I receive fairly frequently questions about blogging from friends and through my site. When I was new to blogging I realized that it wasn’t easy to locate basic instructions on blogs and blogging. Most of the articles I found assumed some level of knowledge I didn’t have at the time. For this reason, I’ve decided to write "How to Blog," a series on blog basics. My objective is to give people new to blogging easy instructions and basic information on how to start their own blog.
If you want to contribute to this series, send in your questions, links to good blogging resources, or suggestions for future installments of "How to Blog."
What is a blog?
A blog is a website powered by weblog software that let people easily publish online content. The weblog software neatly organizes content in a database, creates permanent addresses for each chunk published (a blog entry or post), and dynamically publishes the updated site.
After the blog has been created, you’ll only need to log in, type your post, click a button, and presto! your blog is updated with your latest and greatest creation. This is because in a blog, the structure/appearance of the site (the way the site looks and how the pages are organized) and the content are handled independently. Once you have selected a blog template or theme, you’ll only need to think of what you want to say and the blog software takes care everything else, including keeping track of all the previously content you created.
When I say content I mean text, pictures (photoblog), audio files (podcast), movies (videoblog), and any combination of the above.
You can learn more about blogs by looking at the parts that make up a blog and a blog entry. A blog includes:
- Site header: the top part of each page, the header includes the blog title, which is usually also a link to the home page. The header usually includes a search box to retrieve older content and sometimes a navigation menu.
- Posts: posts are organized chronologically and the home page displays a certain number of the most recent ones (usually 10 to 15; the number can be customized). New posts take the place of older ones, but you can always get to old posts through navigation or search.
- Pages: special content that you want easily accessible–such as a short bio, your resume, a contact form, or a popular article you wrote some time ago–can be stored in pages. You can think of pages as more stable content of your blog. Blogs offer the option to show a complete list of your pages.
Sidebar navigation: Blogs usually have sidebars (1 or more, on the left, on the right, or on both sides) that contain various components. You can choose which components to show on your blog:
- A Calendar: Clicking a date retrieves the posts published on that date
- Recent posts and recent comments: List of links to the most recent posts and the most recent comments left on your blog.
- Monthly archives: clicking on a month/year link retrieves all the posts published on that months
- Category lists: Categories are tags that you create and assign to your posts. When the blog is published a list of Category links appear in the sidebar; clicking on a category retrieves all the posts that have been tagged with that category.
- Page list: Once you create pages, you can feature a list of links to all your pages in the blog sidebar.
- Blogroll: A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs or websites. They are your virtual cybercommunity: your blogger friends, people you admire, and blogs and sites you visit frequently.
- Other tools: the sidebar can also contain other tools, such links to RSS feeds.
A blog entry may includes:
- A title that describes what the post is about and entices your readers and the body of the post: your written content, pictures, audio files, or movies.
- Comments: Blogs are primarily a discussion tools; by allowing your readers to add comments to your post you can start conversations and make your blog a cool place to hang out.
- Post Date: Because blog entries are organized chronologically, the date of a post is an important piece of information. From the post date, your visitors can easily discern when was the last time your updated your site and how frequently you post.
- Permalink: Only your most recent posts appear on the blog home page and as links in the sidebar. However, the content of a blog is never lost. Each post has a unique and permanent address and old entries can always be retrieved. You can also choose to display only an excerpt of you post on the home page; your readers will have to visit the permalink to read the entire post.
- Categories: as mentioned above, you can assign one or more category to each post for classification purposes.
- Links: Often posts link to other blog posts or websites. Linking to other blogs is an important way to create or join conversations among bloggers and to create a community of people who share similar interests.