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Blogging - for beginners.

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12.09.2005

Advantages:
Simple, free, nice XML - RPC

Disadvantages:
Relies on central server, lack of features

Recommendable Yes:

32 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
exceptional by (7%):
  1. lady_in_red_2006
  2. simoncjones
  3. sallysmith1973
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very helpful by (90%):
  1. chubsy
  2. sit2020
  3. smudgeybabes
and 51 other members
helpful by (3%):
  1. Youngatheard60
  2. kam76

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If you don't know blogging is the latest thing to take over the web. It allows people to keep a diary on the World Wide Web, anyone can read. Often, they accept comments which allow others to comment on their entries.

So where does the word 'blog' come from? Well weblog is too long, so take away the 'we' and guess what 'blog'. From the word blog words like blogger (not this service, someone who writes a blog), blogging and blogosphere came. The blogosphere is all the blogs on the net.

Blogging's grew and grew, starting off with a humble blog in 1997, to an international craze, with a new one being made EVERY SECOND! Naturally, it is hard to gain readers, but it is worth the effort, it empowers you.

Blogs have extended from diaries into photoblogs (photos of your life) and moblogs (blogs kept from a mobile, generally containing photos), then into podcasts (audio weblogs) and now even into video blogs (though this hasn't took off).

The reason for blogging's popularity is that it is a way to spread opinions, get money (most big companies keep one for PR, and amateurs serve ads), gain fame and the fact it is (generally) free and all you need is an internet connection (anything from a internet TV to mobile phone!).

Naturally, if you don't already have a site, you need to find a host (someone who gives you the space for the blog) and there are hundreds. MSN offer hosting (MSN Spaces), Yahoo! offer hosting (Yahoo! 360), Google offer hosting, in the form of Blogger.com .

Blogger doesn't actually offer hosting on it's own site, but uses a service called Blog*Spot, which used to be seperate but is now owned by Blogger/Google. You wouldn't notice apart from the fact hosted weblogs have an address like blogname.blogspot.com .

~Introduction~

As you may know, I've had a site for many years now, but I felt this blogging thing was getting popular, and I better join in, so I did.

I started a blog using Blogger, but I wanted to make it feel part of my blog, so I used the option to host it on your own site, however some people don't have their own site, so they choose Blog*Spot hosting (free Blogger hosting).

Ever since I've started blogging my unique vistor numbers have gone up by thousands, a month. I'm currently getting between 2000 and 3000 unique visitors a month.

My blog is about computers, though it can be about anything, from what you saw on the way to work to an ode about you late cat Fluffy.

Why did I choose Blogger? Because I couldn't be bothered to manually install a better system such as Wordpress on my site. It is worth noting you need to find a host for things like Wordpress, they don't 'host themselves'.

~Layout & Design~

Blogger's design is a little too cramped, and doesn't use the minimalist style most sites' currently use. I don't like this style personally, but I don't like cramped sites either; my dream is for a happy medium.

But to be fair, Blogger's layout and design isn't as bad as MSN or Yahoo!, which are just TOO cramped. The Blogger design/layout is decent enough to work in.

~Navigation~

Blogger doesn't have a single menu; however they are generally horizontal near the top of the page. The navigation could be a little challenging at first, but you begin to love it and find it easier and easier to use.

All the things are in the right place too, you don't find something you'd think be on a different page on another page. Everything seems to be in the logical place, which is understandable saying Google probably spent millions perfecting it.

~Simplicity to post~

Posting to your blog is very simple indeed, when you reach your 'Dashboard' after logging-in you simply click the new post button, and you are taken to a form to make your new post in. It uses a WYSIWYG editor (what-you-see-is-what-you-get-editor) but also accepts raw HTML posting for us nerds.

You then simply type in your post and click the big 'Publish Post' button to publish it or the 'Save as Draft' button to save it. It is worth noting that if you get more advanced it is worth sending out pings to services you use, so they know you've been updated. This can be made simple using a service like Pingoat.com or Kping.com .

Another option is to post using a bit of software like w.bloggar, these often provide a friendlier interface, and make it possible posting with a web browser. I find it easier to multi-task using my tool of choice, Blogjet (it costs though), than posting through the web interface.

Also, if you use IE or the Google toolbar you can use the BlogThis option. This lets you post from any page on the net.

~Customisation~

It is possible to modify the template of your blog; however this requires basic HTML skill.

You could either design your own template, choose from one of the Blogger default ones or find one while Googling. Some services will also make you one, or give you access to high quality ones for anything over $40.

The best option for an amateur would be to use a default template, or at least until you grow in confidence, and then start modding it to your needs.

It is worth noting Blogger doesn't offer image hosting for anything apart from images in posts. For this you should use a service like imageshack.us .

~Features~

Blogger offers some features, including comments, [limited] image hosting, profiles, an Atom feed and a pretty interface.

Blogger blogs can have comments posted on them - unless the owner specifies otherwise. The downside of this is even if you host the blog yourself, the comments will be hosted at Blogger.com, which means that it generally doesn't go with your blogs layout.

Also, Blogger offers a profile of each member. The way this is generally reached is through the link to it on every comment you make, and your about me box on your blog.

Also, an Atom newsfeed is provided for each blog. Atom is similar to RSS, and it allows your blog to be accessed through other sites and programs. However Atom isn't as popular as RSS, which isn't supported. The use of an external service like Feedburner.com is required for RSS. I won't go into details about this, as it is pretty nerdy indeed.

The feature Blogger lacks the most though is trackback/pingback support. This allows owners of other blogs to 'ping' you if they've written an article similar to yours. Luckily this is easily resolved through an external service called Haloscan.com, how provide a better comment system and trackback support for Blogger blogs. An automatic install program is available.

Blogger provides tutorials - which are quite good - and are available through out the site.

Also, Blogger does provide a search feature for blogs, powered by Google, inside the Navbar (which is sorta like an ad, which lies in the top 33 pixels of every page), though it is lost when the navbar is removed (perfectly legally) through a little cheat:

Simply replace the <body> tag in the template with <noembed><body></noembed>

That trick works - and makes blogs look far better.

~Anything else....~

Here's a few other tips when blogging. The only way to attract strangers to your blog is commenting on other people's blogs, using traffic exchanges (like BlogExplosion) or chatting and getting visitors that way.

Also, it is useful to read around a little, you learn little tips, like how to use Technorati and find nifty ways to promote your blog.

Oh yes, Blogger is quite fast!

I hope you've learnt something reading this.

~Hosted Alternatives~

LiveJournal.com offers free weblog hosting; though it isn't as good as Blogger.
Blogsome.com offer free Wordpress hosting; which is better than Blogger. Other services like Blogthing and weblogs.us offer free Wordpress hosting, however sign-ups are temporarily suspended.

Many other hosts are available and are easy to discover through a Google search.

(C) 2005 JoeAnderson.co.uk

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

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Comments about this review »

markd_uk 20.01.2006 20:52

I've just signed up for blogger.com - I used to blog a while ago on blogit but moved away from them for a while and ran my own personal website with a blog on it. This week, though, I've gone back to a mainstream blogging service and this was the provider I chose. Very good review. mark d

lady_in_red_2006 10.12.2005 15:56

That was a really interesting review. And something I will def be looking into.

lesa60 06.11.2005 15:36

Don't think this is something I'd do but enjoyed finding out more from your review.

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Type Web Design & Development
Domain Extension .com

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Review Ratings »

This review of Blogger.com has been rated:

"exceptional" by (7%):

  1. lady_in_red_2006
  2. simoncjones
  3. sallysmith1973

and a further member

"very helpful" by (90%):

  1. chubsy
  2. sit2020
  3. smudgeybabes

and 51 other members

"helpful" by (3%):

  1. Youngatheard60
  2. kam76

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.



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