Once you do you can login and begin blogging. You should also receive an email with your username and password. If you don’t receive an email it means you’re hosting provider has disabled PHP emailing.

If the instructions above are not enough, look at the installation instructions on the WordPress website. There you will find much more detailed information.

Post Installation Instructions

Spam Prevention

SPAM! If you don’t have a way of preventing it, your blog will become full of spambots leaving comments or trackbacks on your blog posts. If you don’t prevent them it may become un-bearable to delete each spam entry. Luckily, with WordPress there is Akismet. Unfortunately, you’ll have to sign up for a WordPress.com account to get an API key to activate your copy of Akismet.

  1. Akismet Configuration – Login to your administration area, click on Plugins and activate Akismet.
  2. Get your API key – Even though you are hosting your own WordPress installation. Sign up for a WordPress.com account and retrieve your Akismet API key. Take the key and copy and paste it into your WordPress installation.

Two other plug-ins that I would highly recommend are Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam Image Plugin and Spam-Bam.

Spam-Bam keeps spammers from posting to your blog by limiting the speed at which they are capable of posting comments. Sometimes I’ll even get the “Slow down Cowboy” message if I’m posting comments too quickly on my own blog.

Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam Image Plugin requires commenters to enter the word or phrase in the captcha image. It’s not as cryptic as a lot of the captcha images out on the web. They’re quite clear. It’s one of the best captcha plugins I’ve seen.

With those two plugins and Akismet I have eliminated 99.9% of my SPAM comments and trackbacks. Depending on the popularity of your blog your success at eliminating SPAM with those plugins may vary.

Other plugins I recommend

  • Dean’s Code Highlighter – I use this plugin here on TechButter when I want to display code on the blog without having to take a screen shot. So far, I’ve only used it once but think it’s a great plugin.
  • Lightbox2 – If you’ve been looking through some of my older or newer articles you may have clicked on a screen shot or photo and been presented with a larger version. This plugin makes that happen. You have to write some HTML for each entry to make it work but it’s not that hard.
  • Subscribe to Comments – I wish this plugin was built into the base install of WordPress. I love being able to click “Subscribe to comments via email” when I leave a post on other blogs. I read a lot of blogs and can never remember all of the ones I have commented on. I enjoy staying up-to-date on the discussion.
  • Contact Form ][ – This plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year (as of the latest update to this article). However, it’s still my favorite plugin for contact forms. If you’re looking for a contact form with more options you might try cforms.

Permalinks

The purpose of a permalink is so that when someone wants to link to an article you wrote, they can link to the individual post instead of your entire blog. It makes it a lot simpler to get to the information.

The default installation of WordPress gives your entries a unique number in the address field of the browser.

Example: http://domain.tld/?p=147

For search engine optimization it is best to have something that is a little nicer looking, such as:

Example: http://domain.tld/2006/11/19/synergy/

How to set up permalinks:

  1. Create a blank text document (.txt extension)
  2. Upload this file to your fresh WordPress installation and make sure there is no file listed that says “.htaccess” You may have to instruct your FTP client to show ALL files to make sure it is or isn’t there.
  3. If the file isn’t there, upload your text file and rename it to “.htaccess” (without the quotes). Nothing before the “.”.
  4. Login to your WordPress administration area, go to Options and then choose Permalinks. Choose the permalink structure that looks best to you. I usually go with Date and Name based URLs.
  5. Go to your blog and select one of your posts. The title of your post will direct you to the permalink. If you can click on that link and load an individual post without errors then you have correctly configured permalinks. If not, check with the WordPress support forums.

Database Backup Plugins

To ensure that you’re website is backed up regularly you’ll want to get a WordPress plugin that you can install and do one click backups and then have WordPress email that backup to you. The backup plugins that I use are Il Filosofo’s WordPress Database Backup and WP-DBManager for more advanced backup options.

  1. Download the plugins
  2. Extract the plugins
  3. Upload to domain.tld/wordpressdirectory/wp-content/plugins
  4. Login to you administration area, go to Plugins and activate the two plugins you just uploaded.
  5. For the Il Filosofo database plugin go to Manage >> Backup. For the WP-DB-Manager plugin there should be a new tab at the top called Database.
  6. Get familiar with making a backup using each of the plugins. Also, set up a scheduled database backup. If you update often or get comments often you’ll want to backup daily.

Promote your blog

Tagging

With the latest version of WordPress you can insert tags into each of your posts. Whenever you make a new post onto your blog WordPress pings Pingomatic which tells syndication services that you have updated your blog. When anyone goes to a site like Technoratiand does a search for a tag that you gave one of your entries, your entry should show up in the results.

Blogrolling

If you read a blog that is along the lines of your blog, you might email the author and do a link exchange. They put your link on their blogroll and you put their link on yours. This will help somewhat in increasing traffic as well as help you to get acquainted with your fellow bloggers.

Link to stories on other blogs

Whenever you link to an entry on another person’s blog your blog will usually send out a trackback which will be placed in the comments section of the blog entry you linked to. That will tell the blog owner that you mentioned them in your latest entry.

Note: With statistics software it’s possible to see where traffic is coming from and you can tell if people are linking to your site and you can stay on top of the discussion.

Interface Suggestion

If you’re familiar with HTML then I would highly recommend that you turn off the default WYSIWYG editor that WordPress provides you with. For some reason I have a lot of trouble with it. I always change the editor from WYSIWYG to the HTML editor. I’m just much more comfortable with that style of editing and in my opinion it works a lot better. You can change this setting in your user profile.

Conclusion

Thanks so much for looking through my blog post about getting WordPress up and running. I truly hope this entry was helpful to you! If it wasn’t please let me know so I can update it and help you out even more. If there is a specific question you have about WordPress please ask me! Thanks again!

Article update: Thursday, September 12, 2008: I updated this article with new screen shots. I also updated this article with updated information regarding my suggested plugins.

Article update: Tuesday, October 21, 2008: Added links to contact form plugins.