Public works blogging 102
Some of us might have the impression that the purpose of a blog is to serve as dumping grounds for unverified accusations posted by anonymous, unhappy people. But if we dig a little deeper we would find the majority of blogs on the Internet are written by thoughtful, intelligent people interested in sharing knowledge and information. If you've ever considered setting up your own blog, here's some background information to get you started.
Technorati has been analyzing blogs since 2004 in an effort to identify just who is blogging, how much they blog, and all those other good things statistics can reveal. Their site has information about the evolution of blogs along with current statistics. Technorati's 2010 State of the Blogosphere found two-thirds of bloggers are male and 65% of bloggers are between the ages of 18 and 44. Bloggers are more affluent and educated than the general population, with 79% holding college degrees and 43% holding graduate degrees. And of those blogging, 81% have been doing so for two years or more. (Read more at http://technorati.com/blogging)
If you want to create a blog that can be visited by anyone online, you need to find a home for your blog on the Internet. There are basically two options explained below with the pros/cons of each:
1) Set up a blog through an online service like Wordpress or Google's Blogger
If you just want to start blogging and don't want the hassle of setting up your own website or paying someone to do it for you, then this is could be the option for you. Wordpress will take care of all the technical, back-end management of your blog for you and at no cost. They also have a handy tutorial (http://learn.wordpress.com/) showing you exactly how to create a blog on their site and start blogging. How can they do this at no cost? Occasionally Wordpress post ads on your site, and you have a limit on the storage of files posted on your blog such as photos or videos. So if you are not able to tolerate random ads popping up and you think you'll need a large amount of file storage, you might want to consider option two .
Another free and easy option that doesn't involve ads is Google's Blogger. You can sign up here and create a blog in about three minutes for free:http://www.blogger.com
2) Set up a blog on your own website
This option is better suited for people who like to have more control of their online operations or people who need unlimited storage of information. But this process involves a few more steps, more hands-on website management, and some money. First, your blog needs a home where all the files are saved. In the last option, Google and Wordpress provided that home. In this option, you get to decide where your blog will reside. What this means is you need to pick a hosting company. There are many hosting companies so choosing one can be daunting. Fortunately the people who provide the Wordpress blogging software also give advice on where you should host your blog: http://wordpress.org/hosting/. I've been hosting my Public Works Blog on Dreamhost since 2007 and agree with Wordpress that they are a great hosting site. The cost to host a site is usually about $120 per year although sometimes you can find discounts for the first year. (I can send a discount code to anyone who might be interested in this option.)
Once you choose a host provider for your blog, you will need to decide the URL or address you will use to direct people to your site. (For example, Public Works Magazine uses http://www.pwmag.com.) In order to choose an address, you need to check to make sure it is available, and if so, you need to pay an annual fee for its use. While you can secure your URL from a company other than your host provider, I have found it's easier to just have your host provider take care of this. Dreamhost has a place on their site where you can type in a URL to see if it is already taken. If you find one you can use, then you go through their payment process to secure its use for the year.
Once you secure your blog's URL and pay for your hosting, you can follow the directions on your host provider's control panel to install Wordpress software to create your blog. While there might be other blogging software options offered, I would suggest using Wordpress if this is your first blog. Your hosting company will walk you through the entire process then send you a notice once your blog is ready to go. The first time you visit your Wordpress blog, you will see a screen with a few short questions about your blog. After you fill this out, you are taken to your blog, and you can start writing articles and setting up pages. And if you are unsure about how to navigate the site or manage your blog, there are many videos on YouTube that can teach you everything you would want to know about running a Wordpress blog site. Or if you ever have any questions about setting up or managing a blog, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org