This post is especially for my friends and family who are considering starting their own blogs. You know who you are. I'm imagining in a couple of months a list of people I know in my daily life with their own blogs. I can hardly wait!
What's a blog anyway?
Basically a blog is a type of website where most of the content is in the form of a journal. When updated, the most recent content appears at the top. Other content, such as archived content and links to other blogs, often appears in a static form at the side or below. These links are your gateway to blogland and fun to explore. One blog leads to another and so on. People write blogs with all sorts of focus; personal blogs, mommy blogs, knitting blogs, cultural studies blogs, craft blogs, garden blogs, product blogs. There are also group blogs and independent commercial blogs, the list is endless. Many people, myself included, don't stick to one topic. Type almost any subject + blog into a search engine and be amazed. Your idea for a blog is as good as any other.
What's the best platform?
After looking at what everyone else was using, I decided to use one of the services that provide the software and host the content. For me it was a choice between blogger and TypePad. I briefly considered Wordpress, but decided I didn't have the technical know how. Blogger is free and there's lots of nice sites in blogger, but anything beyond the basics seems to require a knowlege of HTML or using one of the free designs out there. But the biggest drawback of blogger for me was the lack of categories. I like archives. I like reading my own and I like reading other peoples and I like to read them sorted by subject. So I decided to use Typepad. I started with the basic package but couldn't customise the design enough, so I went for the mid level package. This costs about $12 AU a month, which is cheaper than most other hobbies I've had. Anyway if you start with one and don't like it, you can always swap your content over to another.
It's all so technical, how will I ever learn all this stuff?
Blogger and Typepad both have pretty intuitive interfaces for anyone who has ever used a wordprocessing package. They also have detailed help sections. I found the series on beginner blogging by problogger really useful. Also misszoot has lots of good information. There's a world of information on blogging out there for the finding. The biggest technical challege for me was working out how to use the program that came with my digital camera. I still haven't got my head around using flickr or technorati or how feedburner or blogrolling or bloglines work. There's a limit to how much I can absorb at once, so I've stepped back and concentrated on learning the basics first. It took me a couple of weeks to get my site looking close to how I wanted and I think it will be an evolving process. I think that the best way is to get something up and running, write your first post and learn as you go. (I've read quite a few first posts out of curiosity and most are pretty vague and, dare I say, dull. Your first post doesn't have to rock the world, you just have to begin.)
Will anyone read my blog?
The first few weeks, I didn't want anyone to read mine. So I didn't make it public and I didn't tell anyone the URL. So my stats reflected that I was the only reader. Then I started to think that readers might be cool, so I started telling friends and family that I was blogging and if they showed interest, sent them an email with the URL. I also joined wardrobe refashion and self portrait challenge and have started being a little less uptight about making comments on other blogs. Some of my topics seem to come up in google searches. All these things generate page views, but it's hard to know how many regular readers there are. Probably not many at this stage and I'm happy with that.
What about security and privacy?
After discussing it with my partner, I decided that I wasn't really concerned about anomynity. Anyone who reads muppinstuff and who knows me in the offline world will know it's me. I don't talk about blogging at work but if someone from work found my site, I'd be OK with that. I still wouldn't talk about it at work. People on the whole are too busy to care. I've left my comments open and unmoderated and would probably only change that if I wrote about something really controversial and had more readers. If someone was to say something nasty, I'd just delete their comment and ban their IP address. However, I did decide to get a Gmail account to use on the internet so that if things go amiss I can ditch that without having to change my bigpond account. I don't use my last name and you can't find muppinstuff by googling my full name. Also discussed was photos, G and I are both happy for photos of us and Grace to be published. One friend was horrified that I would put photos of Grace on the internet, but I figure we all go out in public anyhow, what's the difference?
What's this commenting business?
Blogging is meant to be interactive. If someone writes something that touches you, or is helpful or prompts a response in you, you can leave a comment on their blog. For some reason, I found this really difficult at first. With practice I'm getting over it because everyone likes comments. The normal rules of good behaviour apply. Some people respond to comments with email, some don't. I don't because email freaks me even more than commenting and I don't want huge volumes of email correspondence to attend to. I've decided that I'm going to respond to comments by commenting on my own blog. Weird, but lots of people do it.
Rules, what are the rules?
There are no rules. It's anarchy. For those who need rules, you have to make them up yourself. Lots of people write a post with their rules of engagement. I like this and this. Beyond playing nice, I don't know what my exact rules are yet.
So there you go, I hope to see some new little bloglets in a month or two.