WCACYM – Brainstorming about Websites and Blogs

Here are the results from our brainstorming session about writing online.

(And it goes without saying, but we should say it anyway: without communicating with the Lord in prayer, we won’t be able to share him online.  (Can’t give what you don’t got!))

Primer: Setting up a website

  • A web site can be useful for hosting not only a blog but also podcasts, videos, social media integration.
  • It can (and probably should be) your “one stop shop” with everything important easily available.
  • Example of someone doing this well: Lino Rulli.  Every radio show he advertises CatholicGuy.com, where you can find his contact information, store, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
  • Web sites are more useful when a domain name is used (.com, .ca, .net, etc.).  Shameless plug: SaskaPriest.com
  • There are many options for hosting sites.
    • Free: WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, Google Sites, etc.
      • Often include ads embedded into the site
      • Less flexibility with themes and features than other methods
    • Paid: WordPress, Typepad, Squarespace
      • Often this uses a “content management system” (CMS) of some sort, such as WordPress.
      • No ads (unless you want revenue)
      • more flexibility (sometimes)
      • Often more storage space for audio/photo/etc.
      • Probably the most expensive version for the features you’re getting.
      • But – ease of maintenance is a huge benefit over hosting your own site.  If you’re busy, the extra $5-10/month over hosting your own site might be well worthwhile.
    • Paid: Host your own
      • Usually cheaper than the above, with the maximum flexibility.
      • Most often hosting is done in a shared server setup.  For example, I host my sites with a service called Dayana Host.  They also host my domain names, for an added fee.  I am sharing server space with dozens of other sites (at least).  This lowers the costs but also means a problem in another site can possibly bring down other sites on the same system.  Ditto for security – it’s rare to have an issue, but it can happen.
      • It also takes more time to set up and maintain the site (e.g. keep up to date with the latest security patches)
      • You can hard code your own site in HTML/CSS, or (more likely) use a content management system like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal.
      • A CMS has a program running on the server whenever your website is accessed.  It calls up the correct data from files on the server and from a database, formats it for display, and sends it to the user.
      • Programming languages and databases are their own, large topic.  Most popular CMSes use programming languages like PHP or Perl. You don’t need to know these to set up a web site, but if you know them then you have more options for customization.
      • Databases are usually an SQL variant such as MySQL.  Many web hosts have tools that let the site owner access the data directly if they wish.
      • Modern sites, once they are sent to the end user, are coded with a mixture of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).  This allows the content of a site to be separate from the layout of the site.
      • Some servers handle the installation of a CMS for you.  Others require you to set up your own database and upload the files manually.  Most CMSes have handy walk-throughs for both scenarios.  (e.g. WordPress walkthrough)
      • It is useful to have a program that can transfer files through FTP.  FTP is usually the quickest way to transfer files to a server.  I use a free Firefox plugin called FireFTP.  Many other programs (free and paid) are out there.
  • Domain names
    • This is the .com or .ca or whatever.
    • This is an important part of branding the site.
    • Many web hosts also provide a domain name registration service that is easily integrated with their web server.
    • Some hosts (e.g. Squarespace) offer a .com name with the site.


Let’s practice with a site using SquareSpace.  SquareSpace allows for a 14 day free trial of their service.



  • Writing:
    • Question to ponder: What is my primary, target audience for my online writing?
    • Topics: What should I write about?
      • Commentary on events
      • Vocations – personal testimonies & food for thought
      • Product reviews
      • Life updates
      • Participating in things like “7 Quick Takes Friday” hosted by Jen Fulwiler at Conversiondiary.com
    • Frequency of blogging: Many people aim for at least once per week.
    • Embedding other media (pay attention to copyrights issues)
      • links
      • photos
        • I use search.creativecommons.org for finding photos with free licensing.
        • Most photos found through this site have some variation of a Creative Commons license that requires nothing more than attributing the source.  This can be super handy!
      • video
        • Sites like YouTube and Vimeo make it super easy to embed video but providing the code that you can copy-paste into the site.
        • (Let’s look at watsoncatholic.ca for an example.)
      • audio
    • Using tags for ease-of-search


Comment Sections

  •  Brandon Vogt observed that “New Atheists” tend to be very aggressive about commenting on other sites, trying to sway opinion
  • Often can get nasty or be flooded with spam. How to maintain sanity/balance?
    • 2012 World Communications Day: Silent reflection/prayer is ESSENTIAL!!
    • Most content management systems allow for some form of spam protection.  For example, I use a WordPress plugin called Akismet that works very well for me.  It blocks dozens of spams every day across my different sites.
    • WordPress also allows for different levels of comment protection.  You might choose to approve every comment manually, or just the first comment from a particular IP address.
    • You can also require people to create accounts on your site, but that might discourage engagement.  It is also a vector for spam…..