Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Phone Blogging: Chosing a Blogging Platform (3 of 4)

So you decided to start a blog? Or have been blogging for years? Or don't even really know what a blog is, but think you might ant one? Whether you're a veteran in the blogging world or a neophyte just learning the vocabulary, you need to consider your options and decide on a platform to use going forward. Especially is you are going to blog on the go, as each platform option presents different mobile options for aspiring mobile blogger.

First, some background for new bloggers. The word "blog" came from the term "weblog", "web log", basically a log of articles published on the world wide web. The idea is that you write up an article and post it, and it is prepended (placed at the beginning of the page), so readers see the most recent first. Simple concept, it's the content of the articles, or posts, that takes skill and art.

While existing bloggers obviously already have a platform chosen, there are times the move in necessary when your needs change. And new bloggers don't have experience with any platform, making the decision difficult. Below, I will discuss several blogging platforms I have experience with and their strengths, weaknesses, and some reasons to choose one over the others for your needs.

When I first started blogging in November of 2004, I started on LiveJournal. It was a personal blog to just post my thoughts. I chose LiveJournal at the time because most of my friends across the country who blogged were using it, and it allowed me to read their posts easily. LiveJournal was one of the first blogging platforms, and is an open source platform, and also the name of the website that is the primary User of the software. There are a number of other popular sited that use the LiveJournal platform. LiveJournal is more feature rich than most other platforms, and is one of the few that has group or community blots built in for social interaction. LiveJournal also allows full customization of the look and feel of your blog. It has the best built in integration with Twitter and Facebook, allowing easy automatic sharing on each, and automatic sharing of Twitter on LiveJournal. The Twitter posts, however, give the blog a bit of a spam like feel, so I would only recommend utilizing it on a personal blog. On the actual LiveJournal website, statistics require a paid account as goes a custom URL not ending in, and there are limits that are higher with a paid account. On the downside, LiveJournal has a less professional feel, and the social aspect is designed in a way that lends better to personal than professional applications. RSS functionality is very limited. I have mostly moved away from LiveJournal even for personal blogging, because of the lack of easy import ability and issues getting formatting to work pasting blog HTML code from other blogging software.

Blogger is a platform owned by Google. It is currently the primary platform I use. Blogger does not have the social elements LiveJournal has, but is more professional in feel and allows multi-author blogs. Blogger is completely closed source and doesn't have any option to run on a separate server. Blogger is fully functional with no cost, but requires a Google account. All customization is available in to all users. Blogger integrates with Google Plus, Google Analytics, Google Adsense, and FeedBurner.

WordPress and Blogger are two of the most popular blogging platforms, but WordPress is much more popular for business blogging than Blogger. Like LiveJournal, WordPress is open source, and, unlike Blogger, WordPress can be installed on other servers. WordPress is less integratable with other services than Blogger, but the ability to install it in another website is a big plus in its favour, especially for corporate blogs. WordPress is very well written and very feature rich. It has a very professional look and feel, and excellent import ability from all the major blogging platforms. The downside with using the actual is that, like LiveJournal, a custom URL requires a paid account. Unlike LiveJournal, customization requires a paid account as well. Currently, I import several Blogger blogs into WordPress blogs each time I post, and am still testing to decide if I want to fully move over or stick with Blogger as my primary platform. The import ability makes WordPress an easy platform to migrate to or use as a mirror as I do now.

I've discussed Twitter here before. While it is a blogging platform, it is what is referred to as micro-blogging. It is limited to 140 characters per post, so it works better for quick thoughts, announcements, and sharing links, pictures, and videos than for full blogging. It is useful, as I discussed before, in getting the word out about blog posts on other platforms.

Tumblr allows full blogging, but isn't well equipped for formatting. It is much better suited to sharing pictures, videos, quotes, and links. It is probably the best platform for a photo blog, but not as good for a traditional blog with articles.

MySpace has a descent full features blog. I used to cross-post my LiveJournal posts to it, as I had friends on MySpace that weren't on LiveJournal. I moved away from it because most of my friends moved to Facebook. It is not a good platform for most professional or corporate blogs because of the MySpace integration, but works well for personal blogs and musician and band blogs, as MySpace has excellent support for both the Indy and mainstream music industry.

Microsoft Live had a decent blogging platform in the past that I cross posted to for a while, and Xanga was a decent platform at that time, but I haven't used either for years, so am unsure what they are like now. With some investigation, it appears when Microsoft acquired WordPress, Microsoft Spaces, the earlier Microsoft blog, was migrated over to the main WordPress site.  Xanga appears to be alive and kicking.  Both were good for personal blogs, but didn't have a professional or corporate feel.

Some people blog directly in Facebook and/or Google Plus. While the reach can be very good because readers can stay on one website and read stories and articles directly there, and some readers will read something that way who won't if they need to leave the site, both platforms give little to no ability to format, and don't give the freedom other sites do with online images. So you get better reach with the cost of the ability to create eye pleasing and visually professional blogs.

Of all the choices outlined above and other options available, I'd say for most people looking to start a blog or migrate to something new, Blogger and Wordpress are the front runners. But before you decide. visit all the sites and any others you come across, look the site over, and find several blogs on the website or using the platform, and decide what you think of the look and feel. On the ones you like, go ahead and create an account, you're not obligated to use it. Look around, explorer, play, experiment. Decide what platform you like the best, based on look, interface, and features. And remember, you can change your mind later if you need to.

Bethany Kennedy
IT Professional

Next: Mobile blogging discussion of applications and strategies.

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