After trying a dozen different blogging sites, I chose Blogger as the best.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
A blog? It's easy. Here's how, Part 1

March 11, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   Nothing shows how quickly the Internet changes things than the lowly blog.
   The first blog -- the term comes from "Web log" -- was written by Brown University student Travis Petler in 1997. Within a few months, others picked up the idea of a daily online diary, expanding Petler's idea in many directions. Now, 10 years later, Internet Web trackers say 100,000 new blogs appear every day. There are at least 65 million blogs worldwide.
   In simple terms, a blog might be nothing more than a Web page containing comments on any topic. At its fanciest, a blog could be an extensive Web site with texts, images, videos and music. What sets blogs apart from Web sites is one quality: Blogs are personal.
   When you write a Web log, you get a chance to say what you want to say -- in your own style. You can emote about anything. You can show pictures of your dog or your car. You can complain about the government or about the weather, or you can take on bigger topics, as some bloggers do, and track down breaking news stories.
   Making a blog is easy. You don't need to have your own Web site and you don't have to spend any money. To get started, all you need is an account on a free blogging site, some free time and, of course, something to say.
   After trying a dozen different blogging sites, I chose Blogger, at www.blogger.com, as the best for three reasons:
   Creating a blog is very easy. You don't need to know anything about Web design or HTM, the code behind Web pages.
   Your blog is almost guaranteed to be good looking. All you have to do is choose a template -- a pattern that Blogger uses behind the scenes -- and your blog looks good from that point on. Changing to a different look takes only a few clicks, and you won't lose any content if you switch templates.
   Blogger is owned and backed by Google. It's likely to be around for years to come, unlike blogging sites that lack Google's resources.
   Google makes its presence known as soon as you try to set up an account on Blogger. In order to create a Blogger account so you can make your first blog, you first must set up an an account on Google itself.
   You could hardly complain about this requirement, because all Google account holders get a free Gmail e-mail address, with Google's generous 2.5-gigabyte storage capacity for messages and attachments. (You read that right. You can use your Gmail account to store hundreds of files, as e-mail attachments, that you could easily access from your laptop while traveling.)
   To create a Google account, follow this procedure, which I'm describing in detail because Google's pages might look and behave differently because of various cookies the company uses:
   1. Go to the main Google site at www.google.com.
   2. Click the "More" link below the Google logo, then click "even more."
   3. Click the "Gmail" link at the right.
   4. Click "Sign up for Gmail" at the lower right. Follow the prompts to create a Gmail account.
   Once you have a confirmed Gmail account, create your blog this way:
   1. Go to www.blogger.com and click "Create Your Blog Now" (in a yellow arrow) toward the bottom of the page.
   2. In the page that opens, under "Create a Google Account," note the sentence that starts "If you already have a Google account," and click the link that says "Sign in first." In the form that opens, type your Gmail name and password.
   3. Blogger will now ask you to name your blog. Choose a catchy name and keep it short. Then type a short partial address for your blog. (Blogger will fill in the beginning and the end of the address.) Try to make the name match or approximate the title of your blog. (If your blog is "My Search for the Best Ice Cream Cone," try making the central part of the name something like "bestcone." Blogger will add "http://" to the beginning and ".blogspot.com" to the end.)
   4. Type the characters shown in the "Turing Test" section of the Blogger form. A "Turing Test" (named for computer pioneer Alan Turing) can distinguish between a human and a computer, and the test on the Blogger page keeps spammers from automatically creating multiple Blogger accounts. Click the Continue arrow.
   5. Click on one of the sample blog pages in the next form. Those are templates. Hint: The second one looks coolest, at least to me. Then click the Continue arrow.
   That's all you need to do to get started. Click the "Start Posting" arrow and type what you want into your blog. Be sure to give it a title, and check the way it looks using the "Preview" link. Add pictures with the "Add Image" icon (below the title) and put it on the Web using the "Publish" button.
   After you click the "Publish" button, click the "View Blog" link. The page that opens will have the full address of your new blog in the address line of your browser. Save that address. Your friends and family members need it to view your blog.
   Next week: How to edit your blog, and how to make sure it shows up properly in search engines.