SCENE: INT. DAY A GENERIC OFFICE SETTING

Erica M, cute 30-something unmarried-but-with-a-cute-boyfriend cubicle worker is procrastinating on a work project by messing with her personal blog. She opens the text file editor in WordPress intent on removing the underlines from the hyperlinks in her body text. She hates those things, although she has no idea what they’re called. Peering intently at the CSS files before her, she makes what she believes to be a minor change. Saving the file, she refreshes the front page of her blog and gets this:

Frantic, she tries to unmistake whatever it was she’d done in the editor, but the whole site is down, including the dashboard. She reaches for her desk phone, hits refresh hoping for a dramatic resurrection and gets a new screen:

Ignoring the error message, she calls her soon-to-be husband anyway and finds out, hey looka there, he’s in a meeting and slightly irritated his girlfriend had been messing with code he’d taken the time to fix the day before and the day before that. He promises to bring the blog back up within the hour and advises his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend to get back to work, they need this job.

Despondent, she hangs up and refreshes again.

She hates Oprah, but dammit, what if? What if?

And in that moment, she knew she’d have to start figuring out codes and whatnot on her own. Looking for the underline in the CSS file and shutting down an entire blog? It was time.

FADE TO BLACK

The above screenplay was based on actual life events that involved a lot more crying, yelling and panic than depicted. And that was just on Q’s end as I was constantly asking him change my layout: make this, move that, put that over there, bring this back over here. I was a nightmare. Understanding my crazy, he sued me for custody of my own two kids.

WPBeginner

Enter WPBeginner: Beginner’s Guide for WordPress. Yeah, yeah, the WordPress Codex is awesome and all that, but it’s an index written for people writing and coding sites, blogs and plugins from the ground up. Dude, all I wanted to know is how can I get my comments to send out an email when I reply to somebody? How do I get my logo in the tab of the browser window? What’s the difference between a widget and a plugin?

WPBeginner has tutorials on all that and more with a very enthusiastic crew in place specifically for helping coding newbies. I learned what “the loop” is. I learned how to remove that damn underline. I learned before making a single change to the CSS or the PHP files, I needed to copy the working code into Notepad. That way, if I screwed something up, I could grab the good code and upload it to the file server.

The file what?

If you are self-hosted, and you should be, if you’re treating your blog like your responsible friends treat their boats, and you should be, you have to know how to care for it yourself. The basics:

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  • know how to access the files on your host’s server so if you make a coding mistake in the text editor, you can upload the copy of it I told you to make and bring your blog right back up. Call your host today and have the tech person walk you through it while nothing’s wrong so you won’t be all yelly
  • become familiar with your .php files in the text editor so you can at least make your own the wording in the comment section and the 404 error pages and the like. If you wanna say “leave a kommynt, suckas” that’s your right as an awful person who knows her way around a comments.php file
  • find a forum or a tech help group that won’t talk to you like you’re an idiot and bookmark that page. When you have a simple question, somebody should be glad to help without your having to wait two weeks for a response. If it takes two weeks, find another forum
  • take advantage of the yeah write community. There are bloggers in various stages of expertise on the grids and in the Twitter stream. Give a polite shout for help. If no one answers, include an @ for goodness’ sake. We aren’t glued to your stream
  • be prepared to pay for domain renewals, monthly hosting fees and, yes, code tweaking assistance. If you’ve screwed up pretty badly, you’re gonna need professional help. Or if you want everything to be perfect, you’re gonna need professional help. Get out of the mentality that everything is free on the Internet. Email me for referrals
  • ready to take Michael’s advice about your layout and don’t quite know how to get started? Want a brand spanking new awesome layout? Email me for referrals

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What’s all this talk about WordPress? Blogger ’til I die, bitches

If you’re blogging as a serious person, you can’t be on Blogger. Yes, I said it. My first blog was on Blogger, I know it’s a good starter platform. However, even as Google has “raced” to give its users modern themes and nested comments and tabbed pages, it’s still a service in which its users are serving Google, not the other way around. What’s the saying? If the service is free, you are the product.

What authority would you have on any subject giving out a seriousperson.blogspot.com address? I can’t even look that part of the sentence in the eye.  nytimes.blogspot.com. OMGHAHA. Make it stop.

However. If you’re good with it because your writing isn’t a big deal and you’re just doing this between jobs and bowls of cereal and Van Gogh died penniless and crazy and wasn’t he on WordPress, then I’m good with it, too. Some of my favorite writers on the grid are on Blogger. And if they wrote me an email today begging me, Erica, oh god, get me out of this fresh hell of Patagonia, I’d clear my schedule to make it happen. No, you won’t lose all your posts. No, you won’t lose all your comments unless you and Disqus or some other non-native Blogger comment system had a fight. When it’s time to take it to the next level, let me know. Your skinny jeans will fit soooooo much better without that diaper you got on, trust me.

To be continued…

This is such an incredibly broad subject, we could have reserved the entire summer writer’s series for blog design alone. But we didn’t. We have other things to talk about. Flood will return on Thursday to continue her creative and legal use of photographs topic. Then on Friday, we’re announcing the jury prize winner from the summer grid. If there are questions you need answered in more detail, please leave them in comments. If we can’t provide a quick link as a reference, we’ll talk about it in an upcoming post just for you.

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all your story are belong to you

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  • Read the summer FAQ page for other details: the grid is being moderated and if you’re missing an element outlined in the summer FAQ, your post will not be published on the grid
  • Let the prompt lead you, but do not include the prompt in any way in your post, not at the beginning as an intro, not at the end as a footnote. If you reference the prompt in your post, your post will not be published on the grid
  • Remember: no more than 500 words. If your post exceeds 500 words, yup, you guessed it—no publish for you
  • If the prompt takes you from thunderstorms to watching TV at your grandma’s house to how much you love Pat Sajak to the oldest person you’ve ever kissed, we want that story the furthest away in your imagination from the original prompt. Let your imagination loose
  • Keep your writing style! Do you tell stories with humor? Prose? Verse? Photos? Illustrations? Keep doing that. We’ll read Shakespearean drama on our own time
  • Cut away at everything unnecessary to your story
  • Not ready to add your entry today? Still perfecting and reading other posts? No problem: you’ve got until Thursday at noon EDT [-4GMT]
  • Don’t forget to badge your post
  • Have fun!

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[divider_header_h3] This week’s prompts [courtesy of Tom Slatin] [/divider_header_h3]

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  • What music album would be used for a movie about your life?
  • Was your first kiss everything you wished or hoped it would be?
  • What is the most amount of money you have had at one time?

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Yeah write #66 summer writer’s series grid is open…