Cartoon Blog reader Tiffer has asked me how to start a blog. In particular good ways to blog cheaply and without a lot of technical knowhow. So here goes.
There are a number of ‘platforms’ (technical name for something you can stand up and talk on) one can use. Here are some I have used or looked at:
Blogger is a good place to go and experiment when you’re thinking about writing a blog. It’s entirely free and in my opinion a good service, though a few people got a bit grumpy and started throwing tomatos when I said this at the blogging panel at the Greenbelt festival last year. It’s worth signing up for a Blogger account in any case as it enables you to comment on some Blogger blogs which only allow registered commenters. You can also use Blogger to power a blog on your own site, which requires a tiny bit more technical knowhow, but not too much.
Another free site, this time using a hosted version of the WordPress software the Cartoon Blog uses. I don’t personally know anyone who uses it, but I’m a great WordPress fan so would probably give this a try if I was wanting to start a free blog. I’m not sure how much you can edit the templates though. I’d be interested to know how it compares to some of the others listed here if anyone reading has used it.
This is the blogging community site I run which has about 100 bloggers. The advantage of our site is that there is a ‘community’ feel – people actually get to know the other bloggers on the site. You’re guaranteed at least a handful of readers as your blog will appear on the ‘recently updated’ list. The disadvantage is that we don’t offer the level of features or the ability to customise the blog as much as the others listed here, though we are going to upgrade the Wiblogs soon which will mean they can do more stuff. The site has a Christian sort of an ethos and there are a few content guidelines, though we welcome people of any faith or none. [Note to Tiffer - if you're interested let me know - you can bypass the lengthy application and interrogation process.]
Typepad is a hosted version of the popular ‘Moveable Type’ blogging system. Easy to use, but it’ll cost you a bit. There are different subscription levels, you pay more for extra features and greater ability to customise. I also think it’s slightly unreliable, but that may just be my own experience. Still, a worthwhile and popular option if writing a blog is the only thing you want to do on a site, though getting your own webspace and hosting a blog on it using something like WordPress (below) might be a more cost effective option if you want webspace for other things too.
This is the option I have chosen for this site and am using for any new website projects I may or may not be working on. You need your own webspace with a MySQL database to make it work and it does require a bit of technical knowhow to get it going, but way less than any other ‘content management’ I have tried to use, and I did try a few when setting up CartoonChurch.com. The advantages are many, but include the ability to edit every aspect of the design as well as using the many splendid WordPress plugins there are which make the blog do fancy things. You can find hosting suppliers for the webspace by looking at ads in any computer magazine.
I think, having personally run blogs on 4 out of the 5 those are my top 5 blog platform suggestions. Others may have had different experiences though – feel free to say so in the comments.
I might continue to pretend to know what I’m talking about next week by making up some blogging tips for beginners.