LearnVox and WordPress.com not right for power bloggers

writes on November 27, 2006

I got all excited about launching Carsonified because it was going to give me a good chance to try out Vox and WordPress.com (the hosted version, not the open source version we’re using here).

WordPress.com and Vox both promise a lot of exciting integration with nifty services like Flickr, YouTube and Delicious – so I quickly registered for accounts on both platforms and started investigating.

Vox: Full of ads

I started off with Six Apart’s much heralded Vox blogging tool. Here’s what I liked:

  1. It looks great (you have a choice of a ton of different templates)
  2. It’s super easy to use
  3. It’s got built in support for embedding videos, photos and more
  4. It has interesting social elements built right in (being able to choose who can view content based on their relationship with you).

But geez, there were ads everywhere. I understand that they need to monitize free versions with ads. But why isn’t there the option of upgrading to a paid version without ads? I’d have done this in a second.

So I scuttled my Vox account and moved onto WordPress.com …

WordPress.com wins (Almost)

I created an account at wordpress.com and added my first blog. For those of you who don’t understand the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com, here’s a quick summary:

  • wordpress.org is the open source version of WordPress. It’s free to download and install on your own server.
  • wordpress.com is a hosted version of WordPress that has all the latest bells and whistles

After toying around with WordPress.com, I was completely hooked. Here’s why:

  1. No need to download and install the software, create a database and configure a database user
  2. Great usage stats built right in
  3. All sorts of nifty features that aren’t yet available on wordpress.org (version 2.0.5)

But … (and this is a big but) you can’t change the auto-discovery feed to a FeedBurner URL! Let me explain: If you really want in-depth stats on your readers, you need to use FeedBurner. Every serious blogger uses this service and I find it really hard to believe that the Automattic folks haven’t sorted this out for WordPress.com.

So WordPress.org (version 2.0.5) it is

So after spending a whole day getting the blog set up, I had to ditch the whole thing and start over with a hand-installed version on our Rackspace server. Yuck!

Vox and WordPress.com just don’t give you enough control if you’re a power user. I’m sure that Six Apart (makers of Vox) and Automattic (makers of wordpress.com) would both say that they’re aiming for the mass-market audience and not power users. That’s totally cool, but it means that there’s still a serious gap in the market for a hosted blogging platform for people like me (users who want a lot of the great features that Vox and WordPress.com offer and absolute control).

Someone please build one. Please, pretty please.

26 Responses to “Vox and WordPress.com not right for power bloggers”

  1. Engaging web site!! hope to definitely come back soon.

  2. Wow, there is some really nice info here.
    I’ll definitely come back soon to see everything.
    Way to go! 😉


  3. Just a short note to say I like your blog.

    Good job and keep up the great work!


  4. How green is the grass on the other side of the fence?
    Not much. Don’t believe it I tell you.

  5. Hey,
    Great stuff here!
    I’ll definitely bookmark this place and come back soon.

  6. I’m not quite understanding what all
    this is supposed to be about?
    Must be me or something…

  7. Hey,
    I love what you’e doing!
    Don’t ever change and best of luck.

    Raymon W.

  8. Hey Ryan.

    We’re actually building this very app (a hosted service for users who want a lot of the great features that Vox and WordPress.com offer and absolute control), and in similar fashion to Barenakedapp, we’re blogging about the build here: http://www.dynamo.co.za/ – remember, I mailed you about it a little while ago? The key difference being that we’re using our own app to build the blog and the blog about the build – the old chicken and egg scenario.

    Thanks for the inspiration btw. And thanks for asking.. 🙂

  9. Ryan – Great name for the blog! It’s interesting to me that even you would have gone for a hosted point – click – build solution if it had been available and been suitable for “power users”. We’re designing siteMighty that way because we think people want the quick five-minute build your site and your done. I thought that WordPress.com offered that, but it sounds like its not as flexible as the downloaded install of WordPress which we love.

  10. “All sorts of nifty features that arenâ€t yet available on wordpress.org (version 2.0.5)”

    The only feature envy I’m feeling after comparing a wordpress.com blog to my own install of wp 2.0.5 is that they’ve got the latest and greatest TinyMCE editor installed (2.0.8 vs 2.0), which offers a spell-checker (or is that just turned off by default on WP2.0.5?) and more user friendly source editing. The other differences seem to be cosmetic, pre-installation of freely available plugins, or social features that only make sense on a multi-user site. Am I missing something?

  11. Congratulations, Ryan, you made wonderful new blog. The photos are pretty nice.

  12. Heh, heh, Ryan, I’m booking myself on a speed reading refresher course as we speak…

  13. Ryan Carson on November 28, 2006 at 2:55 pm said:

    Ryan – when you say Feedburners stats are fundamental, what stats? Do you pay for the premium?

    We have FeedBurner Pro stats which give you very detailed info about what your readers are doing (clicks, views, etc).

    In addition to this, you get a ton of other useful features like allowing people to subscribe to your feed via email, inserting ads, inserting your Delicious links … the list goes on!

    And most of the features are totally free. I’d highly recommend the service.

  14. Ryan – when you say Feedburners stats are fundamental, what stats? Do you pay for the premium?

  15. Another project!

    And here I thought I was a busy man.

    The design on the blog looks great. Nice and clean, with a great fedora picture. All blogs need a picture of their authors in a fedora, house rules.


  16. Ryan Carson on November 28, 2006 at 9:19 am said:

    I think what youâ€re forgetting is that WordPress.com isnâ€t designed for power users like yourself

    I agree Andrew – that’s the conclusion I came to at the end of the post.

  17. I think what you’re forgetting is that WordPress.com isn’t designed for power users like yourself, it’s designed with my mum in mind and they make no promises above that. Somewhere to get a blog, stick a few flickr pics and share it all with friends. Whereas the software at WordPress.org is for those who like getting their hands dirty with source customisations, plugins and themes. For the average joe (the target audience of wordpress.com) getting up and running with a blog for free couldn’t be easier (imho).

  18. Ryan Carson on November 28, 2006 at 7:34 am said:

    Nice one, Peter. Thanks for making me aware of that.

  19. WordPress have launched a special “multi user” version called WordPress MU. In theory, you can install this once and then create as many blogs as you want on-the-fly.

    I guess almost anyone could set that up, add some plugins and tweak in some other features, and then throw some sort of billing system on top.. so.. someone will soon enough 🙂

  20. Ryan Carson on November 28, 2006 at 1:54 am said:

    Where did you get that hat? I have a sudden urge to go out and buy one!

    It’s an Italian hat (Borsalino) and I got it in Venice. Thanks for the compliment!

    Oh, and Iâ€m not sure if itâ€s just me, but all the links on your about page seem to be broken.

    Wow, thanks for catching that!

  21. Hey Ryan, I got worried when I read you wouldn’t be updating Bare Naked App anymore, as I always look forward to reading the new posts. But then I saw that you’d just moved here. I love the look of your new blog, the banner photos are especially awesome (Where did you get that hat? I have a sudden urge to go out and buy one!). Now I can look forward to reading the posts on here instead.

    (Oh, and I’m not sure if it’s just me, but all the links on your about page seem to be broken. They seem to be using xhref= rather than href=.).

  22. Twp cents on Typepad: there are still a few things outside of your control, so total control is still not an option there, but on that subject, Ryan, do you think that’s just too much to ask (total control) from a (presumably free) hosted service? That is, unless you’re talking about paying for it as in the case of an ad-free Vox, I’d be with you there. I just don’t see too many people handing out free server space and not limiting it in some way. For me, the whole luxury of paying a host for my own server space was to get that control, but even still, if I want absolute control, I’d have to set up my own server. I give up that extent of my control for the comfort of not having to deal with my own server. Maybe power bloggers have to give up a few extra features like Feedburner capability in order to get the free service. As for the auto-discovery feed, could the wordpress.com folks allow users to edit the HEAD info an put their own link in there to their feed?

  23. Ryan Carson on November 28, 2006 at 12:42 am said:

    Hey Ian. Although Typepad is very powerful, it’s also very clunky (IMHO). Not nearly up to the level of Vox.

  24. Hey Ryan, Isn’t the hosted blogging platform you’re talking about called Typepad?

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