I had a heck of a time deciding what to post about for my maiden post here at Blog Duck. I tossed back and forth between several ideas, and finally decided to settle on a post about Wordpress MU. I plan on focusing more in individual blogging moving forward, but I’ve seen some questions pop up throughout the web regarding Wordpress MU, and because I’ve just come out of a two week crash course with the software, I figured I would write about it while it’s fresh on my mind.
A few weeks back, I had a lengthy phone conversation with Lorelle VanFossen, author of Blogging Tips and arguably one the most talented Wordpress bloggers known today. Our conversation took us into the discussion of blog hosting, which is one of my business ventures. I mentioned to her that I was considering a move to Wordpress MU, as my current hosting site was running blogs in directories and it was a beast of an amount of work to maintain.
The way I was running the site goes a little something like this.
1) Potential blogger contacts us with interest in having a free blog
2) Once approved, we install Wordpress in a sub directory
3) We give the blogger FTP access to their plugin and theme directory
Granted, our original service was geared towards well established bloggers who wanted to leave Wordpress.com in favor of more control. With this in mind, the bloggers had a good idea of what they were doing.
But we still had the daunting task of individually updating blogs with new Wordpress software updates. Also, giving bloggers full access to all of their files was becoming a bit of an issue in regards to security. Then, there was the time consuming job of manually installing software for each blog.
When I mentioned this to Lorelle, she instantly jumped to Wordpress MU and suggested I waste no more time in moving. She was right, too, because we’re now growing leaps and bounds and I knew that if I didn’t make a change soon we would be completely overwhelmed.
Thanks to the much needed advice from Lorelle, August 1st brought in Wordpress MU and a completely new service for us. It has, without doubt, changed the way we operate.
First of all, let’s make sure we all understand what Wordpress MU really is. Wordpress MU, or Wordpress Multi User (pronounced Wordpress Mew), is virtually the same software that runs the backend for Wordpress.com.
The software allows for hundreds of thousands of bloggers to run on a single network. Sign up and activation is a fully automated process, and takes place in a matter of minutes. From a front end user’s aspect, WPMU is perhaps one of the most user friendly options for blogging available on the web.
Who should use Wordpress MU?
If you’re looking for an easy solution to host a handful of blogs to run on your own, I would recommend against using Wordpress MU. While the system can be used to host just a few blogs, it’s really designed for a serving mass numbers of blogs.
WPMU is geared towards those looking to launch their own blogging communities and blog hosting networks.
Wordpress MU Pros
The big pluses, as seen by myself, are listed as follows:
- Global software upgrades
This was a huge deciding factor for us when moving to WPMU. Wordpress is notorious for constant software version upgrades and patches, and having the ability to upgrade across the entire network from one console is vital.
- Automated sign up and installation
The sign up page created with the WPMU install is exactly like the one used at Wordpress.com. The user enters a desired user name, and e-mail address, and then clicks the button “gimme a blog”. That’s it. The rest is done without any human intervention.
- More control from the admin control panel
Like Wordpress.com, WPMU control panels give you access to every blog you author. Even better… if you’re the administrator, you get access to EVERY blog from your admin cp.
WPMU has a separate (admin) tab within the cp that gives you access to all themes, users, and plugins within the system.
Of course, there are MANY more pros, but these were the few that sealed the deal in my move to WPMU.
Wordpress MU Cons
- Theme customization is non existent
One of the reasons we were originally able to attract big name bloggers from Wordpress.com is the fact that we gave them full access to their theme files. In turn, this allowed them to personalize their blogs and make the templates look exactly the way they wanted them to.
With WPMU, you lose that ability as a regular blogger. In my case, I only make themes that are widget ready available to bloggers so they can at least control some of the content in their sidebars, but that’s the extent of their control over the theme.
WPMU has a theme directory that is shared globally. So, when you upload a theme and make it available to users, ALL users are running that same theme.
Another con in the theme realm is that you cannot make a theme available to just one blog. Because I run five of my own blogs on the network, I wanted a theme that can be used for just my blogs. No can do.
The same goes for plugins. You can either make them globally mandatory, or globally available to be chosen. You cannot make a plugin available only for a certain blog or group of blogs.
This may have just been a curse specific to me, but I had a difficult time getting WPMU installed. The problem I ran into is that WPMU creates its own .htaccess file during the process of installation. However, if you’re using a host with cpanel, you’ll find that cpanel does not like to do anything without an .htaccess file already present.
So on one hand I have the WPMU install telling me it cannot proceed until the existing .htaccess file is deleted, and on the other I have a host that will not allow me to continue with the install without an .htaccess file present.
Can anyone say… dilemma?
But finally, after a still confusing process of deleting, adding, deleting, adding, and then deleting the .htaccess file we got the software running.
Also, you’re going to need a hosting service that allows wildcard domains. A lot of them do not, so be sure and check with your host before moving forward with WPMU. If you need recommendations on a good host for WPMU, comment on this post and I’ll list a few.
Well, that’s about it. I hope I didn’t bloviate too much with my first post. I just wanted to make sure I got my two cents out about WPMU.
Overall, WPMU is superb and I love every minute of it. It’s a whole new world for me and it has enabled our firm to do things that until now were either too time consuming or close to impossible.