2011 saw me create www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk, the site you are currently reading. I’d been messing around with websites for 18 months or so prior to its creation, learning to code etc. I had designed a few sites for other people and casually created my own blog at www.getoutofmyfacebook.co.uk , but I wasn’t taking anything too seriously. Just a few short travel stories, along with a few youtube vids of music and stop motion pieces that I found amusing … it didnt get many hits. Then in Jan I got a job interview, and although they said that they liked my blogging exploits, what I was doing wasnt professional enough to transfer into the business world. In short, I didn’t get the job.

I wondered what more I could have done and quickly came to the decision that my blog was shite. It looked amateur and had no real focus on any one subject. I was never going to get many readers whilst it was in such a state. Enter a total rebrand and a focus on travel. June 2011 www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk was born. Yay!

I’m not the world’s best travel writer, far from it, you know it and I know it. But I like to think that I’m just slightly above average when it comes to stereotypically geeking things such as web design, programming, technology etc … but woah did I have a lot to learn.  Half the battle with blogging is mastering the technology that powers your blog.  Here’s a few of the problems I encountered whilst trying to stamp my authority on the blogging world. A few tips included too.

Facebook hates me

I really didn’t want to set up a facebook fan page when I started my blog, but I eventually crumbled if only to learn something new. It was ok for a while, I eventually found the import RSS function which meant all the work was pretty much done for me, anything I posted on wordpress was automatically loaded to facebook for me … but then facebook slapped me round the face with a huge backhander and took the feature away. Rude!

What did this mean? Well it meant that I would have to add all my post links manually. Ok so maybe not wanting to do that is me just being lazy, but in my defence, facebook obviously doesn’t like me doing this because it never showed a thumbnail image when I posted a link from my blog on my facebook wall. In all honestly it looks a little shit. I tried a few things to get the thumbnails to show, but to no avail. I tried so hard at one point that I totally broke my site.

It now works and facebook looks pretty again (ish), but I think a lot of that is down to the genius of Matic.  Read the next section to find out who Matic is and how he saved my site from the clutches of the doom squad.

WordPress can be scary when it wants to be

So, I wanted the my article thumbnails to show on my facebook wall so much that I broke my site. That wasn’t clever was it?! … I’ll answer for you, it wasn’t.

What did I do to crash my site? I added some code in the functions.php file in my wp-content folder. WordPress obviously didn’t like the code though, and I was soon presented with the WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH. Yep that’s actually a proper technical term, google it and you’ll find a whole heap of articles and forum entries on the subject. Many claim to contain the solution for 99% of WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH incidents … unfortunately my site seemed to fall under that other 1%, like I didn’t see that coming. I tried pretty everything these blogs and forums suggested but to no avail, the white screen remained.

The solution, well I’d love to tell you I fixed it myself, but that’d be lieing. I stayed up till 2am one morning trying to fix the fecker, but it just spat in my face and remained white. I’m not just talking the front end here, I talking every end. Even the login screen was missing. I can’t remember I time in recent memory where I’ve felt more sick.

The Solution was Matic, a Slovenian Web Programmer and wordpress specialist who I found on www.Odesk.com. He hasn’t asked me to publish his name, this isn’t something I’m getting paid, I would simply recommend him to any of you’s lot who are running wordpress and come across the white screen of death. Yes I had to pay him, but it was totally worth it. He saved my site as far as I’m concerned, and in under an hour! £20 was totally worth it, no question. You think I would have figure out all of the below, HA, no chance! …

Hello Neil
Your website is working now.

A wordpress core file classes.php in folder wp-includes was missing.
I have updated your WordPress core files with clean WP 3.3 files.
I have restored your .htaccess file.
I have added salt keys to your wp-config.php file and I have also set the permission of this file to 0400 so you can only change it via ftp.

Let me know what you think.
Best regards
Matic S

Need help, find him here – matic@amnesia.si

Twitter has made things more difficult, but still my fave

Oh twitter, what happened, we were friends weren’t we? We used to laugh, play, copy and paste. Sadly not anymore. Why didn’t you remove the ability to copy and paste from your iphone app? Why do you want me to re-type all the tweets linking my new posts every time I want to promote them? Why are you adding to my workload, why?

I don’t get it, maybe so you can’t spam over and over I guess. It’s just not ideal for me. This update made me sad. That said, twitter is the platform on which I’ve made the most new mates and gotten the most out of. It’s still my favorite.

Google+… meh

I get it, and it looks pretty, but hardly anyone seems to use it. On occasion I might add an article and +1 some other peoples stuff, but I don’t check it religiously. It would have been nice if like facebook, google+ had an import RSS function, but they didn’t and now facebook have got rid too. FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC. Why make it all so time consuming for the user? I thought it was all about the user?

Youtube

Youtube is youtube, and generally brilliant. One thing I did learn this year however was to add the following code to all of my vids. The code ensures that the video’s will not obscure any content from my site by for lack of a better phrase, resting on top of it.  The code below will mean that youtube vids go to the back of the line, and dont obscure any other content on your site.

wmode=opaque or wmode=transparent

  • New YouTube Code Example:

Add ?wmode=opaque to the end of your src url.

<iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/SajTznBoeBc?wmode=opaque” frameborder=”0″ width=”600″ height=”320″ ></iframe>

  • Old YouTube Code Example:

Add the two different variations of wmode=transparent as per below.

<object classid=”clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000″ width=”640″ height=”385″ codebase=”http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0″><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”src” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/NZ73_okzKx0&hl=en_US&fs=1&;” /><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /><param name=”wmode” value=”transparent” /><embed type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” width=”640″ height=”385″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/NZ73_okzKx0&hl=en_US&fs=1&;” allowfullscreen=”true” wmode=”transparent” allowscriptaccess=”always”></embed></object>

Digg

Digg wont accept my URLs and therefore I havent used it.  What can I do?  I’ve looked for solutions but to no avail.  I’ve contacted Digg and got squat back.  Not worth my time and effort.

Stumbleupon

I dont mind stumbleupon.  Its easy enough and I get a couple of hits from it now and then.  What i’m not so keen on is people always sending me pages to view, it glogs up my email and I believe that I should be allowed to read what I have searched for, not what someone else is telling me to read.  Does that make sense? … basically stop sending me pages to read, its a bit annoying.  If its good I’ll find it and tweet, like etc.

What can I expect in 2012?

1.  To be busier than I was in 2011.  The social media gods have not made blogger any easier with their recent updates and ‘improvements’.  Promoting my site now looks a fully manual job, more time will now be spent on copying and pasting links, than on writing new posts.  Sad but true.  In my opinion the users job has been made slightly harder for 2012.  Not ideal for those on the move, or those trying to balance blogging and a 9-5.

2. Facebook timeline – Its available to user profiles at present, but not fan pages. For a travel blog the timeline/dates element could obviously prove quite useful, I also like the look of the new dual profile pictures. It shouldnt take a lot of work to make my fan page look at lot better than it currently does, once the timeline function is made available to fan pages.

3.. Digg Beta version – hopefully this means a new Digg site, and I might finally be able to submit URLs to digg.

Did you have any troubles blogging in 2011?  Care to share your troubles, or any solutions you may have figured out?