Ready to start a blog? Ask yourself some questions first.
Tired of lurking in the shadows, reading without participating, like the Internet is just a big book? Tired of confining your rants to forums and comment sections? Do you crave attention and feedback?
These aren't the best reasons to start a blog, but they're certainly the most common. Before you jump into the murky waters of Internet publishing, you should probably ask yourself some questions.
First, do you have something to say? The best blogs are written by passionate people. Whether the subject is politics, knitting or photoshop, the key to a good blog is emotion.
I'd say the best bloggers are a little crazy. They're driven, almost obsessive about their chosen subject. The best blogs are written by people who just can't wait to get home and rant about their favorite topic. If you're writing because you have to, because you made a resolution or listened to some friend who said you should, your blog will feel like a job.
Readers can tell when you're passionate about something, and they can tell when you're not. The day your blog starts to feel like a job is the day you should give it up. Above all, blogs are supposed to be fun.
A lot of people try to start blogs when what they really want is an online journal. Maybe you don't want to rant about knitting or politics for 300 words a day, maybe you just want to talk about work or school or the movie you went to last night.
I recommend personal blogs for people who want to write but aren't sure what they should write about. Why not take a couple weeks and write whatever pops into your head? No one's judging you, no one's grading you. Just talk about your life, talk about what interests you, and over time you may find your journal leaning to a particular topic or series of topics.
Don't worry if you don't know anything about publishing or Web design.
The days of custom design and hand coding are over. Now you can sign up for a free account on one of a dozen services and be sharing your thoughts with the world in minutes.
Most of the social networking sites have a blogging component now.
MySpace and Facebook make it easy to publish and subscribe to personal journals, but if you're looking for something with a little more polish, try blogger.com or livejournal.com.
Blogger offers outstanding tools for new bloggers, and Livejournal is great for personal journals. If you're going to post about pets, knitting or Star Wars, try Blogger. If you want to write personal tidbits about your life, try Livejournal.
I recommend LiveJournal for personal writing because it lets you control who gets to read about you. If you're worried about privacy, you can make your journal friends-only, so only people you invite into your circle can read what you write.
You can even control the status of individual posts, mixing public and private writing in the same space. The authoring tools are robust and well-designed, and the friends list mechanic makes it easy to keep up with dozens of friends at once.
If you want to share your writing with the world, try Blogger. If you want to share a journal with friends, get a Livejournal account.
Both sites are easy to read and easy to use, but Blogger accounts get covered by search engines, while Livejournal accounts are a bit easier to hide.
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