A Blog On Blogging

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.

8 thoughts on “A Blog On Blogging

  1. Very informative and well written with helpful information about things like Ifranview (which I have downloaded in spite of the fact that I have Photoshop and other programs). I did notice your directories with photo information in each related to sizes. I don’t do it that way because I keep all my photos on an external hard drive under “insects,” “blue jays,” “raccoons,” and in those are all the photos in that catefgory. That includes those out of the camera which may need some help, those already worked on and then the resized ones. I use 500 pixel widths and when I had WordPress and MySpace sites that number seemed to work. My pictures would look like this “carp_IMG_9800_8x10.jpg” and “carp.IMG_9800_500pxs.jpg” and the original out of the camera is “IMG9800.jpg” — I thought it was interesting to see what you do in naming pictures. By the way, a picture out of the camera comes in at 3540 pixels wide. I use Photoshop to reduce it to whatever. But among the choices is 8×10 picture size. That, when picked, limits the crop tool (no matter how you size it or where you choose to crop it the size will be 8×10 at 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Then when you crop it you have an 8×10 picture at 300 ppi which is perfect for printing but way too much information for the Internet. So you change the size by changing the resolution to 72dpi and that keeps the picture at 8×10 but at 72 ppi for the Internet. I also found it interesting that you use MS Word or Works for your word processing. I use Word for writing books but have never used those kinds of programs for the Internet. I usually write using the built in word processors and flip back and forth, if necessary, between html and preview. I think this is one of your best posts related to blogging.

  2. Hi Abe. Thanks for dropping in. Obviously there is not just one way to do anything. A lot of things wind up being personal preference.

    I should mention that Abe leaving a comment illustrates the last thing I wrote in this post. How else would I ever have been able to meet and communicate with Abraham Lincoln – a relative of his namesake.

    Incidentally, when commenters have a website, their name is a hot link to that site. So it is fun to run through the comments on blogs and finding other interesting sites to frequent. Abe’s is a site I recommend.

  3. Don Ray,

    I’m like Abraham in that I use the administrative section from WordPress (or Deepest Sender add-in for Firefox) to prepare my posts. I downloaded Firefox 2.0 RC1 yesterday and can happily say it includes spell checking (at least in Windows). I’ll look at Ifranview later.


  4. One of the reasons I use word is that some times I include Spanish words and I can use Word’s spell checker for Spanish also. I have lost one of my reasons for using word, because for some reason Word can’t find the Thesaurus. I am sure it is some fix that MS put on that corrupted Word, but it is really a nuisance and I haven’t figured out how to repair it.

  5. Very good discussion on the blogging and how to address some of the issues that one runs into.
    My work flow is a little different. I produce the website and the catalogues for my wife’s business. I use Photoshop to “tune up” the camera photos. These can be used for catalogue and for producing high quality photos. I use Fireworks to prepare the photos for the web. It takes me less than two minutes to get a photo web ready.
    BTW, the latest version of the Google toolbar has a spell checker that will spell check text in text box. Very handy…

  6. Thanks for dropping in Rob.

    I run on a pretty stingy budget, which is the reason I use Ifranview. $0 is pretty hard to beat and it has plenty of functionality. One thing I don’t have a handle on is being able to take videos and upload them in a compressed format.

  7. $0 is good…since I teach online, I can get most software with the educational discount.

    I like the new look of the site – it loads and runs much quicker.


  8. Thanks for the information on the speed. I am having problems with my Internet provider her and I have no idea about the speed. I am trying to upgrade a little. What the final look will be is yet to be determined.

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