Simple HTML for content creators

No one becomes a journalist or a writer because they are interesting in coding.*

And yet, here we all are producing content for websites – which means that the text we produce will inevitably be underpinned by code.

For all the everyday things that we do to text for the web, the underlying language is something called HTML (or hypertext mark-up language).
Continue reading

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Why are there two different WordPress sites?

It has always seemed unnecessarily complicated to me. But there it is, there are two of them. They do different things and it helps to understand what those are, especially if you want to set up your own site using WordPress.

In the simplest of terms:

WordPress is software (a content management system) that you can use to publish things to the web.

WordPress.COM is where you can get a blog or website (or a website which includes a blog), with no fuss and no need to understand code or web design or hosting. Your site’s home is with them.

WordPress.ORG offers you the actual software. You get a blog or a website, and it lives wherever you want it to live. That means more work on your part.

WordPress.ORG explains it like this:

WordPress is the free, open source web publishing software project, owned by no one individual or company. WordPress.com is a hosted blogging service run by a company called Automattic.

WordPress (sometimes called “WordPress.org”) is software that you can download and install on any web host.

WordPress.com (a.k.a. “wpcom” or “WP.com”) is a for-profit hosted blogging service run by Automattic.

That’s still probably not very clear – and I think that’s because many people don’t really understand the concept of hosting. And how does a host differ from an internet service provider, anyway?

Let’s look at hosting step by step:

Picture it (as Sophie Petrillo in Golden Girls used to say):

You are at a computer (or phone or laptop or smart TV) and you are looking at a website – this one, for example.

How are you seeing that website? It is being delivered to you by an internet service provider, which in South Africa could be Telkom or MWeb, for example, or a cellphone company, either over actual cables, or via wireless technology.

But where is the website? It is lives on the big computers of a hosting company, which provides a space for the site’s files and makes sure it is viewable on the web.

Got all that? Back to WordPress.

WordPress.com gives you the ability to have a website/blog without worrying about the hosting part of things. They do the hosting. Your URL (web address) might look like this though: www.craftgroup.wordpress.co.za. That’s good for your family genealogy site, or your craft group, or your church youth group. You can do this yourself because setting up a site on WordPress.com happens on the site, in a step-by-step process.

If you are running a business, though, you might want something more professional: a URL that says www.yourbusiness.co.za. To get that you’re going to have to register your URL and find a hosting company, and then find a way to get your blog/site into the innards of that company. The software from WordPress.org that runs your site will sit with whatever host you have chosen. It is usually easier to pay a professional to sort this out for you.

What happens then?

Whether you have your site on WordPress.com, or on hosted by another company, you will use the WordPress publishing program to make changes to your website.

If you are a non-technical person this is probably already more information that you need. In that case, start here:

  1. Do you want a simple blog for personal use, and are happy for the web address to have the word WordPress in it? Then head to WordPress .com.
  2. Do you want a website for a business or any other professional purpose? Then head to WordPress.org – or hire someone who can help you through this process.

Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your organisational or communication needs (coaching, editing, writing, social media) – or if you would like a little WordPress coaching.

Main photo by Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

Project management for beginners

A long time ago I did a four-day project management course at the Graduate School of Business in Cape Town. At the time I was on the staff at a large news website, and working with technical teams in various aspects of changing or launching websites. Project management was happening all around me.

These days, I am project managing the production of a book for a local publisher, and glad of the skills I have gained over the years.

Some projects are obviously much more complicated than others: the construction of an office block is a lot more work than the construction of a small garden shed. But the same principles underpin all of them.

Project management is a big field, and I absolutely do not pretend to be an expert. However, there are some fundamentals that might be a useful starting point for anyone who is about to take on project management for the first time

THE FUNDAMENTALS

1. There are three key strands in any project: time, money and scope (the size of the project, and how many features it has). They all add up to quality (or lack of it). A project manager needs to keep an eye on all three elements, and understand which of them takes priority in any given project. If it doesn’t matter when the garden shed is finished and ready for occupation by the wheelbarrows, then you can take a relaxed view when the client decides they want the garden shed to be a double-storey. If budget is the most important factor, then you must keep the scope rigidly in check so as not to increase the cost. Project management is essentially a balancing act aimed at an end result that is a quality-driven as possible.

2. Relationships are key. Conflict or poor communication can derail a project faster than any other factor, so the project manager needs to make sure that all parties are equally respected, valued and kept informed of all the things that affect them. The person who is expected to lay the foundation for the garden shed needs to know what day it must happen – and should feel that they are an integral part of creating the whole.

3. Keeping track of all the elements is next on the list. Whether it’s a complex spreadsheet or a battered notebook, there must be one central place where all the strands are held together, and a calendar (physical or digital) with all the milestones noted. All this documentation needs to be maintained and changed as things go along.

4. Understand that something will go wrong. Add in time to allow for things going wrong. If you think it will take two weeks, assume that it will actually take three weeks. Seriously – there is no getting around this. Unexpected things will happen, and your plan will change.

What is a CMS? What does it do?

People who work on newspapers or on news websites speak often of “the system”. Sometimes they mean it in a general sense (the way in which the world is run, or how their company works) – but mostly they mean the computer program that they use to write or edit their articles.
These staffers sometimes don’t know that the system (which is often hated) has another, longer name: it is actually a content management system, or CMS.

The CMSes used to make newspapers or big news websites are complex affairs because they allow many people to work on various pieces of content at the same time. That multi-user setup requires various levels of access to the system, and the ability to move pieces of content to different departments, where people will do different things to each piece of content. An article may be written, then edited, then illustrated by different sets of people.

Continue reading

Blogging 101: How to find a free picture that really is free

If you work on an online news website, or run a blog, or do social media posting for yourself or for your company, you are often going to need a picture (or pictures) to illustrate your work.

If you are lucky, you may have access to images from your organisation’s photographers, or to an agency service.

But if you are not in a big organisation, you will need to go elsewhere. Continue reading

Tips for writing an Internet news poll

Today – August 8, 2018 – there’s a poll on the News24 website on the topic of breastfeeding. It asks:

Is breastfeeding in public scandalous?

  Yes, it’s something that should be done in private

  No, but cover yourself

  No, it’s natural and breasts aren’t just for men’s sexual pleasure

The results of a News24 poll on breastfeeding

The results of the News24 poll.


Continue reading