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Introduction

Introduction

The challenge of getting published by traditional media is daunting. A proposal or finished work must somehow make it through what seems like a labyrinth before it arrives in the hands of a person who has the vision and power to get it into the machine that is publishing.

Think of all the great writers and artists—maybe you’re one of them— struggling to be heard. Beyond that, there are talented people who would write more if they had a forum. There are also people who are experts in certain areas, and all that potentially valuable content stays trapped within them because they don’t have an outlet. They don’t have access to the “machine.”

Actually, they do. Blogging is the easiest way to bring yourself to the Web and make your voice heard. I began blogging simply because it was so easy. All I had to do was type in a box and click a button, and my text was published to the Web and incorporated into a community of people waiting to read it. If my words had evaporated into a void, that would have been the end of it.

But they didn’t. They were ingested, perused, and linked to. Commented on, emailed about, and repeated. All this was very exciting. It was as if I were a published author. My interest in publishing to my blog snapped to attention—I had an audience. Out of the woodwork came opinions, editorials, and thoughts on things I hadn’t realized I even had thoughts about. My blog was helping me shape my character, and I found myself publishing several times a day to a responsive audience—not a wide audience mind you, but responsive nonetheless.

Today’s Web has become fertile soil for personal publishing. Not only is it easy to get your voice out, but your voice is heard, acknowledged, and in many cases, responded to by interested, intelligent readers who have found your work most likely because they sought it out and are happy to have found it.

Blogging is the new and future platform for instant publishing, but it is not alien technology. After all is said and done, a blog is a web page. The same, but totally different. A blog is alive; it’s you—on the web. Blogs are fast, simple, and streamlined web pages that funnel your thoughts and work to the web as quickly as you can type. What makes a web page a blog is the format and the frequency of updates. It’s the proliferation of tools and services that make it so easy to create and maintain blogs that has created the phenomenon.

In this book, we’ll usually use the term blogs instead of weblogs. But keep in mind that the terms are interchangeable; they are the same. The word weblog is a contraction of web log, and the word blog somehow became more popular than weblog. So don’t be confused!

Who Should Read This Book

This book is an emergency kit for anyone disappointed with their flat, static home page, and it’s a hands-on manual for people who are already blogging. If you’re new to web building and you can barely work email, don’t despair, there are chapters in this book that will get you publishing a sporty new blog in minutes—from your mind to the web in moments: guaranteed. That’s what blogging is all about.

On the other hand, if you’re a webmaster, web designer, or you’re currently an active blogger and you’re looking for some projects to tear into, then some of the more advanced chapters are designed just for you. Open to the page that documents how to build a user-commenting system into your blog, look up how to achieve an elegant type treatment for your posts using CSS, or read up on blogs for knowledge management so that you can impress your boss at work. In short, let Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content be your guide to… well, blogging!

Overview

There are hundreds of thousands of people blogging even as we speak. Some estimates put the number at more than a million. This is up from about a dozen in 1999. So it’s safe to say there’s something to this blog thing.

With this book, I’ve created a guide to the world of blogs, starting with the newbie and steadily growing more advanced. The chapters of this book are separated into four main parts.

All the chapters in Part I, “Basic Blogging,” are intended for readers who have little or no experience with blogging. Chapter 1, “The Blog Phenomenon,” provides some background information on why blogging grew so rapidly into a phenomenon and who was behind it. Chapter 2, “Quick Start to Creating Your First Blog,” walks you through setting up a blog of your own and assumes that you know nothing (about blogging that is). Chapter 3, “Overview of the Major Blog Providers,” breaks down some of the features of the bigger players in the blogging space. I chose these providers because they have staying power and a large user base. I wrote Chapter 4, “A Blogger’s Guide to Simple HTML,” based on my own experience and the questions of friends I have introduced blogging to. This chapter gives you the “inside scoop” on how to achieve many of the tools of the trade everyone takes for granted, such as linking and displaying images. After you’ve glimpsed what you can do, you’ll want to know more; so the following chapter, Chapter 5, “Blog Design 101,” brings you up to speed and gives you inspiration for your own blog design.

All the chapters in the next part of the book, Part II, “So, You Already Know How to Blog?” are intended for more experienced bloggers. We start out with Chapter 6, “Blogging with Style,” an introduction to the art and craft of excellent presentation of text and how to achieve it on your blog. The next chapter is very American, Chapter 7, “Blogging for Dollars.” I’ll tell you how to pave your blog with gold. After the excitement of that, you’ll want to hunker down and learn about “Working with Blogger Archives,” a way to make older entries readily available—this is extensively covered in Chapter 8. The intricacies of “Group Blogging” will be revealed to you in Chapter 9, and that will flow effortlessly into Chapter 10, “Corporate Blogging,” where we’ll talk about the amazing potential of blogs as knowledge management. At which point you’ll want to add some dynamic features like the ability to search, fear not: Chapter 11, “Adding Dynamic Features,” is there for you. Next, you’ll be ready for Chapter 12, which involves finding your voice, learning the do’s and don’ts of writing on the Web, building tiny helper programs, and other tips for “Better Blogging.” And let’s not forget Chapter 13, “Increasing Traffic on Your Blog,” because after all, you will want people to read your work.

After we get into Part III, “Power Blogging,” the advanced bloggers will start having their field day. Learn how to syndicate your blog for a broader reach in Chapter 14, “Syndicating Your Blog,” group multiple blogs onto one page in Chapter 15, “Sideblogs, Email Blogging, and Blogging Alternative Interfaces,” and grow beyond just a blog and into site-wide content management in Chapter 16 “Beyond the Blog”. Then we’ll learn about building blog-related applications with XML-RPC in Chapter 17, “Building a Blog-Related Application: Bloglet,” and finish up the whole book with a bunch of blog goodies in Chapter 18, “Blog Goodies.” As you’ll see in this chapter, you can even post to your blog with AOL Instant Messenger and email. There are also ways to syndicate your blog so that the information you put into it is broadcast to an even wider audience.

But that’s not all! Appendix A, “Blog Web Links,” in Part IV, “Appendix,” is yours if you act now! The appendix is chock-full of everything that I couldn’t fit into the other chapters but is still fantastic stuff that you can’t blog without.

Take this book with you on your journey, use it to inspire you, use it when you forget how to include an image in your post, or keep it handy just for the appendix. Many of the chapters stem from questions bloggers inevitably ask. Other chapters are celebrations of blog design or simply suggestions for better blogging. In any case, let this book be your companion as you set out to dig deep into blogging. (Pay no attention to the subliminal messages I have hidden within this book.)

Conventions

Computer books often have individual solutions for presenting information. The sophisticated reader of this particular book will notice that we have developed an individual layout all our own—a certain “style,” if you will, to guide you through the realm of blogging.

One of the most important layout conventions is the way that the code is being treated. A lot of the code falls under a numbered listing, like this:

Listing .1. Example of a Code Listing

javascript:alert('You\'re%20a%20wonderful%20person%20and%20I%20know% 
20you%20will%20succeed%20at%20anything%20you%20try!');alert('I%20rea 
lly%20mean%20it.');alert('Would%20I%20tell%20you%20that%20if%20it%20 
weren\'t%20true?') 

These code listings are available for download from this book’s companion web site, which is located at http://www.blogging.biz. (You can also get to that link when you locate this book at http://www.newriders.com.)

You’ll also see that there are two different types of asides. Here are examples of both:

Example of a Genius Tip

You, too, will be able to claim you are a genius! Being a genius is fun because you’re so busy thinking that you don’t have to worry about things like clean underwear or showing up to work on time.


You’ll See These, Too

Sometimes you and I will need to have a little conversation “off the record.” That’s when these sidebars come in handy. Be sure to read the sidebars because there may be nuggets of wisdom contained there-within that transcend the ordinary. Sidebars are not Genius Tips by any stretch of the imagination, but they get the job done nevertheless.


This book also follows a few typographical conventions:

  • A new term is set in italic the first time it is introduced.

  • Program text, functions, variables, and other “computer language” are set in a fixed-pitch font—for example, <$BlogItemAuthorNickname$>.

So now you know the secret insider-code that will get you through this book without a hitch. Or do you? Surprises may lurk ahead, but one thing is for sure: You’ll be blogging like a champ before you can even put this bad boy down. Now, turn the page!

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