Typepad: Often the best choice for serious but non-geeky bloggers

TypePad
If you want to start a serious blog and you’re not a geek, you’d probably want to use Typepad rather than WordPress. (Image via Wikipedia)

Right now, a lot of my colleagues (especially journalists) want to start building an independent online brand for the first time. Thus, they want to launch their first serious blog or site.

My universal advice in this case is: Don’t start from scratch (i.e., build a static site in Dreamweaver, FrontPage, or GoDaddy’s Website Tonight or SmartSpace). Instead, build your project with a popular professional-level blogging platform, even if you don’t want to blog at first.

Good blogging tools allow you to create static pages (which can comprise your whole site, if you like) and implement nearly any design strategy — while also playing nice with search engines, making your content easily linkable, and leaving your options open for more interactive approaches without having to totally rebuild the site.

Also, get a good domain for your site and use it. Over time, this provides far more search visibility and brand recognition (which benefit your career) — as well as options for easily switching platforms without losing those benefits — than a site bearing, say, a blogspot.com or WordPress.com domain.

Another reason to avoid free blogging platforms like Blogger for serious sites is that these tools are very limited. Once you get into blogging, you’ll quickly outgrow these tools — and moving a site is always a hassle.

After this, my colleagues typically want to know which tools to use to build their blog or site.

Personally, I’m a big fan of WordPress, the free open-source content management system. (It only started as a blogging tool; it’s grown.) I’ve used it for Contentious.com for many years. It’s flexible and offers just about any design theme or plug-in option I could possibly want — which encourages me to learn and experiment.

But let’s face it: I’m rather geeky. I actually enjoy spending time playing with new online tools and seeing what I can make them do. That’s not true of everyone — especially many journalists.

So to someone who’s not inherently techno-geeky and who wants start a serious blog or site for the first time (and who may want to start multiple blogs or sites), I actually recommend a different tool: Typepad, the inexpensive hosted blogging service from SixApart.

Here’s why… Continue reading

Safari iPhone bookmarklets: Clunky setup, but very useful

The new Apple iPhone
iPhone apps are cool, but sometimes bookmarklets are helpful, too. (Image by Victor Svensson via Flickr)

As an avid iPhone user, I love my apps! I use several of them daily, including Omnifocus, GroceryZen, Twittelator Pro, Google Mobile, iBART, and Google Maps.

Apps are not enough, however. First of all, some online services I use (like Gruvr or My511, nudge nudge) don’t yet offer iPhone apps. (This is especially annoying if they also don’t default to mobile-friendly site layout upon mobile access, grumble…)

But also, several very cool and useful online services are meant to play nice with the rest of the web.

For instance, I get value from my preferred social bookmarking service Delicious because I can use it to bookmark, tag, and comment on any page I happen to be browsing. And on Twitter I often tweet links to pages I find online. For these services, I want their functionality integrated with my iPhone’s Safari browser (since you can’t run two apps at once on the iPhone, and since the iPhone also doesn’t yet allow cut and past, grumble…)

That’s when Javascript-based iPhone Safari bookmarklets can come in handy…

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Is this thing on?

For the last couple of days I’ve been struggling with WordPress. The old version I was on (2.3) for some mysterious reason started slamming my web server to the point it would bring the site down whenever I’d try to write or edit a post. (Tech support at my web host, Bluehost.com, was spectacularly UNhelpful in troubleshooting this problem, BTW. Tom Vilot and I figured it out independently. Bluehost support utterly wasted nearly two hours of my time yesterday in four separate calls….   Grrrrr……)

So now that Tom helped me get WP manually updated to 2.6 (Bluehost only offered automated update options to 2.5.1 — another grrrrrrr……) WP now seems ready to cooperate. (Well, except that my secure login stopped working.) I’m trying it out with this post. We’ll see what happens.

Moment of truth: Is this thing on? If you’re reading this, it worked.

UPDATE: OK, now that I know I can use the site again, here’s a gripe I have that maybe WordPress developers can do something about:

Why is the WordPress update process so F*CKING OBTUSE???

Here’s what I mean…
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My weird iCal/Leopard problems: Help!

I love iCal, but it’s driving me crazy lately. Help!

As you might have guessed, I’m a pretty busy person. If I didn’t have a good electronic calendar program, with alerts and reliable backup, I’d be totally lost. That’s why I’ve been a devoted user of Apple’s iCal program for about 10 years.

A few months ago, when I upgraded to a Macbook Pro with the Leopard OS (original install, not a Leopard upgrade), iCal started getting weird on me. I’ve been to the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store twice about it, and have yet to find a problem. But I’m getting concerned, because I depend so heavily on this program. If it totally flames out on me, moving to a new solution will be a big hassle.

So I’m hoping some of my readers, or someone in the iCal support forums, is smarter or luckier than me and the folks at my local Apple Genius Bar.

Here are the iCal problems I’m experiencing, and what I’ve tried (unsuccessfully, so far) to diagnose and fix it. Your ideas and suggestions for further measures are most welcome…
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