How to make your way through the blog
This is a 94 percent free country (excluding the bits that are designated no-smoking areas and the places where shirt and shoes are required for service), so if I want to write a column about Weblogs, hey, no one can stop me.
But it’s tricky business because no one has the foggiest notion of what a Weblog actually is. What I should really do is say, “A Weblog is just a Web page containing a long scroll of time and date-stamped entries, written and posted by the blog’s owner.”
Then I put on a trustworthy smile and slowwwly back away while my editor starts the car.
For that simple explanation, though, blogging is a powerful and flexible concept. A field guide to the North American Blog would identify the following major subclasses:
Linkage Blogs: The most classic-style blog, its individual blog entries are links to other sites on the ’net, embroidered with brief descriptions. If the person operating the blog has interests similar to yours it’s a lot like having a TiVO for the Web. Someone else is sifting through the mounds and mounds of junk, and reporting back on just the links that might interest you.
Info Blogs: Is the office print server available, or offline? Schools, companies and local businesses use blogs as a way to keep folks informed.
Boswell Blogs: Like Boswell’s London Journal or Pepys Diary, this is a street-level account of an individual life. It’s the most interesting and exciting type of blog by far.
Barbie Blogs: Like the Boswell Blog, except the blog entries are of interest only to the writer, the writer’s immediate circle of friends.
It’s all thanks to the evolution of Weblogging software. I started blogging in 1995, well before there was a word for the thing. I had to establish my own Web server and create a site, and every time I wanted to update the blog, I had to edit HTML files by hand and upload them to the server. Later, I wrote an app to manage my blog.
Today, getting a Weblog up and running is about as challenging as buying a Coke from a vending machine.
The simplest and quickest way to start blogging is to visit Blogger.com. It will do everything for you: inside of 20 minutes, you can have a free account on its server and start writing and publishing entries via any Web browser. If you want to send them some dough for Blogger Pro, you can get extra features, but there’s no better way to test the waters. If you do get more ambitious, you’ll want to look at other solutions.
Moveable Type (www.moveabletype.org; free for personal use, $150 for businesses) is a real marvel. It’s a diesel-powered tool that’s suitable for anything from simple blogging to building an ambitious online publishing venture. The hitch is that it is indeed diesel-powered software, and installing and configuring it on your Web server is too much for a civilian to contemplate. But for $40, they’ll install it for you.
Then there’s Radio Userland ($40 from userland.com). It’s wrapped in a clean user-interface and includes most of the tools that are only available to Moveable Type users as third-party add-ons. And while MT is just a piece of software running on your Web server, Radio’s $40 fee includes a year of hosting, if you need it.
Blogging is only getting bigger, and your options are only going to increase. Google has bought the company that owns Blogger, so it’s natural to assume that future versions of the software will have tight integration with the search engine. The folks behind Moveable Type recently announced TypePad (www.typepad.com), a more user-oriented, Blogger-type hosting service powered by MT’s core tech. Both Microsoft and AOL are hoping to get their own hands in the till, too.
from Chicago Sun-Times