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Print this articleHow to set up and run a blog
The Civiblog system (www.civiblog.org)

A blog is much easier to maintain and update than a normal website. Blog platforms (or servers) have slightly different posting methods, but the principles are the same. This article aims to help users of Civiblog, a platform used by members of civil society everywhere, but the advice applies to all such servers. Civiblog uses the Blogware platform that the firm Tucows has provided free of charge.

First let’s look at some of the things that’ve made blogging so popular.

An important technical key to the “blogosphere” is RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. An RSS item is an XML (eXtensible Markup Language) file automatically generated by a blog and that another website or blog can link to. When you “syndicate” an RSS feed, it puts the headings of the posts on the blog into your news reader (in mail programmes such as Outlook or Thunderbird) or directly onto your website or personal blog. When a blog is updated, the RSS feed is too, so information spreads very quickly and automatically. Bloggers have to master this technology to efficiently pass on material.

The other technical key to blogging is “trackbacks,” which show the origin of blog material and are used by most platforms.

When a posted item is based on or taken from another blog, a trackback can be added to it to automatically notify and enable the site in question to list all the sites that have reproduced or commented on its posts. This sounds complicated but it’s really very simple and rewarding, as it’s always nice to know that someone has mentioned your own material. It’s also very useful for getting material more widely known and generating discussion between blogs.

So take the time to get familiar with this technology when you set up your own blog.

The Civiblog homepage

The RSS feed is on the right and is automatically updated whenever a community member-site posts a new message.

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The Civiblog homepage

Signing up

You have to register before you set up a blog. Most blog platforms make it very simple. Civiblog requires just basic details, but has to check that the blogs it hosts are genuine civil society groups and not just personal blogs for family or friends. It takes about 24 hours from sign-up for a blog to appear online. Access codes needed to launch the blog are e-mailed to the blogger.

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Signing up



Administration log-in

A blog has a “front end” (the page where visitors go) and a “back end,” from where it’s updated, monitored and run and which is accessed with the user-name and password you get when you sign up.

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Administration log-in



Dashboard

Most blogs have a “dashboard,” where you can see at a glance everything happening on the blog, including the latest posts, comments and trackbacks. You can access all the blog’s features from here and change how it looks, increase bandwidth, edit old posts and manage your users and their permissions, such as their right to post comments.

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Dashboard



How to post

One of the big differences between a blog and a normal webpage is that it’s easier to update a blog. Most platforms allow you to type posts in plain text without bothering about layout. With newer ones such as Civiblog, you can change fonts, sizes and colours and insert links and pictures.

You post something by:
1. Logging in.
2. Clicking on “post.”
3. Giving your post a name and typing the content in.
4. Formatting the text by using the interface.
5. Giving the post a category (so it can be grouped with similar ones) or creating a new category.
6. Clicking on “save” at the bottom of the page.

That’s all. With a bit of experience, you can start using other features such as trackbacks, pings and keywords.

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How to post



Trackbacks

It’s easy to add a trackback to your post. You just add the permanent URL of the site you’re referencing in the right-hand box marked “trackback URLs to notify” and the trackback will automatically be sent to the site when you save the post.

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Trackbacks



RSS syndication

Syndicating the RSS feed of another website or blog is also very easy:

  1. Log n to the “back end” of the blog.
  2. Click on “favourites.”
  3. Click on “RSS Headline Components.”
  4. Follow the instructions and insert the URL (ending in .xml, .rdf or sometimes .py or .php) of the RSS feed you want to syndicate.
  5. Give the feed a name and click on “add feed.”
  6. Now the feed is created, insert it into the blog’s layout.
  7. Click on “look and feel.”
  8. Click on “layout.”
  9. Click on “RSS: your feed” (“your feed” being the name you gave it in step 5) and drag the feed over to the column where you want it to appear.
  10. Click on “save” at the bottom of the page and that’s it.

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RSS syndication



Some of the many sites that explain the intricacies of blogging:

-  Civiblog Central Resources Blog
-  How to blog
-  The blogosphere
-  The Weblog Workshop
-  Blogging 101

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