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About Blogging

I currently host the The Boston Weblogger Meetup Group. I was originally a member and took over after the group had been hanging out there for sometime with no one seeking to take over payments that Meetup.com requires. (Admittedly $19.00 per month can be a bit much. It used to be free but no more...)

At any rate, I joined the Boston Organizer Meetup and someone emailed from that group about how to get started in blogging. Below is her email to me and my admittedly lengthy response to her. I was wondering if anyone elose had any thoughts about the questions she poses...

Her Email:

I am an organizer with Meet Up for an Italian Speakers group in
I am interested in blogging, and have a couple of topics I want
to start off with, but, I'm embarassed to say this, I don't
have a clue HOW to blog, or where to start. I'm afraid of
going to dangerous sites, and getting viruses.
Can you point me in the right direction?

My Reply:

Hi Karen,

I hope that you are doing well.

In terms of how and what to blog:
The best blogs are ones that are focused on a particular topic.
I did look at your profile and you are have many interests.
For example, you organize a meetup for Italian speakers. You could blog about that and how people use Italian in their daily lives or provide some knowledge about Italian language and culture to the number of us who think that the only Italian we ever need are the words, "pizza," "spaghetti" and "mafia."

I myself and working on focusing my own blog. I do blog about random topics that interest me. I try to have monthly topics such as "Websites that I visit." I don't always blog about myself but when I do I definitely have a point instead just saying, "the cat died today and I hate my mother."

One person from my meetup mentioned that he noticed that he had more readers when started blogging about his dating life rather than all of the events in his life and has so far focused his blog only on that.
I have a friend who blogs about knitting since this is her passion. So chose a topic that you are knowledgeable about and passionate about and blog about it.

Another good way to learn about blogging besides doing it of course,is to read other blogs.

I recommend the following (my comments in parenthesis):

-Universal Hub
(This website contains feeds and links to blogs about or by people from Boston and eastern Massachusetts. People share information on local news and also vent at times about different things that are unique to Boston and eastern Massachusetts. It gets a lot of traffic and the range of topics are astounding)

-The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster
Journal of Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith and Servant to His Supreme Excellency the Emperor Palpatine.
(This one is well written and hilarious. Of course it is about a fictional character but still worth a read)

(My knitting friend's blog-note the use of photos to illustrate some of her entries)

-Brand Autopsy
(This is a marketing blog that is written by a former Starbucks employee. It's language is accessible to those who are not in

(It was created to promote women in blogging at every level-everything from geek girls to home girls.)

-Said and Done
(Yes, Penny from Lost In Space has a blog and she is worth the visit. It is definitely a blog that reflects the essence of who she is-it is
artistic, personable and personal.)

-The Bronte Blog
(This blog has definitely evolved in its design and its content. At first it merely reported all events Bronte taking place in Great Britain. I have seen more reviews and comments. I also like that the design has been updated as well.)

(Blogging about the good and the bad of McDonalds)

-How I Am Becoming An Astronaut
(Definitely a great example of blogging about something that you know and are passionate about. She has been great about giving her readers insight into how engineers prepare the shuttles for their various missions. She has also updates us on her progress training as an astronaut)

-From Jerusalem With Love
(Another friend who actually studied journalism and public relations. I and several others who have read his blog have encouraged him to
turn this into a book, which he will)

(Another Bronte blog from someone located in Canada. Note the use of design to give it a 19th century Victorian feel.)

-What' Your Brand' Mantra
(Another marketing blog written by a woman who hits it out of the park every time with her observation on what works and what could work better when it comes to marketing. The design and content of her blog was initially very businesslike and conservation. She decided to relax a bit, which is be reflected in her photo.)

A blog about: Being a Disgruntled Bookseller • Books • Bookselling • Bookstores • Customers (and why I sometimes hate them) • Cow-workers •
Other stuff
(An interesting rant about work.)

-On the other hand
An experiment in independence
(One of the blogger meetup member's blog)

-More Explore
(My effort)

In terms of what type of blog tool (software) to use:
It depends on what you are seeking to do. All websites are open to being hacked
into at one time or another. If your computer has a good antivirus program, you should be fine. I will admit that I am not deeply
knowledgeable when it comes to blogging software, so I would defer to one of my friends who has this knowledge. I can definitely post your question about this to the meetup and have them contact you. You can also pose your question to the members at BlogHer. As I said before, it is frequented by women of all levels of expertise in blogging so there are tons of geek girls who can tell you more about the finer points of software.

I can tell you that as a person just starting out, blogger.com is a good site to use for a blog. It is free and easy to use. You do not have to worry about embedded ads, especially ones you do not want. It has some nice templates.

Livejournal (which is owned by the same company as Typepad.com) is also another good one and for the same reasons.

Typepad and WordPress are the tools of choice it seems for those who have professional blogs because they provide more options for
templates and adding things. Both though are not free are also not free.

Microsoft and Yahoo offer blog space though I have not been as motivated to use them since blogger.com (owned by Google by the way)suits me just fine.

The social networking sites such as MySpace, Friendster and TagWorld offer free blogs. However with Friendster you have to deal with embedded ads that you may not like, unless you upgrade your free membership to premium and pay for the privilege of not having ads.

Also, the type of tool you use is influenced by what the focus of your blog is. If you are just blogging about something personal that interests you and you are not very concerned with attracting a following, then you should use something simple like blogger or LiveJournal. If you are going to use lots of images and have lots of links and blogrolls and need more flexibility in how you use the blog template, it might be worth it to pay for something like Typepad.

I hope this was helpful to you. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions and I will try my best to get an answer to you.
Any thoughts?

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I'm thinking that she really didn't ask you about content, she was asking about tech.

The thing a new blogger needs to know about blogging tech is that it basically comes in two flavors. There's the flavor where you have to already own a website on which you are going to put your blog, and then you download/buy blogging software you install (whether on your personal computer or on your website or both) which lets you do that. Then there's the flavor where you're using a service, where your blog appears on their domain but you don't have to install anything, you just go to your blog with your standard web browser, log in and edit things via webpages; the service runs the website and handles all the tech. Services also typically have software you can run, to make managing your blog easier, but it's optional.

If you are a beginner, the latter is VASTLY easier. There are downsides, however, as with all things. If you really want to have your blog appear on your domain, well, you may have to get some bytes under your finger nails. Also, if it Really Truly matters to you that You Own Your Words and some faceless corporation somewhere can't just delete them with no notice, then maybe you don't want to use a service. But generally, I strongly recommend to the beginner that they use a blog service.

Blogger.com, Livejournal.com, and Typepad.com are all well-regarded services.

I suspect what she wants is blogger.com (which has a great beginner tour right from the front page). Just go to http://www.blogger.com and sign up. They claim they'll have you up and running in 5 minutes. For free.

Livejournal.com has a free level, but then you can pay for additional features. The free level is quite nice, and the paid level is a whopping $35/yr. Livejournal.com makes a perfectly adequate blogging platform, but has developed its own internal culture which is quite different. Livejournalers tend to write for other livejournalers, not for the internet at large. There's nothing to say you can't use LJ to write for the internet at large, it just has all these groovy tools for when you write to an audience of other livejournalers, go that is a general focus -- it's kind of like one big virtual city of 10 million people. With a sizable Russian quarter. Non-LJ-user browsers from the rest of the internet are sort of like commuters and tourists who come to visit the city that LJers live in.

That said, if what she wants to do is not merely write articles to/for/about her community of Italian speakers, but get them all speaking Italiano on line with her, and provide a virtual forum where they're all talking Italiano, then she wants Livejournal.com. Which, BTW, has an Italiano nationalization. (Click "View Options" and there's a drop-down to select the language you want to read LJ in. It doesn't change the language of the content, but all the buttons and navigation links and stuff.)

Don't know anything about Typepad, sorry. Over to the next blogger...

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Thank you for your input.

I did see the question though as being both about content (she wanted to know how to start blogging) and software (concern about using something that would expose her to viruses).

Admittedly, software is a weak point for me, so I thank you for providing that piece of it. I learned something as well. :)

I also forwarded your response to Karen so that she will have that information also.

"There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not here any more."
-The Ghost of Christmas Present

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