Bluffers Guide to Blogging

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1 April 2005 | 0

Among the Web of news and e-commerce sites most of us hear about, another form of the Web that has become extremely popular is the personal, non-commercial Website known as the weblog. This kind of site shows the personal, non-commercial side of the Web. Topics on weblogs can range from diaries containing personal thoughts and observations, to sites with commentary on world affairs — and that is only the tip of the iceberg.

The obvious way to start a weblog is to design a Website in HTML and start publishing. For some people, this is the easiest thing to do. For those who aren’t familiar with HTML and the ins and outs of designing a Website, this can be a daunting prospect. But there are other, easier ways to set up your own weblog. There are services that allow you to simply choose how you want to configure your weblog — at the end of the setup process, all you need to do is type in what you want to say. The two most widely used of these applications are Blogger and LiveJournal. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on how technically savvy you are when it comes to the Internet.

Probably the most popular service online when it comes to setting up a weblog, is Blogger (www.blogger.com). One of the first widely known services to offer this type of Website, Blogger is revolutionary in the way that it creates your content pages on your own server. You use it to create the content and layout and can configure it to operate the way you wish. When you are ready to post your content to your Web page you simply type what you wish, click on the publish button and the Blogger site connects to your server automatically uploads.

 

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‘Blogger is really easy to get started with,’ says Meg Hourihan (www.megnut.com), the former Director of Development of Blogger and co-founder of its San Francisco-based parent company, Pyra. ‘You can be publishing online in less than a minute — you just create an account and then make a new weblog and voila, your words are online. If you don’t know HTML, that’s not a problem.’ You can also choose your own layout, if you wish. Not only do you choose your own HTML code for the page you publish, you can customise the way in which you display the time, date, and author of each new update. A commercial version of Blogger also exists, for those who like the service and want to avail of extra features.

Another very popular service that allows you to create your own weblog is LiveJournal (www.livejournal.com). ‘LiveJournal is extremely easy to use,’ says Dublin-based user Lisa, (http://amphoteric.livejournal.com). ‘Anyone who is comfortable using the Web in general shouldn’t have any difficulty. Despite the ease of setting up a weblog with it, there are enough options to please more technically inclined users as well.’

Weblogs set up with LiveJournal can be updated via the Web or with LiveJournal client software, which is available for a very wide range of operating systems. Knowledge of HTML is not necessary — after your weblog is set up, it’s possible to select from templates and colour schemes to customise your journal. As with Blogger, there is a commercial version available, with extra features.

The main appeal of LiveJournal, for some, is the sense of community it generates. ‘The “friends list” feature (enabling users to define a list of ‘friends’, and then read the journal entries of all friends on one page) might initially seem somewhat exclusive, but in practice, it’s a great way of meeting people and seeing how others think,’ says Lisa. ‘Comments, which can be disallowed, are an option on every entry, removing the aloof, writer-on-a-pedestal feel of other blogs, and making it a very warm place to both write your own entries and read those of others. There are also community journals on almost every subject under the sun, where people with similar interests can post about and discuss the community’s topic of choice.’

Just two of the many different services and programs that are catering to webloggers, Blogger and LiveJournal are in widespread use, adding a lot of new users every day. While Irish users of either service are fewer than in, say, the UK or the US, the number is growing. The iLoggers Website (www.nofusion.com/ilog) is a directory of all the known Irish webloggers. Sites listed on the site are run by both by Irish and foreign people living in Ireland and Irish people living abroad, like Catríona who is spending a year in Australia and New Zealand, and travelling through South East Asia — she uses her weblog as a way of keeping in touch with the people back home and also as a diary of her experiences. Her site can be found at www.dwyersrestaurant.com/cd/blog. Back in Ireland, Trinity College student Helena can be found at www.targum.net/fresh, where she writes about what’s going on in her life.

Weblogging can be a great method of self-expression on the Web. If you’re tired of reading on the Web, and not adding to it, perhaps this is a way of doing so, without the time consuming hassles of understanding HTML and the mechanics of making websites. It can be said that weblogs allow anyone to do what could previously only be done by a few people — to make their own voice heard online, and therefore take advantage of the democratic nature the Internet came from.

You can read the weblog of the author at: www.tomcosgrave.com.

10/02/2003

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