Archive for April, 2009

Creating your own website from scratch. Easy, interesting and fun!

I’ve had one or two questions from different people about how I put my blog website together from a technical perspective. While I would say this is far from being complete, I’d like to discuss what I’ve done so far, and what my guiding principals are for some of my decisions.

Website name

This site is because my name is Martin Ogg. When I began I didn’t know what my blog was going to be about, so having such a unique surname I was sure by choosing my name I would get a unique url! If you have an idea of what your blog or site is going to be about, then by all means a more appropriate url name is a good idea. I wouldn’t advise stressing too much about a gimmicky or memorable url name; I believe the strength of your content would be the best advertising factor and people will remember your site based on what you write, not what the url was.

I went with a top level domain ( nothing like or ) because firstly I wanted to have the experience of obtaining and using webspace, and secondly because I personally find top level domains more serious. For example if you saw a page hosted on a free site such as geocities, would you hold it in the same regard as a top level domain?


To get a top level domain I needed to register it and host it. A quick review of companies online showed me what was right for me, but I went for one which I felt had good general reviews. It cost about 40 GBP for 1 year of hosting with 9 GBP per top domain level registration (max 3 different top levels) The hosting package came with lots of features I’ve yet to utilize, but major features ive found are PHP servers, email addresses with webmail or pop3 login ability, FTP access, and tutorials how to add features to the site. As far as I’ve seen, some companies offer free hosting for the first 3 months, but the problem I thought about is if I kept on this longer than 3 months, the site offers after this time may not have been as competitive. I therefore chose a 1 year term to see how things would go.


All of my blogging is done using WordPress. I would recommend this one to other beginners as it appears to be easily customiseable and easy to use. It has 3rd party widgets and plugins to use on your site and you could even create your own themes/plugins for those with that need. Making a post is easy, just log in to your admin page from anywhere and click ‘add new post.’ you can even add in pictures and media clips. Knowledge of html and programming is not essential, but basic use of FTP is required to install it and you need to know how to edit a text file to put in your database login details.

Themes, Widgets and Plugins

The customisation ability in wordpress is provided through 3rd party themes, widgets and plugins. These are very easily put on your site and you can search for new items from a link in your log in page. Its not quite as easy as I’d have expected though because when you click a new theme for example, you have to download the zip file containing the related files of that new theme. After that you must upload it to the correct place on your FTP space. You may then select it from your list of themes. While its not particularly difficult to do this (especially if you already had to use FTP to upload wordpress in the first place) Id have found it more intuitive if there was a 1-click process of doing this.

Widgets are items that live on the sidebar, which for me justnow lives on the left hand side of every page. These items are not things which I created, but I have selected to be there which add value to each page with no additional effort of creating them yourself. For example, I have a calender, recent posts and google advert on the sidebar.

Plugins are like widgets but they do not live on the sidebar. An example is the spam comment checker. This plugin checks every comment to determine if it is spam. If so, it goes straight for the spam folder. I have had to enable this recently as I have been hit by spam bots recently and it is annoying having to sift through page-sized comments to find the one liners left by geniune commenters.

google adsense

I use google adsense to generate income from this site. I would recommend thinking about monitising your site for two reasons. First, obviously is that here is an money making opportunity staring you in the face. If lots of people visit your site, then you have the traffic there who might click your sponsor links. In this way you can generate income even if you dont personally sell anything on your site. Secondly, this can be used as an analysis tool to determine how successful your site is. If you are posting on to a blog that is readable by millions, then surely you do actually want to have people reading your pages. The goal of making your site popular and earning money off it go hand in hand with advertising on your site.

So now with this goal of getting lots of readers, you now have the opportunity to think about how to achieve this. One way I have thought of this is to work on the quality of my posts.

Getting adsense on your site is straight forward, but I did have some hiccups along the way. My site was reject initially, but I then changed my theme to a more comprehensive looking page and it was fine. I add the google HTML code (along with my code number issued by google) to a text widget addon on my sidebar. This means it will appear on every page on my site, as my sidebar is available on each page

google analytics

Another useful tool for site analysis. After registering and adding the required html, you can log in to the google page with your google id to get site statistics. These statistics include what pages were visited, where the request came from, and how long they spent on each page. Using this information Im sure would be useful to obtain feedback on what works on your site and what doesn’t. For example, I find that currently I get a lot of hits on my front page, but very few elsewhere. That might indicate that my front page is not transparent enough to get to other pages.

The reason why I decided to have a website at all is because I felt the need for a presence on the internet. Of course you can have your own email address, instant messenger handle and facebook page but these things are for communication with people you already know in more ‘real life’ communities. The internet community is something I felt that I did not have any presence in and thats something I’d like to move into. The advantage of an internet based community is of course the possible size of members. The outreach possible using the net is by far the most convenient and widespread. The likelihood of getting into contact with someone who gives you an idea or insight is greater by the fact that there is the potential to come into contact with so many.

Would this approach be suitable for you? Do you have interests that might be suitable to have a website or blog to discuss? I would highly recommend it even if you don’t have anything to say right at the moment. The experience I have gotten and am still receiving for making this site is certainly reward enough for me and I find it very encouraging to think about the processes involved in both technical and non-technical aspects of creating this site.

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Its OK to fail…

I’d like to talk about failure. Failing tasks can be embarrassing to the individual but more importantly it can cause severe problems, especially at work. I’d like to show you that failing a task doesn’t have to mean the end of the world, in fact, good can be taken from the whole event which ultimately leads to a better solution all round…

In a post last month I made the promise to write 1 post every 2 days for 30 days. The deadline I set ends in 2 days time, and in 28 days I have written 5 posts (including this one!) I think its pretty safe to say that I will not be completing my stated task. Fail! Failure is bad because not only does it not achieve what was required to fulfil the task, it also discredits the person in the future for the capacity to execute future tasks. Would I trust myself to write 15 posts in 30 days starting from tomorrow? Could I expect anyone else to trust me to do it?

The task was failed but does that mean you are a total failure? Can’t anything be taken from this failed task. Yes! Not only can something good be taken from this failed promise, but I believe something even better can be found…

The point of a post process review is to discover what went wrong, and how to learn from the experience so that similar failures don’t occur again. The first step is to ask questions:

Why did I want 15 posts written in 30 days?

To get more on the site, having 15 posts more would treble the amount of content and therefore provide a relatively quick way of bolstering content and hopefully traffic to the site.

Is this a reasonable request?

This answer to this is debatable. It is certainly possible for at least one person on Earth to provide this and I believed I could have been one of them. Unfortunately, other constraints on my life prevented me from spending the full time I required to complete this task. Certainly I could have spent my free time completing such a task, but it would be at the expense of other, possibly more valuable, promises which were not delivered.

What is the outcome of the failure?

In this case, the failure to complete this task has little consequence. Though it is impossible to tell what would happen if I had more content on this site, perhaps I would suffer the loss of insight in my life for not articulating more thoughts.

By answering these questions I have thought of some conclusions for the outcome of this task. The goal was rather far-fetched considering my relevant experience. My lack of experience did not allow me to accurately predict time required for writing.

So how can I avoid such short comings in the future? Well the first step is to not accept such unreasonable requests! The request may be doable by some people but it was not by me at that point. The next stage is to try and work on making that goal attainable. For me that is the combination of working on freeing up enough available time and working more on my writing skills.

In addition, I have researched and found opinions on what makes a good blog and one response was to post regularly to maintain readership. This may not require a large blast of posts in a relatively short time but rather a consistent line of timely posts. So the best solution to solve the original request would really be work on a continuous strategy, not a quick fix or short burst.

When thinking about situations in every day life and work, the possibility of failure is always present. Different scenarios carry different levels of possibility of passing and different levels of severity if failed. Its always good to consider different outcomes, even if they are unfavourable. Doing this as early as possible will help to avoid major catastrophes. For example, if you need to drive to the airport for a trip but your car seems to be acting up recently, then it may be good to take the car in to get repaired. Perhaps also investigate other methods of travel, e.g. Taxi or bus. Then again, if you miss the trip because the car wont start, then the next time I’m sure you would learn your lesson and make sure you know the bus timetable!

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