Thinking of becoming a blogger? Want to know more? This might help you?
A review of blogging software
Blogs are a relatively new tool, one that is only made possible by the World Wide Web. Blogs can be employed to assist individuals, and groups to communicate their ideas, and to run discussions with like minded people elsewhere in the world. Blogs are especially useful for threading together shared discussions that incorporate live links to other sites on the Web. Blogs share information, often publishing stories and data that might be ignored or missed by the main stream media. Blogs are able to provide a voice to ordinary people who may not be professional writers. Bloggers are generally individuals who find that writing helps them to clarify their own thoughts through the process of writing. By writing in blogs these amateur authors share their thoughts with like minded strangers from around the world. Blogging can literally facilitate a meeting of the minds amongst bloggers.
So where to begin if interested in experimenting with blogging? If you type in ‘Blogging software’ in Google you will see there are 76,600,000 responses. These are advertisements and reviews of blogging software programs. It therefore might help to know that there are three very good contenders to consider as you step into the blogosphere as a potential blogger.
Many of the versions of blogging software that are available cost money to operate, this is usually paid as a monthly fee, and this provides the user with phone support; a massive amount of storage; plus a range of extra ‘bells and whistles’ (these are mainly tools relevant to advertising and are used by bloggers hoping to draw in an income from their blog). It simply does not make sense to opt for these fee based programs when first beginning to experiment with blogging. It makes sense to try out the medium before making any financial commitment. Later, if an individual creates a blog that is attracting thousands of readers each day then there would be some point to taking this route.
In the meantime, if someone is considering blogging for the first time they would be advised to seek out free software. There are some very good programs that are easy to use and produce a highly professional appearance.
What to look for in blogging software
When looking for software seek out programs which offer most of the following features:
- It is free.
- Easy to download.
- There are different templates to choose from, enabling the blogger to select the appearance they feel most reflects them, and their blog.
- Look for ample online file storage space; this particularly applies to blogs that use photographs (as images eat up storage space rapidly).
- The blog can be either a public or a private blog. A public blog will be made accessible to search engines and the blog can be seen all around the world. A private blog will mean that only those people who have been given a password can access the blog. There are also some bloggers who use the blog as a private notepad and only they are able to access it.
- Most blogs will offer a statistical tool; this provides the blogger with the numbers of visitors who come in to their blog every day. These also tell you where your visitors are coming from i.e. what links they followed to reach your site. This lets you know whether your visitors arrived on your site via a search engine, or via referral from another blog. Statistics also tell the blogger which individual posts are the most popular.
- Make sure that there is a photographic uploading facility.
- It is also extremely useful to have the ability to embed (insert code into the blog) linking to external services such as the video site YouTube video or the photography display site known as Flickr.
- It is important to have a powerful and efficient ‘Save’ function on the site. The best programs provide for the automatic saving of text, this is very important as many people write directly into their blog. Automatic saving creates a backup every few minutes; some blogs even give the facility to review each save, thereby making it possible to revert back to an earlier version. A blogger can work on a piece of text over several days and know their work is stored safely online. When they are ready they can then publish the finished piece. Every post created by the blogger is then archived on the site making it possible for readers to browse back in time, reading earlier blog posts.
- The software should provide a clear and easy to use tagging system. This saves keywords, and then makes these words into searchable tags that are then made available to the web search engines. (It is worth spending the time to develop thoughtful tags, as good tags help readers to locate relevant posts.)
- It is very important to have good spam control on your blog. Spammers will deluge the blog’s comment box in the hope that the blogger will let the spam through and into the blog’s comments area. Comments are meant for genuine readers to use, they give readers the opportunity to hold discussions directly with the blog author, and with other readers. The spammers try to disguise their spam as a comment saying something along the lines of ‘Great post! Visit my site at ‘X’ (they then add a web link)’. Some of the spammers are trying to get the blogger to inadvertently link to pornographic and gambling sites. A good spam filter will detect possible spam and the blogger can train the filter to prevent this from appearing again. The blogger has the opportunity to review the comments and publish all the genuine ones on their blog. (The spam filter is also trained to recognize approved individuals so that their comment is automatically uploaded to the blog site without the blogger having to handle it.)
- Community forums are very helpful to new bloggers. These forums publish the questions and answers of bloggers using the same software. The software developers keep an eye on these forums and will also provide technical support in the form of suggestions and links to tutorials.
- Many blogging software packages provide language support making it possible to automatically translate the blog post into many languages.
- Look for software that provides the facility to run more than one blog. (Many bloggers find themselves running several blogs on different themes.)
- You may want to run one blog with a group of people (a class for example) so look for blogging software that allows for multiple authors.
Recommended free blogging software.
I have tried each of the following and these comments are based on my own preferences. Other people will have different preferences this is just meant as a guide for beginners. The best thing is to start experimenting!
WordPress has a very clear user interface (called a dashboard) and is very stable. It provides huge photo storage facilities; has a very powerful link to Google search engines, and community forums. There is an automatic ‘tag’ linking system that generates links to other blogs discussing similar topics in their posts. This provides a great way to locate blogs you would not otherwise know about. WordPress does not support java script; this code provides an extra layer of information to the blogger, giving highly detailed information about where visitors are linking in from. However, there is still a simple statistical tool that provides a bare bones list of information about the blog’s visitors. (If a blogger wants to make use of the extra layer of sophistication that java scripting would provide they must pay for the professional version of WordPress.
(This blog is a WordPress Blog and I am not being paid to promote it – though willing to discuss such an option of course!)
Blogger is one of the oldest blogging software programs available. It has the broadest range of features and is relatively easy to use. Blogger includes java scripting, making it a more powerful program than WordPress. However, the user interface is not as well thought through as the WordPress dashboard. Blogger is weak with regard to image management; if the blogger wishes to use photographs extensively then this will not be the best program to chose. (The pages have a tendency to allow images and captions to slip into erratic positions or just cause an un-pleasing visual result.)
Vox may be the easiest blogging software to use; it is extremely photo friendly, and has lovely looking customizable layouts. Vox sites look excellent, but they can begin to feel frustrating because they limit other options. One of the best features of blogs is the ability to use them as a central information management system, where you can create sets of links to other useful web sites and blogs. Vox seemed to only permit limited external links (this was the case when I was experimenting with it) and this soon felt very restrictive. Nevertheless Vox is a great place to begin exploring blogging. (If the creation of individual blogs was part of a class assignment then the Vox software would be a great place to send students to.) They will produce very strong, professional looking blog sites in no time at all using Vox.