Way to blog

There are a number of great options available now to start your own blog, for free, with just a few clicks of a mouse button. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and here I run through five of the best ones.

WordPress is my personal blog tool of choice – I’ve been using it since 2005 and I’ve grown to love it. The free, hosted version at WordPress.com is great – easy to use with a whole host of features.

Pros

  • Easy to get started
  • Huge user community
  • Very active development

Cons

  • Feature-rich, or feature-bloated? For newbies there is a lot to learn
  • Doesn’t do email posting as well as some of the competition
  • Limited in terms of rich media embedding
  • Theme customisation costs money and is limited

Blogger is pretty much the granddaddy of blogging platforms – it recently celebrated its tenth birthday. Interestingly, it was originally developed by Pyra Labs before Google bought it. People at Pyra later went on to develop Twitter.

Blogger was left on the shelf by Google for a long time, but just recently seems to be sparking back into life, which is good to see.

Pros

  • The online help provided is excellent for newbies
  • Extremely customisable
  • You can embed pretty much any code in  your posts

Cons

  • Beige colour scheme for the editor looks hideous
  • No static pages I stand corrected in the comments – Blogger does do static pages these days

TypePad launched in 2003 so has been around for quite a while, and is a mature and stable product. Like WordPress.com, it is based on an open source platform, Moveable Type. For a long time it was often the case that enthusiasts used Blogger and professionals used TypePad, but since WordPress came along that’s no longer really the case.

TypePad does cost money, though comes with a

Pros

  • Sophisticated and easy to use editor
  • Plenty of customisation possible

Cons

  • It costs money, unless you go for the stripped down Micro version

Posterous is the newest service mentioned here, and it is making quite a splash for two main reasons: the ease of getting started with it (by simply sending in an email, you publish your first post) and the neat ways it integrates with other services.

Pros

  • Very easy to get started
  • Extremely well integrated into other social media services
  • Email posting is excellent

Cons

  • Not many options for customising the look and feel
  • Very much built with posting by email in mind – web editor not the best

Tumblr is a blogging system which focuses on making it easy to share content you find on the internet, adding your own comments as you go.

Pros

  • Super easy to post to, with a simple editor and templates to use depending on what media you are posting
  • Some nice themes and designs to choose from, which you can customise

Cons

  • Lightweight in terms of features – adding things like comments, tag clouds etc takes some hacking
  • Obviously set up as a scrap-booking style of blogging, not really suited to longer written pieces

Which blogging service do you recommend?

How not to blog anonymously

In the wake of the Civil Serf debacle, the issue of anonymous blogging has once more raised its grubby head. I maintain that it is a dumb idea that encourages dickwadery. Most folk agree.

Some don’t however, and – more dangerously – they put this into action and start an anonymous blog themselves. Take, for example, ‘The UK Libertarian‘ which published its first and only post a few days ago. Now, the UK Libertarian isn’t pulling his or her punches. Oh no!

[Quote removed on humanitarian grounds – see the comments]

Now then, that’s not very nice! Not surprising then, with such incendiary views, that the author notes:

I’ve kept this blog anonymous so that I can shout out what I think, and I want you to shout right back at me.

I would be tempted. Only, I think that whole anonymous thing is about to come crashing down.

The thing is that the UK Libertarian is on blogger. Blogger gives you a global profile which lists all your blogs. If you want to keep a blog anonymous, then it’s a good idea to keep that blog off your profile. Bet you know what’s coming now, right?

Josh Cowan’s blogger profile

The image above is a screen grab of the Blogger profile of Josh March, who writes a blog about PR and social media called Social Marketing Strategy by Joshua (and from which his profile is linked, which is how I found it) and runs a company by the name of inetworkmarketing. It turns out Josh’s other blog is none other than…UK Libertarian! Ooerwhatagiveaway.

Let’s hope inetworkmarketing’s business plan isn’t predicated on getting any government or public sector work…

A social media software toolkit

Being a blogger is about far more than just words. To that end, you need tools which you feel comfortable with to enable you to create in any number of different media. Here’s some of the software I use to create my blogs and other online content. It would be cool to know what other options are out there, so do let me know what you use in the comments!

  1. Firefox. My window onto the web. Of course, the various plugins I use make Firefox into a better tool for blogging. But that’s for another post…
  2. FeedDemon. My RSS reader of choice. Of course, now it’s free, it should be yours too 😉 Being a desktop based reader, as opposed to web based ones like Google Reader and Bloglines, has a number of advantages – like downloading feed items to read when you are without the web – but to be honest I like it best because I am used to it. How pathetic is that?!
  3. Windows Live Writer. This is a new one for me as I always used to be a BlogJet fan. But I gave the latest version of WLW a try a month or so back and I love it. How come MS can get some stuff, like this, so right – and yet others so badly wrong? Using an offline editor just works better for me that using the inbuilt WordPress online offering. One advantage is that I can write blog posts without an internet connection, like right now when for some reason the connection’s dropped…
  4. Paint.net. A great free image editor. Much easier to use and more stable than the Windows version of the GIMP. Paint.net is easy to use and packed with features.
  5. SnagIt. Lee Hopkins tipped me off to this one and it’s the most recent addition to my toolkit.Snagit is a great little bit of software that makes taking screenshots a doddle. No relying on the PrtSc key any more! Snagit lets you copy just a portion of the screen, or even an entire web page that scrolls a number of screens. You can then use SnagIt to resize, crop and add effects as you see fit without having to fire up another image editor.
  6. FileZilla. A great little open source (free as in speech, as well as beer) FTP client.
  7. Audacity. It’s always cool when an open-source bit of software is also one of the best available, and Audacity is one of those. An audio editor which makes producing podcasts child’s play.
  8. BB Flashback. This lets me produce screencasts – videos of what I am doing on my PC screen. Great for producing demos and tutorials. Not sure if this is the best package on the market – lots of people use Camtasia – but this was more reasonably priced 🙂
  9. Windows Movie Maker. OK, so I need to get some better video editing software 😉
  10. Evernote. A lovely note-taking application. It lets me clip things as I am browsing through the web, whether text or images. Handy for pulling together thoughts for blog posts.

Photo credit: Saffanna