Category Archives: Opinion

The Battle is over between WordPress and Thesis

We’ve written a pretty popular review on Thesis Theme recently, which added to the debate discussions between Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress and Chris Pearson, the creator of Thesis Theme.

Mr. Mullenweg argued, with a strong contingent of WordPress enthusiasts behind him, that Thesis Theme is violating the GNU/GPL license of WordPress because Thesis Theme entirely depends on the WordPress framework to work, yet is not released under the GNU/GPL license as WordPress requires.

Pearson argued that he could, in fact, create anything using the WordPress framework and sell it as a premium product just like premium theme providers do.

Here’s where Pearson ran into trouble: the GNU/GPL license specifies that derived works must be re-released under the same license.  Meaning people cannot take the code, modify it, then sell it using more restrictive licensing guidelines as Pearson has done.

Thus ensued a heated debate among the open source community.  There was talk of court battles, and a moderated Skype debate even occurred.  The issue went as far as to garner debate and odds on SBRForum, a odds-making site.

Matthew Ross, Media Strategist for SBRForum gave us his two cents: Both sides of this debate have compelling arguments.  What we can say at this juncture is that the outcome of any potential ruling on this matter will be landmark and have far-reaching consequences. The fact that both Mullenweg and Pearson are active, well-known personalities in the space, only adds to the intrigue of this intense storyline. From an odds perspective, SBRforum.com has a beat on the matter. But, we also know that the odds could change based on any number of potential variables in the coming weeks and months.

After weeks of debate and controversy, the issue is over.  Pearson yielded, offering Thesis under a split GPL license which will allow him to maintain control over the product while staying in legal compliance with the WordPress folks.  This will also allow people who purchase the Thesis Theme to develop, modify and redistribute the code as their own with the necessary attributions.

In my opinion: we’ll take this as a victory for free software.

5 Reasons WordPress is Better Than Blogger

Wordpress vs. Blogger

Many beginning bloggers start on Blogger because well, it’s free, isn’t it? Plus, it’s not nearly as scary as having to deal with hosting and servers and FTP and who knows what other impossibly complicated things.

The thing is, if you’re serious about your blogging, you’re going to have to deal with these things sooner or later, and the cost for an entire year of hosting isn’t much more than a movie night for a family of four. With professional hosting in place, you’ll feel far more investment in your site.

Still not convinced? Here are five reasons WordPress is better than Blogger.

1. WordPress is much more customizable. Sure you can do a few things to pretty up your Blogger blog and there some things you can add on, but when it comes right down to it, the difference between the two is like the difference between renting and owning a home. A rental might let you paint or maybe plant some begonias out front, but ownership allows you to tear that baby down to the studs and go crazy building it back up.

Some people might not want or need that option, but your site IS your presence on the web, don’t you want it to fit you like a glove?

2. You’ll be taken far more seriously on your own domain. Although you can use blogger in conjunction with your own domain, most people don’t go through that step and are thus nameofblog.blogspot.com. It’s not easy to remember and looks amateur. And if you’re going to go through the trouble of buying a domain name and pointing it to Blogger, why not go the extra step and secure your own hosting? Most web hosts will install WordPress for you if you purchase a hosting package and it’s not that much more difficult from that point to begin blogging on WordPress than it would be on Blogger.

3. WordPress is very search engine friendly. Although Blogger is owned by Google, the WordPress platform has an edge when it comes to search engine optimization. Not only is it structured better for the search engines right out of the box, there are plenty of plugins designed to give you every sliver of SEO advantage possible. And with all the competition for search rankings, you do need every sliver you can get your hands on.

Of course Blogger blogs are indexed by Google and can of course achieve search engine rankings, but WordPress does offer a clear SEO advantage.

4. You own your WordPress blog. Blogger blogs are owned by Google and can be shut down at any time. Of course, Google isn’t insane and most of the time they have a good reason for shutting down a blog, but do you really want to be that one case out of 10,000 where they make the wrong call? Even if you’ve saved all the content and images you’d posted on Blogger, how will you rebuild all the inbound links and PR on a new site? If this were to happen to you, you’d more or less have to start from the beginning.

On the other hand, if you own your domain and WordPress site, if your host decides to shut you down because they feel you use too many resources or have violated their policies, you can simply pack up and move to a new host, blog intact. Again, it isn’t likely that Google would shut you down like that, but do you want to give that control to an outside corporation?

5. Blogger blogs have a certain reputation. It’s not fair and nobody should be judged by their platform, but many people have a prejudice or bias against Blogger blogs. I know sometimes I’m hesitant to even try to comment on one as so many make you comment with your Google account and then require a CAPTCHA on top of that. Blogger seems to have a reputation as being more for mommy/journal type blogs rather than serious bloggers.

Of course, that isn’t true of everyone who uses Blogger, but if I were starting from scratch, I’d go with the platform that didn’t come with a reputation for being amateur.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Blogger platform if it fits your needs. But if you have the smallest inkling that one day you’ll grow out of it and want to make the move to WordPress, it’s far simpler to start with your own WordPress blog today and save yourself the hassle of trying to move later.

Hosting can be found for as little as $5 a month and you’ll be working with one of the most customizable blog and content management systems out there. WordPress offers so many advantages over Blogger, it seems silly to start with anything else, unless you’re not planning on going anywhere with your blog.

Sean Platt is a content marketing specialist who offers free WordPress tutorials at WPSimplified.Com. Follow him on Twitter.

Image Credit

Introducing the Pingable collection on Themeforest

We are constantly watching for amazing new WordPress themes that are both free and commercial.  One of the places we look for new talent is ThemeForest, a marketplace for all sorts of web themes.  When we find something exceptional, we add it to the Pingable collection.  Check out the Pingable collection periodically for new, stunning WordPress themes.

Check out the Themeforest collection here.

7 alternatives to Google Analytics

We all use Google Analytics to track visitors to our WordPress sites.  Right?  Not necessarily.  There were several services before Analytics was the standard, and even more have popped up in recent years that compete with the big G!  Here are some of the best options out there, with a little analysis of our own.

But first, some critique of Google Analytics which has caused some webmasters to look elsewhere.

  • Delay.  Have you ever found yourself checking your stats at 12:01 AM?
  • Reliability. Analytics isn’t supposed to count bots and spiders, but have you ever found a massive spike in traffic with no real explanation?  Or perhaps you’ve wondered how a search term of “green chili recipes” brought someone to your blog about rugby?
  • Ease of use.  There are some very powerful features built into Analytics, but for 90% of webmasters, they’re overboard.  Sometimes I just want a simple, stylish graph of traffic.

Here are several alternatives to Analytics that address some of these issues.

Woopra

  • Real Time
  • Easily compare and manage multiple sites
  • Tons of trackable information
  • Promises additional features soon

Clicky

  • Real time statistics
  • Free and paid plans
  • Most of the popular features of Analytics
  • A graphically pleasing layout
  • Offers a WordPress Plugin to integrate with your site.
  • Has an impressive client list including Mashable, SmashingMagazine and BuySellAds.com

Piwik

  • Real Time
  • Simple
  • Open Source
  • Plugin powered so you can add/remove features
  • Installed on your server so you have complete control and ownership of the data

Sitemeter

  • One of the originals
  • Free and paid plans
  • Easy and fast to set up
  • Easily share your stats (or secure them from) visitors

Chartbeat

  • Real time
  • Simple interface
  • Traffic alerts
  • $9.95/month at press time

Reinvigorate

  • Real time
  • Event tracking
  • “Heat map” technology
  • Desktop integration

Mint

mint-analytics

  • Self-hosted for full control
  • Search support
  • Feed subscription patterns
  • $30 per domain – One off

Do you know of another alternative to Google Analytics?  Share it below with your comment.

6 tips for making your blog stand out

With hundreds of thousands of blogs being created every day, yours will take a lot to stand out in the crowd. These tips have been assembled from years of experience navigating the blogosphere. Stick to these 6 principles and you’ve got a pretty decent chance of making it.

1. Use a custom design

This is less difficult or expensive as you may think. There are tons of beautiful themes and templates available for blogs. Find the one that best suits your needs (see #6) and customize it by adding a unique background, menu, icons, etc.

Using some of the online marketplaces like Graphic River, you can find new images to spice up your design that is both unique and aesthetically pleasing.

2. Give away something (quality) for free

One of my first blogs found success in giving away a premium quality CMS template for free. This helped in almost every component of my blog. It encouraged link building, increased credibility, and encouraged repeat visits.

The investment is well worth the return. Give away a quality asset like a theme, icons, or something else related to your blog topic. You will find an increase in traffic, backlinks and favorable mentions on other sites.

3. Post frequently (reference other article)

This article discusses this topic further, but you should respond to your readers and post often. Don’t flood your blog with content so that readers can’t filter through it all and quality suffers. However, posting on a regular and frequent schedule will build credibility and show readers you can be depended on for quality content.

4. Develop relationships

There’s no subsitute for pounding the internet pavement and building relationships. All relationships matter, but focus on connecting with others who share your passions and topics. I regularly reach out to other blogs that I follow.

Reaching out can be guest blogging, exchanging links or collaborating on a freebie release. (See #2)

5. Be unique

The web is full of duplicative, useless content. There is a special place in hell reserved for those who saturate the web with boring content meant only to encourage ad clicks.

Have you noticed the increase in “list” sites? Mashable.com and Tutorial9 are just some examples of websites that create helpful posts of lists like “100 of the best free WordPress themes”. Your content should be unique, informative and easy to read. If you can do this, the links and traffic will follow.

6. Leave out the excess (focus on the content)

The big content management systems (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.) offer countless addons and plugins. These can be both helpful and harmful to your blog. Don’t think that the coolest features are necessary. Focus on quality, informative content and leave the fancy sliders and effects out.

7. Be patient

The top blogs were not made in a day. Popularity, traffic, links and credibility are earned over time. If you’re passionate about a topic, you will continue to be motivated by changes and innovations. Be patient, offer consistent quality and useful content that people can expect every time they come back.

What’s up with WordPress Hosting?

Have you seen the wordpress.org hosting page?  With WordPress consuming a massive segment of the web, the WordPress hosting industry has to be big.  We recently stumbled upon a page over at WordPress.org that recommends web hosting providers.  Our first thought: this must be a goldmine!  Here’s why:

1st) WordPress.org has a page rank of 9.  A simple link from a PR9 site can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month, not considering any traffic that might be generated from said link.

2nd) The web hosting industry is cutthroat.  Hosting providers often pay over $100 for each referral.  Let’s say only 1/10th of 1% of all WordPress.org visitors sign up for hosting services through the wp.org/hosting page.  Ranked 320th among all websites, WordPress.org likely receives millions of visits each month.  Let’s say 10 million.  That’s 10,000 web hosting signups times $100 each…   $1,000,000 per month.

Obviously this can’t be the case, so we’re wrong somewhere.  But this exercise was simply to demonstrate the value of the hosting recommendations page on WordPress.org.

3rd) WordPress.org is not just a website, not just a blogging platform, it is one of the most powerful and recognized brands on the internet.  Getting recommended by WordPress is like reaching the holy grail of web hosting.  All together now: “KATCHING!”

4th) Only five hosts are listed on that page.  This is not an open directory or depository of hosting links.  The architects of this page did their homework and that means you don’t get on this page by offering them the highest referral fee.

Image credit: Lex.

20 reasons WordPress gives us goosebumps

If you’re reading this post we can be sure of two things.  First, you love WordPress too.  Second, you have experienced other content management systems and thus, know WordPress beats them all.  These are (just some of) the reasons WordPress is the only choice for managing a blog, a community, or a business online.

WordPress is…

  1. simple.
  2. easy to learn.
  3. fast.
  4. constantly updated.
  5. fully supported.
  6. popular.
  7. scalable.
  8. easy to theme.
  9. beautiful.
  10. functional.
  11. secure.
  12. intuitive.
  13. flexible.
  14. free.
  15. ready out of the box.
  16. can be updated automatically.
  17. can be extended easily.
  18. is SEO friendly.
  19. transferable.
  20. poetic.

5 features we would love to see in WordPress 2.9

These are the features we would absolutely love to see in the next stable release of WordPress. Of course, being that this site is dedicated entirely to WordPress, we love the simple blogging platform as-is. But there is always room to grow.

  1. Line markers in the theme editor. – Sometimes it’s easier and faster to edit your theme code through the built-in editor rather than using an FTP client.  But a line count would be very helpful.
  2. A search feature in the theme editor. – the old Ctrl+F technique sometimes works depending on browser, but would be great to have a built in, AJAX powered search function in the next release.
  3. Database tools in the dashboard. – This could be dangerous for those who like to tinker with database tables, but direct access to the DB within the dashboard would save lots of steps for a WordPress admin.
  4. More Ping/update tools. – WordPress can notify update services when you post, but further control around this feature would be helpful.
  5. Theme tag control. – This is a tall order, but the ability to customize various template/theme tags like the excerpt tag would be great! For example, it would be nice to be able to change the excerpt word limit on the fly.

What are you hopes and dreams for the next WordPress release?  Add them as a comment below.

Review of Artisteer theme generator

We downloaded the free trial version of Artisteer, a WordPress theme generator that also can export Joomla and HTML website themes.  We then dished out $49 to test the full version with all the features enabled.  It had a promising feature list and made some heady claims as to what was possible with this $49 chunk of coding.  The short version of this review: the software is not worth it.  The long version follows.

In their words:

Artisteer is the first and only Web design automation product that instantly creates fantastic looking, unique website templates and blog themes.

wordpress themes Design awesome blogs and cool web templates in minutes
wordpress themes Export to Blogger, Joomla, WordPress and other CMS products
wordpress themes No need to learn Photoshop, CSS, HTML or other technologies
wordpress themes Fun and easy to use!

With Artisteer YOU immediately become a Web design expert, editing and slicing graphics, coding XHTML and CSS, and creating Web Design Templates, Joomla templates, Drupal themes, WordPress themes, DotNetNuke skins, and Blogger templates all in minutes, without Photoshop or Dreamweaver, and no technical skills.

These are impressive claims.  As a follow up, they offer these as the “Top 10 reasons to use Artisteer”:

  1. Generate cool Web design ideas.
  2. Adjust generated designs to create great looking Web and Blog templates.
  3. Create perfectly correct, validated HTML and CSS that conform to Web standards.
  4. You don’t need to learn Photoshop, CSS, HTML and other Web technologies to create great looking designs, including images and buttons.
  5. If you are a Web designer, generate ideas, prototypes and quick Websites for your clients and friends.
  6. Choose and use many included design elements, from backgrounds to photo objects and buttons.
  7. Automatically solve problems with image aliasing, Web browser compatibility and other details requiring time and knowledge.
  8. Learn how to create professional HTML and CSS code.
  9. Save money on WordPress Themes and Web design templates.
  10. If you don’t have the time, hire your kids to create great looking web design for you.

In our words:

Number 10 is probably the best reason to use Artisteer.  Why? because it can really only produce a theme worthy of a child’s blog.  Although there are some fancy and handy features which are outlined below, the end product is a well packaged piece of junk.

The Pros:

  • The interface is super easy to use.  Literally point and click to change the layout.
  • The “suggest a design” feature is very cool.  One click and the software will assemble a random set of parameters into a theme.
  • Exporting into a full theme package takes just a couple quick steps.  The Home version which we purchased for evaluation allows the exporting of WordPress, Blogger and HTML themes.  The Pro version allows the aforementioned formats plus Drupal and Joomla templates.

The Cons

  • As we mentioned, the quality of the themes is poor.  Unless you are a highly skilled graphic designer that can completely customize the theme after export.
  • The files exported clearly indicate that Artisteer was used in a Readme file.  Also, the CSS files have the “art-” prefix which hints at the generator of the theme.  This isn’t a big deal for personal use themes.  But if one wanted to sell these themes as their own design, Artisteer would give them away.
  • The layouts are limited to specific formats.
  • There are three built-in widget options with very limited placements in the themes.
  • Menus look amateur in quality.
  • Customizing the menus takes quite a long time to get the hang of.
  • You can’t pass off the themes as your own. (Read as both a pro and a con)
  • It is pretty expensive ($49 for the limited version, $129 for the expanded)
  • Their support was fast but snotty.

Our final opinion: The software is neat – but would be neater if it were free.  It produces quick themes if you don’t care about quality or aesthetics.  The support staff lacks interpersonal skills.  Overall, Artisteer is not worth the investment.  You’re better off dropping half as much on a professionally designed, well supported theme over at ThemeForest.com.

5 must-follow WordPress blogs

Search “WordPress Blog” and you won’t come up with a blog about WordPress.  You’ll find one of the billions of websites powered by our favorite CMS, WordPress.  Instead of search overload, take this list as the beginning of your “must have” list of WordPress resources.

  1. WordPress.org Development Blog
  2. Smashing Magazine (about design in general, but they love WP over there)
  3. ProBlogDesign
  4. Matt Mullenweg‘s blog (the founder of WordPress)
  5. Blogging Pro