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Blogging basicsPosted 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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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.
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