My 12/2/07Missoulian column
Before moving to my next topic, I thought I’d write more about basic blogging, as some readers were interested in surrounding issues such as content, hosting and security.
Free blogs are available at WordPress.com, which I’m biased toward; I have several WordPress blogs of my own. Google, TypePad and LiveJournal, among others, also offer free blogs, so shop around if you like. WordPress admits it’s not one of the big dogs in the blogging world, but I like its interface and it has good online support available for beginners.
Before you start a blog, you’ll need an e-mail address to verify to finalize the setup process; it can be a free one from Yahoo that you use only for blogging.
WordPress’ blogging software and blog hosting are free (the company makes money through paid blogging support and developing anti-spam software), and it takes just five minutes to get set up – that’s it. Decide on a name for your blog, fill in your e-mail address, agree to the terms of service and you’re done.
Once you’re at myownblog.wordpress.com, click around the “Dashboard” section and see what controls and options are available. It’s handy to have two Web browser windows open: one for the dashboard and one for your blog, so you can switch back and forth and see your changes right away. For instance, you can change the design of your blog by changing your theme; go to “Presentation,” select a new template and activate it, then look at your blog in the other browser window to see the results.
Another important decision concerns blog comments. If you allow other people to respond to your writings, you might want to enable comment moderation so you can check responses – to verify if they’re real or spam – before they are public. Look at the choices under “Options/Discussion,” and when you write a post check or uncheck “Allow Comments” under “Discussion” on the “Write Post” page.
Then, write. That’s what a blog is for. Let the world know you’re around. Post photos, too, and links to other blogs. Then, make sure people know about your blog. If you start a blog in conjunction with an existing Web site, business or whatever, you might already have an audience. Just keep up with your blog in order to encourage them to come back.
If you want your own domain – www.myownblog.com, rather than myownblog.wordpress.com – you’ll need to pay $5 to $10 a month for Web hosting as well as the registration fee for the domain (such as from Godaddy.com). Hosting it yourself, you have more control over your blog, can install more bells and whistles, such as plug-ins, and pick from many more design themes and tweak them yourself.
But be ready for a few more problems if you host your own blog; things break and you’ll need to fix them, whereas with a free blog at WordPress, the company handles everything under the hood. Installing WordPress on your own hosting service is quick, and there is a lot of help available in the company’s forums. If you have a existing Web site for a business, you can sometimes easily integrate a WordPress blog into your site.
Three last tips:
If you work on your blog over free Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or at home with Wi-Fi that doesn’t require a password, your login and password are sent “in the clear” and can be picked up by someone else with a “packet sniffer.”
Concerning the content of your blog: If you plan to be on the bleeding edge of the First Amendment, check the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Bloggers’ FAQ” at www.tinyurl.com/3cld9b. It gives an overview of constitutional and statutory privileges. Parody and satire are generally protected, according to the First Amendment Center (www.tinyurl.com/42hyl).
If you want – or need – to blog anonymously, read the EFF article “How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)” at www.tinyurl.com/2oldtc. (In a later column, I’ll cover the issues surrounding ways to be anonymous on the Internet).
That’s all there is to blogging – sign up, click around and write.
Two follow-ups to past columns about languages and security: Lingro is a fascinating startup that takes a complete Web site in Spanish, French, German, Italian or Polish and makes all the words clickable, giving you a pop-up translation. Go to www.lingro.com. I can see Lingro as a great language education resource.
Last Sunday, “60 Minutes” covered the t.j.maxx security breech (an ongoing story since it was first detected in December 2006) with a segment called “High-Tech Heist: How High-Tech Thieves Stole Millions of Customer Financial Records.” Find it at www.tinyurl.com/32bp9j. I mentioned t.j.maxx in August when I explained the difference between the older and crackable WEP and the newer, stronger WPA encryption protocols. Encryption and other security problems are obviously still issues, because PC World magazine has an article titled “Retail Wi-Fi Wide Open to Hackers” on a recent survey by security company AirDefense (www.airdefense.net) that found that 85 percent of wireless access points at shopping malls were wide open to hacking, though fortunately 75 percent were encrypted: Read it at www.tinyurl.com/2qggub.