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[Weblogs are the hottest thing on the Net. Here's how to get yours]


People are talking.

They are talking about Enron and Microsoft, about their fantasies and thoughts, their girlfriends, the new flick in town, Britney Spears, cloning, the future of the Internet… They are talking about anything and everything… more openly, more forcefully and more passionately…

Around the world other people are listening, reacting, commenting, and doing a lot of their own talking…

This collective exchange of ideas, opinions, information, links is happening on the Net's hot, new frontier: Weblogs.

Anita Bora presents a step-by-step guide to setting up your own Weblog and doing a little of your own talking.

What is a Weblog?

There have been many attempts to define weblogs and you can read some definitions here. Weblogs are, basically, a more dynamic form of personal home pages, less personal than diaries since they are usually shared, and more evolved than messages posted to discussion lists.

Before you begin blogging, you might want to take a peek into the history of Weblogs, understand if they serve any purpose and find out what you’re in for.

Setting it all up

To begin with, you will need to find some space on the Web to park your thoughts, and a tool to help you publish them. Blogger offers both. It’s easy to use and extremely flexible. If you have your own site, and would prefer hosting your blog on it, you can use Blogger as just a publishing tool.

Live Journal and Pitas are two other popular free blogging services.

Once you have fixed on a service provider, all you need to do is visit their web site register your blogname and create an account. If you need help thinking of a creative name for your blog, it is available at Name Generator.

Clear these two steps, and you should be a proud owner of a Weblog, whose address would read something like this: yourname.blogspot.com (in the case of Blogger). Don’t worry about the design, Blogger offers you a range of readymade templates that you can choose from.

Most of these services are either volunteer-run or supported by ads. Hence, your Weblog will usually have a banner advertisement. If you don’t like the idea, you can sign up for the ad-free versions of Blogger or Live Journal. They come at a small price, but offer better functionality and customer support.

[Interface of blogger.com] There are other fee-based blog service providers. Manilasites allow users to manage high performance Weblogs through an easy-to-use browser interface. Radio is another Weblog tool and here is an FAQ on how to run your Weblog using Radio.

Greymatter is a weblogging and journal software which has comments, searching, file uploading, image handling and many other features.

Then there’s Movable Type, a web-based personal publishing system designed for easy maintenance of regularly updated sites.

An alternative to pay services would be to register with one of the free homepage services like Geocities, Tripod or Freeservers. And use Blogger or other services to publish to them.

Dressing Up Your Weblog

Let's begin with the simple things.

Add Interactivity

[Posting comments to your weblog] If you have a blog, you would naturally like to know what people think of it or their feedback to your posts. There are several free guestbook services you can use for this purpose.

If you are feeling more confident you can allow people to post comments.This involves copying a bit of Javascript and pasting it into the template of your Weblog. But the instructions are pretty simple, and you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

Who, How Many, From Where

Once your page is up and running, you will want to know how many readers are visiting your page. Free services like Site Meter, Extreme Tracking and NedStat will help you keep track of your visitors, including details like their country of origin, referral pages, and other statistics.

Some enthusiastic developers have come up with other cool distractions. For example, this referral code tracks incoming links and tells you who’s been referring you lately.

For those who want to put up pictures, Blogger has a useful tutorial on how you can add daily graphics and spice up your blog.

Blogger Tools and Resources

These are some sites that keep track of what’s happening in the blogging community and will be useful bookmarks.

Daypop 40 is a list of top 40 links being cited by bloggers. It incorporates a search and a list of top queries submitted to it. It indexes over 6500 news sites and weblogs every day.

Blogdex is a project which "focuses on the referential information provided by weblogs, or the links that people place on their sites". You can add your site to the constantly growing database, or find out which link is popular in the blogging community.

Blogging has been called ‘push button publishing’ and not without reason. With tools like BlogThis, which you can download free, you can publish directly from your browser to Blogger. Text Router is another application that can be used to post to Blogger and Manila sites.

For a list of Blogger tools, check out this page.

Read Part 2:
The Artful Blogger: Tips, tricks and tools to make you an enviable member of the blogging community

Also Read:
-- From the Trenches: Bloggers report on the WTC attack
-- Instant Journalism!: Indian bloggers tell their story
-- Weblogs: Your notebook on the Web

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