The Fine Art of Communication: BLOGS!
A few months into my tenure as a short-term journalist/global worker with Trans World Radio, my colleague and I were approached with the idea of becoming ‘global worker bloggers’ on TWR’s website (www.twr.org). We were offered almost unlimited freedom in our choice of topics, though we did have to keep in mind the ministry we were representing.
I blogged about anything and everything I experienced in my new life—the adventure of shopping for flowers, making snow angels on the way to work, the trips I took to various countries, and times spent with friends and family. While my colleague’s blogs tended toward the spiritual and emotional side of life, mine were more down-to-earth and conversational—much like our personalities. Blogs became the release for my pent-up creativity, and my favorite part of the job.
After about a year, we were told our official blogging days would soon come to an end, as the web designers were looking for global workers in a different part of the world to take on this role. My disappointment ran deep—how was I going to keep writing all of the dry, factual articles my job required without a blog to look forward to? At that moment, I realized how important this form of self-expression had become. I had fallen in love with blogging!
What exactly is a blog, you might ask? And why have I become so passionate about them?
According to Wikipedia (a free online encyclopedia with lots of helpful information, at http://en.wikipedia.org), “A blog is a website in which items are posted on a regular basis and displayed in reverse chronological order.” In other words, a blog allows you to write stuff whenever you want, and have it ‘published’ immediately on the web! Instant gratification! J
Since designing my own site, the blogs I write have become even more personal—more ‘me.’ They express who I am and what I am thinking on any given day. There are no schedules…no rules…no limitations. I represent only myself. Being an introvert who too often keeps her feelings on the inside, blogs have become my ‘public face’—a forum where I can be myself.
There are probably as many types of blogs as there are species of flowers. Political, personal, cultural, topical, business, collaborative, educational—and my favorite category: eclectic (that is such a useful adjective!). Depending on how high-tech you are, and how much you know about computers and website design, your choices range from blogs that practically build themselves to blogs that you create from scratch.
I may know my way around a computer, but web design is a bit beyond me. So, when I started looking for ways to create my own blog site, I had two criteria:
1) Must allow for some individuality and creativity; and
2) Must not be too technical or hard to design!
Several blog sites offer just this; the two most popular are Xanga.com and Blogger.com.
If you would like a more integrated space—one that offers more flexibility and the ability to connect with friends, create photo albums, and even chat—then check out MSN Spaces, Yahoo 360, or MySpace (and all of these can be found by searching for them on www.google.com).
Based solely on appearance and a quick tour, I picked Xanga for my new blog (plus I just like the word Xanga!). I signed up for this free service, and within minutes I was picking out the background colors and logo for my site. I uploaded a photo of myself, then added bits of information about me (this part is optional, of course—your site can be as anonymous as you choose). Before long, and with minimal effort on my part, this site had ‘me’ stamped all over it.
Feel free to choose any site you want, but if you would like the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how to create a blog on Xanga, here we go!
- Go on the Internet to www.xanga.com. You will see a blue box with two choices: Xanga Classic and Xanga Premium. Classic is free; Premium gives you more options, but costs something. I would go with Classic, at least until you see if you like it. So, click on ‘Xanga Classic.’
- Now you will be asked to create your own account. Choose a Username and Password, enter an email address, and copy the code you see at the bottom. Just follow the prompts—it is easy, I promise!
- Next, you can choose a name for your site (be creative) and a ‘tagline’ (this is a phrase or saying that you would like to have associated with your site). You also need to select a font for your site (my favorite is Trebuchet MS) and a template (color/style format). Then hit the ‘Next’ button.
- Now enter your profile information—you do have the option to hide all of this. The public will only see the information you want shared. You do not have to fill out this whole section; when you are finished, click ‘Next.’
- Choose a photo to use with your site. This can be a photo of you, or your cat, or your children, or your favorite vacation spot. The fun thing about blogs is that there are very few rules—have fun! Click ‘Browse’ to find a photo on your computer, and then ‘Upload.’
- After uploading your profile picture, click ‘New Entry’ or ‘Finish Wizard’ and you will be taken to the screen where you can write your first blog!
- Look around, see what options and tools you have, and enjoy making this blog as creative as possible. Under the ‘Extras’ you can also let people know what music you are listening to, what book you are reading, what movie you are watching, or what game you are playing. When your blog is ready, just hit ‘Submit.’
- There are many other ways you can edit your blog site (look on the left side under ‘Edit’), and you can always go back and edit the blog even after you submit it (see ‘Edit it’ at the end of each blog).
- At the top of the page are three options: ‘New Weblog Entry’ (click here to create a brand new blog), ‘Public Preview’ (click on this to see your site as the public will see it, then look at the top right for ‘Xanga—your username—Sign Out’ and click on your username to go back to the editing screen), and ‘Upload Photos’ (you can store a small number of photos on this site).
- When you are finished for the day, click on ‘Sign Out.’ The next time you want to sign in to your Xanga site, simply go to www.xanga.com and enter your username and password.
- For a sample site, login using the username WOTH and the password wothblog. Then you can see what I have been talking about! J Sign out when you are finished looking around.
Now, that may seem complicated to you, but a blog is one thing you really cannot mess up! Just keep trying until you get it the way you like it. And if you get frustrated—then send me a message, or ask someone who is more computer-savvy than you. Most of all, HAVE FUN! And welcome to the wonderful world of blogging.