Blogging, how and why

Previously, I mentioned blogging as an option for your web site. Lets assume for a moment that you have no idea what a blog is, so I can make sure that we’re all on the same page.

Wikipedia describes a blog like this:

A blog is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order.
Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of most early blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual although some focus on photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), or audio (podcasting), and are part of a wider network of social media.

You’ve probably seen a blog or two. Livejournal, for example, is a blogging community. BoingBoing is a popular blog that features interesting objects, articles, images and videos. Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: TNG fame) has a very popular blog, which is read by thousands of people every day.

So. A blog is your online journal. You can write anything you like, post as often as you like, and cover any topic that you like.

You might ask why you’d want to keep a public journal like this. There are several reasons: As a promotional tool, keeping a blog lets people find out what you are doing. It can save you the annoyance of having to send an e-mail to everyone you know each time you have a project you want to promote. Even more importantly, the blog lets people who aren’t on your email list find out about the project. Of course, as a performer or artist, you want people to find out about your work. You want people to see you perform. You can build interest, not only by talking about the project when its about to open. But also by talking about the process. You might want to talk about interesting things that happen in rehearsal, or things you come across in your research. Even when you are not promoting a project, your blog will let people follow what you are working on and planning on working on.

When you are writing the blog, you should ensure that you are writing in your voice. Don’t put on a character. Don’t try to sound cool. The blog is your journal, so it should sound like you. As well, don’t be afraid to have an opinion. By all means, talk outside of just your career and projects. Talk about politics, business, religion, thoughts you think about on the bus. Anything at all. That said (and trust me, you want to pay attention to this), don’t go slagging people. There’s a difference between talking about a difficult day at rehearsal, and slagging other actors or the director. One is completely understandable, the other will cost you friends and likely work in the future. There can be a fine line. So know when not to go into detail.

There are different ways to create your blog. You can use what’s called a hosted service like Livejournal or Blogger. These services are hosted at the service’s web site and publish and your postings are located there as well. With Blogger, it is possible to publish the blog to your site (external to blogger) or to host the blog at their ‘blogspot.com” service. If you decide to host with blogspot, your address will be something like yourname.blogspot.com. Likewise, if you use Livejournal’s free service, your address would be yourname.livejournal.com. If you pay for their service, you can point your domain name to them and have your blog be at joesmith.com.

If you bought your domain name, nad you want to get hosting for your site, look for something with MySQL and PHP and set up your own blog, using something like WordPress. For the last several years, WordPress has been the blogging application of choice for many people, for a few reasons:

  1. Its easy to use.
  2. Its reliable.
  3. Its highly configurable.
  4. Its free.

Instead of using a standard theme, there are thousands of free themes available for WordPress at themes.wordpress.net. Having so many themes available lets you find the look that’s right for you. There are also plugins that you can use to add features and functionality to your blog. I’ll go into details on using these in another post.

Another blogging application that you might choose to use is Moveable Type. Although its difficult to find on their site, there is a free version of Moveable Type, which you can find here. Though there are templates available for Moveable Type, there are far fewer than for WordPress. As well, MT doesn’t have a simple way to add plugins the way that WordPress does. However, once its installed, its relatively simple to use.

I’m not going to go into the specifics about installing these applications in this post. The installation process is well covered in the documentation for the applications and on their web sites. I may go into it in detail in a future post, however (if the need is there).

Now you know a little about Blogging. If you want to see more blogs in action, I’d recommend taking a look at these popular blogs:

www.wilwheaton.net
www.neilgaiman.com/journal/
www.boingboing.net

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