I. Overview of Topic
How to blog is a question on many people’s minds these days. Blogging has taken the world by storm. Since 2004, when it first made its appearance, this popular medium of having your own little corner of the world to express yourself has turned into a veritable deluge. Today there are more than 120 million blogs that are currently tracked by the Technorati blog search engine. No wonder then, that owning and maintaining a blog has become almost a fashion statement, especially in the U.S.
When first embarking on a blogging journey, some knotty questions usually beset one’s mind regarding how to blog. Let’s start with the basics.
What kinds of topics can be the subjects of blogs?
Just about anything. Simply put, a blog is an online personal diary on just about any topic you care to write about, ranging from politics to sports and fitness to religion, health, freelancing, literature, or whatever suits your fancy. But picking a subject, you have solid experience in will enable you to write meaningful content that will pull in an audience for your blog. Without an audience, you’ll soon tire of your blog, and it will join the millions of abandoned blogs lost in cyberspace.
How are blogs categorized in blog search engines? Blog search engines like Technorati and IceRocket categorize them by subject. The most general categorization, though, is personal vs business-oriented blogs. Yours will probably fit into the former of these categories. Are blogs only text, or can they have other features as well? Though basically consisting of text, many blog users make their web pages more attractive by adding pictures, audio and video files.
How can I make my blog easy to navigate and attractive to readers?
A successful blog usually follows a clear, simple format with its articles plainly delineated, archives (in a sidebar), and a place at the bottom for visitors to leave comments. Some also include blogrolls, which are just lists of links to other similar blogs. The best bloggers are usually people who can connect with their visitors’ emotions, using the artistic expression in many cases. To learn how to blog with the winners your number one teacher is other blogs – read and study a lot of them before starting your own. A good place to research blogs on your topic is Icerocket.com.
What are some tips for setting up a blog?
– First, remember your blog is a reflection of your personality. Pick a theme or a topic close to your heart or one you know something about. Correction, one you know a lot about.
– Be consistent. If you want your blog to get really popular, you need to connect with your visitors on a regular, predictable schedule. Plan on publishing at least twice a week. If that sounds like too much work, once a week is the absolute lowest you can go, say, blog gurus.
– Connect/network. Connect with other blog writers by leaving comments on their posts and by providing links to their blogs on your website. This kind of networking will do wonders for your traffic.
– Keep it simple. Don’t clutter up your blog with meaningless details. Select a simple, clean, appealing design. Use fonts and colours which increase text visibility. Add videos, audios, photographs and music files only if these make your blog more attractive and/or useful.
– Don’t stick your neck out – or not too far anyway. Blogs can get opinionated, which is fine but don’t put yourself at risk of a heavy-duty defamation suit. It’s fine to express your opinions – so long as you make it clear they’re just that, your opinions — and always be sure that your blog is not defaming somebody, divulging sensitive information, or giving away corporate secrets.
Okay, I get the feel about how to blog. Now, where do I go from here?
To get started, you first need to select suitable weblog software. This is necessary to create and manage your blog. There’s quite an assortment of blogging software out there. Some offer ease of design and development while other programs offer more elaborate features, for example, allowing you to add discussion forums, message boards etc. Some weblogs can be downloaded and installed directly on your system. Freeware and open-source software are available, though these programs are not as feature-rich as some paid proprietary software. Here’s a rundown of the most popular blogging software:
WordPress is the number one blog publishing software. Why? — because it’s freeware, easy to install, and has a minimal learning curve. Its extensive documentation and step-by-step installation guide make it a cakewalk even for a novice user. Among its most salient features are —
Easy installation – Even a newbie can get WordPress up and go in 5 minutes. Moreover, web pages are generated dynamically by using thousands of built-in templates, thereby greatly reducing your time and effort. User Management – Restricts access to users while you’re making modifications in your weblog. So in effect, you have separate access for readers and administrative users. Saves precious bandwidth through its Gzip feature, which reduces blog transmission size.
Enables you to place RSS feeds into your blogs and also aids in inter-blog communication by providing features like pingback and trackback. Comes with lots of plugins, making it possible for you to incorporate any feature you want. You can also integrate WordPress with Akismet, a popular anti-spam software program used to protect blogs from spammers. Other useful features include a database of visitors, the capability to save previous drafts, blog previews, and easy formatting. Want to see some popular blogs that use WordPress. Two to start with are Ilovetypography and Problogger.
OTHER WEBLOG SOFTWARE
Created and owned by Six Apart Limited, Typepad is a blog hosting websites currently used by many large organizations in the US, such as Sky News, BBC, and MSNBC for hosting their weblogs. Launched in October 2003, Typepad today can boast that it’s the number one paid blogging service worldwide. Available in multiple languages in different parts of the world, users have three different subscription options: $4.50/month for a basic subscription to $14.50/month for the pro edition. Among its features: The software enables you to associate each article in your blog with a URL, and easy uploading and sharing photo albums from multiple authors have made this a vox populi among professional bloggers. So if writing is your passion and you want to make it a profession, you can start by signing up for Typepad.
The first blogging system developed by Six Apart Limited in 2001, Movable Type hosts some world’s top blogs, such as Huffington Post and Boing Boing. Developed using Perl, Movable Type supports LDAP protocol for efficient user management and automatic provisioning of blogs. This blogging system is handy if you want to run multiple blogs using a single installation. The system is enriched with all possible features you could think of, such as a customizable template library, ability to create categories and subcategories of articles, efficient user management directory servers and hordes of independent plugins that can be used to support different services, like creating discussion forums. This blogging system is an attractive choice if you have a technical bent.
Developed by Dean Allen as an open-source content management system, this is one of the simplest blogging systems available today. The most useful feature of Text Pattern is textile that helps in converting simple text documents into stylish HTML web pages using built-in style sheets. Text Pattern has a built-in CSS editor that simplifies the task of changing your website’s designs, fonts, the position of the text and the background colour. You can also password-protect certain sections of your blogs and keep regular track of visitors and their comments. The date and time stamp of each article is adjustable, and you can save drafts of your blogs for future publication. What makes it most attractive is that Text Pattern provides a built-in search engine and the users can also link XML feeds into their blogs. The simplicity of the Text Pattern is its USP. For most beginners choosing this service is almost a no-brainer.
Developed by Pyra Systems and bought by Google in 2003, Blogger is one of the most popular blogging systems to date. Google subsequently acquired Picasa in 2004 and integrated the latter’s photo-sharing feature ‘Hello’ into Blogger. Alexa ranks Blogger as the 9th most visited site worldwide, indicating its enormous popularity. Blogger offers multiple author support allowing the user to create group blogs. Bloggers can even earn revenue from Google AdSense by integrating it into their blogs. Another interesting feature provided by Blogger is a free add-in for Microsoft Word called “ Blogger for Word” that helps blog users save their blogs directly in Blogger from their Word document. Bloggers can also customize their blog templates as per personal preferences. For users having a Google email account, it is a pretty simple matter to link to Blogger and then starts writing and maybe earning some extra income.
In addition to the above five blogging systems, there are several up-and-coming lesser-known blog systems which include all the aforementioned features but don’t require any plugins for extending their feature list. Some of the best of these second-line blogging systems are:
Habari, meaning ‘news‘ in Swahili, is one of the most promising new blogging platforms and one of the finalists in the ‘Best New Projects in 2008’ Sourceforge Community Choice Award. Habari allows the user to launch multiple blogs using a single installation, supports multiple writers and has a modular structure for easy extendibility. All these features will make Habari a formidable competitor in blog publishing.
Created for ultra-serious bloggers, Symphony has been developed in XML and XSLT. This is a blogging system for web developers and has an MVC architecture which gives the blogger full control over their website. An extremely versatile system, Symphony can be customized to a high level making it popular among bloggers who want to keep a tight grip on all aspects of their website.
Positioning itself as a small, simple website maker, Pixie is also a great blogging platform for all of you who are new to the world of blogging. Ease of installation, lots of creative CSS themes, search engine optimized clean URLs for your website, spam protection, a file manager which supports tags for easy sorting of files and a small memory requirement of just 1 MB are some features which explain Pixie’s fast-rising popularity. That’s it, our ten minutes are up (okay, maybe eleven or twelve). Below are additional resources on How to Blog. II. FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Following are additional research resources on “How to Blog.”
Tumblr is a popular micro-blogging site where users create and share small posts of about 140 words or less. What makes this micro-blogs, popularly known as tumblelogs, all the rage is their ease of customization and the freedom they provide for posting everything from photos to quotes, to emails, and even links. Moreover, signing up for Tumblr really does take only about 10 seconds. More and more people are attracted to micro-blogging due to its capability for posting short, incisive and hopefully witty messages about the poster’s latest doings, inventions, discoveries, observations, misadventures, etc. Tumblelogs even make it possible for people to post their artworks and music audios and videos for public viewing.
If you are a homemaker who loves sharing recipes, health tips, beauty secrets and child care advice and also loves getting similar words of wisdom from others, Club mom is the place for you. It’s a blogging site/forum where moms can meet and share their experiences while at the same time having a chance at winning exciting gifts. From family anecdotes to home remedies, careers to kids, this is a bonding place for moms of all age groups. Joining Club mom means connecting with individuals at a personal level and sharing information which benefits all.v