Heaven knows what I was thinking. When I made this an official blog on January 1st, 2009, I can’t even tell you why I opted for a WordPress blog. Well, actually I can: because it was free. I was already paying for a hosted website (KKsPhotos.com), and I could start a WordPress blog as a tag-on for no extra charge. I then found that the domain “accidentalamazon.com” was available and bought it for a small fee. Instead of starting another whole site with it and paying another hosting fee, I just set it up to forward automatically to the actual web address, which was KKsPhotos.com/blog. I mean, heck. I had enough to do trying to figure out this WordPress thang. I wasn’t concerned about having pretty link addresses.
Let me just tell you something. WordPress is what you call your basic open-source software. Which means it’s free. Which means anyone who feels so moved can tweak it to make it better or write plug-ins that we users can all use or do whatever. Which is all good. And these geeky people who invented it and tweak it and make it better are very nice and justly proud of their efforts, as well they should be, because WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world. And they really try to make it easy to use. They are, indeed, fond of bragging about “our famous 5-minute installation.” Now, I pride myself on being fairly geeky. But, trust me, it takes a lot longer than five minutes to get rolling with a WordPress blog. Sure, downloading the software may take less than 5 minutes. So what? That’s no more complicated than sending your BFF a link to a YouTube vid. But figuring out what to do with it once you’ve downloaded it? I’ll put it this way: don’t start a blog when you’ve got anything more urgent to do than making a pot of coffee. Because you won’t get anything else done that day. Or week. Or month. But you will need that coffee.
Let me tell you something else about open-source software like WordPress. This baby was developed by geeks in their spare time, which means they didn’t get paid to do it. Which means that there’s no customer service department, no techie you can turn to when you can’t figure something out, because there’s no one getting paid to help you. Which sucks. This is when you realize there are decided advantages to this capitalism thing. But it’s not like there isn’t any support for the hapless user. There is a website which contains a whole body of knowledge, rather grandly referred to as a Codex, that you can refer to. There is also a user forum where you can post questions about your dilemma and hope someone who’s smarter than you are will eventually write an answer. Which is okay as far as it goes, but it’s not especially helpful when you need help now. Even if you are capable of waiting for an answer without wanting to throw yourself off a bridge — or perhaps wanting to throw your computer off a bridge — chances are high to virtually inevitable that when and if you get an answer on the forum, it will have been written by some geek who eats code for breakfast and writes iPhone apps for fun, and who has such a vastly superior knowledge of the esoteric workings of software that he is no longer capable (if he ever was) of communicating with someone as woefully ignorant as yourself, in any language resembling the one you can actually speak. So, even if you receive some words of wisdom, you will be completely unable to understand them.
You’re on your own, kiddo.
I’m not saying it wasn’t my fault for not sticking to one of the ready-made WordPress themes. The theme is the costume your blog wears, as it were, the colors, typefaces, layout. I totally own up to wanting to put that photo of my legs showing my tattoo and my red patent leather, peep-toe high heels on the sidebar. I fully realize that my life would have been much simpler had I not wanted my blog background to be this textured purple wallpaper of my own invention instead of one of the nice simple backgrounds I could have found in a themes file. So, shoot me for wanting to be original, okay? I went to art school, all right? That’s what happens when you go to art school. So, bite me already. Yes, I probably could have lived without knowing when to type the phrase class=”attachment alignleft” or target=”_blank”, but my life is richer for knowing how to href and div id in html. I swear.
I might never have gone down this road at all if I hadn’t decided to improve my brand identity. Brand identity is one of those concepts you talk about a lot in design classes in art school. It has to do with things like the Nike swoosh and their slogan “Just do it.” No one has to explain that swoosh or slogan. You understand immediately, and not just the notion that Nike wants you to buy their stuff, but that if you do, you’re serious about getting fit, and you’re not one of them slackers who just want to wear spandex as a fashion statement. That level of ubiquitous recognition is impressive. That’s brand identity.
I was paying attention when I took those classes at RISD. To the degree that you, my dear reader, expect red high heels, bows and arrows, and some informed, humorous, purple prose about breast cancer when you visit this blog, then I have succeeded in establishing my brand identity. I had the domain locked up, so it made sense to want all the links to this blog show up in search engines and in your browser with the name “accidentalamazon” front and center. I mean, of course, Nike’s website is Nike.com. So, I figured, well, I’ve got this nice working blog over here and this nice domain name over there, so how hard could it be just to get the two of them together? Bwahahahahahahahah! Oh, silly me…
I won’t bore you with all the gory details. I’ll just say that I started this a few weeks ago and I’m not quite done yet. I did try to come at it from the WordPress end of things, but after a week and a half of brick walls and sheer frustration, I decided to go at it from the other end. The other end is an open source database program called MySQL and an administrative program that works with it that is written in PHP. MySQL (“my sequel”) is a powerful tool that allows bloggers and web designers to create endlessly dynamic, interactive sites by rearranging the data in a MySQL database. It was originally developed by a couple of Swedish guys and a Finnish guy. I’m not surprised at this. I’ve said elsewhere that my Swedish grandmother was one of the smartest, cleverest people I’ve ever known, and any brilliantly geeky genes I’ve managed to inherit came largely from her, I have no doubt. PHP, according to Wikipedia, originally stood for “personal home page,” but morphed into Hypertext Preprocessor, a scripting language that is used to create applications that can use the data in a MySQL database in a variety of useful ways that can be imbedded in HTML (hypertext markup language), which is the working language of the Web. PHP was first developed by another Scandinavian, a Danish dude living in Greenland who looks amazingly like an old boyfriend of mine. And people wonder why Vikings were so good at conquering. Hey, it’s cold up there. What else have they got to do?
Long story short, tweaking the database did the trick. That, and I’ve also had a lot of conversations with techies who work for my web hosting service in the last few weeks, all of whom have admitted that they don’t understand WordPress either. I think that maybe, just maybe, I’ve started to grasp a few concepts, but whether I have or not, my blog is now safely ensconced under its lovely old-new domain name in WordPress 3.0.1, and all of its post links have gorgeous, sensible names that include “accidentalamazon/blog,” plus the date and title of the post! How freakin’ cool is that???
Just goes to show you what you can accomplish with a little cussedness and persistence. That, and the help of some nice techies who speak English. The last one was an especially pleasant woman named Annette who works at my web host’s home office in Oregon. Annette is definitely a candidate for new-BFF status. Annette, who designs websites when she’s not helping desperate folks like myself, helped reassure me that I had in fact actually established a new database for my lovely domain based on my old database under the old domain. We both laughed a lot at the obtuseness of WordPress, despite its storied popularity. “Every time I think I should really learn more about how it works, I give up,” Annette admitted. After looking everything over, she said, “You’re getting there. You really are. Plus, I love it when my customers are willing teach themselves how to slog through this stuff. Just don’t move any more blogs ever again, okay?” We both literally LOL’d and Annette signed off by saying, “Thanks. You’ve really made my day.” You, too, Annette.
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