Blogging Basics for Newbies

By Marilynne Rudick on June 15, 2010

To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, there’s a blogger born every minute. In fact, so many that it seems people have stopped counting. The most popular blogs, with millions of subscribers, tend to be political (The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast) or techie (TechCrunch). But it’s very safe to say that there’s not a topic or point of view that doesn’t have a blog.

What Exactly Is a Blog?

Blog—a contraction for web log—is nothing more than a website that invites interaction. Blog publishers write posts–often commentary or opinion—that are published at their blog sites. Unlike more traditional websites, a blog encourages interactivity and community by allowing readers to easily comment on posts.

What’s the Appeal for Readers?

You can get information on anything—politics, travel, finance, philosophy. Because blogs are interactive, readers can participate in the conversation. Because bloggers post frequently, blogs are constantly invigorated by new content.

What’s the Downside?

Since anyone can start a blog, what you get is “unwashed” content. Anyone is free to express an opinion or present “facts.” So you have to be careful when evaluating the credibility of a blog. Just because it’s published doesn’t mean it’s true.

How Do You Read Blogs?

There are 3 ways to read a blog:

  1. Go directly to the site by entering the URL as you do to access any website.
  2. Subscribe via e-mail and get new posts delivered to your inbox.
  3. Subscribe via RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

When you subscribe via RSS, new blog pots are automatically sent (“fed”) to you via an RSS reader. For the most part, you don’t need any additional software to subscribe via RSS. Most web browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Safari) have RSS readers built into them. You subscribe to the blog’s feed by clicking an RSS icon at the blog site, then choosing the reader you’ll use to view them. The RSS reader checks the blog regularly and downloads any updates that it finds. When you go to your blog reader, you’ll find a list of new posts.

While using your browser’s RSS feed is easy, using a web-based browser, such as Google Reader or My Yahoo! lets you read posts from any computer, anywhere.

How Do You Find Blogs of Interest?

With millions of blogs, how do you find ones that interest you? Do a keyword search (pigeons, Sudoku, retirement) of a blog directory such as Blog Catalog. For inspiration, check out Technorati Top 100.

How Do You Start a Blog?

Free blogging software, such as WordPress and Blogger makes it easy for anyone to write and publish a blog. You can plug your text into a design template, click “publish,” and voila!  A blog is born. Blogs can be public—open to everyone. Or the blog can be private: the blog administrator must approve membership.

Learn More

  • For a simple explanation of blogging, check out Common Craft’s video Blogs in Plain English. (2 min 58 sec)
  • For the clearest explanation I’ve found of RSS and how to use it, read Problogger’s What is RSS?
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