After Ending A 15-Year-Old Website

A year-and-a-half ago I made the decision not to renew the *.ws domain name for my website, Once Upon An Albatross… (OUAA), that I got a decade earlier for five bucks a year when *.com domain names were way too expensive. With a $25 USD renewal fee due, and a domain name that didn’t reflect my identity as a writer, it was time for it to go. OUAA got moved to a subdomain on my author website.

That prompted another decision six months later to stop updating the blog, bringing a storied 15-year-old website to an end. I’ve gotten burnt out from blogging three days a week, felt like I was grasping at straws most of the time. When I surveyed the website to put together the first volume of the blog compilation ebooks, the website has taken so many twisty turns over the years that it had no unifying theme.

In short, my 15-year-old website reflected my somewhat messy life.

1995 – 1996

The namesake, OUAA, started life in 1995 as a dial-up Wildcat! Bulletin Board System (BBS), running on an ancient IBM AT computer with a 2400-baud modem. The beginnings of an online empire that got wiped out by something called the Internet in 1996. I also got kicked out of the university staying up in the wee hours playing Magic: The Gathering card games with my equally irresponsible roommates.

1997 – 2001

The website started life on a free website hosting service to show off my non-existent video game design talent after I got a testing job at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis). Being a tester sucked the life out of being a designer at home, but I did learn enough HTML and CSS to put together web pages.

2002 – 2007

Becoming a lead video game tester in 2001 prompted me to go back to school to learn computer programming in 2002. I ordered the *.ws domain name that became the website home for a decade. The website became an ongoing programming LAMP project for the five years that it took to get my second associate degree on a part-time basis. I also became serious about writing.

2008 – 2009

No longer going to school and working as a help desk support technician in 2008, I switched out my programming project for the Joomla! CMS. I also used Joomla for my author website. Although I written posts on the website from time to time, I started blogging on a semi-irregular basis.

2010 – 2012

When I started this writing blog in 2010, I switched to WordPress. Joomla didn’t have a native blogging component, and the blogging component I paid for was chunky at best. I switched the website to WordPress, reorganizing all the content as blog posts and renaming the website after my old Wildcat! BBS.

A year later, I haven’t done much with OUAA except poke at it. Setting up the ebook publication schedule for next year, I’m coming out with the five volumes of blog posting compilation ebooks. That’s 300+ blog posts and 120,000+ words. I’ll clean up the website, apply some spit polish and let it be the spam magnet that it always has been.

Five months after I stopped blogging for OUAA, I got a new *.com domain name and started a new WordPress blog, Kicking The Bit Bucket (KTBB), with the tag line, “One blog post at a time!” The wordplay between title and tag line suggests kicking a bad habit by doing less of it. I started blogging with multiple posts every Wednesday, if I had more than one item to blog about. Now it’s a single blog post every week. Like OUAA before it, KTBB will probably become a reflection of my somewhat messy life.

SPECIAL NOTE: You can now pre-order the annual blog compilation ebooks for A Silicon Valley Writer (01/11/2014) and Kicking The Bit Bucket (01/25/2014).

The 500-Word Blog Post

When I decided to get back into blogging on a regular basis for my personal blog and this writing blog, I also decided to limit myself to 500 words or less per each blog posting. Having written numerous 500-word flash stories, this was a comfortable length that represented 15 minutes to two hours of work. Like any good flash story, you need a solid beginning, middle and ending to make a blog post work at that length.

When I surveyed the 300 postings from the two blogs to start compiling them into ebooks (starting with ASVW Volume 1), the shortest blog post was 29 words (i.e., an introduction to a video) and the longest blog post was 3,000+ words (i.e., a book review with a half-dozen books).  The average length between the two extremes was about 500 words. I have enough material to release ten 15,000-word ebooks over the next year. If I continue to blog at a regular pace, I’ll have enough material to publish two blog compilation ebooks each year.

Writing a 500-word blog post isn’t a piece of cake. If I can’t shoehorn an idea into 500 words in less than two hours, I need to split it into multiple blog posts or turn it into a 3,000-word essay ebook. That’s what I did for the Kickstarter blog posts (Part 1/Part 2). A bit ugly but a practical workaround to stay within the 500-word limit I set. Quoted text from other sources doesn’t count towards the limit.

If everything goes smoothly (and nothing ever does in my life), I can knock out a week worth of blog posts—2,000 words—on a weekend afternoon.

Adding A Blog to The Author Website

When I set up my author website two years ago, I kept it very simple by not adding a blog. At the time, I had only one publication credit and didn’t have enough experience to make a writer-centric blog a worthwhile effort. That was then. Now that I have a growing credit list and enough experience to blog once a week about being a fiction writer, it was time to add a blog to the author website.

Except I still had the same problem from two years ago: no money.

As fiction writers know too well, rejection slips don’t pay the bills and what does come in doesn’t amount to anything. My first published short story earned me $3.02 USD in cash—or 1/4 cent per word USD—that came in an envelope without a return address. These days I’m lucky to get $20 USD here and there. My monthly writing expenses come to $100 USD per month. Despite my best effort to break even, I’m still falling short every month. If I was going to add a blog to the website, the blogging software must be free (as in beer).

I used Joomla! CMS to manage the content of my family of websites, which doesn’t include a blog/comment component. When I set up my personal blog with Joomla in January 2008, I paid for the My Blog and JomComment components to get the blog functionality I needed. After looking through all the available free blog/comment components for Joomla this week, I remembered why I paid for those components in the first place. All the free stuff for Joomla wasn’t that good. If I had the money, I would have to get new licenses for my existing author website.

After looking around at blogging alternatives, WordPress became an obvious choice.

I created a new subdomain to install the blogging software on my author website. In effect, I’m running two websites side by side. If you ever set up a Joomla website before, setting up a WordPress website is relatively painless in comparison. The hardest part was picking a good theme. I went with the Minimalism theme after playing around with a half-dozen similar themes. That took only a few tweaks to get the colors and layout done. As I familiarize myself with all the available WordPress features and plugins, I’ll be making additional tweaks as needed.

My author website now has a writer-centric blog. For writing and putting up a blog, WordPress is really nice and in some ways better than what is available for a Joomla website. The only thing that hasn’t really changed is the fact that it still takes me about 90 minutes to pull together a blog post.