Reviews

WordPress.com gets more expensive

Ever since I learned about WordPress, I thought it was the coolest blogging platform, and the more I found out about the WordPress.com network, the more I liked the options they offered their users. To this day, I regret not having started to publish directly on WordPress.com instead of doing it on my own with a self-install of WordPress, but each path has its pros and cons. Incidentally, I discussed them (the pros and cons) at length with WordPress staff recently, and may put together a guide to switching from WP.com to WP.org and vice-versa, at some point.

One of the things I really liked about WordPress.com was the 5GB space upgrade, which, among other things allowed me to upload videos that would be transcoded and played directly inside the blog. For $20/year, it was a great deal. I never got to use it on my own blogs, which were and still are self-hosted, but I recommended it to clients and friends. I liked it because the video player was and still is integrated into the blogging platform. This saves the user the hassle of uploading it to a different video sharing site, then putting the right embed code into the blog post.

Now, sadly, that option is gone. I received an email from WordPress today which announced the arrival of a formal video upgrade option, called VideoPress, at a cost of $60/year. Like other video upgrades on the market (such as Vimeo’s own Plus program), VideoPress allows the upload and streaming of SD and HD video. The price is also the same.

wordpress-upgrades

I can understand this change though. According to WordPress, allowing people to upload videos under the regular 5GB space upgrade was a testing ground which allowed them to figure out what they needed to charge long-term. After all, HD video eats up a lot of space and requires a lot of processing power to compress, not to mention the bandwidth needed to stream it. Here’s what Matt Mullenweg, WP’s founder, says in a response to a question about the price tag:

“We try to run every part of our business in a way that’s sustainable and supportable for the long-term. By charging a fair amount for a superior service we can continue to invest in expanding the feature to be a great option for high-end video, just like WordPress is a fantastic option for high-end blogging. (And you wouldn’t believe how expensive it is to host and stream video, which is part of the reason we’ve waited to launch this until now, we’ve been working at getting the costs down.” [source]

Now when you realize that both WordPress and Vimeo charge $60/year for HD video uploads, think about YouTube, and the astronomical expenses it has to eat up every year because it doesn’t charge its users anything to upload gobs and gobs of video.

I looked at the specs for the video sizes of the new WordPress Video Player, and there are three of them: 400px (SD), 640px (DVD) and 1280px (HD). That’s plenty for live streaming. I do wish there was an option that would let the video authors allow downloads of the original video files, like Vimeo does it.

The upper limit on a single video file is 1GB, although it’s not hard-capped like at Vimeo. WordPress will let you upload 1.5-2GB files, although they say results may vary and uploads may die out if your connection is slow.

One thing I’m not clear on is the space allowed for the uploaded videos. Is there a weekly cap, like Vimeo’s 5GB/week limit, or can we upload as many videos as we want? And if so, what’s the total space limit allotted to us when we purchase the upgrade? Is there a special cap, separate from the standard space of 3 GB per blog? Or does each video count against the total space allotted to the blog? Because if that’s the case, that would mean VideoPress is going to be more expensive than Vimeo Plus, since users will need to purchase space upgrades for their videos in addition to VideoPress.

For example, a user would shell out $60 for VideoPress, then soon find out they’ve filled up their 3GB quota, and need to purchase a space upgrade. It’s not hard to imagine one would need about 15GB or more per year with HD video, and that would mean an additional $50 on top of the initial $60, bringing the price tag to $110. This point definitely needs clarification, because it just wouldn’t be fun to get taxed twice for it.

I do like the nice gesture on WordPress’ part, where they gave existing users of the space upgrade and the video player a free VideoPress upgrade for a year. Had they not done that, the transition would have been too jarring for them, so kudos to WordPress for putting money aside and thinking about the user experience.

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Thoughts

Changed all site URLs

I pushed through some major changes to site URLs tonight. Every single site URL has now changed as a result, but the change is good, and all old URLs should still work just fine, seamlessly redirecting visitors to the new URLs. Just in case though, please let me know if you find a non-working URL.

The changes have to do with how post, category and tag URLs appear. WordPress, my site’s platform, allows me to change URL rewrite rules (the way a certain URL is generated when you visit a page on my site). I’ve wanted to make this change for a long time, and finally bit the bullet after first trying it out on one of my other sites, Dignoscentia.

Here’s what this means for you:

These changes may not be important to some, but they are to me. Once I get something like this in my head, something that I think will help me organize my content a little better and make the URLs a little shorter and easier to type, I have to go through with it.

I have some more changes planned for the actual categories themselves, such as re-organizing my content into more logical categories. I also need to finish tagging all my posts (currently 1242 posts and counting).

This is all part of my long-term efforts to properly curate my content. You may want to have a look at the site news tag to see what other changes I’ve made to the site over time. It’s been an interesting journey with quite a bit of work behind the scenes, but I like doing this sort of stuff a lot.

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Events

Congratulations, President Obama!

We have seen democracy in action, and we have achieved something amazing, as a country: we have elected the first African-American president. That’s something that goes a long way to wipe the wrongs of the past, and is something that would have probably made some of our country’s founders proud, had they been able to witness it.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7811491813839468741

There’s a long road ahead, and it’s paved with incredible challenges. I believe our new president is equipped to deal with them, and that’s why he got my vote and my wife’s vote. I hope he does what he promised to do, and that he brings positive change to this country. We’re in a huge mess, and we need someone to clean house.

Our federal government will now be a Democrat government, from top to bottom, which is something I’ve not seen yet. I hope they use their collective legislative power to do good things, and they don’t get caught up in bureaucracy or infighting. I think the next four or even eight years could be used to build our country up in an historic way, not unlike the period after WWII. The opportunity is there, but the right people need to do the right things, and they need to support our new president as he charts our country’s course.

One thing I also hope is that they’ve beefed up the security around him. I don’t want to see anything tragic happen. It would be disastrous. It is very unfortunate that there are still people in the US who can’t get over someone’s skin color even when that person is rational, intelligent, respectful and kind. But those people are around, and I’m fairly sure that they’re not dealing with this Obama win in any sensible manner. Let us hope the Secret Service does their job and neutralizes any threats before they arise.

I want to end on a positive note and wish Barack Obama and Joe Biden all the best in the years that lie ahead. I hope and pray they will meet every challenge rationally, calmly, and decisively, and that they’ll hold true to the promises they made during their campaign.

Image used courtesy of Barack Obama.

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A Guide To A Good Life

American habits

Slow down. That’s a phrase not often heard in the US. At least not among the people I know. But it’s a notion that’s slowly starting to make more sense.

Americans love to think big and spend big. They want progress on every front, no matter what the cost. In the 20th century, that sort of thinking worked well. It carried us through to the 21st century, where, however reluctantly, I think we’ve got to change the way we operate.

There’s a newspaper article I’ve been saving since June of 2007. It’s about people who overextended themselves in order to keep up with the Joneses, and were paying the price. It’s called “Breaking free of suburbia’s stranglehold“. Even before the real estate bubble burst, sensible people were finding out they couldn’t sustain their lifestyle and stay sane, so they downsized. Each found their own impetus, but they were acting on it. That was smart. I wonder how many people had to downsize the hard way since last year…

How about a more pallatable reference, one for the ADD crowd? There’s a Daft Punk video called “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger“. The lesson to be drawn from it is found at the end of the video, but to get it, you have to watch it from the start. I’ll summarize it for you here. Don’t be fooled by glitter and glamour. There’s a price to pay for everything.

Paying for it isn’t a new notion. It’s been around for ages. Take “pay the piper“, for example. You look at almost any language, and the idea of everything having a price can be found embodied in certain evocative phrases.

Let’s look at a few more concrete examples:

  • You want a bigger house? There will be a cost for that, as seen above.
  • You want the house of your choice AND the job of your choice? You might have to do some really nasty commuting, and now that gas costs a lot more, you’ll not only pay with your time, but with your wallet as well.
  • You persist in wanting to drive an SUV? There’s a price to pay for that too, and it’s not just in gas.
  • You want a house that looks like a mansion, but you don’t want to think about how things get built? That’s okay, you’ll get a plywood box with fake brick cladding that will look like a mansion and will only last you 20-30 years at most (not to mention that your HVAC bills will go through the roof, literally).
  • You want your meat, particularly your pork? There’s a big cost for that, and it’s measured in incredible amounts of environmental damage and in chronic and deadly health problems for the people who work on the pig farms.
  • You want to keep your computers and lights on all the time at work? You want to keep the temperature at 65 degrees Fahrenheit all the time? Do you want to keep all of your employees on site instead of letting them work from home? As a company, you’ll see increased costs because of your wasteful habits.

These are all hard lessons to learn. It seems the only way to get people and companies to learn to act responsibly is to increase costs. When your actions have a direct and immediate impact on your bottom line, you tend to change your ways in order to stop the bleeding.

It’s a shame it has to be that way, and perhaps at some point in the future, the new way of thinking will be more ingrained in people’s minds, and they’ll think about slowing down, conservation, sustainability and efficiency on a daily basis. Perhaps they’ll realize having a more meaningful life is more important than having a busy life filled with material nothingness.

I’m grateful that at least some are already seeing things the right way. I myself have already started to cut out unnecessary expenses and time commitments, and will continue to do so. I have several more important changes still planned.

If you’d like to do the same, one place to start is a book entitled “Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America“. It’ll get you thinking along the right lines, but it’ll be up to you afterwards to make the needed changes in your life.

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Thoughts

How pressure changes a man!

Take a look at these two photographs of President Abraham Lincoln. One was taken in the midst of the Civil War. The other was taken after the Gettysburg Address, and after North had won and managed to keep the country together. Slavery had been abolished, and the goals that had been set out at the start of the war had been achieved.

Can you guess which is which? More to the point, can you believe how much pressure changes a man? In the second photo, Lincoln looks older, more frail, literally spent after the long war effort, but is smiling. Amazing.

Photos are public domain, and were taken by Alexander Gardner. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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