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Jim Gets a Blog

August 2004

Home pages are so yesterday. You were cool 10 years ago if you had a home page. Today blogs are where it's at.

Ahem, I now have a blog. You can find it a www.jimkarpen.com/blog. It includes news and tips related to resources on the Internet--just my sort of thing.

Why did I go to the trouble of setting up a blog, when I already had a web site that has my columns? Well, to have something to write about. No seriously, I did it because blogs have one primary feature that makes them useful: ease of updating.

How easy is it? When I want to post new information to my blog, I can simply send an e-mail message. It automatically gets added to the web page.

My blog looks like so many others: a front page with dated items. Each time you post a new item it gets added to the top and the others are pushed down. It maintains a week's worth of items on the front page and archives the older ones. The archives can be accessed by date.

And it's all free. The blog service is free, and you can have your blog hosted at Blogspot for free via Blogger, though they do put an ad at the top. I chose to have mine hosted on the server that hosts jimkarpen.com, so mine has no ad.

Blogs were originally called weblogs and got their start as a sort of online diary. Personally, I don't get it. "Today me and Chuckie went fishing and caught five trout." Who cares, right?

But the reason the blog phenomenon is so hot right now is that blogs have become vehicles for news and commentary. There was a great feature article on this phenomenon in the June 21 issue of Time magazine. The article explains that more and more people are getting their news from "amateur websites called blogs" because they're "fast, funny, and totally biased."

Not a few nobodies have become famous simply because their commentary is trenchant and entertaining. And some of these bloggers are now wielding influence in public affairs. All it took was a free and simple tool and a sharp mind. That's the beauty of the Internet.

My goal with my blog is more modest. I quickly skim a few e-mail newsletters each day, curious about the latest developments related to the Internet. Why not, I thought, pick the most useful items that come my way and post them to a blog? Maybe the same people who find my monthly column useful would find my blog to be a good resource. Or maybe not. One never knows. But the beauty is that it's so simple to maintain and update, so I'm not risking much.

The most popular means of blogging is Blogger, which you can find at www.blogger.com. Try it. It's easy and quick. Even if you just play with it a while and then abandon or delete your blog. No harm done.

You start by setting up an account on Blogger so that you have a username and password, and then you can create as many blogs as you want. Next you create your blog in two easy steps by picking a name and a template.

Then you're presented with a screen in which you type your first post. Then when you click "publish post," your new blog is automatically created and put online at blogspot.com with an address you specify such as yourname.blogspot.com. And that's it. You can have a new blog in minutes.

You can type in anything for your first post just for testing purposes because you can always go back later and edit or delete it, as well as add features to your blog or try various templates. The Blogger web site offers a "Quick Tour" to get you oriented to blogging.

Google purchased Blogger a couple years ago, and they've done a great job of making it easy to get started.

A couple well-known and influential blogs are instapundit.com and talkingpointsmemo.com. According to Time magazine, the offbeat fark.com has 5 million readers a month.

Blogs are also popular because of the optional Comments feature. This lets people who come to your site comment on each item that you post. These discussion postings appear in a different area of your site and often create a sense of community.

You can set up your blog so that certain other people are also authorized to post.

So create your blog, and then let me know about it: jkarpen@lisco.com. I'll mention some of them in a future column.

© 2004 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

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