How to Start a Technical Blog, Part 3: WordPress Plugins


Part 1 explained the reasoning and decisionmaking process, part 2 recommended using WordPress, and in this entry I’ll talk about what WordPress plugins I use here on and what they do.

FeedBurner FeedPress Gets You RSS Stats

Some of your readers will subscribe to your blog using RSS feeds. I won’t explain RSS here, but the short story is that even if you use Google Analytics, you still won’t know how many people are subscribed to you unless you get a free FeedBurner account.  FeedBurner, also owned by Google, gives you easy-to-read statistics about how many people have their virtual eyes on you.

The FeedPress plugin changes most (but not all) of the links on your blog to point to your FeedBurner feed, which gets you the statistics.  If you’re using a custom WordPress theme to change the way your blog looks, that theme may have hard-coded links pointing to your own WordPress theme.  (I had that problem here on my own blog.)  We won’t cover hand-editing WordPress themes here, although I will touch on that in my next and final How-to-Blog entry.

FlickrRSS Shows Your Photos

I use Flickr to store my photos online.  They have a free service that lets you upload a certain amount of photos per month that fits most people, and a $25/year Pro service for wackos like me who upload gigs of photos per month.

This plugin shows your most recent photos down the side of your blog.  I like seeing that other bloggers have a real life in meatspace outside of their blog, and I like looking at their pictures to see what they’re up to.  Adds some personality to your site.

After installing the FlickrRSS plugin, you have to use its widget.  With WordPress, your sidebars (and in some themes, your footer) is configurable as a widget, and you can drag & drop different things in there.  Drag the FlickrRSS plugin into one of your sidebars in the management UI to enable it.  I won’t cover that here because it’s about to change in WordPress 2.7.

MobilePress Enables Phone and PDA Users

I know, I know, you don’t care if iPhone users can see your blog or not, but this is really cool and easy.  Just grab this free plugin, and your web site will look amazing on iPhones, Blackberries, etc., and it doesn’t change the way your site looks on “normal” browsers.  It’s so easy that you can’t help but do it.

PingPressFM Gets The Word Out About New Entries

Whenever I post a new blog entry here, my blog automatically updates my status on Facebook, Twitter, Brightkite, etc to let people know that I posted a new blog entry.

There’s two parts to this: first, set up an account on Ping.FM and set up your social networks there. is a cool web service that lets you update all of your networks in one spot.

Next, install the PingPressFM plugin and configure it with your Ping.FM info.  Then, whenever you post a blog entry, schazam, people know about it.  It even works when you schedule blog posts in advance – this particular post was written days before it actually went live, but when WordPress published it on a scheduled basis, bam, out went the Tweets and whatnot.  I do this because I’m not always in a writing mood: when I am, I’ll crank out a week’s worth of posts in a few hours.

Subscribe to Comments Keeps the Conversation Going

When I read blogs, sometimes I’ll leave a comment if I have a question for the author, if I disagree with something, or if I just want to thank the author for doing a great job on the topic.  But I’ll never know if the person responded, because I rarely go back to the same blog entry again to check for updated comments.

The Subscribe to Comments plugin solves that problem by letting commenters check a box to get emailed whenever a new comment is added to that entry.  That way, if a user posts a question and then I answer that question in the comments, they’ll get an email notification.  That quick feedback helps viewers know you’re paying attention to their comments.

There’s another way to solve this issue using Intense Debate, a company WordPress bought recently, but WordPress is undergoing changes and I don’t recommend this plugin for beginning bloggers. I use it here on my site, but it’s not quite ready for public consumption. It’s buggy as hell.

WordPress Database Backup Plugin Handles the Boring Stuff

Nice blog you got there.

It’d be a shame if something happened to it.

Rather than paying the mafia for protection, grab this plugin and it will email database backups to you every night.  Works best with email providers like GMail who allow absurdly large inboxes.

Make a Little Money with WhyDoWork AdSense

If you want to make money from your blog, you can show Google Ads on it.  I’d recommend only showing ads on posts older than a couple of weeks – that way you won’t annoy your regular readers, but if someone finds your older posts via a search engine, they’ll help pay your bills.  You won’t get rich – as of this writing, I’m making less than $100/mo – but it’s free money when your site gathers enough volume.

To use it, sign up for Google Ads, then go into WordPress and put your ad codes into Settings, WhyDoWork Adsense.

I’ve covered the mechanics of setting it up, and I’ve left the look and feel for last.  Hey, isn’t that how we IT people always work?

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15 Comments. Leave new

  • Guess I should have waited until I got here to mention something about themes and design. Glad to see it is next up. 🙂

    Design is one of those things that I know it when I see something good or bad. But getting there from scratch, myself, would take me forever.

  • Flikr has nice tools and it’s cheap/free, but I think it deserves note that many corporate firewall systems block flickr images. When I tried switching to it, several users complained that my pictures were missing.

    Right now I’m still hosting pics on my own webspace, but eventually I’ll move the whole set to Amazon and remote host them there.

    Thanks for the Mobile and back up plugins. I had been thinking about solutions for those problems too.

  • That’s a good point: I don’t advocate using Flickr for the pictures you use in blog articles, only for your personal photos. For pictures that you use inside your blog entries to illustrate points, you’ll either want to keep those in your domain name, or use Amazon S3, but the S3 hosting is probably best reserved for advanced users.

  • Very informative, Thanks!!

    FYI: My iPhone app “AirMe” ftps my pix to Flickr automagically. It’s great for photo blogging.

  • Off Topic: Arlene, thanks for the tip on “AirMe”. I have been looking for an app that would do just that! Have you tried “vlingo” or “Easy Wi-Fi for AT&T” yet?

  • I grabbed Easy Wi-Fi but I haven’t driven out to a McDonald’s yet, heh.

  • You might have covered. Just skimmed since I am not on word press.

    Anyway, a lot of people will unsub from your RSS feed if you just syndicate summaries! Post the full feed!

  • Rob Paller no I haven’t! I will have to look into those! I’m an iPhone App Addict.

  • Jason – dude, that is a GREAT point and I’m slapping myself for missing that. I’m going to add it into the article now so people don’t have to go through the comments to get it. Great point.

  • A couple of suggestions for plugins Brent.

    What about spam? I use Akismet, and even though I’m just starting out, I get ridiculous amounts of spam comments.

    Also, what about blog polls? I use WP-Polls and it does the trick for me.

  • I use Askimet too, and it handles everything for me. I only get maybe one or two spam comments a day that get past Askimet. Make sure you have your WordPress API key put into the Askimet setup screen under Plugins, Askimet Configuration.

    About blog polls – yes, I use WP-Polls too and a few other plugins, but I didn’t include them because I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. If somebody goes through this list, they’ll get a good, stable working blog (with the possible exception of the wonky OpenID plugin).

  • Did you start using intensedebate? Seems like it. Or has my browser somehow been hacked? 🙂

  • Norbert Krupa
    July 9, 2013 12:18 pm

    4 and half years later, are you making more money with Adsense?


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