All posts by the maven

Office365

In a previous post, I wrote about Google Apps and how it was a viable business and non-profit solution.  Office365 is a cloud offering from Microsoft that integrates the Office suite of products that have become commonplace in many organizations with powerful cloud-based collaboration capabilities.  While the applications in Google Apps are good enough for many organizations, the Microsoft suite of Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and Outlook are much more powerful and use formats that are well understood and used by most employees.  A real consideration for any organization is the learning curve in adopting other products.  While it is true, strictly on a cost-basis, that Office365 subscriptions may be more expensive than Google Apps, the productivity and training need to be factored in.  It doesn’t do much good to theorize about how people ought to embrace open office or libre office or Google Apps products.  Cost is cost.  If one loses productivity or has to expend money to train an employee who is unfamiliar with a product then it will ultimately be an expense.

For non-profits, Microsoft has made their offering very attractive.  They have a web-only seat that is free for non-profits.  That is to say that the seat comes with no installed software but access to Office for the Web.  Office for the Web includes Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in a web interface that is, for all intents and purposes, the same user experience as on a desktop client.  It blows Google Apps out of the water in this case.  It is a powerful tool for collaborating on documents in lieu of sending emails and the user utilizes a product that he or she is already accustomed to.  For non-profits that desire to have desktop clients, for $2/month/user the organization can install Office Professional Plus which consists of Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Publisher, Outlook, and OneNote.

Central to Office365 is OneDrive and OneDrive for business.  It is not only a “Dropbox-like” feature where the user’s data is in the Cloud but it enables the Office for the Cloud applications I described.  OneDrive for business is a collaborative Sharepoint enabled feature that permits many powerful workflow activities within an organization.

In short, I’m a fan of both Office365 and Google Apps but I prefer Office365 for anything but the most basic of Office workflow situations.

Google Apps

I’ve been a huge fan of Google Apps for about 8 years now.  What is it?  In a nutshell, it’s all the Google Applications one is accustomed to when they sign up for a GMail account (i.e. GMail, Calendar, Drive, Groups, etc) but the organization has the ability to utilize it’s own domain name with these services.

Why is this useful for small businesses or non-profits?  Because most businesses and non-profits are not in the IT business.  IT is a tool that they use but they don’t want either the overhead or expense of maintaining an IT backend to provide communication and collaboration capabilities for their staff.  It’s a breed of Cloud Computing known as Software-as-a-Service (aka SaaS) where Google provides a stable and (relatively) secure backend while the only administration necessary is the creation of user accounts and other relatively non-complex administrator actions.

Many are accustomed to the GMail interface and Google Apps permits the organization to “skin” their Email to add their own logo in lieu of the standard GMail logo but the operation is pretty much the same.  Google has great spam filtering and the organization gets the benefit of a worlclass IT staff protecting its communications and collaboration.

Shared Calendars are part of the overall package along with a number of other applications that can be enabled or disabled by the organization.  Some useful applications include:

Groups:  Permits a forum or email list capability for members internal and external to your organization.

Drive:  I’m a big fan of Google Drive for businesses and non-profits.  Email is such a poor medium for sharing and collaborating on documents.  Not only does Google Drive have its own variants of Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and Presentation software that have become more powerful as the years pass, but it permits the sharing of Microsoft or Adobe PDF documents.

I am a board member on several non-profits that utilize Google Docs.  We have used Google Docs for the maintaining of official minutes with the ability to share documents and even co-edit them on the fly.  We have also used the Google Spreadsheets to plan major symposia involving hundreds of participants.

There is a bit of a “getting used” to Google Drive and the other Apps for persons accustomed to the Microsoft suite of applications.  It may be that Office365 is a better choice for some organizations for that very reason as those applications from Microsoft are much more powerful and tend to be what most people are accustomed to.  I’ll discuss Office365 in another upcoming post but Google Apps is a great choice for small business and non-profits who need very few bells and whistles and it is extremely easy to administer.

Google Apps for non-profits is free to any 501c(3) organization which is another great feature.

Setting up Google Apps for your business or non-profit requires some knowledge of DNS and navigating the internals of the system.  If you need assistance setting up Google Apps for your business or non-profit please use the Contact Form and we can discuss the pros and cons for your organization and what would be involved in the adoption of the solution.

Why Promote your Website?

So you built your website. Now what? Many people stop when they are less than halfway to the point of completing the real reason their site is built. Why put a site on the web if nobody will find it except you? So many create fantastic looking pages and nobody knows about them except the creator and a few friends. In fact, a site might be doomed to obscurity from the outset if key promotion criteria aren’t designed into the site up front and early. This category deals with a variety of concepts that are useful for all manner of sites and making them relevant so that they are found on the search engines by the audience that the website creator intends.

What is a Content Management System?

Wikipedia defines a Content Management System (CMS) as follows:

A content management system is a computer software system for organizing and facilitating collaborative creation of documents and other content. A content management system is sometimes a web application used for managing websites and web content, though in many cases, content management systems require special client software for editing and constructing articles. They can also be used for storage and single sourcing of documentation for a firm including but not limited to operators’ manuals, technical manuals, sales guides, etc. The market for content management systems remains fragmented, with many open-source and proprietary solutions available. The term was originally used for website publishing and management systems. Early content management systems were developed internally at organizations which were doing a lot of content publishing. In 1995, CNET spun out its internal development offerings into a separate company called Vignette, which opened up the market for commercial systems. As the market evolved, the scope of content management systems broadened, and the term is now used to refer to a range of technologies and techniques, including portal systems, wiki systems, and web-based groupware.

For purposes of most individual and business needs, a Content Management System is a web application that allows for the easy organization and creation of web pages. Many websites are designed using HTML editors and pages are loaded to the web server using an FTP client. This is fine for most small sites but even with these smaller sites there is a basic knowledge of HTML, FTP, and file management that needs to be understood. Assuming the person can gain a basic knowledge of these apps to build a functioning site, there is still a pretty steep learning curve if the person is going to design an asthetically pleasing site that has bells and whistles.

In large organizations or communities of interest there is a desire to allow the common user to create their own pages. Web sites restricted to a business are commonly referred to as Intranet (vice Internet) web sites. These sites are used to share information between offices or individuals. It is an effective means of Information Management as organizations will place information on the Intranet website vice e-mailing several versions of documents to users who may not need the document and the risk that those who do need the document never get the e-mail or the e-mail is lost with all the other spam that each user gets. E-mail is just a bad method to share information. Giving offices or individuals write privileges to portions of a website allows information to be shared without worrying who did or didn’t get e-mails and, because it’s on the intranet page, folks know it’s the most current information.

The issue with an Intranet, if one uses a traditional HTML editor and FTP client to upload HTML files is that it would be a design disaster to allow hundreds to be making basic layout changes to link their new files. It also requires a good deal of training for everybody in an organization to get up to speed in basic web design.

So the “traditional” method of building html files for a web site with corresponding images and other resources is difficult for some novices and nigh impossible for large organizations. Surely the traditional method is best for some case in between. Perhaps but not necessarily. I used to have this entire site built on several dozen html documents that were all built around a Dreamweaver template. That worked fine for a while but it really was a good deal of work everytime I made a template change for I had to re-upload every html document whenever the common elements changed. Add to that, I had to sometimes go back and edit several files that referred to one another. Even sites with only a few trained webmasters, if they get too large, may benefit from a Content Management System (CMS). That’s why I moved this site to the Drupal Content Management System script.

Now I realize that there are design snobs who despise CMS because it’s not all designed pretty and managed by an expert. I don’t much care about their opinion on the matter. I’ll leave it to you to determine whether or not you believe this site design is functional if not a bit elegant. It not only makes the job of adding new pages as easy as an entry on a web forum but it also allows communities of interest to participate in a website like this while maintaining a constant theme.

The CMS works by setting the theme in place and adding any extensions that the administrator may desire. You may notice that I’ve added some Google Map functionality and I have syndication and news feed blocks. The background and title bar image were all designed by me as was the 3 column layout. More precisely, on the 3 column layout, I modified an existing theme and made it my own. Once the theme was set then the site is ready for users to register for accounts and begin contributing articles and comments. Sophisticated users can still integrate full HTML into articles while users with less HTML knowledge can just type and Submit.

While the name, Content Management System, seems a bit intimidating, there is nothing significantly different in terms of your web hosting needs. All the major CMS’s run PHP scripts and use database backends (mySQL or PostgreSQL) which are available on any quality shared hosting plan. Issues of quality really come into play here. Hosts who oversell and place too many clients on a server usually count on infrequent use of databases. Databases are processor intensive and tax system resources. Hence, if you choose price over quality and speed then your performance will suffer dramatically if you install a CMS to use as your main website. Thus, I would recommend a Premium Web Host such as ICANNWholesale if you intend to run a CMS.

Thus, I’ve become a huge fan of CMS applications as one who has a day job in the Marine Corps and can’t spend all my time managing a traditional web site. In fact, I’ve built a number of Church web sites using traditional html and have recently just deployed my first CMS based Church web site. I believe a CMS is ideally suited for a Church web site as it allows Church members access to parts of the site and even allows them to contribute content without relying on the one smart guy that understands all the internet stuff. My preferred CMS for this task is WordPress.

So if you haven’t considered a CMS for your personal, small or large business, or Church website then I highly recommend you give the idea some consideration. You may well save yourself a lot of time and get much more functionality and expandability than sticking with a traditional site design.

Church Website Help

I decided to include this church website help article as a service to Churches so they can build quality sites for the Internet. I’ve designed and hosted a number of Church websites and learned much about some internet applications that can provide church website help to many.

Christian Web Hosting?

I don’t believe in applying the title “Christian” to a product. Web hosting is a computing technology and is no more Christian than an automobile or blender. The larger principle that a Church ought to consider is the quality of the service for the price offered and being good stewards of their money. In my web hosting ratings, there are detailed reviews of features to match differing site needs. Service, reliability, and value for the money are all Biblical business principles. I looked at the web hosting services that call themselves “Christian Web Hosting” and found their prices to be too high for the service offered; hence, they did not appear in my top web hosting ratings.

Recommended Products and Services

I recommend the following services and products (as appropriate) for your website needs:

Hosting ICANNWholesale – this might seem a strange choice but I’m not a big fan of bundled services that include the domain name with the hosting.  I think you ought to retain full DNS control of your domain so you can take advantage of some services (especially Google Apps).  Also, this host does not oversell its products and the amount of storage/bandwidth received are appropriately priced with no gimmicks.
VPS or Dedicated Hosting Again I recommend ICANNWholesale: VPS Plans, Dedicated Plans.  Ensure you really need this much power.  Shared plans are usually sufficient for your Church web hosting needs unless you’re running processor intensive applications on the server.
Domain Name Registration ICANNWholesale – fully featured at a great price.  Retain full control of your domain and host with them too.  No gimmicks.
HTML Editor Dreamweaver
FTP Client CuteFTP Pro
Content Management System (Church site) WordPress – There are some really nice plugins that make setting up a nice Church site very simple and easy to maintain. The Podpress plugin is an incredible tool for managing your Podcasts and publishing to the web and iTunes. Finally, the community support for this CMS is exceptional.
Content Management System (Advanced) Joomla! – This is an extremely powerful CMS that is more feature rich than WordPress but is not for the faint of heart. Very large Churches may consider utilizing this for the more advanced features as Joomla! is a true content management system while WordPress is a blogging platform that has sort of morphed into one.

Choosing Domain Names?

You’ve probably already experienced the frustration of finding a .org name that was available for your church. A good tool to research available domain names is to search for domain names through a registrar like ICANNwholesale. You can try different domain name combinations and they suggest domain names you might consider. Read the article choosing a domain name for more help. Once you’ve settled on a name, don’t forget about the idea of buying additional domain names that may direct folks to your site that are easy to remember. What if you already have the domain name podunkgracechurch.org. If your Church is in Podunk, see if you can get the names podunkchurch.com and podunkchurch.org. You can use those names as aliases for your main Church website and perhaps redirect folks that were just looking for a Church in Podunk.

A Plan with Lots of Storage and Bandwidth for Streaming Audio?

It has become commonplace for many Churches to provide the ability for website visitors to listen to sermons or teaching online. The process is not too technically complicated nor is it expensive. Real Networks, Microsoft, and others allow the download of free tools that convert .mp3 or .wav files into formats that can be uploaded into a Church website and then streamed for visitors to listen to.  If you plan on converting files regularly then I recommend a product called dbPowerAmp, which I use for all conversions of file format.  Please view the web page how to podcast to learn the details on how to create, upload, publish, and advertise your own sermons and teaching.

The key consideration for a Church website is space or storage available for your web hosting plan. Most websites are less than a megabyte (MB) in size and ICANNWholesale is recommended. If the Church is thinking about streaming audio then assume that each 30 minute sermon or audio file is going to take about 10 MB in storage space.
Churches that want to reach many visitors with their streaming audio need plans with generous storage and bandwidth. Assuming the average size of a sermon or teaching series is 10MB, even the basic plan at ICANNWholesale could hold almost one hundred sermons and easily stream that amount.  You can check out the Web Hosting Reviews List for plans with more storage and bandwidth if you really believe you will exceed this amount or upgrade your account at ICANNWholesale as your needs increase.

Create a Quality Website

Just like any organization that has a presence on the web, a Church should seriously consider how its website looks to those visiting it. I’ve seen a lot of websites built by members with some computer experience but little web design experience. Many Church websites look very unprofessional and are difficult to navigate. There’s much more to a good Church than a great website and horrible Churches can have great websites and vice-versa. Nevertheless, if you want to use the Internet as a portal to reach people then seriously consider whether you have the requisite talent in-house. If you have somebody strong technically but are weak on the design side then think about using a website template. Churches with larger budgets that want a unique site with great impact should consider hiring a professional website designer.  I’ll also be developing a “How To” for Churches to deploy a web site using WordPress.  I’ll create some common themes that will be available for installation “out of the box”.

Church E-mail

I don’t know how many Church websites I’ve visited that have website addresses like www.churchname.org and then you click to e-mail the pastor and his e-mail address is [email protected] See my discussion about domain e-mail. When your domain is hosted, nearly all web hosting plans allow you to set up POP e-mail addresses or forwarding rules for your domain. It is much more professional and memorable for your Pastor’s e-mail to be [email protected] It also frees up his personal e-mail address from becoming cluttered. If your web hosting provider does not let you set up e-mail accounts then switch to one that offers this very basic feature.

While you’re at it, you can set up e-mail forwarding rules to give e-mail aliases to everybody in your congregation if the Church is small enough. In my last Church, I set up e-mail forwarding rules so people could e-mail [email protected] and the e-mail was forwarded to the members’ personal e-mail addresses. It made it easy for everybody in the Church to remember other e-mail addresses once the forwarding rules were all set up.

How to Podcast

Podcasting is all the rage these days. MP3 players are ubiquitous from teenagers on skateboards to old people on elliptical trainers in the gym. Stationed overseas, I became more and more weary of the poor content on AFN and finally purchased an MP3 player so I could listen to better.

Because the Apple iPod quickly attained a position of dominance in the MP3 player industry and Apple came up with a great, simple way for users to listen to content, the process of “broadcasting” audio and video content via Web download has come to be known as Podcasting. This article will cover, soup to nuts, what podcasting is and how you, your church, or your organization can both use and/or publish your own Podcasts.

What is a podcast?

Wikipedia defines podcasting as the following:

Podcasting is the distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the Internet using either RSS or Atom syndication for listening on mobile devices and personal computers. A podcast is a web feed of audio or video files placed on the Internet for anyone to download or subscribe. Podcasters’ websites also may offer direct download of their files, but the subscription feed of automatically delivered new content is what distinguishes a podcast from a simple download or real-time streaming (see below). Usually, the podcast features one type of “show” with new episodes either sporadically or at planned intervals such as daily, weekly, etc. Besides that there are podcast networks that feature multiple shows on the same feed. Podcasting’s essence is about creating content (audio or video) for an audience that wants to listen when they want, where they want, and how they want. Subscribing to podcasts allows a user to collect programs from a variety of sources for listening or viewing off-line, whenever and wherever is convenient. In contrast, traditional broadcasting provides only one source at a time, and the time is broadcaster-specified. While podcasts are gaining ground on personal sites and blogs, they are not yet widespread. One easy way to find podcasts is to use the Podcast Directory in iTunes; these automatically-updated podcasts can then be synchronized to a portable multimedia device, such as an MP3 player, for off-line listening.

How to Podcast – Equipment and Software

There are a number of ways to record your own podcast. Remember, all that is being talked about here is recording audio (or video for others). The process of recording an MP3 file is no different for podcasting than any other process. Some might think that since it’s called a podcast that the process is somehow different. It is the same.

If you are recording from home and publishing your own musings on life, religion, politics, etc then you simply need a computer with an audio card (do they sell them without one anymore), a microphone, recording software, and encoding software. If you already have nice recording software then the odds are that the encoding software is built in to the recording software. I’ll add that you should find a quiet place to perform the recording in case it’s not apparently obvious to the casual observer. A popular free recording software program is Audacity.

A recommended method for a Church, organization, or individual that has the budget is the use of a digital voice recorder. I recommend this as the easiest, fastest, and most economical method of getting your sermons on the site. Today’s digital voice recorders are relatively inexpensive and because they are portable, they can record conveniently in any setting (church, special meetings, open-air, etc). The recorded audio can be quickly transferred to a computer and then converted to the MP3 format suitable for Podcasting. You can use a digital voice recorder with a lapel mic or a line-in from your existing sound system to record. You then transfer the audio as a WAV file to your computer. Below are some examples of digital voice recorders sold by Amazon:

Encoding and Saving the Podcast

Once the audio file is on your computer (either recorded via microphone or using a digital voice recorder), then it may need to be encoded to the MP3 format. Some digital voice recorders allow one to record directly to MP3. Most audio recording is done to the WAV format, however, as it is lossless. MP3 encoding converts the audio format to MP3 that can compress the file dramatically based on how much sound fidelity one is willing to sacrifice to save space. Fidelity is typically measured by the encoding rate and the number of bits used to encode. The faster the encoding rate and the more bits used to encode will produce the highest quality audio (but will also produce very large files). CD audio is encoded at 44 KHz (44,000 cycles per second) with 16 bits per cycle (this is what is meant by 16 bit audio). A sermon or any other spoken recording that does not require such fidelity can be encoded at a much lower rate and even at just 8 bits and still have acceptable quality. The choice is yours – experiment with what you like but if your web hosting storage space is limited then you might want to stick with lower rates/bits to produce smaller files. My general rule of thumb is that if I want a nice sounding music audio file without noticeable compression then I use 128kbps MP3 encoding, for just a voice recording 32kpbs is acceptable. I utilize a program called dBPowerAmp to convert MP3 to MP3 or Wav to MP3 (or a variety of other formats). I’ll usually record at 128 kbps MP3 and then re-encode to 32 kbps before placing a podcast on the web. A 32 kbps MP3 file typically takes up about 10 MB in size.

A Useful Naming Convention

When you name your MP3 file, use a name that will help you organize your podcasts. For example, a naming convention I utilize is: YYYY-MM-DD-Title-of-Recording.mp3 (for example: “2008-06-14-Cut-to-the-Heart(Acts2).mp3”).

MP3 Tags

Be sure to fill out the MP3 ID3 tags after you save your MP3 file. ID3 tags store information about your audio file like: song title, artist (you), and genre. These tags are really important, since this is the information that will be displayed when listeners play your MP3 file in a normal audio player. I recommend a freeware program called MP3Tag for this action.

Upload your Podcast

When your podcast is finished, you need to put it online. If you already have access to a web hosting service, just FTP your MP3 file (podcast) there. As you add more and more podcasts you’ll want to organize them into directories on your web hosting account.

Create your Podcast Feed

With your podcast online, you now need to help the world find it and listen to it. A podcast basically consists of an MP3 file and a text file called an RSS feed. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication,” and the file tells podcatchers (e.g. iTunes) how to find and get your podcast. An RSS feed also lets people subscribe to your podcast and automatically get updates of your new content.

To create your RSS feed, open an html editor or a simple text editor, such as Microsoft Word or Notepad. Copy and paste the code below, and then replace all the red text with your own podcast information. (Note: In my WordPress How-To’s I intend to show how to create a site in WordPress, which includes a Podpress plugin to automate the below. This process is for those that desire to create their site as a standard HTML site.)

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
<rss xmlns:itunes=”http://www.itunes.com/dtds/podcast-1.0.dtd” version=”2.0″>
<channel>
<ttl>30</ttl>
<title>Your Church, City, State</title>

<link>http://www.yourchurch.org</link>
<itunes:image href=”http://www.yourserver.com/YourPodcastPicture.jpg” />  <language>en-us</language>
<copyright>Year Your Church Name</copyright>
<description>The preaching and teaching of Your Church, City, STate.</description>
<itunes:author>Your Church</itunes:author>
<itunes:subtitle>Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:summary>Our Church is devoted to the teaching and the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  At Central Baptist Church we preach and fix our eyes upon Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation. </itunes:summary>
<itunes:owner>
<itunes:name>Your Church</itunes:name>
<itunes:email>[email protected]</itunes:email>
</itunes:owner>
<itunes:category text=”Religion and Spirituality”>
<itunes:category text=”Christianity” />
</itunes:category>
<itunes:explicit>no</itunes:explicit>
<itunes:keywords>Your Church Name, City, other keywords</itunes:keywords>

<item>
<title>This is just a test</title>
<description>A description of your podcast episode</description>
<itunes:author>Your Name</itunes:author>
<pubDate>Thu, 16 Jun 2005 5:00:00 PST</pubDate>
<enclosure url=”http://www.yourserver.com/podcast_file.mp3” length=”3905” type=”audio/mpeg” />
<itunes:duration>1:05:05</itunes:duration>
</item>
</channel>
</rss>

A few important details:

“PubDate” is the time you last updated and published the podcast.

“Length” is the size of the file in bytes. On a Windows computer, you can find this by going to the MP3 file in Windows Explorer and right-clicking on the file. Select “Properties.” The exact size of your MP3 is under “Size.” On a Mac, select the file and click “Apple+I” to see the file information. The file size will be shown under “Size.” Enter in this number without commas.

Note: Every time you add another podcast episode, you will need to create another podcast episode, or “item.” Copy all the code from <item> to </item> and paste this text after the last </item>. Now, update all the blue text with information for the new podcast episode.

Some other podcast directories have created their own code extensions to standard RSS. One example is the iTunes directory. For more details on adding iTunes’ additional code, visit the iTunes RSS specifications. The above RSS code is generic and will work with and support commonly used standards, including iTunes’.

After you’ve made these changes, save the file in plain text format and with the file extension “xml” (for example, “Podcast.xml”). Upload this file to your web host, just as you did earlier for your MP3 file.

Advertise your Podcast

Finally, share your podcast so that others can listen to it. List your RSS feed on podcast directories such as Yahoo! Podcasts, Odeo, iTunes, and Podcast Alley. Make sure you also tell people what the podcast is about by entering some genre and content categories. This will help listeners find your podcast more easily.

In addition, on your Church, organizational, or personal website you can create a link to the XML file that you created above for your RSS feed. You can create a simple text link or make a graphical link so that visitors can easily subscribe to your podcast from your web page. Ligonier Ministries has an xml link in the lower right page of their radio broadcast page. Subscription to their podcast is as easy as dragging the Podcast graphic into the podcasts folder in iTunes.

WordPress

The following information was compiled from the WordPress site.

WordPress started in 2003 with a single bit of code to enhance the typography of everyday writing and with fewer users than you can count on your fingers and toes. Since then it has grown to be the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, used on hundreds of thousands of sites and seen by tens of millions of people every day.

Everything you see here, from the documentation to the code itself, was created by and for the community. WordPress is an Open Source project, which means there are hundreds of people all over the world working on it. (More than most commercial platforms.) It also means you are free to use it for anything from your cat’s home page to a Fortune 5 web site without paying anyone a license fee.

About WordPress.org

On this site you can download and install a software script called WordPress. To do this you need a web host who meets the minimum requirements and a little time. WordPress is completely customizable and can be used for almost anything. There is also a service called WordPress.com which lets you get started with a new and free WordPress-based blog in seconds, but varies in several ways and is less flexible than the WordPress you download and install yourself.

A Little History

WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPL. It is the official successor of b2/cafelog. WordPress is fresh software, but its roots and development go back to 2001. It is a mature and stable product. We hope by focusing on user experience and web standards we can create a tool different from anything else out there.

2005 was a very exciting year for WordPress, as it saw the release of our 1.5 version (introduced themes) which was downloaded over 900,000 times, the start of hosted service WordPress.com to expand WP’s reach, the founding of Automattic by several core members of the WP team, and finally the release of version 2.0.

After 1.5 we seemed to have something people really liked and we’ve experienced some fairly rapid growth. Here are some metrics for 2006 and 2007.

In 2006 we had 1,545,703 downloads, in 2007 we had 3,816,965!

As for plugins we had 191,567 downloads of 371 unique plugins in 2006. In 2007 there were 2,845,884 downloads (15x growth) of 1,384 plugins.

2006 saw the introduction of the first WordCamp in San Francisco.

In 2007 we adopted a regular release schedule, putting out major feature releases roughly every 3-4 months, or three times a year.

Because of the number of improvements in version 2.5 we took an extra 3 months on it, but 2008 looks on track to do three major releases again. It will be a very exciting year.

There are now dozens of WordCamps around the world, from Vancouver to Dallas to Milan, Italy.

To run WordPress your host just needs a couple of things:

  • PHP version 4.3 or greater
  • MySQL version 4.0 or greater

That’s really it. We recommend Apache or Litespeed as the most robust and featureful server for running WordPress, but any server that supports PHP and MySQL will do. That said, we can’t test every possible environment and each of the hosts on our hosting page supports the above and more with no problems.

We offer a feature set with WordPress on par or better than any other software of its kind. Also we are committed to making the latest blogging technology available to our users (such as Trackback) and taking it a step further (such as with Pingback). You can rest assured that with WordPress you will be on the cutting edge of the technology available.

The following is a list of some of the features that come standard with WordPress, however there are literally hundreds of plugins that extend what WordPress does, so the actual functionality is nearly limitless. You are also free to do whatever you like with the WordPress code, extend it or modify in any way or use it for commercial projects without any licensing fees. That is the beauty of free software, free meaning not only price but also the freedom to have complete control over it.

Key Features

  • Full standards compliance — We have gone to great lengths to make sure every bit of WordPress generated code is in full compliance with the standards of the W3C. This is important not only for interoperability with today’s browser but also for forward compatibility with the tools of the next generation. Your web site is a beautiful thing, and you should demand nothing less.
  • No rebuilding — Changes you make to your templates or entries are reflected immediately on your site, with no need for regenerating static pages.
  • WordPress Pages — Pages allow you to manage non-blog content easily, so for example you could have a static “About” page that you manage through WordPress. For an idea of how powerful this is, the entire WordPress.org site could be run off WordPress alone. (We don’t for technical mirroring reasons.)
  • WordPress Links — Links allows you to create, maintain, and update any number of blogrolls through your administration interface. This is much faster than calling an external blogroll manager.
  • WordPress Themes — WordPress comes with a full theme system which makes designing everything from the simplest blog to the most complicated webzine a piece of cake, and you can even have multiple themes with totally different looks that you switch with a single click. Have a new design every day.
  • Cross-blog communication tools— WordPress fully supports both the Trackback and Pingback standards, and we are committed to supporting future standards as they develop.
  • Comments — Visitors to your site can leave comments on individual entries, and through Trackback or Pingback can comment on their own site. You can enable or disable comments on a per-post basis.
  • Spam protection — Out of the box WordPress comes with very robust tools such as an integrated blacklist and open proxy checker to manage and eliminate comment spam on your blog, and there is also a rich array of plugins that can take this functionality a step further.
  • Full user registration — WordPress has a built-in user registration system that (if you choose) can allow people to register and maintain profiles and leave authenticated comments on your blog. You can optionally close comments for non-registered users. There are also plugins that hide posts from lower level users.
  • Password Protected Posts — You can give passwords to individual posts to hide them from the public. You can also have private posts which are viewable only by their author.
  • Easy installation and upgrades — Installing WordPress and upgrading from previous versions and other software is a piece of cake. Try it and you’ll wonder why all web software isn’t this easy.
  • Easy Importing — We currently have importers for Movable Type, Textpattern, Greymatter, Blogger, and b2. Work on importers for Nucleus and pMachine are under way.
  • XML-RPC interface — WordPress currently supports an extended version of the Blogger API, MetaWeblog API, and finally the MovableType API. You can even use clients designed for other platforms like Zempt.
  • Workflow — You can have types of users that can only post drafts, not publish to the front page.
  • Typographical niceties — WordPress uses the Texturize engine to intelligently convert plain ASCII into typographically correct XHTML entities. This includes quotes, apostrophes, ellipses, em and en dashes, multiplication symbols, and ampersands. For information about the proper use of such entities see Peter Sheerin’s article The Trouble With Em ’n En.
  • Intelligent text formatting — If you’ve dealt with systems that convert new lines to line breaks before you know why they have a bad name: if you have any sort of HTML they butcher it by putting tags after every new line indiscriminately, breaking your formatting and validation. Our function for this intelligently avoids places where you already have breaks and block-level HTML tags, so you can leave it on without worrying about it breaking your code.
  • Multiple authors — WordPress’ highly advanced user system allows up to 10 levels of users, with different levels having different (and configurable) privileges with regard to publishing, editing, options, and other users.
  • Bookmarklets — Cross-browser bookmarklets make it easy to publish to your blog or add links to your blogroll with a minimum of effort.
  • Ping away — WordPress supports pinging Ping-O-Matic, which means maximum exposure for your blog to search engines.

There’s much more, but these are the highlights. If there’s something that you really want, submit a request on the support forums and there’s a good chance someone will whip it up for you.

Domain Registration Ratings

An independent domain registration rating list of the top domain registration services comparing features and value.  Each domain registrar allows the user to register domain names with all the global registries (.com, .net, .org, etc) and most allow domain name registration with other country registries.  Use this domain registrar ratings list to match your domain name needs to the appropriate registrar.  You can also resell domain registration.

Top Domain Registrars

Domain Registrar Description Price
ICANNwholesale •  FREE  Blog
•  FREE  Hosting
•  FREE  Complete Email
•  FREE  Forwarding / Masking
•  FREE  Change of Registration
•  FREE  Starter Web Page
•  FREE  “For Sale”/ Parked Page
•  FREE  Domain Name Locking
•  FREE  Total DNS Control
$6.95 .com
GoDaddy •  Online Photo Filer
•  Quick Blogcast Hosting with Web site builder
•  Personalized Email Account
•  Starter Web Page
•  Domain Forwarding & Masking
•  Total DNS Control
•  Change of Registration
•  Domain Locking
$9.99 .com
Yahoo! Domains •  24 hour support
•  Starter Web Page
•  Private domain registration available
•  Domain Locking
•  Domain Forwarding
•  Complete DNS Control
$9.95 .com
Register.com •  Starter Site
•  Free submission to Google and other search engines
•  $60 of Free Yahoo search advertising
•  Basic URL forwarding
$35 .com
Network Solutions • $19 transfers
• $12 domain forwarding with masking
• Free Under Construction page.
• Easy-to-use account management tools.
• Free transfers within Network Solutions.
• Free added security with Domain Protect and Auto Renew.
• 24/7 customer support.
$34.99 .com

Domain Reseller Accounts
Company Description Price
ICANNreseller Allows organizations or individuals to sell domain names, web products, and e-commerce tools.  Resellers benefit from a well established backend with a top-notch support and product development staff.  Site templates and management tools make the establishment of a non-profit or for-profit domain registration and web product system almost instantaneous. $89.95

Web Hosting Ratings and Reviews

An independent web hosting rating list of the price and features of the top web hosting companies. Each web hosting review ranks prices, features, reliability and service and provides web hosting company information to help you determine the best match for your web hosting requirements. All of the web hosting companies rated and reviewed would serve individuals, churces or companies well. All have 30 day money-back guarantees, high uptime, and scripting support. Each web host company offers unique plans that suit some customers better than others. Determine your needs and use the web hosting ratings to match your needs to the appropriate webhost company that meets them. Use the web hosting reviews to gather important background information about the reputation and strengths of each web host company. Whether you need small business web hosting, church web hosting, personal web hosting, web album web hosting, or online storage, these webhosting companies have proven reliability with outstanding service at the lowest prices available.

Host Price Storage Bandwidth Add-On
Domains
Free
Domain?
Free
Setup?
ICANNWholesale $2.26 10 GB Unlimited  – Yes!
Lunar Pages $4.95 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Yes! Yes!
ix Web Hosting $3.95 Unlimited1 Unlimited Unlimited Yes! Yes!
Host Excellence $3.95 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Yes! Yes!
1 “Unlimited” comes with terms. Read their Fair Use Policy for more information.
2