Author: Scott McNulty
Publisher: Peachpit Press; 2 edition 2010
Aimed at: New and existing users of WordPress
Pros: Practical, hand-on advice well illustrated with screen dumps
Cons: A lot of detail before it seems to get going
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
This title makes an impressive suggestion. Does it deliver on its promise?
This the second edition of a book, now revised and updated to cover Wordpress 3 (in fact version 3.0.1), written by a prolific blogger. You can decide for yourself in Scott McNulty's own blog is one you want to read by visiting his Blankbaby blog.
Chapter 1 explores the question "Why Wordpress" and suggests that two downsides - dynamic page generation which can mean that a blog being unavailable at times of heavy load and that its sheer popularity makes it a target for "bad guys" pointing out at the same time that any exploitable flaws are usually quickly patched.
The main upside is, of course, that by being open source software, WordPress is free. In addition it can be extended by plug-ins and has a active developer community, a wide range of reference materials and lots of people you can turn to for help. It then goes through the Wordpress.com (where you site is hosted for free) versus Wordpress.org where you choose an alternative hosting arrangement.
We move fairly quickly on to Chapter 2 on installing Wordpress which looks at what you need to organise before you embank on the famed 5-minute installation - FTP client, text editor, and a MySQL database. When it does proceed to installation it uses clear screen dumps which makes it easy to follow.
Chapter 3 is on managing user accounts and includes a discussion of the five user roles - administrator, editor, author, contributor and subscriber. Chapter 4 goes into the other aspects of the Dashboard and Chapter 5 looks at eight sets of settings that control how your readers will interact with your blog. By this time I reached the end of this 30+ page chapter I was suffering overload and asking the question when will we get going with posting something.
The answer is soon. Chapter 6 is on Preparing to Post, covering the three elements of a post - title, body and author, the use of the Visual Editor for composing and formatting a post and of the HTML view for some useful additional facilities and even adding media. The title of Chapter 7 is Publishing Your Post (Finally!) and I do agree that the exclamation mark is justified - especially as there are still some preliminaries such as setting status and visibility before you press the Publish button. I'd have found the book less heavy going had we got to this milestone rather sooner.
Having actually posted something McNulty then introduces a quicker alternative - the Press This bookmarklet - a facility that lets you blog about a website you are visiting and find something you want to share via your own blog. We then return to managing posts, categories and tags.
Chapter 8 is a short one on working with Pages including sections on understanding permalinks and creating page templates. In Chapter 9: Custom Post Types and Taxonomies, McNulty points out:
Pages and posts are actually the same thing to WordPress ... a page is just one type of post.
He goes on to explain the five default post types:
Post; Page; Attachment; Revisions and NavMenus
and the custom post type introduced in WordPress 2.9 and the idea of custom taxonomies. Here there is a useful hands-on example that uses a WordPress add-in.
Chapter 10 is a very straightforward and practical one on handling links. Then comes a helpful chapter on comments which starts by looking at whether to allow them or not and then at deciding who can comment. It then proceeds to deal with comments in depth.
Chapter 12: Working with Themes and Widgets is another substantial chunk and is augmented by Chapter 13: Theme Tweaking to make a stock theme into something more distinctive or appropriate to your blog. The next chapter Chapter 14: Plug-Ins is also concerned with going beyond what basic WordPress does and after looking at activating and managing plug-ins goes into how you can create a plug-in of your own.
Troubleshooting and Maintenance is the topic of the penultimate chapter and looks at what yo do if your blogg is hacked and how to ward off trouble before it happens by taking backups and downloading WordPress updates.
In the final pages, Chapter 16: Bloggerly Wisdom, McNulty has tips, tricks and techniques for building an audience which he boils down to the Three Cs of Blogging: Content, Consistency and Community. And a lot more space could have been devoted to the final one which is about the social aspects of blogging.
I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than ploughing through all the settings in early chapters - however the chapters are in fact very useful and so I don't suggest that at the next revision McNulty omits them but he might want to consider a restructuring.