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Print this articleChoosing the best tool

Blogs owe a lot to the growth of dynamic publishing tools that greatly simplify the business of updating websites.

A tool for use with a blog must provide a user-friendly interface (easily accessible through an Web navigator) and dynamically manage its content, with such things as archives and searches.

A blog has two Internet addresses that don’t change after it’s been set up:
-  its address for public access.
-  its administrative address, protected by a password belonging to the person who runs it.

You can set up a blog by either joining a blog community or using a blog tool with your own server.

Blog Communities

(See the chapter on “How to set up and run a blog: the Civiblog system”)

Setting up a blog in an existing community usually takes just a few minutes. You pick a user-name and password and with a few clicks the blog is up and running. Some communities charge, some don’t.

This method is best if you want to set up just a “view only” blog. It doesn’t cost much (at most a few euros a month) and is straightforward and quick and you benefit from the traffic the community generates or from it being already well-known.

But snags include often limited options for layout and sophisticated features, as well as community-run ads and the risk of the community closing.

Using blog tools

These are programmes that are installed on a server, using scripts to run the site automatically and a database to store posted material. Once installed, it operates through a standard online navigator. No special expertise, such as using HTML, is needed to set up and run a blog, but installing and configuring it is sometimes tricky (setting access criteria, creating a database and arranging FTP loading).

This solution is for people already familiar with blogs and has the advantage that it entirely belongs to you and you can therefore adapt, configure and alter it whenever you want. But it does requite some technical skill, is also more exposed (to spam comments) and you have to store the contents yourself.

How to choose a blog community?

It’s not always easy to move from one blog community to another, so it’s important to make a good choice in the first place.

Before choosing one, consider these points:

  • Other blogs in a community

    Some communities group Internet users according to interests or age. Have a look at several dozen other blogs in a community to see if it has a “typical” group.

  • What the blog looks like

    Though the choice is often small, communities (platforms) usually have a fair range of colours, fonts and home-page layouts to choose from. You can get a good idea of the possibilities there too by looking at some of the community’s sites at random. Many free-of-charge communities require all blogs to carry ads on all pages. Also check options for the blog’s address, which could be http://myblog.thecommunity.com, http://www.thecommunity.com/myblog or http://www.thecommunity.com/mynumber.

  • Features on offer

    Check these to see if you’ll be able to redesign the blog, bring in other contributors, post images or sound, post things by phone or restrict access (totally or partially) to registered users. Also find out if posted material can be easily forwarded to another community and if you can insert paid ads to make money.

  • Hidden costs

    Some communities are free but have to be paid for after a certain point, especially according to the amount of data stored and the bandwidth used. Check this beforehand.

  • International platforms
    • Blogger Free. Set up in 1999, bought by Google in 2003 and the biggest one of all, with eight million blogs. Easy to use but features rather limited.
    • LiveJournal Free or paid (about $2 a month) One of the oldest platforms, with six million blogs, mostly young people.
    • MSN Spaces Free. Microsoft platform, set up in late 2004. Lots of features, some beyond the blog (photo-sharing, Messenger link). Must be aged at least 13 to register a blog.
  • French-language platforms
    • 20six Free or paid (€3-7 a month) Lots of features, some quite sophisticated and including basic version.
    • Over-Blog Free. Well-designed and easy to use.
    • Skyblog Free (with ads). The biggest platform in France, very popular with young people, though features sometimes limited.
    • TypePad Paid (€5-15 a month, according to number of features). Very professional with good range of features. A free version can be had through blog communities set up by third-parties, such as Noos or Neuf Telecom.
    • ViaBloga Free for non-profit associations, or €5 a month. Original and dynamic, with some unusual features.

Pointblog.com

pointblog.com aims to highlight the meaning and extent of this key modern Internet revolution. The site is for beginners, experienced users or just visitors and consists of a blog and several independent sections. It is run by the firm Pointblog SARL, co-founded and headed by Christophe Ginisty and Cyril Fiévet.

Contents:
Bloggers, the new heralds of free expression
What’s a blog ?
The language of blogging
Choosing the best tool
How to set up and run a blog
What ethics should bloggers have ?
Getting your blog picked up by search-engines
What really makes a blog shine ?
Personal accounts:
 - Germany
 - Bahrain
 - USA
 - Hong Kong
 - Iran
 - Nepal
How to blog anonymously
Technical ways to get around censorship
Ensuring your e-mail is truly private
Internet-censor world championship