The problem with weblogs is that either they are small and remain small, in which case a wordpress installation on a webhost or self-hosted server will work perfectly fine.
Or the occasional weblog like Climate Audit which has outgrown every webhosting solution bar one: wordpress.com
What distinguishes between a run-of-the-mill weblog and Climate Audit has been the traffic produced by the headlines created by Steve McIntyre’s work. Then you get Slashdotted and Instalanched into the ground unless you have an infrastructure able to cope with changes of traffic that can suddenly increase by 1000%
Its no fun for the poor administrator whose hard work and dedication gets him sleepless nights and server meltdowns.
It’s no coincidence that all of the top blogs are hosted on cloud infrastructure because its the only way to go.
In a perfect world (of much more money than we have), then we’d host CA on our own private cloud infrastructure and then we could do what we want with the blog software. But as it is, being hosted on wordpress.com produces limitations in terms of the presentation of the blog and the types of facilities (widgets) that we are able to provide.
But its a small price to pay for a good nights sleep. Believe me.
“I’m thinking of setting up a blog like ClimateAudit. What do I need?“”How did you achieve this/that functionality?“”What themes/plug-ins do you use?“
I get questions like the above on a regular basis, so I thought I’d just write it all down on a page and alter it as CA alters over time.
We use WordPress as the blogging software. I’ve evaluated a lot of different software including Moveable Type (used by RealClimate) and blogger but I find that WordPress is the best of the bunch for a general purpose weblog. WordPress is ideal where you need more than just basic functionality in a blog. It’s flexible, easy-to-install and use, and very extensible in terms of both themes (the look of the site) and plug-ins (for extra functionality).
If you just want to testdrive WordPress without paying any money, then register at WordPress.com and you will be able to have most of the features that CA enjoys. You get a choice of some nice themes and there are some useful facilities that you can add to your blog, but you can’t choose or modify the themes given you beyond altering the colours. It does give a basic feel for how WordPress works, and if you’re an occasional blogger, then this is maybe all you’ll need in a blog.
(If you want to start a blog to examine issues arising from Climate Audit, then feel free to start a blog at Auditblogs.com which is also administered by me)
WordPress requires php (which is a very popular scripting language) and MySQL (a database engine that stores all the posts and comments), so these must be available from your webhosting provider.
The current version is WordPress 2.2.1
Rare is the webhost/web provider that does not supply an entry package or three for blogging purposes nowadays. CA is currently hosted
by webserve.ca since Steve wanted a Canadian ISP in case of any legal ambiguities by rippleweb.com which has a large datacenter in Sacramento CA, but you can choose from any webhost or ISP that you want. I would recommend that you purchase a weblog package with an ISP in your home country, preferably local and one with a good reputation for reliability. In webhosting, as in the rest of life, you get what you pay for.
What to buy
In order to run WordPress, the webhost must provide php and MySQL. Since you will probably want to install WordPress and extra files, themes and plug-ins yourself, then the webhost should provide secure FTP access as well.
The most important part for a weblog package is disk space, so beware looking at just the entry-level package unless it already comes with at least 500MB of disk space. CA may be an extreme example, but we did find that the entry-level disk space was used up within months, and we only found out what the problem was after the blog had fallen over (I think webhosts know this).
You will also need to purchase a domain from a national or international registrar, but usually the webhost can provide this at a small extra cost. Personally I prefer to own the domain myself, so that if I need to change ISPs then I don’t encounter any problems with moving the domain as well. (Steve bought the CA domain through webserve.ca. I buy mine through a general DNS registrar called register.com)
Climate Audit currently uses the Tiga theme, which is a three column theme with nice configuration functionality
Plug-ins used (links to the download)
Comment License – adds a short message on rules for postidng comments on CA.
Digg Defender – uses Coral Cache to try to balance the load from Digg, Slashdot etc
Live Comment Preview – shows a preview of a comment before it is submitted
LatexRender– adds LaTeX for use by authors and commentors using the [ tex][/ tex] tags
WP Paypal Widget – allows a tipjar for readers to contribute to CA.
Google XML Roadmaps – allows Google, Yahoo, MSN etc to quickly spider the site while avoid those areas you want them to avoid.
Recent Comments Widget – adds a list of the most frequent comments posted to your blog. They are gathered in descending order (newest at the top), but then group them together by post title, so that comments from the same post are listed together. The list items will be links to the comments, and will contain the name of the commenter.
WordPress Database Backup – comes with the software and extremely useful to take backups of your database. You never know when this might be useful (especially when you’re moving your blog to another host)
Move Comments – allows admins to move comments from one thread to another
WP-Cache – caches posts and pages so that they don’t use webserver memory or database engine requests every time.
WP Paypal Donate Widget – enables the CA Tip Jar for payments through Paypal.
WordPress.com Stats – produces useful stats for the blog which are stored by wordpress.com and not us.
WP-phpmyadmin – allows access to phpmydmin from within WordPress admin.
WP Tuner – powerful blog performance analysis, enables diagnosis of many performance issues. (Written by MrPete to help speed up CA.)
Additionally I have configured two generic text widgets to do Google Search and Google AdSense functionality. The code within the widgets is supplied by Google when you register for Adsense.