People start blogs all the time. The problem starts the second week. It is like that cute puppy you saw, you took it home, and you promised to take care of it. After a while you moved onto another hobby, and the dog needs to go out.
With this in mind, it is time for a post about HOW TO BLOG. This will not tell you about search engine optimization. There are lots of people who will tell you that, and a few will know what they are talking about. Today’s feature (and a future page) is about blogging because you enjoy it. Yes, compulsively checking the stats is part of the fun. There will be posts that you think are home runs, and they will be ignored. There are also posts that will surprise you with their popularity.
When you are starting out, you probably want to choose a venue for your blog. The two obivious choices are WordPress and Blogspot . Chamblee54 started on Blogspot, and produced 264 posts. In February 2008, Google services were no longer available to PG, for mysterious reasons. The blog moved to WordPress, where it remains today. This tutorial will not cover Tumblr.
To PG, WordPress is better in a number of ways. It has a better look, it is not owned by Google, and it is slightly easier to work with. It should be noted that not everyone has a hosted blog… one with .wordpress or .google in the url. Some people have their own domain. You can still use WordPress or Blogger software. For someone starting out, the hosted blog is a bit easier. (If you become popular/controversial, you might want to stay under the umbrella of a host. It would be tough for a hacker to take down Google. If you have your own domain, you are on your own.)
Once you choose a service, and set up an account, you will need to choose a template (or theme). This is the look of your blog. PG likes the plain templates, with large columns. The one on this blog now is “The Journalist 1.3 “. The columns are 720 pixels wide, which is good to know when you add pictures. The Journalist is used by two very fine blogs, A Philosopher’s Blog and Futility Closet . If you choose to go with Blogspot, the best theme is Herbert. (If you have already started a blog, and want to use another template, the switch is easy. The pictures will remain the same size, which might look odd if you go with larger columns.)
At this point, you are ready to get started. You will, hopefully, learn by doing. This tutorial is open ended, and will probably have future chapters. Here are a few suggestions.
1- The number one rule is Just Do It. The formula for writing is ass plus chair. Don’t worry if it is not terrific, or if it doesn’t fit the theme of your blog. Don’t worry if it will attract a large audience. Just write something that appeals to you, make it easy to read, and put it up. If it finds an audience, great. If it doesn’t, you had fun writing it.
2- Use spell check. Avoid profanity. Use good grammar. Write short sentences and short paragraphs. Try to make this easy and fun to read. (Easy writing makes for tough reading.) Know the correct use of Their/There/They’re .
3- Use Pictures. The blog is a visual medium, and should be fun for the eye. Be careful with copyrights. Adjust the size of your picture to the size of your columns. (You don’t want to load in huge pictures, that will take a long time to load.) If you don’t have photoshop, you can download GIMP .
4- The more you say, the stronger your opinions, the greater your chance of being a hypocrite. Try to walk the walk, but don’t worry too much about this. Hypocrisy is in the eye of the beholder.
5- Enable comment moderation. Your service will send you an email when you get a comment, and you can approve it. You should check your spam folder frequently, as sometimes legitimate comments wind up in there.
6- Videos are fun. Youtube has a good search engine, and probably has something to liven up your post. Blogspot will embed more types of video than WordPress. Some music players can be embedded as well. Be sure to use the code for WordPress.
7- When you get information from another source, give a link. This is a way of giving credit (like a footnote in a term paper), and it enables the reader to learn more about the subject. To insert a link, click on the Visual tab. Highlight the text that you want the link to target. Click on the tab for inserting a link. Copy the url into the field, click “Open link in a new window/tab”, and click on “Add Link”. There is an easier way to insert links, using HTML, that we will cover in a future tutorial.
8- Write your post in a word document. (Here is the basic template .) Check it for mistakes, and add any code that is appropriate. (A later tutorial will deal with HTML). When you are through, click on New-Post, and give your post a title. Click the HTML tab, and work in that window. Add your pictures before you add your text. (This is not totally necessary, but seems to work a bit better.) Find a spot in the pictures, and copy in your text. Go to the bottom of the window and click save. Right click on the preview tab, and open it in another window. Review the text and pictures, and correct any mistakes. Hit publish. Look at the finished post, and make sure it does not need any changes. Right click on edit post, and open that in a new tab. Click on HTML. Hit ctrl+A, ctrl +C, go back to your word document, and click ctrl +V. You now have a coded copy of you post.
9- Have a good time. You are not curing cancer, or eliminating world hunger. You are sharing your thoughts with anyone who wants to see them. When you finish a post, start to think about the next thing you want to put up. Don’t spill your beverage.
10- Top ten lists are often one line too long.
This is part two of the Chamblee54 tutorial, Blogging Because You Enjoy It. This lesson will focus on the template, and the HTML codes in it. A companion piece, template with notes, explains what the codes mean. These codes work with a WordPress hosted blog, and may not work elsewhere.
To show how these codes work, we will use screen shots from a post, Why Do Some Want A War In Iran? . The first picture is the HTML for this post. This is what you see when you click on the HTML tab in the editing window. The second picture is the post, as it appears online. There will be numbers on these pictures, which will correspond to notes in this text. Other pictures will be from The Library of Congress .
1- This is the code for a picture of Zachary Taylor. When you enter the picture, in the edit window, the WordPress software will create this code. If you want to use this picture again, you can copy the code into the edit window.
2- This is the code for the start of the text. The justify code tells the system to make the right side of the text smooth. The font code tells the system to use medium size text, and to use a dark green font.
3- This closes the previous font code, and changes the font color to light green.
4- This inserts a link into the text. The link is to a previous post on Chamblee54. This post is the source of the quote by Paul Wolfowitz. The link text is “said”.
5- This changes the previous font code, and changes the font color to blue. The color blue is used for the quote by Paul Wolfowitz.
6- This closes the previous font code, and changes the font color to dark green.
7- This closes the previous font code, and changes the font color to light green.
8- This closes the previous font code, and changes the font color to dark green.
9- This inserts a link into the text. The link is to the Library of Congress. This is a photo credit for images used. The link text is “The Library of Congress. “.
10- This closes the font code, and the justify code.
PG found the following feature during a blog review. When you get 1500 posts in your archive, it is a good idea to look through them, and see what you have. This is a feature called What We Don’t Need
PG was writing his four year post when he went to Avitable to copy his url. While there, PG read a list of rules for blogging. PG does not agree with all the Avitable rules, but it did get him to think. Before long, the PG rules for blogging were on the way. A running list was started, and before long there were thirty entries. Many of them were connected.
It occurred to PG that a lot of the general rules for living have a blogging connection. The ten commandments came to mind…in fact, it was a comment about the first commandment that got PG started. While killing or committing adultery might not happen, the admonishments against stealing, lying, and using the name of G-d improperly are highly relevant.
The first time PG heard the word blog, the dead tree publication was talking about Andrew Sullivan. A “Web log” at the time was called, quaintly, a vanity website. Mr. Sullivan is one of the leading players in the blogosphere today. PG suspects Mr. Sullivan gets is it right more than he does wrong, but needs to check the statistics. UPDATE Andrew Sullivan has retired from blogging. He misses us.
If you want to write something, but don’t know what to write about, Andrew’s blog is a good place to look. He produces some original material, and recycles the work of others. There are several others like this, which you can find easily.
The first general group of rules can be summarized as “Just Do It“. You are not ending world hunger or ending war, you are writing for the internet. The more you write, the more you see to write about. If you keep the quantity up, the quality will take care of itself. The formula for writing is ass plus chair. You are doing this because you enjoy it. Don’t be hurt if everyone does not like your precious blog as much as you think they should.
PG had a job once where the management required a one hour clockout lunch every day. Soon, this became a time to write blog posts. Get the idea, and spit out five hundred words in fifteen minutes. It is not that tough to do, and you can edit, format, and add pictures later.
Blogging is a visual medium. The pictures and videos that you add add punch to the presentation. PG decided at some point that black fonts were obsolete, and that everything would be done in color. While this is not for everyone, it does add a touch to Chamblee54.
Once you have your basic post written, there are a few things you can do. Use short sentences and paragraphs. Look over you text, and eliminate words that don’t need to be there. Assume that the reader is lazy, and make reading your text interesting, easy, and fun.
Use spell check. That is important, and could be said again. Avoid profanity. When you cuss, you shift the readers attention from what you say to the words you use to say it. Use a link to show where you got your information. This is another biggie, for obvious reasons, including respect of other people’s material. And, once again, use spell check.
If you are lucky, people will leave comments at your blog. Comment moderation is a good thing, unless you want people selling generic viagra (in Russian) on your site. A person leaving a comment is doing you a favor. If they ask a tough question or disagree, it means they are paying attention,and taking you seriously.
In general, a blog owner has the right to delete anything not wanted on their blog. When you do this too much, you eliminate the diversity needed for a lively discussion. Of course, you might want nothing but your friends, who say how awesome you are.
When leaving comments, it is good to show courtesy. Do not say anything in a comment that you would not say if the person was standing in front of you. If the person does not use profanity in the blog, you should not use it in the comments. (Profanity is to be avoided altogether. If you think a bit, you can find a better way to express yourself.)
Andrew Sullivan had a comment about this in “Why I Blog“. “Rudeness, in any case, isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a blogger. Being ignored is. Perhaps the nastiest thing one can do to a fellow blogger is to rip him apart and fail to provide a link.”
There is more to this blogging thing. The blogspot vs. wordpress issue. The technical aspects of basic html. The way to edit pictures, and how to make them fit the spot on the page. A lot of this the veteran blogger already knows, and the novice will find out soon enough. There is really only one thing that does not find any categories, but greatly upsets PG. This is Auto Start music players.
Some people have music players that start the second the page opens. If you are listening to something else you are out of luck. If you are at work, and a music box starts to play with profanity embedded lyrics…you get the picture. Please, for the sake of simple decency, make your music embed a manual start. Trust us, enough people will want to hear your music to click the start button.