Choosing a Blogging Tool to Fit Your Blogging Style
|Published:||May 23, 2007|
Starting a blog should be easy, but it can be hard to know where to start. There are dozens of different blogging programs and hosting providers, each with its own perks and quirks. There is no best blogging app, but some are better for certain blogging styles. Below are my top picks for four different types of blogger: The Beginner, The Journaler, The Do-It-Yourselfer, and The Cool Hunter.
If you just want to get started ASAP with a nice blog that's easy to manage, Google's Blogger is a great choice. Setting up a new blog with Blogger is a snap. You'll need a Google Account go get started. If you already use one of Google's other services such as Gmail your existing login and password will work; otherwise, you'll need to create a new one, which is free and painless. Once you've logged in, the steps are spelled out in big, colorful letters. If you already have a web server that you have FTP access to, you can go the "Advance Blog Setup" route, but most people go the simple route and let Blogger set up an address for them ending in .blogspot.com, e.g. carlsnewblog.blogspot.com (though it will require some creativity on your part to come up with one that's not taken).
Google does a great job of making Blogger easy to use, but there's also some more powerful options behind the scenes. There are comment moderation options, feed settings, and even a pretty robust multi-user system that lets you add additional authors to your blog with distinct permissions. Finally, Blogger has a great point-and-click template editor that lets you move around most of your blog's design elements at will, change fonts and colors, etc., or if you're handy with HTML and CSS you can go right in and edit the code yourself.
If your goal is to quickly get up and running with something easy and a few extra options, Blogger is a good place to start.
If you're the more introspective type and want to share your thoughts and experiences with your closest friends, LiveJournal might be more up your alley. For the online journaler, LiveJournal is one of the oldest and best tools online, and it also set the bar for social networking sites long before social networking was the buzzword it is today.
LiveJournal is a hosted service and when you sign up you'll choose a username that will also double as the first part of your address, e.g. yourname.livejournal.com. It has three account levels: Free, Plus, and Paid. A Free account has enough basic features to get you started. A Plus account, which is also free but puts ads on your pages, gives you features like mobile posting, polls, and photo hosting. A Paid account piles on more. Once you've created an account, LiveJournal has tons of social networking features like communities and messing, but for the journaler its real power is the friends system. Just like MySpace and other social networking sites you can "friend" other LiveJournal users. What's different is that when you write a post, LJ gives you fine-grained control over who can read it. By default you can set a post to Public, which allows anyone can read it, Friends, which only lets people you've "friended" can read it, and Private, which keeps it inaccessible to everyone but you. Simple and effective, but it gets better. LiveJournal has "Friends Groups," which let you organize your friends into, well, groups. For example, you could have a group for family, a group for coworkers, and a group for only your closest pals (and yes, you can put a friend in more than one group). Then when you write a journal entry you can choose which groups can see it. Perfect for sharing certain thoughts with only the right people.
If you are a fairly technical person, take your new blogging endeavor seriously, are prepared to get your hands dirty, and aren't put off by terms like PHP, Ajax, and MySQL, take a look at WordPress. WordPress is one of the most powerful, customizable, and extensible blogging platforms available, and it also happens to be open source. To use WordPress you'll need access to a web server that supports PHP scripts and a MySQL database (well, not necessarily�more on that later). WordPress boasts a "famous" five-minute installation, which in practice I've found to be surprisingly accurate, but you are somewhat more likely to encounter difficulties with WordPress than with a hosted solution.
Out of the box WordPress has tons of features. It has lots of editing options, a robust category system, support for a number open web standards, solid spam protection, an advanced multi-user permission system, and lots more. There are hundreds of impressive themes available for WordPress, most of them free for the taking. My favorite WordPress feature, though, is its plugin support. Plugins from third parties allow you to change the way WordPress functions, or add entirely new functionality. There hundreds of free plugins available that do everything from ward off comment spam to embed media players to integrate your blog with other services like Flickr and Twitter.
If WordPress' built-in features and user interface impress you but you don't want to host it yourself, take a look at WordPress.com, the free blog hosting service from the same folks. It has all of the open source product's features, except it does not allow third-party plugins. It does, however, have several extra built-in plugins, and it will let you import your posts from Blogger, LiveJournal, and elsewhere.
The Cool Hunter
There's a new breed of blog on the rise called the tumblelog. It's a vaguely-defined term that indicates a blog that is more a collection of links, snippets, videos, images than a journal or a news blog. I love the tumbelog for its variety and brevity. If you're most interested in sharing the cool links, videos, photos, or quotes, a very cool tool for starting a tumblelog is Tumblr. It's a slick, free hosted service that sets you up with a tumblelog with six specific post types: text, photo, quote, links, chat excerpts, and videos.
The first thing you'll want to do once you've created an account is go to the "Goodies" tab on the Dashboard and drag the "Share on Tumblr" bookmarklet to your browser's bookmarks toolbar. Then, when you're at any web site you can click on the bookmarklet to quickly post the photo, video, or whatever you're looking at to your tumblelog. You can add your own captions and comments to the things you post, of course, and it has a WYSYWIG editor for formatting.
Tumblr's creed is simplicity, so it eschews some more complex features like comments and tags, but the developers are working on adding some of that functionality as an option in the next version.
Four (and a half) different blogging platforms for four different kinds of bloggers. There are many more fish in the blogging software sea, but at least one of these should have the features you need tget started blogging.
Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.
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