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How to start a blog?

As mentioned, I went through a couple of weeks of erratic preparations before launching this website.  Below are a few helpful hints if you decide to go through similar experience.

1. Identify purpose

Sounds self-evident,  but this will drive the rest.  Take a moment to think why you want to do it.  There’s loads of options out there – each with its own benefits.

Personal experience: purposes stated here

2. Choose platform

You’ll need a guiding light in the ocean of opportunities.  A good start would be this Forbes article, which compares and rates eleven platforms.

Your main dilemma is to choose one of the three groups:

  • a social networking option (the likes Livejournal or MySpace)
  • a pre-arranged dedicated blogging platform (Blogger)
  • or to try it on your own through hosting your resource and using external software  (WordPress)

Think less community, more flexibility and higher cost as you go down the list.  A Livejournal will immediately hook you up with its mighty crowd of bloggers, BUT you will also be totally exposed to them.  Also, it doesn’t cost you a penny, but you can’t really change much on your page.  A WordPress, on the other hand, gives you full control and no imposed communities, unless you want them – but you need to purchase webhosting from a third party provider ($2-$10 / month) and get your head around software.  A Blogger is somewhere in the middle, although a tad closer to social networks (ease of use, no cost, little flexibility).

Personal experience: consistent with my objectives, I chose WordPress – and I have fully enjoyed it so far.  I was looking for something to give me non-standard looks, personal address, flexibility over web-components and potential to grow the blog into a full-fledged website.  I also enjoy no imposed crowds.  Costs have been negligible – Dreamhost offers promotion rate of $1.95/month if you come from WordPress.

3. Study platform and launch blog

Time and effort here depends entirely on the chosen route in step 2.  For comparison: you could probably launch a Livejournal in half an hour, a Blogger in a couple of hours (there will be a tiny bit more to learn) and a Word Press – in a couple of days or a couple of weeks – depending on how funky you want to be.

Personal experience: Hosting with Dreamhost and installation of WordPress was surprisingly quick.  Everything worked with no glitches.  Difficulties lies in choices: it took me a while to decide on the web address, as well as to choose a theme.  You could spend days and weeks on personalisation if you wanted to.  Software works flawlessly so far – nothing needs to be installed on your machine – WordPress inhabits the allocated Dreamhost space with one-click of a mouse, and takes over from then on.  You can fully control your blog through a browser and a login/password combination.  On the negative, I found WordPress manuals a little too details and structured – think they should have a shorter and punchier ’10 step guide’ to get a blog running.

4. Create

Well – that’s just what it is about.  Content!  After all, it is your posts: thoughts, ideas, opinions and discussions – that is the essence of blogging.  Everything else is – well, nuisance… So ask yourself again if you really want to get into it.

Personal experience: I don’t care about getting millions of hits and visitors (just yet!), but I’m committed to a clean and convenient interface.  I’m planning to use a simple structure with calm design, minimal graphics, clear categories and tags.  Hope to write at least three posts a week on a consistent basis.  Plan to introduce extra pages, RSS and hopefully friends’ postings in the future.  Let’s see where this goes.

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