Blogging etc

How do you start off blogging?

It depends on what you want.

First off, I’m not an expert on this by any means but I have been blogging on and off here and there for around five years. I’m not a techie but I can point you in the right directions hopefully so you can get an idea for what you want. I’m also going to explain terms that I didn’t know what they meant when I first encountered them. This means I’m an idiot and not you :-)

Blogging Platform
First thing I’d recommend is figuring around what blogging platform you’re going to use. This is essentially the type of paper and pen you’re going to be creating with. I obviously use WordPress.com. There’s also WordPress.Org which is if you’re a bit more adept at things but they’re essentially the same. There’s also Blogger and Typepad. The best thing to do is to set up a fake account and fiddle with things. You’ll get an idea for what can be done easily and simply for free. You’ll also be able to figure out when a hosting company or designer is trying to swindle you because the above sites do most things for free. Your own little corner of the internet is the perfect place to go and try and break things and it’s the best way to learn.

Images and Videos
I use Flickr and YouTube. It depends on what you want here. Are you looking to sell your content? Are you looking to share it? Do you have a brand that’s recognizable? Do you want to be found? I think it’s pretty pointless myself having videos on a website that aren’t searchable from the wider web. In the current climate it seems like a closed system is a dead system or else one where the speeches at weddings are given by the father of the bride and groom. You can always watermark your photos and Flickr has guards against your content being copied from the site. It’s just a matter of flicking the switch. Ba-pun-tish…

Hosting
Hosting (the space your site rents on the Internet) the website is easy with a blog. I use Blacknight for my soccer club’s website. They have a lot of handy video tutorials that take you through things click by click. They’ve a range of options and my experience of their support has been very good. Follow them on Twitter and mention them for an extra fast response time ;-) It’s extra then for the domain name (website address/url) but if you’re being charged a monthly fee just for hosting you’re probably being ripped off. The basic option I got was 80 quid for twelve months but it would be more expensive if you’ve a bigger site.

Design
Your blogging platform is the engine in your car. No-one really sees that and only a select group of people are interested in it. They might love the noise your engine makes but a lot of people probably think it’s annoying and that your genitalia are small and inoffensive. What most people see is the shape of your car and its colour. Design can be the difference in getting people to take a look down the page and click around rather than hitting that X button. And design is what matters to most of us. It is a technical thing and you may have to end up paying people to do it.
What a designer will generally do is design what’s known as a template. This is the frame on which your content hangs. This includes your writing, images, video, header and the various stuff you see around the website like widgets and links. A pretty template will make a massive difference in getting people to take a second look.

Selling Stuff
I’ve never bothered with this. I’ve never even put ads on any of my blogs. Haven’t made a cent from blogging but have made loads of friends and people who are very important in my life. And that’s the trick to it. It’s about relationship and building a base. Interacting with people. Apple are interested in me because of what I’ll buy. But they try to fool me and fool a lot of other people into thinking that they really care with their massive emphasis on design and usability. It helps the bottom line and that’s why they do it.
I recently, as is my wont, took a close female friend on a shopping trip. The deal is we shop and she doesn’t know the budget. She’s not allowed look at price tags and we keep going until I say stop. Occasionally I pick up stuff along the way. We went into Zara in Mahon Point. A guy with Francois dealt with me. He was awesome plain and simple. He didn’t try to sell me crap. He told me if it didn’t suit me or if it wasn’t my size. He didn’t want to blow my bank but in the end I spent quite a bit of money there, in part, because this guy was genuine. Or fooled me into thinking he was genuine. Either way they sold me stuff and I’m inclined to go back there because of a genuine connection rather than a google connection. To quote Marx: “The key to life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake those you’ve got it made”. That be Groucho, not Karl incidentally.

What I’d recommend is playing around with your test blog a little bit. Figure out what you like and what you want. Then check out the people on this page and also here. See what they’ve done and talk to the ones you like. And if at any point in the process you get the feeling the person you’re dealing with sounds like this run a mile. Actually, punch them in the face and then run a mile:

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