From the Blog

Important Half of My Life update

It’s over 11 years since I started writing my blog. In that time, I’ve produced a couple of thousand articles and ranged far and wide over subjects that cover much more than just motorcycling. And, every now and then when I am lying awake in the middle of the night trying to get back to sleep, I think about an important piece of maintenance that I really should do to my site. Let me explain.

My blog is composed using WordPress, the world’s most popular and widely-used piece of blogging software. Over the years I have become familiar with it and, while I hardly even scratch the surface of its features and its potential, it does everything I want to keep my end of the blogosphere ticking along without the need for me to be too concerned about the “nuts and bolts” WordPress recently underwent a major rejigging of the user interface, “modernising” it dramatically. I tried the update and hated it. Fortunately, thousands of other bloggers hated it equally passionately and WP have been forced to allow old buffers like to continue to use the “classic” interface with which we are all familiar instead of making us learn and adopt the new format.

Please bear with me while I explain a little of how this whole thing works because having some idea of what is happening behind the scenes will help you get a handle on some of the terms that I’m going to use. Don’t worry, there won’t be a short quiz at the end, but it will help to follow the bouncing ball, so to speak.

WordPress is a clever piece of software because it has two separate and distinct sections. Firstly, you can use WP to produce POSTS. Now posts are like news bulletins and are the regularly used parts of the blogging game. These are the ones that you so faithfully read. Posts are articles that have currency and immediacy. A post can be the latest racing news, where I went for a ride today or an update on where my bike restoration is at the moment. Posts can also be articles about something from the past, a bit of history that has come to light or they can be miscellaneous musings about the meaning of life, the Universe and everything.

Posts are the NEWSPAPER part of blogging (though there are some aspects that are not the same – I’ll get to that in a moment). You read my posts because you follow the link that I place on Facebook each time I create one and the link takes you right there. You can also find out about what I post by becoming a SUBSCRIBER. You can choose to be notified by WordPress each time I publish a new blog by signing up. An email will be sent to you letting you know that I have posted and you can follow the link there as well. Many of my “regulars” have done this. Posts are the CURRENT part of the game.

But WordPress also allows me to create PAGES. Pages, in WordPress are the more permanent parts of the blog (though every blog entry is saved and can be retrieved.) Pages are for more permanent content, however. Articles of larger size, more detailed in nature and which can be more readily and regularly accessed.

Now, here I can use an analogy that will help this make more sense. The difference between posts and pages is a little like the difference between Facebook and your favourite motorcycle forum. Forums, (remember them?) used to be the place where motorcyclists gathered, organised rides, shared information and generally shot the breeze. I’ve been a member of Netrider, Australia’s biggest online motorcycle forum, since 2005 and I still use it regularly. But then along came Facebook and it made forums pretty much obsolete. FB handles media so much better than what the what the old forum software used to (used to). It’s flashy and fun and it has a world-wide reach whereas your local forum is usually, well, local. For all sorts of reasons, FB became the weapon of choice for motorcyclists and friends to keep in touch.

BUT, and here’s the thing, as they say. Facebook has a distinct DISADVANTAGE in one specific area. Because it is basically a NEWS-based platform, the articles on it “age” and soon drop OFF the front page of your news feed. Once that article in which you were so interested disappears from the front page, it becomes much harder to find it. Yes, FB does have a “search” function but it’s not something into which its writers have put huge amounts of work because they want you to keep looking at the new, shiny-shiny, stuff rather than ratting around in the bin for last Thursday’s newspaper.

Forums, on the other hand, are a much better repository for information because the whole database is kept in the same place and it IS searchable. Everything is filed in a folder with a name that makes sense so forums are, if you like the repositories of the internet. You can find an article from 2013 with relative ease, something that would be impossible with Facebook.

So, Facebook is the NEWSPAPER of the social media arena. Here today, gone tomorrow. Today’s news, tomorrow’s wrapping paper. Enjoy what you read now for tomorrow it will be gone (relatively). Forums are the BOOKS of the social media arena. Once placed in the catalogue they are there forever and you can find them again.

Now, you can apply that analogy to my blog. POSTS are like Facebook. They appear on a (relatively) regular basis. They are the NEWS part of the site and, hence, the part of the site to which most readers refer. WordPress does have the advantage, however, that the database IS searchable even though the articles are not kept in folders or categories. I wonder how many readers have actually used the search function. Try it, it really is very powerful and enables you to look back through 11 years of data and find something that you remember from however long ago. Posts just have everything all lumped in together with no attempt at cataloguing.

PAGES, however are the FORUMS of the blog. There you will find literally dozens of articles, all catalogued in meaningful order, just like the old forums used to be like. They are there, all the time and are arranged for easy discovery. Pages are, as I said, more permanent articles, stuff that you might want to read more than once. They are less news and more features. While you can scroll though the myriad of posts by going to the front page of my site and scrolling down, you access the PAGES by using the drop-down menus at the top of the page. Now the analogy isn’t quite the same because both posts AND pages have only one author (I’ll get back to THAT in a minute too) but the comparison is close enough.

So, where is all this heading? I hope I haven’t confused you or bored you because there IS a point to all this. And that point is that, over the years I have built up a large database of news and general interest articles in my blog and I appreciate that you stop by and read on a regular basis. What I have NOT done for several YEARS, is to update the PAGES section of my site. If you have a look at my own personal history tab, called “My Motobiography” you will see that the last article there is about what was happening to me and motorcycling in the 80’s!! Pretty delinquent really that I haven’t updated that part for more years than I can remember.

When I first started blogging Chris had all sorts of excellent advice and I’ve tried to follow them. One bit of advice was not to go “live” with the site till I had a decent amount of content for people to actually read. So I  wrote dozens of those pages before I even debuted the site in 2008 and haven’t really added many more since then. With my busy retired lifestyle I find it difficult to even regularly update the blog, let alone write feature articles to add to my pages as well. Sheeesh.

October is coming up, and another reminder of my mortality. Lying in bed thinking about that this morning it occurred to me that, should the unthinkable happen, I would have left my own story incomplete. Sure I have kept you informed of the events of my life through the blog, but it’s not quite the same. So I resolve to be diligent and bring My Motobiography up to date. Now, as well as that, WordPress has a nifty “plugin” that enables the user to convert POSTS into PAGES, something that I have only done twice in 11 years. So I am ALSO planning on going though my posts, finding the ones that qualify as features rather than just news, converting them to pages and filing them away under the appropriate menus on the front page. This will be a big job but, hey, that’s what I get paid the big bucks for, right?

Now, the bit about only having one author. True, you can’t contribute content to my blog. But you CAN comment on the content and your comments are recorded and attached as part of the post on which you comment. I encourage you to do so as many of my readers do, Yes, your comments on the Facebook link are great and are more than welcome, but, for the reasons that I have detailed above, those valuable insights get swamped as Facebook new feed “moves on.”

Thank you for hanging in with me to the end, of this article. It’s probably been as dry as dust but I hope it made sense. Catch you next time.