The last few weeks I’ve been trying to learn as much as possible about modern web publishing. Let me tell you, being an old-school Internet “expert” (I wrote the fairly popular intro to internetworking, TCP/IP Clearly Explained, Fourth Edition (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Networking)) doesn’t automatically confer expertise in web development, sad to say.
First off, I went to the bookstore. I started out with a book about MySQL and PHP (Learning PHP & MySQL: Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Database-Driven Web Sites). That didn’t give me the information I needed.
I tried a different book, and then a book about Python, then HTML5 and so on. I finally discovered a thing called WordPress, from a guy, “The Blog Tyrant”, who seems to have a lot of valuable things to say about blogging (see, How I Sold a Blog for $20,000 in 8 Months, for example).
At the same time, I tried figuring it out from the perspective of my web host. I cleaned up some of my domains, and tried to fiddle around with some of the programming I wanted on their server. It was kind of interesting, but not necessarily that productive. What took me (a complete non-programmer) several days, could have been done in a few minutes by an experienced programmer (though not that experienced, necessarily).
But it’s all part of the learning process, right? Because I knew that I wouldn’t figure it out first time around, and probably will need at least a few more iterations before I can get my website to work the way I want it to. So, I might as well just start doing something, and then use that as a jumping off point. Keep looking at all the different options, keep working on learning more about more different things, and eventually, somehow, you’ll arrive at a solution that will work.
So, I continue on trying to learn new things, at the same time making note of all the side issues that I have questions about, as well as any number of related projects that crop up as I continue to research.
If you’re in the same position as I was, of having virtually no current practical knowledge about how to get a website up and running, then one answer is WordPress. It may not be the best blog/content manager for all purposes, but for what I’m doing right now (and for most of what most people probably need) it’s good enough.
It turned out to be a pretty educational journey to get from where I was a month ago to where I am now: there were a lot of problems to be solved, and a lot of problems yet to be solved. But so far, I’ve had to:
- Remember how to ssh into my webserver
- Re-acquaint myself with the ways of UNIX as I cleaned out directories that were storing log data that had accumulated and grown to take up more than half my available storage.
- Edit my DNS listings, so I could return control of my websites to my ISP rather than TypePad, where I’d been forwarding most of my domains.
- Learned how to execute a command on the underlying webserver OS, and return the result to a web page.
- Transferred a domain from one registry (Network Solutions) to another (PairNIC).
- Learned enough about WordPress to feel comfortable downloading and installing it on my webservers.
- Learned how to export blog archives into text files for archiving or for reloading onto another blog.
- Begun learning how to use the Google tools for webmasters, including Adsense and Adwords.
- Begun learning how to best use Amazon Associates membership to best result.
There’s certainly more; the thing I find interesting is that there are so many opportunities to create something that will provide some interest or value to others, and be able to get rewarded for it. I’ve already gotten a few ideas about websites that are slightly different than what I originally intended.
If you’re curious about how to do any of the things listed above, let me know so I can start scheduling more content about those issues. And if you’re interested in other topics, let me know that, as well.