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« The 'Cuda That Couldn't | Main | Derriere Guard Alert »

December 10, 2007

A Couple of Blogging Tools

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* If you're thinking of taking up blogging, I'd urge you to give WordPress.com a try. It's a service much like Google's Blogger. The main difference between them is that WordPress.com is far more solid and deep; it makes Blogger seem like a toy for kids. WordPress.com can take whatever -- well, a lot of what -- you want to throw at it and offer it up to the public attractively. If I were starting 2Blowhards today, I'd avoid Blogger, and I wouldn't go to the expense and trouble of having a blog custom-made either. I'd do it on WordPress.com.

A quick explanation for those feeling confused about the "WordPress" thing. There's a difference between WordPress and WordPress.com. WordPress (without the ".com") is an open source blogging platform that requires major geek skills to manage. It's apparently powerful and wonderful. Geeks rave about it anyway. But for the mortals among us, it's a bear. You have to download a copy of WordPress, you have to install it on a server, you have to configure it. The term "CSS" has to make some sense to you. And you can't do any of this without first having lined up hosting, purchased and "pointed" a URL, and without knowing how to FTP. To this pathetic English major at least, the whole thing looks like an endless series of annoyances, frustrations, and headaches.

By contrast, WordPress.com -- note the ".com" -- is a self-contained, hosted blogging service that is based on the WordPress platform. In other words: no worries about downloading / uploading / configuring/whatever. With WordPress.com, no geek heroics are required. All you have to do is go to WordPress.com and sign up. Once you've done that, you get many of the benefits of WordPress -- everyone's current favorite blogging platform -- with none of the headaches. You're blogging within minutes.

Between you and me: A small but fun thing that becomes clear as you mess with WordPress.com is that it doesn't limit you to blogging. You can in fact use WordPress.com to create surprisingly elaborate multipage websites. It may take a little fiddling and a bit of trial and error -- but if I can do it (and I can), you can too. Did I mention that the WordPress.com service is free up to a point, and very cheap even after that point? Are you reading, Spike Gomes?

* Though I've mentioned the microblogging service Tumblr before, I'll mention it again as an EZ alternative to WordPress.com. Does conventional blogging tempt but seem like an awful lot of work? (And it can be a lot of work.) Do you want to take part in the give-and-take of online life but rarely find the time or energy to formulate actual, like, sentences and paragraphs? (And turning your thoughts, feelings, and observations into sentences and paragraphs does indeed take some effort.) Then running a WordPress.com blog might demand a little more of you than you have to give. Tumblr may suit your energy levels far better.

The people who created Tumblr have done an amazing job of making it easy-peasy to put pix, links, quotes, audio, and video online in the most direct way possible. Sign in to your Tumblr blog, click a few times, and you've put up a posting. Simple as that. If you've got the oomph and the will to do so, you can use Tumblr to write-write more conventional blogpostings too. But the real fun of running a Tumblr blog -- and Tumblr is loads of fun -- is in using your blog as a place to heave stuff online without giving the process too much thought, let alone trying to make sense of anything.

Tumblr blogs are entertaining blogs to surf too, and for a related reason: Nothing considered, nothing thought-out. Tumblr blogs tend to be cheery, peppy scrapbooks of stuff that for some reason caught somebody's attention. It's hard to get more unself-conscious and direct than that. I suspect that Tumblr-style blogging is exactly what a lot of people are hoping to find themselves doing when they set out to get involved in blogging.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at December 10, 2007




Comments

Thank you for this post, M, it couldn't be more timely.
As you probably know, 6Apart sold LiveJournal to Russian (yes, actual Moscow-based) company SUP, which naturally created mass exodus of blogger.
So, as millions of LJ-users I'm now looking for a new home.

Posted by: Tatyana on December 10, 2007 11:32 AM



I wouldn't say Wordpress is a bear to set up. A lot of hosting providers these days will actually have Wordpress set up for you (and why not? It costs them nothing and only takes about a minute to set up, barring unforeseen difficulties).

I'll definitely agree with the notion that Wordpress.com is a better choice than Blogger, but I think if you plan on blogging for a significant period of time you may as well buy your own hosting and domain and figure out how to install Wordpress, or preferred blogging software, on your own or with the help of tech-savvy friends. A few days worth of investment right off the bat will save headaches in the long run.

Posted by: Cineris on December 10, 2007 2:41 PM



Does anyone know how to keep an anonymous blog free from outside detection. I want to set up a frank and fearless blog which would dish the dirt on public sector spending (I work in this field). But I'm paranoid about being found out.
Someone mentioned something called Tor but I'm a bit clueless.

Posted by: Daggo on December 10, 2007 2:54 PM



Tat -- That's right, I'd forgotten that news, thanks for the reminder. I wonder what blogging outfit most of the ex-Live Journalers are going to settle on ...

Cineris - I envy you -- you write like someone with some real tech skills!

Daggo -- Unless something is escaping me, you could use Blogger, WordPress.com, or Tumblr. None of them demand your actual name at any point in the sign-up process, just a login "name," a password, and an email address. To stay anonymous, just create a Yahoo or Gmail email address under some nonsensical name, and use that when you sign up. I can't see how anyone could ever trace you. And let me know when you begin blogging. I'm eager to read what you have to say.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 10, 2007 5:06 PM



Hmm. I wouldn't count on somebody not being able to figure this out. The sources of IP addresses can be found out easily enough, I'm told. I blog pseudonymously, but I was warned at the start to assume that somebody could sooner or later identify me, and to keep that in mind when posting. I avoid most overtly political issues for that reason - esp. since if I mentioned an issue or certain "keywords" that attracted online notice, I might also attract someone with a particular interest in finding me out.

Posted by: alias clio on December 10, 2007 5:41 PM



MB:

I will definately look into it as soon as I get another home computer. I just lost my old laptop due to my tendancy to "physically recalibrate" it when having problems (i.e. hitting things that don't work). Right now I have to use my work computer for everything.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on December 10, 2007 6:03 PM



I chose WordPress because it was the only software I could find that would accommodate my design -- particularly the painting I use for a masthead. But I wish I'd known about WordPress.com when I began blogging. I had to hire a tech guy at the time. Fine, but now he's not available when things go wrong -- and they do.

Posted by: Fred Wickham on December 10, 2007 6:59 PM



That is a beautiful TOS page at wordpress.com

Posted by: TW on December 10, 2007 9:55 PM



That is a beautiful TOS page at wordpress.com

Posted by: rif on December 11, 2007 11:32 AM



I used wordpress because I didn't like the commenting feature at blogspot and typepad costs money. I'm not good at design so my blog is quite plain. Nevertheless, I'm satisfied. I blog anonymously but I don't suppose I have much to lose even if I am found out.

Posted by: TGGP on December 13, 2007 2:35 AM






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