What is a blog and why should I care?

I think that most of you know that what you are looking at right now is a blog, but based on several recent conversations, I am pretty sure several of you are still not sure what one is. And after I explain it, you may still not, but I am going to try. (If you are a geek you have permission to skip this post. But you may find yourself emailing it to those friends. If you do, then see my copyright notice.)

But, first I want to talk about why this matters.

Before the internet, keeping up with all your friends and family and all of the companies you did business with, and all of the topics you cared about, would require hours of reading. And writing letters to friends and family, and letters to the editor took even more time. If you wanted to contribute what you had learned in life or through research you could write a book or article and try to get it published. Communication required a lot of time and effort. Frankly, most people did not even try to communicate as much as they could have.

When people died, years of experience died with them. Some of their experience may have made it into print, and some was shared within a small circle of contacts, but a lot was lost.

With the internet, it has become much easier to publish information, people are able to do things faster because they do not have to re-learn things that someone hundreds of miles away figured out a year ago. Also finding information is much easier and faster now.

But, even though things were much better, you still had to know HTML or have a program that could make HTML files and you had to know how to get them “into” the internet. You could also email everyone you thought might be interested. The problem is that people who are interested often get left out and some people get a lot of emails that are not relevant them. That is why we invented blogs, wikis, CMS, and bunch of other stuff that is being called Web 2.0.

So in a nutcase (aka nutshell), a blog is a tool to make it easy to get your ideas on the web for everyone or at least your friends to read. Now I realize that easy is a relative term, but hey we are trying. Here is how it works:

  1. Open browser (Internet Explorer, or if you are cool Firefox or Flock)
  2. Go to a special website (I will tell you which one in a minute)
  3. Click on create account
  4. Type your name, a nickname (sometimes), email, and maybe a few other things about yourself
  5. Make up a password
    • The website will then send you an email confirmation
  6. Click on the link
  7. Type your username and password again
  8. Click on the create new post link
  9. Type whatever you have to say
  10. Click post

Your brilliant ideas will then be on the web and you did not have to learn how to program computers to do it.

Okay, that is ten steps can we make it any easier? Would I bother asking a rhetorical question if there wasn’t?

Here goes: Steps 3-6 only have to be done once and can be done from any computer, so you can probably find a geek to do it for you. Also if you are posting often, (adding more to your blog website) I will show you in a future post how to shorten it down to steps 1, 8, 9, and 10. Which is basically click, click, type, click.

Blogs are also pre-formatted. You can pick a template of how you want you information to be presented. You just type in plain black and white and everything comes out all pretty. A date is automatically added so that you can talk about what happened “yesterday” and you and everybody else will know what day you are talking about, even three years later. All your posts are sorted so that the stuff you added last is at the top. This makes it easier for your readers to find the part of your site that they have not read yet.

So a blog is an easy way to make a website, but it also makes things easier for readers to keep up with topics of interest even if that interest is in the author (perhaps a friend or celebrity). More on that in a later post…

Now, for the magical websites that I promised…

You actually have a choice here:

  • If you do not have a personal email account (and no, your work email is not personal and it is not really yours), I suggest that you Sign up for Gmail first and then …
  1. If you have a Gmail account, and you like easy, I recommend Blogger (aka blogspot)
  2. If the way things look is more important to you, or you like lots of new features then I suggest you try WordPress
  3. If you have a little money and you want some power I hear that TypePad is really great.
  4. And last but definitely not least, Vox gives you the ability to choose who can read each post so some can be public and some private. This is especially important for those under 18. It can keep you out of a lot of trouble. And when you go to get a job, all the dumb things you said years ago won’t come back to haunt you.

So now that you know how, and a little bit of why, give it a try! Or grab a geek and get them to help you.
If any part of this post is unclear or you would like more information please let me know. I want this to be helpful to non-geeks but I am a geek, I need help making this make sense. You can type a comment by clicking on the comment link below or send me an email.

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2 responses to “What is a blog and why should I care?

  1. To post to a blog, you could also use Windows Live Writer. While still in Beta, I found that it was far easier to use than the Blogger posting tool and better than the Microsoft Word Blogger plug in. It works with multiple blog systems (Blogger, Typepad, and WordPress), and will display the post as it will be seen as you type the post out. There is no need to know about coding, unless you want to learn. One of my favorite little web tools:)

  2. Pingback: 5 Things that May Surprise You-- Denim & Silk

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