About to take the plunge into BlogWorld?
March 18, 2002 9:16 AM   Subscribe

About to take the plunge into BlogWorld? Help me out, here! Assuming that I have enough 'interesting' thoughts on my 'interesting' life (ha ha), which of the many products and services out there has the best features for the novice, and which are for the veteran? Talk to me of writing style and format, any early mistakes you made, and what are your proudest blogging moments? F'gedabou' de 'A-List' - what do you think - I wanna pick yer brains!
posted by dash_slot- (29 comments total)
The linked article neglected Movable Type...

(or if you're a control geek/freak, you can roll your own (carefully omitting self-link))

As for tips and tricks, lesson one is that if there's someone who you don't want to find out you're writing about them, they will, always. It's just a matter of time.
posted by kfury at 9:22 AM on March 18, 2002

It was a progression borne of a need for control and accessibility. Originally, I maintained my weblog/journal/catchall through a manual update of HTML. I played with LiveJournal for a brief bit, realizing soon on that the smooth integration of an LJ into one's own space would be frought with problems, not to mention the rather uncomfortable all-in-your-business atmosphere of the community-at-large. Then I moved on to Blogger, originally having the Blogger app generate a .JS page that I would link to within my page, only to realize that I could be better served by having the app generate my index page in-toto. But when the Blogger crunch came, I moved to GreyMatter... and that has made all of the difference.

Don't fear the self-service aspects of GreyMatter. The support forums are very adept and understanding of any installation/troubleshooting issues that might arise. And don't worry about the "legitimacy" of your contributions to the blogging world. You've bought/borrowed the space, you write what you want, conventions be damned, keeping in mind the fact that you are broadcasting to a worldwide audience of billions (though perhaps only ten of them will read you).
posted by grabbingsand at 9:36 AM on March 18, 2002

there is a shortage of blogs for the over 45 heterosexual non-web-designer demographic. can you fill the bill?
posted by quonsar at 9:51 AM on March 18, 2002

i began my weblog a little over a year ago using blogger as my service. it worked well enough, but i found the interface clunky and i found it terribly frustrating to modify and test my webpage design as a template. i then decided to try to maintain my weblog by hand, which i think everyone should try. it really gets you involved with the feeling that this is my site and i am the author. lately i've been writing some php scripts to publish to my weblog; they're easy to write when you've a database handy to use, but hard to write when you don't (and i don't). good luck with your maybe-weblog, dash. (maybe you'll wish me luck, too.)
posted by moz at 9:54 AM on March 18, 2002

as far as writing style, you'll develop that as you go. may take a few months to get to where you're comfortable with your blog voice... what's always been interesting to me is the internal editing process - how much does one reveal/hide? my readers may know a lot about me - but they'd be surprised at some of the simple, everyday details they've never read about.

also, make sure you get a good counter or two. (eg. stats4all.com, sitemeter) you'll want to see who's visiting. check them out and reciprocate links, if you want more traffic of your own, and besides it's just polite...

good luck!
posted by ab3 at 9:56 AM on March 18, 2002

I still maintain a blog through manual code editing, having had some problems getting blogger to work with Tripod. If you have access to a server-side text editor like Tripod's, use it! Besdies what moz said, you'll be surprised how much HTML you pick up.

Try also to have some content other than the blog itself; if you're an artist, upload some work. Write some essays. Do a "Friday Five" spinoff. Anything that will keep people who may not be interested in your everyday life coming back.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2002

there is a shortage of blogs for the over 45 heterosexual non-web-designer demographic. can you fill the bill?

You forgot to add "and who dislikes 'alt-whatever'" music.
posted by HTuttle at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2002

I used Greymatter with great success for about a year. I just turned a blind eye to the code it generated because I decided it was easier to use it and not care than maintain my site by hand. However, I decided to revamp my personal web presence recently, and went in to clean up the code and wow. Greymatter can churn out some crap HTML.

My vicarious experience with Moveable Type has been really positive (and it generates purty html), and if I decide to start another blog-type site, that will be the ap I use, so I would recommend MT over the other blogger aps.

Use a format that fits your writing. If you're more of a rambling essayist, set your site up to highlight that. If you prefer to scour the web for interesting links, have a weblog. Don't worry about fitting into categories.

And decide now how public you want to be with your weblog. Do you want your coworkers to know? Your family? Identify yourself (or don't identify yourself) accordingly.
posted by jennyb at 10:32 AM on March 18, 2002

But don't worry if you don't find your 'blog voice'. I've been doing it for very close to a year now and I'm still not entirely happy with mine yet. I can tell that it's very much better than it was (and it was truely terrible) but it could still do with some improvement. Stick at it, 'tis a whole world of fun!
posted by nedrichards at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2002

This Moveable Type, is it idiot proof? I note that dash_slot asked for information that might help a novice, yet I can barely understand a word of any of the replies.
posted by Fat Buddha at 11:04 AM on March 18, 2002

For me, I just grabbed a template from blogger and started writing. My site has changed to accomodate the style of my writing. If you're anything like me, you will get an urge to change bits of your site around, and will subsequently learn how to do such things.

As far as content, I've gotten good response, even though I don't have much of a clue as to what I'm doing, by just writing about whatever I feel like.

Oh and my site has free beer too. You might want to try that.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:27 AM on March 18, 2002

forgive me for playing the cynic, (and apologies to dash_slot if i'm wrong - which i likely am), but this FPP sounds an awful lot like a reporter angling for material.

(and yes, i'm a reporter, myself. but i only come here for the wings.)
posted by damn yankee at 11:53 AM on March 18, 2002

Movable type isn't idiot proof. Blogger is. I'd like to note that MT (as Movable Type is known) wasn't actually out when this article was written last year so we can't blame it too much.

There's an enthusiastic crowd of users behind MT and the creators take a very active interest in solving your problems. I think it's wonderful for slightly experienced bloggers. It certainly ahs the extra features and can import the contents of you blogger blog. So you could start there and if you wanted a bit more could upgrade to MT.
posted by nedrichards at 12:05 PM on March 18, 2002

When I had 7 blogs and posted to them semi-regularly I used Blogger. Now I tend to post to my LJ because it's so much more convenient.
posted by davidgentle at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2002

When I had 7 blogs and posted to them semi-regularly I used Blogger. Now I tend to post to my LJ because it's so much more convenient.
posted by davidgentle at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2002

Shit. Sorry about the double post.
posted by davidgentle at 1:02 PM on March 18, 2002

One thing to be aware of is giving out more information about yourself than you realize in the course of your posts. I received a creepy IM message after I'd been blogging for about a month from someone who seemed to know too much about me-- everything from what school I go to, to what foods I like. Looking back over my blog entries, it's all there-- a lot of it in the links themselves if not the entries.
So be careful about how much you're divulging. I think it is fine to post a lot of personal information, I was just surprised by how much had gone up without my realizing it. So unless you want a situation a la Sandra Bullock in "The Net," be cognizant of just how much of yourself you're putting out there.
posted by bonheur at 1:13 PM on March 18, 2002

Blogger 5 minutes to get started Movabletype a couple of hours. Movabletype is much more flexible, and if you aren't comfortable installing yourself then pay them $20.00 bucks to do it. Of course your host has to support cgi and ftp. I personally think anyone new should start with blogger then if they want more features and flexibility move over to MT . I've installed Blogger, P-Machine, Greymatter, and Movabletype and like MT the most.
posted by onegoodmove at 3:45 PM on March 18, 2002

For novice - definitely Blogger. I used it for over a year, and then migrated to GreyMatter. During that year, I spent an awful lot of time learning basic HTML, acquainting myself with things like PHP, understanding the relationship between what I type on my computer and how it gets to the server at my hosting company, and other quirks. But if you don't want to do that -- you just want to blog, nothing more, nothing less -- you can't go wrong with Blogger.
posted by davidmsc at 3:46 PM on March 18, 2002

Boy. There is some of the finest items posted here than I have found for some time at this site. Me? I have no tech know-how. Use Blooger. Was told to switch to that MT thing but once glance told me I didn't know enough to use. Finding easy way out: I discovered a few nice people out there who helped (and cont9inue to helpo) me with the various problems I run into. There are nice folks out there in the blog world, for sure.
posted by Postroad at 4:16 PM on March 18, 2002

First off, the article is long out of date.

Also, I doubt most people who use Blogger know all the things that you can do with LiveJournal, which is very feature-rich. Far more so than either Blogger or Diaryland.

For instance, the following Blogger Pro features are free and standard with LiveJournal:

- Spellchecking
- Title Fields
- Special server access (All LJ users now have their own alloted server cluster (one of four) on an advanced, massively scalable, clustered DB environment.)
- Image Posting
- Post to the Future (or the Past)
- Advanced Internationalization (Full UTF-8 support just completed!)

Here's just a short list of free LiveJournal features:

- Free commenting (that can be turned on or off as desired)
- Customizable privacy settings for your posts (private, friends only, customized list of friends, public)
- Free, user-creatable, online communities
- Find users or communities by interest, location, etc.
- A "friends" list - a single webpage showing all the latest posts on every journal and weblog you find interesting. (Soon to support RSS feeds, so you can read the latest posts of any other weblogger or news site out there too.)
- Several new, attractive, highly customizable CSS-based styles that even a Blogger user would love.
- Customizable portal page that will soon feature customizable RSS feeds.
- Your own RSS feed.

Also, it's wrong to say that you can't have a LiveJournal page and add it to your existing website or save it on your server. (Instructions are here...)
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:26 PM on March 18, 2002

Oh... and even though I do work for them, I'm still going to say it.

Happy 3rd Birthday, LiveJournal!
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:29 PM on March 18, 2002

What about Userland? I have heard some good things about it, but haven't checked it out.

BTW, great to see some newbies and non-techies using Metafilter to trade info.
posted by brookish at 4:55 PM on March 18, 2002

I started out using Blogger and I would agree that, for beginners, this is your best bet. After a while, I started noticing the limitations of Blogger and moved over to MT. Mind you, I moved to MT because Blogger did not support what *I* wanted to do. You may find that Blogger is fine for your own needs. I paid the $20 to have them install it for me, which took all of about 10 minutes, and haven't looked back since. Ben and Mena, who code and support MT, to say nothing of the community that also use it, are tremendously helpful and prompt.
posted by whatevrnvrmind at 8:26 PM on March 18, 2002

Don't forget to use the words 'weaselteats' and 'fucktacular' at every possible opportunity.

This simple strategy will guarantee your enduring blogging success, whether you use Blooger or not.

(With apologies to Postroad. Sometimes his creative spelling is too amusing to ignore.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:45 PM on March 18, 2002

i knew to u cuntrie. now bush make all good for me i stay and get benny fits and not go armie two.
Question: if you have a blog that gets decent traffic and you split to a new one, don't you lose much traffic?
Is the new thing MT when paid for installed easy to handle for a dope lie me that knows nothing. I took a look and it scared me but I am having trouble with aplace I have been using since i switched from free to a pay model that is claimed to be better. Now I can not post a thing and am waiting for them to help me. Privat mail to me would help at Postroad at Hotmail.com
posted by Postroad at 3:57 AM on March 19, 2002

Userland recently released Radio Userland, software for publishing a weblog, reading RSS news feeds, and about 100 other tasks. One of the goals of the software is that you can make your first weblog post within five minutes.

Userland also offers Manila, a weblog publishing system that doesn't require software.

Programmers will probably like Radio Userland better, while web designers will like Blogger better. A complete beginner who doesn't want to do any web design or programming can get a site online quickly in Radio Userland.
posted by rcade at 6:25 AM on March 19, 2002

Cheers all, i will study & inwardly digest! I tlooks to this blogvirgin that L J or Bloogger are neck and neck, but i'll post to my user page the address as/when i 'go live'.

Feedback : -
MT..maybe next year

Quonsar .. no, not in 2/3 of the criteria (guess)

Moz: Good luck (post a link on yr user page?)

ab3: thanks for leading me to a Friday 5 (i was mystified until 2 mins ago!), as advised by Y_A_N

K-esque: free beer...hmmm, it might just work!

damn yankee: you damned cynic!

and i'll take care of what i'm posting (the name's john, not joel...)

davidG: 7 (count them! 7!) blogs ...??!!

StWC: I'm more of your auteur, so Fuckteats weasetacular to you! ("... will they take that?") ; )
posted by dash_slot- at 12:07 PM on March 19, 2002

dash_slot - If you would like to get a free invite code to give LiveJournal a try, you can drop me an email and I will send one along to you.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:27 AM on March 20, 2002

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