WordPress 5.3

After, what seemed like a long wait, WordPress 5.3 is finally here. Right on time. Congratulations to the WordPress team. I just finished upgrading my blog to the latest version of WordPress. I’ve been waiting to try out the final version of the brand new TwentyTwenty theme that ships with the latest version of WordPress.

My blog is currently running the TwentyTwenty theme. There are a few noticeable UI glitches, but, I’m OK with them. I definitely don’t want to switch back to the old theme because of these bugs. I’m sure these will be fixed soon. I haven’t investigated these bugs yet. These could even be caused by any of the plugins I’m using.

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Goodbye, Google Analytics

Google Analytics

I decided to switch back to using WordPress as my blogging platform this May. At the same time, I also took the decision of removing Google Analytics (GA) from my blog. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. So, I thought I’d remove GA for a few months and see if I miss its value.

I used GA primarily to identify which posts attracted the most readers and calculate the bounce rates. After a while, I felt like I didn’t really need this information, since, I wasn’t really doing anything with it. I just wrote about things that I thought were interesting. I was never motivated by my blog’s user engagement, to write about topics I wasn’t interested in.

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Gutenberg

The UX around composing a blog post has changed significantly over the years. It has moved from pure text based posts to having image embeds, galleries, videos and cards from various websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. The text editors are responsible for good UX and it’s great that they are evolving. This evolution lets users focus on the content and makes it really easy for them to express their ideas.

Medium’s Text Editor

Over the past few years, one of the biggest innovations around text editing has been Medium’s Text Editor. It’s a wonderful editor that looks great. Here’s a couple of screenshots of the editor while editing a story on Medium.com:

Medium’s Text Editor showing text styling options
Medium’s Text Editor showing media embedding options

As you can see, the UI looks clean, minimalistic, beautiful and lets the user focus on what’s truly important – Content.

Now, all of this is great, but, there’s one key thing missing here – Extensibility. Being able to extend the functionality of this editor using plugins makes it so much more powerful.

Gutenberg

WordPress’s new text editor is called Gutenberg. It is fantastic. Imagine having the beauty and functionality of Medium’s text editor, along with support for plugins. That’s Gutenberg.

First off, Gutenberg’s UI/UX is amazing. Composing a blog post in Gutenberg feels really fun. It makes you want to write more. It uses this concept of Blocks. Each Block can be an entity in your content. This basically means that a paragraph, image, image gallery, embedded video, embedded audio etc are all Blocks. Here’s how editing a Block looks like in Gutenberg:

Composing this blog post in Gutenberg

The UI looks great and editing Blocks is really simple. Also, the editor comes with a handy shortcut to insert new Blocks. This is activated by typing in “/” anywhere in the compose region of the editor. Here’s how it looks like:

Gutenberg’s shortcut to access various Blocks

The default editor ships with a lot of Blocks. But, there’s a huge community of developers building awesome new Blocks that can be integrated into the editor by installing them as WordPress plugins.

Conclusion

I’m very satisfied with WordPress’s direction to improve the compose experience. I think this is only going to get better and I can’t wait to see what the community comes up with. If you want to give Gutenberg a try, here’s the live link: https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/

The Reverse Switch

After 7 years, I’m back on WordPress. Lot of things have changed in 7 years. For starters, the prices have significantly gone down for hosting your server. Also, the UX of the WP mobile app is now so much better. The new blocks based text editor is very interesting.

One of the primary reasons for me to switch back to WP from Jekyll is to be able to compose blog posts even from my phone.

Lately, my workflow for blogging has been something like the following:

  1. Compose an initial draft in the Notes.app
  2. Once the draft is 80-90% done, convert it to Markdown and iterate over the draft until I find the content satisfactory
  3. Push to GitHub to publish the post

As you can see, steps 2 and 3 require me to be on the computer. Those steps can’t really be done from my phone in a simple way. As a result, I’ve seen myself slacking away from finalizing posts more often.

This switch back to WP should make it more easier for me to post more often. I already notice the difference, since, I’m composing this post on my phone. Now, I can focus on writing more.

Indeed, I did.

Personal Blog

A blog is a great place to post interesting, insightful and fun things. Or even boring things. It doesn’t really matter as long as you like doing it. I really enjoy reading my friends’ blogs. It has a different feel to it as opposed to reading a generalized feed on a social network. Typically, I tend to sift through the updates in my feed. I don’t really pay much attention to the items in my feed. That is not really a great experience. This wouldn’t be the case if everyone had their own personal blog.

The biggest thing that social networks fail to capture is the essence of a person. Even if, say, Facebook, allowed its users to customize their profiles completely, it’d still fail to display a person’s uniqueness, since, they all reside on the same domain.

Customizability

Several factors such as a domain name, page layout, typography, design etc contribute to portraying the uniqueness of an individual. It’d be amazing if there was a social network that allowed its users to customize their domain names, page layout and design. That would enable the users to show off their unique tastes and creativity. It’d be way more interesting to checkout the “profiles” of your friends then.

Currently, WordPress does something like that. As part of their paid subscription, WordPress allows its users to customize their domain name, blog themes etc. But, the problem with WordPress is that it doesn’t really do a good job of providing a decent personalized blog feed. The “My Likes” tab for a logged-in user just doesn’t cut it.

Medium has solved the personalized blog feed problem. But, it doesn’t completely allow its users to customize their blogs. It lets you pick from few blog post layouts, but, that’s not enough. In an ideal world, every blogging platform would support feeds from every other blogging platform. This removes the dependency on a particular blogging platform. Currently, no active social network or a blogging platform does that.

I think the following are absolutely necessary for complete user satisfaction:

  1. Blog customizability
  2. Subscribe and read subscribed feed from other platforms
  3. Discover blogs based on a user’s interests

This calls for an Open Standard and would be the ideal direction to head in, if the blogging platforms or the social networks really care about their users. All of this is in an ideal world. For now, in the real world, I strongly suggest every one to start their own personal blog if they don’t already have one, on whichever platform they want.

One might immediately come up with the following questions:

Who will read my blog?

When I first started blogging, I did it for myself. I didn’t expect anyone to actually care about what I write. I just wanted to write about things I thought were interesting or funny and went ahead and wrote about them. I’ve been blogging since the past 9 years now and I get a decent amount of traffic on a monthly
basis. Here’s a screenshot from my Google Analytics dashboard.

This includes my family, friends, people who use and appreciate (or not) my projects etc. So, don’t worry about who will read your blog. Just start writing and people with similar tastes will find, follow and read your blog.

What do I blog about?

Your blog could be anything. It really depends on you. Personally, I like writing about random things. I have a few posts queued up in my drafts directory, which are highly technical and computer science-y. I write about the projects that I’ve worked on, tools I use, things that I find interesting, ideas and opinions. You could even use your blog as a portfolio to showcase and promote your work.

Where do I start?

There are lots of good blogging applications such as WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium etc. Each have their own pros and cons. I’ll leave it up to you to pick the one that fits your needs. I use Jekyll for my blog and host it on GitHub Pages. I think the simplest one to get started with, is Tumblr. It’s easy to configure and easy to pick a theme from the huge library of themes available.
It also allows you to customize your domain name for free.

Conclusion

If you think I’ve successfully managed to convince you to start a blog, then let me know via Twitter @thallavajhula. I’d love to read about what you’ve written.

The Switch

If you’re reading this blog, then you must have noticed that I’ve changed the theme and the URL of my Blog. Well, those are just the superficial changes. I even changed my blogging platform. I used to use WordPress to blog (Of course, occasionally). But now, I switched to a much more comfortable platform, Tumblr.

Till now, I haven’t had any problems with Tumblr. In fact I like the service.

So, here is a little comparison of the two awesome blogging platforms.

WordPress: In a word, terrific. It has almost all features a blogger desires. It’s very easy to setup and use. It has a very neat admin interface. Nothing complex. You have a ton of plugins to customize your blog. There’re good themes, not great, good (the free ones). I’ve used WordPress for over two years. I have always loved it.

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Latest updates

WordPress: First off, let me start off with WordPress. WordPress never fails to impress me after launching new versions of its blogging platform. WordPress 3.2 seems to be heavily loaded with awesome. This seems to be a terrific upgrade from the previous versions. There are loads of new features included in the upgrade.

  • The new Twenty Eleven WordPress theme (which is currently on my blog)
  • Lighter on the resources
  • Newly designed dashboard
  • The best part of the update: Zen mode for distraction free post writing.

**Google: **Google seems to be going crazy with the release of its new products like Google+, Google Music, WDYL etc. Google also launched 2 new versions of their new Gmail interface. Believe me, they look really clean, simple, minimalist and amazing.

Facebook: Facebook launched its Video Calling feature yesterday along with other updates such as Group Chat and newly designed chat interface. The Video Calling feature seems to be activated but the Group Chat feature doesn’t seem to be. On a lighter note, there has been an image doing rounds on Google+. I really am a huge fan of Facebook and I really don’t appreciate the image. But the image makes me really LOL. Just look at the “f” flip when the girl gets slapped. 😀

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Numero Uno

Hello! My first blog post.
At last I have successfully set up my blog after a lot of hard work. I had to tweak the template a lot to get the blog look like what I wanted it to look like. Thanks to WampServer, I could test it almost thoroughly. If you have anything to say about any post, then don’t hesitate to leave a comment. There are some minor changes that I need to make to the blog. So, I need to work a bit more on the blog. Right now I’m not gifted with such an amount of time. Maybe I will find time in the near future. Anyways come back if you like my blog.