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Blogging basics

Posted Wednesday, August 29, 2007, at 2:47 PM

Because some of the people who come to this site and click on our blogs are new to blogging, I thought I might take a moment to recap a few helpful hints. For most experienced bloggers, this will be old news -- but keep reading, in case there's something you can add.

If you've enjoyed reading our blogs and want to look and see what else is out there, you have several options. There are blog-related search engines like Technorati and Google Blog Search. You can also go to blog aggregators which allow you to browse blog postings. A blog aggregator is often keyed to a specific geographic area. The two best-known aggregators in Middle Tennessee are Nashville Is Talking, which is run by WKRN-TV, and Music City Bloggers, which was started in July as an alternative to NIT. Both of them, at least for the moment, have similar formats. In a narrow column on the right side of the screen, you have an automatic aggregator which includes automatic links to the most recent posts from the bloggers who have registered with the site.

Then, for a more human touch, the wider column on the left, which is written by the site's editors, highlights specially-selected blog posts, and may comment on them as well. When the menu of available posts looks daunting, it can be helpful to have a little human advice about which posts are really worth reading.

Nashville Is Talking, which used to be run by Brittney Gilbert and which can take a lot of the credit for Middle Tennessee's active blogging community, keeps promising some sort of dramatic change in format in the near future. Some bloggers worry that the change will be to completely automate the site and take the human gatekeeper out of the equation. But no one seems to know for sure.

WKRN also has a second blog aggregator, Volunteer Voters, which is limited to political blogging and which is run by A.C. Kleinheider.

There are also blog aggregators tied to specific subjects or what have you, like The MethoBlog, which highlights Methodist bloggers. But you'll have to stumble across those on your own.

If you find yourself reading a lot of different blogs, you may want to investigate using an RSS feed reader. Most blogs, including ours here at the T-G, produce something called a syndication feed. This is a simple text-only version of the blog that can be easily collected by a blog aggregator, feed reader or for other uses. If you've ever seen the little orange square, with a logo that looks like radio waves, on a web site, that's a logo indicating that the site has a syndication feed. The logo is usually linked to the feed itself, so that if you have a feed reader set up you can just click on that little orange square and automatically subscribe.

A feed reader collects these syndication feeds from the blogs that you enjoy and displays them for you in a list format, so that you can easily see which blogs have been updated and quickly read any new posts. The feed reader will keep track of which posts you've read and which ones you haven't

Some e-mail programs and browsers now have some sort of built-in RSS feed reader function. But my feed reader of choice is a web site, Google Reader. It works well and it's versatile. It can even be set up with a little "next" button on your browser's toolbar which will take you directly to the next unread blog post.

But what if you want your own blog?

We've been delighted with the number of community bloggers we've been able to introduce. We have a few more still in the pipeline (including one whom long-time T-G readers will particularly appreciate), but once they've been added we're really at about the number of blogs we can effectively manage right now. We simply don't have the technical resources or the manpower to give a blog to everyone who wants one and to effectively display all of those blogs on the T-G web site.

As I tried to explain to a would-be blogger a few weeks back, there's a difference between what we're doing here and what a free, open-to-everyone blogging service like WordPress does. We are a community newspaper that happens to include blogs, not the other way around. That's another reason that we have restrictions such as expecting people to use their real names and sign a release form prepared by our corporate offices in Missouri.

But that doesn't mean you can't have a blog of your own. Web sites like WordPress and Blogger can get you up and running, for free, in less than five minutes. (I recommend WordPress over Blogger, by the way.) Of course, the downside is that no one will know about your blog at first. You will have to get the word out. If you let me know, and if you are located here in our coverage area, I'll be happy to mention you in one of my future blog entries. You can also certainly register your blog with Nashville Is Talking, Music City Bloggers and other sites. Many private blogs have "blogrolls," which are links to other bloggers. As you meet and interact with other bloggers, you can get them to add you to their blogrolls (and vice versa), which will also help get you exposure.

For those of you who are new to the blogosphere, we hope the T-G blogs have increased your enjoyment of our site, and I hope you'll take the chance to explore even more of the blogosphere.

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Feed readers might be your best bet if you want to streamline the blogs you want to see.

Google has a good one, but there are others out there.

You just link to the ones you like and each time they update, they appear in your reader.

Good blog hunting.

-- Posted by T. Sharp on Sun, Sep 2, 2007, at 7:10 PM

Sadly, the majority of news-papers in America are now owned by larger news organizations. It is more cost-effective and allows papers, like the Gazette, to use color photos and an online news-site as well as providing daily news to the community.

However, the downside is that journalistic integrity is no longer what it used to be. In other words, reporting both sides of a story without bias is even tougher with today's news organizations. The boss' view seems to count more.

It is no slight against the Gazette or any newspaper, but it is the new American newspaper format. Times change and we all have to change with them.

Now, if you want both sides of the story, you are going to have to search for it. It's more noticiable in larger cities (Washington, New York, etc.) than it is here, but it is a change.

However, I like the online blogging and general upgrades, and I am willing to search for both sides.

-- Posted by dooshie69 on Fri, Aug 31, 2007, at 10:17 AM

Second that one!!

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 9:36 PM

We were sold to Rust Communications out of Cape Girardeau, Mo., in May 2004. We covered the sale in the paper, and I thought it was pretty much common knowledge in the community. Later, Rust bought the paper in Lewisburg as well.

What does that "explain," jaxspike? We're just as locally-oriented as we ever were -- if anything, the corporate honchos want us to do a better job of covering the community. There are always tradeoffs between local and chain ownership, and naturally there are things I miss about the old days, but Rust was responsible for everything from the Sunday paper to this web site, which would clearly not exist in this form if we were still locally-owned.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 1:38 PM

I didnt realize that the paper had a home office in Missouri. So, the paper really isnt local anymore . . . which would explain a lot.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 12:18 PM

I would like to add, that if others' search bars do not automatically delete the history, then the most popular blogs of that particular day, will still be in the search bar..especially to those who comment on an hourly basis, like myself, on some topics.

-- Posted by weezie84 on Thu, Aug 30, 2007, at 11:23 AM

No you wouldn't... haha

It's ok, it was designed for opinions. Just be sure to defend them. LOL

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 10:25 PM

man this blogging site seems to be getting a little dangerous....wouldn't want to tick anybody off.

-- Posted by slingshot on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 10:19 PM


-- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 10:18 PM

And I was just answering. I was explaining why we do what we do. I thought we were having a conversation. I did not raise my voice, I did not call anybody names, I did not accuse you, or anyone else, of "demanding" anything (where did that come from?) I was just explaining. You are the one getting emotional, not me.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 10:04 PM

I didn't demand anything and I knew you wouldn't waste any time making it any easier for the viewers to get to the hot topics...

I do like that the site now lists more blogs on the home page of the blogs than it did for the first month or two. I realize there is a list of hot topics, you know yourself that I have used that feature just as much as you have..

I wasn't really complaining, just putting a second on a previous blogger's opinion. I guess that's what you get for making a simple suggestion. DANG.

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 9:47 PM

Blogs are all about time -- about fresh new content. When you go to someone's blog -- anyone's blog -- what you see at the top of the page is not the most popular post, or the most controversial post, but the most recent post. If you get into a back-and-forth conversation in the comments for someone's blog entry, that's fantastic. But you have many different ways to keep up with that conversation yourself. You can bookmark the page for that blog entry. You can bookmark the blogger's individual home page. You can follow the comments RSS feed for that blogger.

But the design of the T-G home page is intended to focus on the newest posts -- partly because we're a news organization (remember?) and partly because that ensures that all of our community bloggers (who are, after all, volunteers) get some face time. If the front page links were based on popularity or number of comments, there are some bloggers who might never show up there in the first place -- and since no one would ever get the chance to sample those blogs, they'd never get a fair chance to catch up in a popularity contest.

I don't understand you saying that it's frustrating to find the most popular blog entries. If you go to an individual blogger's page -- my page, or Michael Bell's, or what have you -- there is a list of "hot topics" in the right hand column which includes the posts that have been most-recently commented on. Easy as pie.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 8:24 PM

I agree, the most popular blogs should have a simple link when you go to the BLOG HOME PAGE...

This site sometimes takes a little longer than most to load, and when you go to older blogs, it can get frustrating trying to find the ones that are most popular.

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 7:47 PM

The blogs page ( http://www.t-g.com/blogs ) shows the 50 most recent posts -- which seems like it ought to be plenty. If you're following a particular discussion, just go to that particular blogger's blog page, where you can see a list of the most commented-on posts. Everything you need is already there.

The design of the pages is set by our home office in Missouri, and they're gradually implementing it as a standard across the chain. I can't change it locally.

Each of our blogs also has a special RSS feed for comments. You can subscribe to a particular blog's comments feed, and you'll be kept up to date any time a new comment is posted to that blog.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 4:34 PM

Thought: I like posting to blogs that are trying to make a difference in Shelbyville as well as open venues for discussion.

However, once some blogs really start moving forward, they are no longer on the front blogging page.

Would it be possible create a most popular blog link so that we can still access the blogs with numerous entries? Just seems like some of the discussions end before they really begin.


-- Posted by dooshie69 on Wed, Aug 29, 2007, at 4:21 PM

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