WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: Which is right for you?


WordPress, my CMS of choice

Earlier this year, I moved this site from a self-hosted WordPress.org installation to an account hosted on WordPress.com. Meanwhile, I continue to edit and manage a self-hosted WordPress blog. I’ve been using both versions of WordPress side-by-side for nearly a year, and I’m very happy with both of them. If you’re trying to choose between the two, here’s some guidance.

What’s the difference?

First, a brief explanation of the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS), which means that it’s not only free to use, but you can also download the source code and change the software if you are so inclined. At WordPress.org, you can download WordPress absolutely free, but you are responsible for installing and hosting it somewhere. At WordPress.com, you can’t download the software, but you can create a free account and start a WordPress-based blog or website. The experience of writing and updating content is virtually the same as both. Further, even though you can’t install your own plugins on WordPress.com, it offers a large set of built-in features not included in the vanilla WordPress.org download.

As a side note, I don’t think there’s much of a difference in cost between the two versions. WordPress.com sites are free to create, but there are various upgrades that you may want to buy, such as custom domains, premium themes, and the ability to create a custom design for your site. WordPress.com offers an upgrade bundle for $99 per year. Meanwhile, for a self-hosted WordPress site, you have to buy your own domain (around $10 annually for most domains) and pay for your own hosting (about $10 per month for typical users), which comes to about $130 per year.

Why you should choose a self-hosted WordPress site

  • You have technical skills, or you’re willing and able to learn them. If you’re already writing your own code or running your own servers, you’ll probably be frustrated with the lack of control offered by WordPress.com. However, you don’t have to be an IT wizard to start a self-hosted WordPress blog. I knew next-to-nothing about coding when I started experimenting with WordPress. I’m not a WordPress genius by any means, but I know enough to customize WordPress for my needs.
  • You want/need a great deal of flexibility. As I said above, WordPress.com offers a large variety of features. Your site, however, might need a plugin not available on WordPress.com, or you might want a level of customization not available on WordPress.com. For example, the other day, I created a Portfolio page for myself. My preference was to create this as a full-width page, without any sidebars or other features. If this were a self-hosted WordPress site, I could have created a full-width page for my Portfolio, but the theme I’m using doesn’t offer that as an option.
  • You want/need total control over your site. This is closely related to the point above. If you want or need to control all of the code and data for your site, whether for personal or legal reasons, you should host your own site.

Why you should choose a WordPress.com site

  • You just want your site to work without bothering with the technical stuff. This is probably the biggest reason to choose WordPress.com. You don’t have to worry about installing your plugins, upgrading the software, or debugging any problems that arise. This is why I chose to move to WordPress.com. Even though I could handle the technical stuff, I didn’t have the time or inclination to handle it at the time I moved.
  • The WordPress.com community appeals to you. Personally, this isn’t something that I make much use of, but there is a huge WordPress.com community that offers a social network. If you already know a bunch of people using WordPress.com, or you like this kind of community, it’s a great choice.
  • You like the free features of WordPress.com (or don’t mind paying for upgrades). As I mentioned above, the cost of a hosted WordPress.com site comes from the upgrades. If you just want to write, post photos, create content, etc., and don’t want a lot of customization, I’d recommend WordPress.com.

That’s my advice. Here’s another take on the same question from Tom Ewer at WPMU. Have you used either version of WordPress? Do you have an opinion about which is better for you?

Organizing My Job Search with Pinboard

Pinboard Logo

Pinboard, my favorite bookmarking service.

For the past month, I’ve been searching for a new full time job. As anyone can tell you, there are jobs out there — it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. (Sounds easy, right?)

I’m looking for a position in communications, writing, editing, or web production. That covers a huge variety of positions and industries, and all sorts of jobs come up on, say, Indeed if you search for those keywords. Further, friends and family regularly email me about positions they’ve seen posted. Some of these look like they would be a perfect position for me. Others — not so much.

This leaves me with an information filter problem: how do I sort through and organize these jobs to find the ones that I’m both qualified for and interested in?

The Beauty of Pinboard

This is where Pinboard comes in. Pinboard is an online bookmarking tool that allows you to save and organize web pages for future reference. You might be asking, “Why would I want that? My web browser can store bookmarks for me.” True, but here are a few reasons why Pinboard is better:

  • Depth. I currently have over 5,000 bookmarks stored in Pinboard. Good luck keeping those organized in a web browser bookmarks folder.
  • Ease of use. Pinboard integrates with many other apps I use every day, including Tweetbot, Reeder, and Instapaper. If I read an interesting article in one of those apps, I can save it directly to Pinboard. With the “Save to Pinboard” shortcut, I can save webpages directly from Safari. With IFTTT, I can also automatically archive links from Facebook pages, RSS feeds, or other sources.
  • Tagging. Instead of folders, Pinboard using tags to organize bookmarks. This becomes important in a second.

Pinboard isn’t free — it costs about ten dollars to create an account — but that’s actually something I like about the service. As Pinboard’s owner explained on the site’s blog, charging a fee provides stability and allows him to focus on the service full time. I don’t have to worry about the site’s parent company shutting it down because it’s not profitable or the site selling ads (or my personal information) to make ends meet. There’s also an optional archiving service that, for $25/year, guarantees that articles you bookmark will still work even if the original link changes or gets deleted. If I were a student or working on a long-term research, I would sign up for archiving in a second.

My Job Review Workflow

  1. When I find a job posting, I review it quickly to see if it would be a good fit. If I don’t think it would be, I close the window and forget about it. If I think it might be a good fit for me, then I bookmark it with Pinboard.
  2. Collection: I usually use the Safari “Save with Pinboard” shortcut, which I have set to Cmd–5 on my Macbook. I tag the posting with jobs and set the bookmark to private. (By default, bookmarks in Pinboard are public, so you could share a collection of bookmarks with others.) If the job looks like an especially great fit, I tag it Ajobs.
  3. Review: Every couple of days, I review my bookmarks tagged jobs or Ajobs. Pinboard has a great feature called “Organize” that displays the original URL and your bookmark side-by-side. I check for a few things: Is the job still available? Do I still think it would be a good fit? Do I want to promote the job to Ajobs, demote it to jobs, or delete it entirely?
  4. Action: At any given time, I try to keep 5 to 10 postings tagged with Ajobs. So, whenever I’m ready to apply for some jobs, I simply open by Ajobs tag in Pinboard and start applying.
  5. Archive: After I’ve applied for the job, I change the tag from Ajobs to Ajobsapplied (or jobsapplied if I’ve applied to a lower priority position). This allows me to keep a record of the jobs I’ve applied for. I also add the job application to my Job Search Google Doc, which I’ll write about another day. Keeping track of applications is a requirement for unemployment benefits, but it also helps me follow up more effectively. For example, I can review my LinkedIn network for people who might be able to connect me with the company.

If you don’t want to use Pinboard, you could set up a similar workflow with Evernote, your browser’s bookmarks folder, or any program that lets you save and organize bookmarks.

That’s my workflow. I’d love to hear how others review and organize job listings. What are your tips?

The First 3 Apps I Install on a New Mac

Yesterday, I finished replacing the hard drive in my wife’s Macbook (which I also use at home) and reinstalled Mac OS X Lion. [BTW, if you ever need to do the same, bookmark these two articles on downloading the Lion Installer from the Mac App Store and creating a bootable flash drive.] So, last night, I had a fresh, clean installation of Lion.

I’m 99% sure that I heard Dan Benjamin describe this same set-up on the Back to Work podcast, but I’ll go ahead and say that I was doing it already, which I doubt is true. On a brand new Mac, here are the first programs I install, before I do anything else.

  1. Dropbox: Partly because Dropbox is awesome, partly because Dropbox can store/sync the data for the next two apps, and partly because I can simply save to Dropbox any files I want to transfer from my old computer and — voilà! — they appear on my new computer. (FYI — use this link to sign up for Dropbox and I get some additional storage. Yay!)
  2. 1Password: If you don’t have 1Password, you need to get it. How many passwords do you have to use or remember? What about account logins? Credit card numbers? Software licenses? 1Password stores all of that for me, plus allows me to access it from my browser or my phone, plus generates new passwords for me when I need them. And, because 1Password syncs via Dropbox, all of my passwords show up automatically on my new computer. (App Store link, iPhone app)
  3. TextExpander: If you’re like me, there are things that you type over and over and over again — your name, your phone number, your email signature, the generic response to someone who wants you to do something, and so on. TextExpander lets you create shortcuts so that you don’t have to type all that out. Over the years, the app has also added some great features. I use TextExpander so much that I often find myself trying to use my typing shortcuts while I’m writing longhand. And, just like with 1Password, TextExpander syncs through Dropbox, which means that all of my saved text expansions show up on my new computer. (App Store link, iPhone app)

After that, I have started following Dan Benjamin’s advice and only install applications as I need them. That way, I don’t carry over from my old computer any obsolete programs, apps I used to use for old job functions that I don’t do anymore, or other stuff that’s just been laying around.

Adding Mars Hill Audio to iTunes Match

If you — like me — are both a loyal subscriber to Mars Hill Audio and a user of iTunes Match, you might have found — as I did this morning — that your MHA tracks (distributed via mp3) are listed “Ineligible” for iCloud. Ineligible tracks won’t be synced with iCloud, which means that you won’t be able to listen to them on your iPhone.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution.

  1. Select the Mars Hill Audio tracks in iTunes.
  2. From the “Advanced” menu, choose “Create AAC Version.”
  3. Then update iTunes Match. (Store -> Update iTunes Match)

Ken Myers’ soothing voice will now be available to you on your iPhone. Enjoy!