Saturday, February 26, 2005

Blogger: The Little Engine Under the Hood (Not a Book)

A little over six months ago, having a lot of time on my hands, I decided to move my reading journal online. I had become used to noting in a little black daily calender thoughts that occured to me as I read, and I wanted to explore this new phenomenon, blogging. I decided to do a blog about books.

I set out to do due diligence. I had to keep in mind the two main criteria: a blog site had to be easy to use and inexpensive. I have two Web page editors already, and a fair amount of dated knowledge about HTML, but what I really wanted was something online that was as easy to use as my little black book.

As for expense, the first thing I saw when I Googled "blogger" was Blogger: Create your Blog Now -- FREE—now, that's what I call inexpensive! At that price, I could afford to try it out, see how easy it was.

Blogger's simple sign-up procedure and "choose one" professional templates could not make the process simpler. In ten minutes, I had a blog online and my first post written. Okay, I admit I cribbed my first posts from my little black book. But the beautiful ease with which I got them online was a revelation to me. I can do this! I can blog!

Since that day, I have become more immersed in this practice than I would have thought when I began. Blogging is seductive, you see. First, I had to tweak the template a little. The folks at Bravenet supplied a hit counter and a mini-poll. I added links to my favorite sites.

Then I read Blogger-in-Chief Biz Stone's article Promoting Your Blog. From a minor self-absorbed online journal, I could actually "market" my opinions. Would anyone come? Would anyone care?

I carefully followed Biz' advice. I connected with, and set up an arrangement to allow readers who are interested in a book I review to click through to the book's page at the US Amazon store. I registered my blog with Technorati and Blogdex. I linked up with the "sinister cabal of superior bloggers on music, books, film, popular culture, technology, and politics" at BlogCritics, discovering the power of cross-posting to one or two select sites.

The best thing about being a Blogger blogspot, though, is the powerful little tool in the upper right corner. Next Blog can take you on a random walk of Blogger-hosted sites. I've used the random-walk technique to sample the amazing and amusing ways people have put the Blogger engine to use. Harish Keshwani (businessorati) is developing a business concept with his postings at BusinessWorks, Inc. PJ-Comix posts a daily humor meta-commentary on online political talk at the DUmmie FUnnies. Zack Yost documents his career-decision process in The Yost Chronicles. The Dialogos of Eide by "Plato" presents a philosophical mix of deep physics and deeper thought. I found all of these by clicking Next Blog.

There are other buttons I love, and use all the time—and not just for my own blog. Spell Check, while not as intuitive as Word's spell-checker, does ignore all the HTML code and other non-text items in my text, while letting me build a reputation as a comment poster who spells things right. That's right, I use my Blogger interface to create comments for other people's blogs and forums online. Preview shows me exactly what my post will look like, and helps me catch HTML code errors.

I also have a draft post (dated 12-2006), in which I keep blocks of code I will use again and again. Just cut-and-paste, and I can keep a consistent look and feel to my posts. Because this item is post-dated, it stays at the top of my Edit Posts page.

So tonight as I write my second post for today (that one is a real book post), I'll raise a glass of port to Blogger, the little engine that could—and showed me I could, too!


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