Blogging doesn’t have to be extra work

Recently I was conversing with some journalism colleagues about getting started with blogging. One of the most basic questions inevitably arose: How can you make time for blogging, on top of the stories you’re already writing or other work you’re doing or just having a life?

In my experience, blogging can be an easy way to get more mileage out of things you’re already doing. It’s a matter of shifting your process, not just adding new tasks. If something you think, encounter, or learn is interesting or entertaining and there’s nothing to lose by sharing it, then blog it.

For instance…
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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

What’s the Difference Between a Blog and a Web Site?

A journalist friend recently asked me:

“What’s the real difference between a blog and web site? Can I have a link to my favorite sites, favorite videos, host a forum, etc. on my blog, or am I better off just building a Web site…and maybe having a blog on that. Likely I will probably only do one or the other.”

My take on this is that the difference between blogs and web sites is steadily vanishing. These channels are definitely converging.

In fact, they started out converged. After all, a blog is nothing more than a kind of web site supported by a content management system that provides a useful collection of features: Comments, a permalink for each post, categories, tags, a home page where the latest content automatically appears on top and earlier stuff scrolls down, etc. (If you thought a blog was something else, see: What’s a Blog? Bag the Stereotypes)

So what’s someone who’s just starting out online with a blog or site to do?…
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Weirdness with Delicious daily blog post: Other options?

For a long time, I’ve been using the Delicious daily blog post feature to syndicate to this site the  interesting stuff I’m saving and sharing via the popular social bookmarking service Delicious.

Since the recent Delicious upgrade, that service has had some issues.

First, that daily blog post stopped working for me entirely until I looked through the Delicious documentation and learned I now had to run the Postalicious plugin to continue making that feature work with WordPress. No biggie, I installed it.

Postalicious gave me a lot of new options for configuring that daily blog post.  I experimented with them. One option I liked was the ability to change the default title supplied to that post. Also, I temporarily changed my posting interval to hourly (so I’d show more posts with fewer links each), but decided I didn’t like that so today I switched it back to daily.

But today, I’m wondering whether Delicious has stopped working with Postalicious. Today’s links post is back to running the standard head Delicious supplied before: “Links for [DATE] (delicious.com)” I’m not happy with that heading, but right now I don’t seem to have the ability to change it.

I checked the Delicious support forum, where users are discussing the changes to this service. I noticed this interesting post from Britta of Delicious, regarding their future strategy for this service…

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Posting to wordpress from my iphone

I’m writing this on my iPhone. Just installed the free wordpress iPhone app. This would really be great if there was a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone. (I loathe this $@?:&@!!! Touchscreen keyboard for anything more than a few words at a time…)

But the big bummer here is that I don’t see any way to create links in a blog post here. Just text. Hmph.

(UPDATE: I might be wrong about that. Editing here to add a link to my Twitter page. We’ll see if that works…)

(UPDATE 2: AHA! It does work! I can handcode HTML with this app. But it’s ultra-tedious.)

Of course, there’s still the glaring usability problem that there is NO GODDAMN COPY AND PASTE on the iphone! :-/

What am I supposed to do, memorize URLs 4 characters at a time & keep switching between the wordpress app and mobile Safari until I get the whole thing? Probably I’ll just scribble them down in my paper notebook and then type them in. How’s THAT for cross-platform technology integration?

Well, at least the WordPress iphone app works. That’s a good start.

UPDATE 3: TECH BREAKING NEWS!!!

New iPhone copy & paste tool:

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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