NDATL Fall Face2Face 2004: Blogging Technology – Get Your Blog On!

Weblogs, or blogs, give you the opportunity to share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas with others very easily via the web. This session will introduce you to some of the many options you have when setting up your own blog.

What Are Blogs?

The word Blog is the short name for “Weblog”. A Blog is basically an online journal that is frequently updated, often daily. Blogs are typically managed using blogging software that greatly simplifies the process of creating, updating, and managing content. In most cases, postings to blogs are almost always arranged in cronological order with the most recent additions featured most prominantly at the top of the page.

Why Should I Have My Own Blog?

Blogs are all about communication. They let you quickly and easily share your thoughts with your audience, whether it’s your friends and family, classroom, coworkers, or the whole world. Unlike a regular website, however, the technology behind most blog software allows for easy two way communication. Readers can post comments about what you write, or, if they have their own blog, can comment about it there and, through a blogging technology called Trackback, have their blog automatically notify yours about it and create an excerpt below your post. Most importantly, you don’t have to learn any HTML if you don’t want to. This lets you (or even kids) concentrate on the content rather than the technology.

Blogging Options

Self Hosted vs. Blogging Services

Two major categories of blogging options are self hosted and blogging services. Self hosted software requires that you host your blog on either your own server or on an ISP‘s server. Almost every self hosted blogging package also requires a database management system to store and manage your content. Unfortunately, EduTech is not able to offer access to databases such as MySQL, so North Dakota schools will either need to host their own or use one of the many ISP‘s available. For example, this site is hosted by Blog Hosts, an ISP specializing in hosting blogs (imagine that!) and also offers free installation of blog software, and more. Blogging services, on the other hand, are completely hosted and managed by a third party. You are provided a username and password, and you can then begin posting. It’s that easy!

Self Hosted – Pros
  • Total Control
  • Customization (if you have some technical skills)
  • Lots of plugins and extensions
  • Lots of available blogging software and ISP options
Self Hosted – Cons
  • Requires technical knowledge
  • More time installing/configuring equals less time writing content
  • Requires a database management system, such as MySQL (in most cases)
  • Possible Con – almost all blog software is written in either Perl or PHP, meaning they may work on a Windows server, but will work best on a Linux or BSD server
Blog Service – Pros
  • Extremely easy to use
  • Little to no technical knowledge required
  • Let’s you get started fast!
  • Lots of built-in features
Blog Service – Cons
  • Limited number of choices for blogging services
  • Limited customization
Commercial vs. Open Source
Commercial – Pros
  • Typically have more features sooner than open source blogs
  • Priority support from the software maker
  • Software makers often offer installation services
  • Often support multiple types of database management systems
Commercial – Cons
  • Costs $$
Open Source – Pros
  • Free
  • Since they’re open source, you are free to make changes to the source code (as long as you abide by the software’s license)
Open Source – Cons
  • Lack of good, fast support (you’re usually limited to message boards and mailing lists)
  • Install process often harder (less documentation)
  • Requires more technical knowledge
Blogger Blosxom ExpressionEngine Movable Type Pivot
Cost (Non Commercial) Free Free $149 $39.95-999.95 Free
License Commercial MIT Commercial Commercial GPL
Server Requirements Service Perl PHP, MySQL Perl, MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite PHP
# of blogs supported Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Comments Yes Plugin Yes Yes Yes
RSS Output 3rd Party Tool 0.92 Yes 2.0, RDF 2.0
Atom Output Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trackback 3rd Party Tool Plugin Yes Yes Yes
pMachine Pro Serendipity .Text TextPattern TypePad WordPress
Cost (Non Commercial) $45.00 Free Free Free $4.95-$14.95 per month Free
License Commercial BSD BSD BSD Commercial GPL
Server Requirements PHP, MySQL PHP, MySQL or PostgreSQL Windows Server, .Net Framework, SQL Server PHP, MySQL Service PHP, MySQL
# of blogs supported Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Varies with Package 1
Comments Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
RSS Output Yes 0.92, 1.0, 2.0 2.0 0.92 2.0, RDF 0.92, 2.0, RDF
Atom Output Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trackback Yes Yes No No Yes Yes

TrackBack

What is TrackBack?

Created by Six Apart, the designers of Movable Type and TypePad, TrackBack was designed to provide a method of notification between websites. It is a way for person A saying to person B, “This is something you might be interested in.” To do that, A sends a TrackBack ping to B.

Why do I care about TrackBack?

TrackBack is a method of communicating to other websites, blogs in particular. Say, for example, that you have just read a post from a coworker’s blog. You may want to weigh in on the discussion by writing a post on your blog that adds to, clarifies, or rebutts what your comworker wrote. If, in your post, you link to what your coworker wrote, a TrackBack ping can be sent to her website to notify her of what you wrote. This is a form of remote comments – instead of posting a comment directly to your coworker’s blog, you can post it on your own and have an except listed along with the other comments to the post.

A second way of using TrackBack is when you write a post on a topic that a group of people may be interested in. By sending a TrackBack ping to multiple blogs or a central server (more on that later), visitors can read all posts about that topic.

Content Syndication: RSS and Atom

Content syndication the process of reading and writing information on the web, letting you to easily keep track of more sites in less time, and to seamlessly share your words and ideas by publishing to the web. When you save your content to your blog, it will usually post it to the homepage, an individual archive page, and a computer readable format – a syndication feed- all automatically. Readers can subscribe to your content syndication feed, other sites or blogs can display your content, and more.

RSS

RSS, short for either Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary depending on who you ask, is a format of XML that allows for easy content syndication. The first version of RSS was created by Netscape in 1999, and has subsequently gone through many different versions. Today, version 1.0 and 2.0 are both in use.

Atom

In all, there are seven different versions of RSS, leading to a lot of confusion in which one to use. Atom is a recent development that was created as a univeral content syndication format to replace the different versions of RSS.

Newsreaders

FeedDemon

One of the best stand-alone newsreaders for Windows, and my personal favorite.

NetNewsWire

The best newsreader for Mac OS X. Also available in in a free “Lite” version.

NewsGator

A Microsoft Outlook plugin that allows you to subscribe to and read newsfeeds from right in Outlook. Great if you spend a lot of time working in Outlook.

Technorati and Blog Search Engines

Technorati

Technorati monitors over 4 million blogs, keeping track of who is linking to whom, and what people are talking about in a variety of categories.

RSS Search Engines

Blogging Tools

BlogRolling

BlogRolling is a free service that allows bloggers to easily add and manage their BlogRoll, the list of links to other blogs and websites often found on the left or right side of a weblog. You can even add new links using 1-click while you’re surfing.

Creative Commons License

Instead of the “All Rights Reserved” copyright that is automatically applied to all of your works, Creative Commons Licenses allow you to say “Some Rights Reserved”. Creative Commons offers a variety of licensing options that give you the ability to share your creations with others.

Flickr

Free service that lets you photoblog easily.

Google Toolbar

Besides extremely handy all-around, the Google Toolbar has a “BlogThis!” button that will send a web link of whatever you’re currently reading to your Blogger account, letting you write about it easily.

HaloScan

A free service that allows you to add TrackBack features to your blog, even if your blogging platform of choice doesn’t offer it (most notably Blogger). Also allows you to add comments to your blog or replace the commenting system currently used by your blog.

FeedBurner

Free service that lets you create and manage RSS and Atom syndication feeds. This is particularly useful for Blogger users, who only have the option of creating Atom feeds. One feature that benefits all users is the ability to get detailed statistics about your syndication feeds, including circulation, click-through, and number of hits.

Ecto

Ecto is a full featured Mac OS X desktop blogging client that supports a wide range of weblog systems and allows you to compose blog entries while you’re offline and post them later when you have internet access.

Picasa

Picasa is an excellent photo manager for Windows that is now owned by Google and is free! When used together with the [Hello BloggerBot][23] and Blogger, you have a great way of managing and editing photos and an extremely easy way of posting them to your Blogger blog.

Ping-O-Matic

Allows you to send TrackBack pings to multiple services with one click.

Textamerica

Textamerica lets you easily create a moblog – a blog where you can send pictures taken from your camera phone.

w.bloggar

A Windows based desktop blogging client that is comparable to Ecto.

Zempt

Another Windows based desktop blogging client that appears to work only with Movable Type.

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