I have a friend that is considering starting a blog and I told him I would provide him some of my experiences. Since I was going to send it to him, I thought I would just go ahead and post it.
Shortly after moving to Panama, I learned about blogging. I had been communicating with some friends and family about my move and I was doing it in the form of a monthly email. I had a good friend in Virginia that asked why I didn’t create a blog. Blog – it was a new word for me, and researching that word resulted in what you are currently reading.
Blog is a word that evolved from Web Log. They typically reflect the personality of the author or group of authors. Some people use them strictly as Photo logs. Some use them as a daily journal. Some use them for political commentary. A blog can take many forms. It is limited only by the imagination of the blogger. As you can tell Chiriquí Chatter falls into the journal category.
If you are moving to a foreign country, you also might enjoy writing a blog. It will allow those you have left behind to keep up with your new adventures. A blog can be as elaborate or as simple as you chose to make it. What I am going to discuss here is not intended to be an in depth description of how to blog, but hopefully it will provide enough information to get you started. You will learn more by doing, so a start is all you need.
Before you start, give some thought to why you are starting the blog. That will assist you in creating an identifiable name for your blog. After that you need to decide on what the blogging platform will be. You have an almost unlimited amount of choices to choose from. You can do it for free or you can spend money. It is up to you. I recommend doing it for free for a period of time to see if you really want to do it. If you don’t like it, you can quit with nothing lost. If you like it, then you can invest more in the future if you want.
Here are a few free blogging sites that you can cut your teeth on. As I said, this is not an in depth study. You can do a Google search and spend the next week looking at all that is out there.
Chiriquí Chatter is published using WordPress. I have a host based solution and when I signed up it was costing about $4.95 a month for my website. WordPress also has a free version that is almost identical in capability and they provide the hosting service for free.
Blogger is another widely used blogging medium.
Another is Live Journal.
Microsoft has Windows Live Spaces.
After you choose one you are ready to blog. All of the above use your browser to upload your current blog to the Net. Each has its own uniqueness and I am not going to go into them. I am more interested in telling some of the things I learned over time in managing the content.
I use Microsoft word to write each entry. I am a person that needs all the help I can get from a spell checker. I am sure if you have read much of my stuff, you feel that I need more help than just a spell checker. If I didn’t have word or didn’t want to spend any money on a similar product, I would download Open Office. It is free and has most of the capability of Word and certainly everything you need to blog. You can write the blog directly into the browser screen, but I like to keep a copy of everything I have written.
The next thing to do is decide on how you are going to manage your content on your hard drive. I created a disk directory called My Blog. It has two sub directories. One is called Journal and the other is called Photos. Each of those directories is further sub divided into other directories of year and within year into month. When I write an entry I give it a title and save it into the monthly directory of the current year. The date timestamp is obtained at the time of the save.
All digital cameras come with some photo management software. I use this software solely to get the photos from the camera into the PC. For photo management I use a product called Ifranview. It is free and I haven’t seen any paid for software that works any better. I keep three versions of my photos. Therefore, my Photo directory has three sub directories that reflect the resolution. The first is the native resolution, which is suitable for producing quality printed photos. For the net, it is too high a resolution and would take too much time to upload. The second format I keep is 800 x 600 pixels. I use this size in a secondary photo site I have. This is fine for a reasonable large photo on a monitor. The third version I keep is 450-pixel width. This is a good size for WordPress.
By using this size in my posts all the photos will display nicely no matter what browser brings up the webpage. When I first started, I wasn’t as ridged on the size of the photo I put on my blog. Then I noticed that on FireFox the photo looked fine and the page displayed correctly. However, some photo sizes on Internet Explorer cause the web page to go crazy and it looked horrible. If Internet Explorer complied better with the web presentation conventions that wouldn’t happen. Now for my WordPress format, 450 works the best and displays correctly on all browsers. If you have a different blogging platform, you may want to adjust. It is wise to look at what you publish on several different browsers to insure that all viewers will see your page the way you intend it.
The last trick I do for my photos it the naming convention. All photos that I personally take will be named like this, yymmddxx.jpg, where yy is the year, mm is the month, dd is the day and xx is the number of the photo. When I write an entry, a lot of time the photos tell the story and this naming convention helps me keep the story straight.
The last thing I will mention is related to comments. Most blogging software allows some form of comment management. WordPress allows you to decide by entry whether you want to allow comments or not. If you allow comments, you need to expect the unexpected. Plan on monitoring your comments. You may get a rogue reader that just wants to write comments that you may not want. You will have to decide how to handle the situation, edit the comments, ban the commenter etc. The second concern you will have is spam comments. WordPress does a good job of providing you assistance in screening this spam. However, it is possible for some to slip through every once in a while and you will need to remove it.
That should provide you the basics to get your blog started. Remember that this is supposed to be fun. So have fun doing it. I have found it to be an interesting hobby through which I have met some wonderful people.