WordCamp Belfast 2018

I've been going along to some of the Dublin WordPress meetups in the last couple of months, and one of the things they suggested is for people to attend the WordCamp conference in Belfast.

It takes place over the UK bank holiday weekend of 25th-27th May 2018, in the Queen's University, and is for anyone who has a interest in WordPress. There are sessions for developers, designers, bloggers, and business owners.

Myself, I like to tinker with WordPress for my personal sites and blogs, and am keen to understand a bit more of the technical stuff – so I think this conference will be really interesting.

It also gives me the opportunity to get my techie geek on in a environment with like-minded people.

Trying out the Gutenberg editor

There seems to have been a few stories appearing recently about the upcoming release of the Gutenberg editor for WordPress. Many reviews have been mixed, and some are downright negative. But rather than relying on someone else's opinion, I thought I'd give it a go myself.

So what is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is a new post editor for WordPress. It has been designed to replace the existing post editor – also known as the TinyMCE editor – with something a bit more powerful and useful.

Existing TinyMCE Editor

The existing editor will be very familiar to everyone that's used WordPress, and the change over to something new takes some getting used to.

Gutenberg Editor

The biggest change, apart from the cleaner lines and improved layout, is that each title, each paragraph, each quote, and each image on the page are in their own 'block'.

Each block is created by clicking on a little plus symbol (+), and then you select the type of block you want to add. There are a whole load of different types of block:

  • Headings
  • Paragraphs
  • Images
  • Quotes
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Code blocks
  • Videos

There's also the option to embed things from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many more sources.

So the idea seems to be to replace a whole lot of extended functionality that was previously achieved using plugins and short codes in the middle of text.

So is it any good?

Well this is the first post I've ever written using Gutenberg, and I like it already. For just writing a normal post full of text, I suppose it's a bit more complicated. But the real power of the editor comes when you want to start adding to the text.

Adding images suddenly becomes easier and more intuitive. And I have a lot more confidence that moving stuff around the page isn't going to mess up all the formatting.

And if I want to do anything fancy like embed a tweet, such as the one below, then Gutenberg really comes into its own. 

So how do you try it out?

It seems that WordPress is gearing up to roll out Gutenberg as its editor in the next major release of the software. Until then, it's available to add to your WordPress install as a plugin, so that you can try it out.

I believe the plugin is still in beta testing at the moment, so maybe don't use it for any critical production sites. But as this blog only gets about 40 visitors a day, I feel pretty safe in using beta code!

Why not give it a go, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Ten years, and then some

I just noticed that this blog is 10 years old!

The first post dates back to June 2007, only a couple of months after I moved from Edinburgh to Dublin.

This isn’t my first blog however. I started blogging back in September 2000, when very few people had even heard of the word ‘blog’. The whole personal publishing concept was very new in those days, and almost nobody had their own website. We felt like pioneers, and formed our own little communities. I used to read a handful of blogs every day, and felt like some of these people were my friends.

Scottish Bloggers

In Edinburgh I even used to go along to Scottish Blogger meetups, which mainly seemed to comprise of sitting in the pub all day drinking. Seeing the Blogger logo printed off and casually left on the pub table was the secret clue for meetup newbies about which group to approach. And contrary to expectations, we didn’t sit with our laptops out, but instead met and got to know like-minded people, and in some cases made new friends.

I even helped out with the running of a site that linked to all the Scottish blogs in existence at the time. There were so few of us, we could include them all in a manually-curated directory!

In the early I blogged anonymously, and was a lot more candid about what I wrote about. Then I decided to put my name to my words, and became more reserved, because exposure of my thoughts was then just a google-search away.

Social Media

When social media came along, blogging as we originally knew it changed. The ephemeral and frivolous posts moved from blogs onto social media, and many blogs – including my own – fell into disuse.

In the last six or seven years, I’ve not really dedicated myself to blogging that much – at least not on my personal site. I like to keep the blog there, as it does afford me an outlet for the occasional post when the mood takes me (like this post). Instead, like the rest of the world, I’ve mainly used social media for personal stuff. And for more specialist subjects, I’ve created subject-specific blogs for my writing – mostly on cycling and weight loss.

Domain Names

It’s interesting (to me, at least) to think back about all of the different domains I’ve used for my personal blog over the years. Since starting some 17 years ago, my blog has moved between all of these domains:

  • web-richard.net
  • rebuke.org
  • bloomfield.me.uk
  • richardbloomfield.ie
  • richardbloomfield.blog

I suppose that speaks more to my obsession with domain names rather than anything to do with blogging!

The Future

So what about the future? Well I realised recently that I quite miss writing blog posts. It’s something I’ve neglected of late, and want to get back into. Let’s hope that feeling lasts, and you should hopefully see a bit more content here!

Your 10 tips for how to write the best blog post

  1. Everyone loves a list. Don’t bother writing in paragraphs – nobody will read it! On the modern interweb people crave bite-sized chunks.
  2. Pick a number – any number. Tell people how many things will be in your list, so that their expectations are set. Some classic examples include: 3 steps to heaven, 50 ways to leave your lover, 12 days of Christmas
  3. Make it personal. People are more likely to click on links that begin with the word “You” or “Your”, as they will think it’s about them.
  4. Make it a question. People want content to address a specific question they need to solve, so always include one of the following words in your title: how, when, where, who, what, why
  5. Positive Adjectives. People don’t want to read a good list – they want to read a great list! Use overly-positive adjectives to heighten the importance of what you’re saying.
  6. Stick to the point. Don’t deviate off-topic in the middle of the list and start talking about something else.
  7. Always back up your laptop. See point 6.
  8. Try not to run out of content. It can be tempting to pad out the latter items in the list with waffle, if you’ve run out of things to say.
  9. Save the best for last. You want to end your list with your strongest point, so that it ends on a high.
  10. Recap and recycle. If you run out of things to say, repeat some of your former points, such as creating a numbered list, beginning with you or yours, with a question and a positive adjective.
  11. Never write too many steps!

Eighth Birthday

Technically speaking, today is the 8th anniversary of me starting to blog, but all of those early posts have long since been lost in the digital ether.
Of course, these days the date of the 11th September is infamous. But the terror attacks on the US wouldn’t be happening for another year when I started writing on the net. Indeed, when I launched, the only thing on the minds of the British people was the lack of petrol, as we were in the middle of the blockade of the field depots; an action that managed to empty the country’s roads in just a matter of days.