Taiwan Troll

Blogging

An ajarn lifeline


As teachers and expatriates living abroad we are inevitably faced with the problem of how to communicate with our loved ones back home. Using traditional forms of communication, such as writing letters, is just primitive; or the telephone, but that can be expensive. Of course e-mail is an option but it can be tedious to write to all your friends and family. I suppose you could send group e-mails but then that is very impersonal and nobody reads those anyway. And so how can we talk with our friends and family back home? The answer is simple: you blog.

Blogging is way for people to communicate on the internet by posting articles or entries on their own personalized website. People viewing your website can, in turn, write responses or comments to your articles. Other pages and features can be used to add photographs to your website, insert a list of favorite links, or other information. Most blogging software allows you to have people become members of your website so that they can be notified of updates.

Another advantage of blogging is the ability to publish your own work. Many people choose blogging software to put their thoughts and opinions on the internet. Blogs are available on every subject imaginable from gardening to politics, from the performing arts to teaching English (not much difference there anyway). And with the assistance of a search engine your blog can become accessible. You can attract an audience for your blog.

Essentially there are two types of blogging software available. Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog servers or they can use independent blog software, which must then in turn be hosted by a third party web hosting service. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both and in this article I will attempt to review some of the more popular blogging software.

Blogger
http://www.blogger.com

Though Blogger was not the first blogging software it certainly helped to popularize the medium and make it more accessible. It is clearly the most popular free blogging software available. The most attractive feature of Blogger is its ease of use. It makes blogging a very simple process. Anyone can use Blogger and put their ideas on the internet in a very short period of time.

Its ease of use can be both an advantage and disadvantage though. While it is very easy to use there are very few templates available to choose from, so you are very limited in deciding the appearance of your website. Blogger does give you the option of changing the code used to determine the design of your website, but this requires a very advanced knowledge of programming and website design.
The interface for inputting posts is very user-friendly, however, and allows users to write basic html, or to edit using an assortment of common word processing options such as bold, italics and lists.

Blogger also allows you to publish an almost unlimited number of pictures on your website. This is done with the use of additional software to upload the pictures. The process seems rather tedious, but it is not difficult to understand and use. Editing the pictures, however, and placing them in the body of a post can also be difficult. It can be done but only by posting the pictures to another blogger website and then editing the html in your post.

I recommend Blogger to anyone just beginning to blog. It is a great place to start. But inevitably you will tire of the software and want something more.

Typepad
http://www.typepad.com

This is an excellent blogging software tool. It is yet another blogging software which also hosts your blog on their server, however unlike Blogger, Typepad is a pay service. The cost is similar to what one might pay for an independent web hosting service so some might consider it worthwhile. And if you are uncertain, Typepad also has a trial period for you to test their software to see if it is right for you.

Clearly Typepad offers a more professional feel to your blog. There are more options available to change individual features of your site, such as color, font, etc. However, Typepad comes with only a limited number of skins to change the overall appearance of your blog. And one cannot directly manipulate the code in Typepad, though that feature may be available in the most advanced membership option (one which I did not test).

The most impressive element of Typepad is its photo publishing tool. It is very easy to upload images to your blog and the blogging software has a feature which automatically generates thumbnail images of your photographs on your main page. The page for viewing photos is also very pleasing to the eye. It is a very simple yet effective design I have not found in any other software available.

I would recommend Typepad to anyone seeking a more professional appearance to their website. Typepad has the same ease of operation available in Blogger with more options, and so it is a good choice for those of you who do not wish to worry about learning website design. It is also an excellent choice for people wishing to post a large number of pictures on their website.

Wordpress
http://www.wordpress.org
Wordpress is a free, open source, blogging software. It is the first of its kind. It is quickly becoming one of the most popular blogging tools available on the internet. It is both easy to use and yet makes customizing and personalizing your blog very manageable.

The most obvious disadvantage to Wordpress is that it does not provide you with a web hosting solution, and so while it is free you will have to find a web hosting service to host your blog. Recently Wordpress.com opened and provides a free web hosting solution however not all features are available, for example I do not believe plugins can be added, and there are only a limited number of templates available. But these are the best features of Wordpress and so using this hosting service would seem to defeat the purpose. You see, Wordpress has literally hundreds of templates or skins available to choose from to change the design of your website. It also has innumerable plugins available to improve the quality of your blog. Everything from adding smilies to your comments to posting up-to-date weather forecasts.

The reason Wordpress has so many different features available is because it is open source software. Anyone can contribute to improving the software, making new templates available or developing a new plugin. And with so many people choosing Wordpress over other blogging software, there are that many more programmers working to improve it.

I highly recommend Wordpress to anyone willing to go through the process of purchasing their own domain name and web server space. This does require some time and effort, and just a little bit of technical know-how. But if I can do it then surely anyone can. Once the software is installed on your website the process is just as simple and intuitive as any other blogging software. And if you choose to learn a little bit of web design, then there isn't anything you can't do with Wordpress.

Other options

Well these are only examples of a few of the blogging software available on the internet. There are many more choices, however I chose to limit my discussion to software I have had the opportunity to test.

I encourage anyone to look around and experiment. Begin simple and then, as you learn more about website design, you can try software that requires a little more technical expertise but provides you with more options to make your website into the site you want.




Comments

Your blog is awesome. Thanks for sharing information regarding all blogging sites. I appreciate your post.

By Greet Verellen, USA (17th February 2011)

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