Monday, June 20, 2005

What are free/fee ways to get started making a blog?

To blog requires blogging style software running on your local networked computer of your own or a hosted service. Long lists of web hosting services or blogware applications themselves are readily available. Some users have taken the time to provide annotated reviews of blog services and make comparison tables of blogware options but choices and features change frequently, so doing your own research is essential to having current information. Free services include free hosting services and free blog server software, in contrast to paying a fee for more features or buying blog server software.

The quick approach is to use one of the free big three blog hosting services which includes Blogger, MSNspaces and Yahoo 360. I've tried all three and find it easiest to start people using, a company recently purchased by Google. Their procedure for creating a blog is clear, simple and fast. Unless you browse the Tour and explanation links extensively, the setup and first posting takes just a few minutes. The opening web page of the site reviews the first steps:

  1. Create an account. This means working out a username and password.
  2. Name your blog. Is your name related to its content?
  3. Choose a template. This can be changed easily at some future point without starting over.

After these 3 steps, all that is left is to post a first comment. Use this link to get started and get your first comment posted.

Blogger has major competitors and detractors. Walter Mossberg's Wall Street Journal column on blog creation (2005) ranked MSN Spaces first, Yahoo 360 second (not publicly available until July 2005) and put in third. The two major factors in his ranking were control over private viewing and ease of photo management. Weighing these services for educators and adding in two other factors, I rank as first, MSN Spaces second, and Yahoo 360 third. Mossberg perhaps did not have the space to tell the rest of the story in setting up private or protected blog site viewing. From my perspective, he took a too narrow viewing of photo management for blogging. I also add in the factor of simple podcasting support, that is the potential to add audio to a blog posting, which MSNspaces and Yahoo 360 do not provide at all. Most important for beginners, blog design templates are not provided by Yahoo 360.

He notes that is the exception in not providing the possibility of private access to view a blog site. As that is a longer story, it will require its own heading for the details. The short answer is that the approach to private-view blogging provided by Microsoft and Yahoo should not be used by K-12 educators, making this factor irrelevant in the rankings. As to whether others will find the complexities of the privacy process worth negotiating, the market will decide.

He also felt that's approach to photos was a hassle. There are points to quibble with in his review: he was misleading in his observation that one cannot quickly and easily add narration to a photo; he left out mention that this is easy when editing with Blogger's editor just not provided with the application used in uploading images. What he concluded was a problem of's design for uploading photos using the Picasa photo editor, I find a powerful free application whose features are essential to effectively editing a photo before sharing it. It is rare that a photo does not need some retouching before public display.

It should also be noted that within 8 days of the Mossberg article, Blogger had provided added an icon to its editor page for putting pictures in blogs. See picture on the right.

Further, Mossberg's comments failed to discuss audio uploading and podcasting for beginners, which only Blogger provides for free and in a design of great simplicity. That said, Mossberg's review of the big three blog services will stimulate important debate about features for those getting started with blogging.


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11/24/2005 06:24:00 PM  

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