set up, publish, and maintain a blog that draws readers
The blog trackers at Technorati now reckon there are 450 million blogs in existence, and new ones are being created at the rate of one per second – that’s 86,400 per day. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for people to broadcast their thoughts and observations – and it’s completely free. So where do you start? Brad Hill’s advice in Blogging for Dummies is aimed at getting you up and running as quickly as possible – though he begins with what blogs are – and what they are not.
He explains the different types of blogs, and how and why they are different from web sites. The good thing is that he looks at all the options and draws up comparison charts which show the features, cost, and options offered by the various providers and software programs. This includes popular features such as the ability to display adverts and upload photos.
First he covers MSN Spaces and Yahoo 360 – both of which combine written blogs with lots of picture uploading features. Each step of the process is illustrated with screenshots – so you can follow his instructions and have something online within a few minutes.
Next comes the ubiquitous Blogger (which I use at Mantex) where he points to two disadvantages. One is that you see their templates everywhere, and the other is that Blogger forces you to edit your template code by hand if you wish to personalise your pages.
However, Blogger lets you do so many other things that its benefits outweigh the disadvantages. You can create audio blog entries (podcasting) and send photo postings from your mobile phone (moblogging). Then he does the same thing for TypePad, another popular blog service.
Unlike the other blogging manuals I have read and reviewed he takes on the crucial issue of blogging frequency. If you want a regular readership, you have to maintain regular postings.
Then comes the more complex option of installing blogging software on your own hard disk. This gives you more control, but more technical responsibility and expense. If you go down this route you are basically controlling your own blog from your hard disk, but it’s running from your blog provider’s server. This is an option for the more ambitious or technically gifted, but he gives you plenty of support and talks you through Moveable Type, WordPress, and Radio Userland.
His latter chapters deal with what he calls ‘Total Blog Immersion’ – that is, the techniques you need if you want to take blogging seriously, as many people now do. He explains RSS feeds, which help you to syndicate your blog content; making money from your blog by including adverts; and setting up the two most popular recent spinoffs, audio-blogging and photo-blogging.
So it’s not really just for Dummies at all. He covers the whole issue of blogging – from beginners to quite advanced users. The style is friendly and chatty – though you have to put up with a few lame jokes which are part of the Dummies house style.
But the main efficacy of his approach has already been proved to me. A friend of mine who read the book and followed its advice has recently gone quite quickly from novice to blogger to someone quoted in the national press. Now that’s not bad going.
© Roy Johnson 2006
Brad Hill, Blogging for Dummies, Indianapolis: IN, Wiley, 2006, pp.367, ISBN: 0471770841