This site still runs the latest version of WordPress but the main difference between this site and my old Watirmelon.blog one is this one is self hosted and not on WordPress.com like my old site was since 2006.
“Why self hosted after 14 years?” I hear you ask. I did work for Automattic who runs WordPress.com for over three years and I am a huge fan of its products and platform but there comes a time when long-standing bugs/missing features weigh you down and make you switch away from something you love.
The first bug was a security limitation on all WordPress.com sites whereby you can’t embed any content from another WordPress.com site.
See I want to embed content from my own site in my knowledge base, but on WordPress.com it isn’t possible – and it just silently fails and falls back to sad looking text hyperlink.
WordPress.com offers an awesome feature to email new content to subscribers but the inability to change it from anything but immediately was a constant anxiety inducer: if I accidentally hit Publish before being completely ready it would immdiately email 1000+ subscribers with no undo 😕
I now use MailPoet which enables configuration of when to send emails to subscribers – I send an email once a day at 1pm local time if I have created any new content since it was last sent. This alleviates my publish anxiety as I know I have until 1pm each day to fix it before it’s emailed.
I also really wanted to add an automatically generated table of contents to each page in my knowledge base – there was no way to do this on WordPress.com.
One thing I realised by moving to self-hosted is just how much WordPress.com offers without any plugins. I didn’t realise WordPress doesn’t offer in built site stats – that’s a WordPress.com thing.
I try to avoid WordPress plugins since they’re notorious for slowing down your site, however I did end up a small list of handy things that I need:
- Akismet Anti-Spam: name says it all 🐷
- List Pages Shortcode: to show child pages of a page in a page – just works on WordPress.com
- LuckyWP Table of Contents: table of contents
- MailPoet 3
- Site Kit by Google
- SyntaxHighlighter Evolved
- Widget Context
- Wordfence Security
One thing I can’t do at the moment is automatically publish to Twitter and LinkedIn, but due to my Publish Anxiety anyway I use a manual process for that.
The final question you may ask is why I didn’t use the Business Plan on WordPress.com that allows most plugins and would have solved most of my issues?
This site runs free of ads and creates zero income or revenue for me. The Business Plan would enable some of the features I mentioned above, but it’s AUD$396 per year. My employment income has fallen due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and I can’t justify that cost when my current managed host costs approx AUD$50 per year to host the same site (8 times less).