Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blogging Basics -- Part 1: Getting Started & Picking a Blog Platform

Blogging Basics Part 1-- Picking a Blog Platform

   Let me start off by answering the first, most basic of questions: What is a blog anyway?
The word blog is a shortening of the two terms "web log".  A sort of online diary to make entries in
about ones personal experiences.  I never really kept a diary as a kid or an adult.   Diaries in the past
and in my mind.. even today.. are private and not to be shared.  Web logs --blogs--- are out there
for anyone to see.  Blogging is the act of writing entries in the web log.  Some folks use them for personal enjoyment. Some folks use them for business reasons.
I'd say there are as many different blog types out there as there are people.  I am addressing this entry
to personal blog users since its all I know about.    I began mine as a way to post trip reports.
I was a long time poster of trip reports and trip photos from back in the early days of Yahoo groups.
You'd get on a yahoo group related to your topic and type up a trip report or post a collection of photos
in online albums hosted by Yahoo.  I had been doing that and back then I was ignorant of the fact that
Yahoo was a hookup joint.   I was clueless.   The internet was like the wild west back then anyhow.
You just never knew what you'd run across.   Yahoo groups are still around, but the relevance of them for me is pretty much done for.  Yahoo decided back then to stop hosting photos and me and a lot of other folks
had to decide what to do with photos we had stored on their servers?? I did some research and tried various things and finally went with  Smugmug Photos.
It is a paid subscription each year, but it is virtually unlimited. It costs me $40 a year and I have loved it.
It gives me freedom to store my digital images online and videos.  It is easy to use. I can order prints from it.
It also allows me to search photos to locate the one I'm hunting among the hundreds or thousands of pictures.

       The first steps to starting a blog is selecting a blog platform.  I use blogger and like it.
I am including here a link to reviews of the top ten reviews of blog services.  Wordpress is #1. While the one I picked .. blogger is #3.  Blog Service Reviews

    Pick your blog service platform based upon your needs.  Pick you a photo service. You can either use a paid subscription or a free service.  Flickr is free. Picasa is free.  Photobucket is free.
Picasa web albums are truly free with your google account.  Flickr is free only up to a point.  You get so many photos stored per month and then you are cut off unless you want to pay for a subscription.
Your images if you link to them from Flickr photo image hosting... will be visible on your blog for a period of time then they will disappear. You'll have blogs with gaps in them because your image address has moved!
I use flickr for fun but not to host my blog images.  I've got entries way on back that are now needing to be repaired for that reason.

             Once you have selected your blog hosting service and photo service you need to decide
what you want your blog to be about?   Mine is mostly about my outdoor adventures and home life.
It is usually best to blog about something you really like and are passionate about.   Something you engage in often enough to make it interesting to readers and fun for you.   Some folks like DIY blogs (do-it-yourself) and write about home fixer upper projects, crafts, etc.  Some blog about hair, makeup, and fashion.
Some write about religion. Some blog about history. Some have foodie blogs. Some have history blogs.
The possibilities are myriad.    Pick something that suits you that you will like and can get better at as you go!
I have two blogs. One is just a place for me to store online recipes. The other is about my life and hobbies.

  An example of a way to make a blog fail is to make it too specific.    I occasionally do DIY projects and crafts, but its hit or miss with me.  I might have one or two projects per year.  If I only had two entries per year on a DIY blog that is not much fun for me or anyone else to read. I do lots of outdoor activities, but not ONLY hiking. I hike, backpack, bushwhack, paddle, camp, and go four-wheeling.   I would not want my blog to be Dana's Hiking Adventures.  Dana does far more than just hike.    I decided my life as a whole was  more interesting than just one hobby.    I will interject important entries about what's going on with me like my experience being seriously ill.  That has bearing on me and my hobbies and my life as a whole.
Then once you have decided what your blog will focus on name it.
Remember that you can change your mind about what you want to write about.
You can also change your mind about the name.
Its the internet.. and you can change the look of it and focus of it as you go!

   Important:  I am writing this up and some of the people who were interested in learning a few things about blogging use the Go Smokies website.   It is an easy to use blog hosting service run by Ning that is free.
It limits images to five per blog entry. Also important to note that Mike Gourley found that images on very old blog entries may disappear just like some of mine did when they had images linked from Flickr. 
I suggest you use another blog host and copy and paste the entries from your main blog over onto Go Smokies as blog entries.  Its never bad to have a back up source as I well know!  
Always remember that while blogging is fun and free it is the internet and you can lose your work.
Be prepared for that and ready to deal with that possibility.  
Pick a blog hosting service

Pick a photo hosting service

Pick a concept/idea for your blog

Name your blog

Part Two will discuss typing up entries and embedding photos

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