On the technical side of things, I want to discuss one very important feature of web hosting for filmmakers or anyone else. Frequently, a program running on a server will access other web sites behind the scenes (often using cURL). A major innovation of the vaguely defined Web 2.0 is that web applications can share data via XML (as in RSS) and other machine-readable formats. Previously, everything on the web was mostly stored in HTML, which ties the information to the layout, making it readable only by humans, making data-sharing tedious.
I’m working on some custom software that will use cross-site data sharing. But even Wordpress, the blogging software that powers this site needs it to fully function. Wordpress will certainly run without it, but here are some key features that require it:
Comment spam filtering. Wordpress uses the Akismet plugin. To check incoming blog comments against a database of known spammers. It doesn’t work if your site can’t access the Akismet server.
Trackbacks and pingbacks allow your blog to automatically post a comment on other blogs that your posts reference. This is a great way to encourage cross-site discussion and make other bloggers aware that you’re writing about them. It’s also great for driving traffic to your site by creating a link on another site.
Update services such as Pingomatic notify blog directories every time you update your site. Certain plug-ins can also directly ping Google and other search engines so your search listings are as up-to-date as possible. Great for driving search traffic to your site
Feed Syndication. You may want to have on your site a list of links or posts from other services such as Flickr, Twitter or del.icio.us. There are Wordpress plugins that will use RSS or Atom feeds to automatically update these lists.
Even if you’re hosting service does support cross-server connections, it’s not a bad idea to make sure the above features are enabled and working correctly.
Unbelievably, my current hosting service, aplus.net, does not allow this kind of intra-server data sharing. They claim that it’s a security problem, which I understand. But it’s so important that I have to switch to a different service and question the viability of their business. So I will be switching to Site5, which was recommended to me by Lance Weiler, who uses it to host the Workbook Project. So we’ll see how it turns out. (The fact that this site has been intermittently unavailable today has me more confident that this is the right decision.)
It can take two or three days to fully move a web site to a different hosting service, so don’t be surprised if you encounter some problems with this site. For starters, I’m going to disable comments on the old server to avoid synchronization issues. If there’s anything else that’s surprising or persists more than a few days, please do let me know.