Friday, 30 January 2009

Blogging

As a kind of introductory H809 post (though most of this will probably apply to anyone who is thinking about setting up there own blog), I wanted to talk about some of the blogging tools that are out there for people to use and what sort of questions you need to ask yourself when deciding what to use. I figured the easiest way to go about this was to try and compare some of the tools available so I'm going to talk about the OU blogging tool (available as part of the VLE), Blogger and Wordpress. Note: there is also wordpress.org, where you can download a bit of blogging software and need your own domain name to host your blog, but I'm going to be discussing Wordpress.com where they host your blog for you.

Obviously, I am most familiar with blogger, but I did have a play with the OU tool and a chat with another student at in IET, Anesa Hosein, about her experience with Wordpress.com. With respect to the OU blogging tool (you can find this via the StudentHome website, under the tools section) it is convenient and easy to access in terms of the course. The other main advantage with this tool is that you are able to choose whether to keep your blog completely private, only available to OU users, or completely public. On the downside though, it seems some people have experienced spamming problems, and there is a distinct lack of features available. Of course you can post entries, edit them, add tags, access the html editor, even embed photos and videos (though I didn't have much luck trying to post a youtube video when I was playing around with it). There is also an option to post links on the side and subscribe to RSS feeds, but in comparison to what's available with other tools, the choices seem a bit limited. Also, as far as I am aware, there is no search function for looking through your own blog.

In contrast, Blogger and Wordpress offer a range of widgets that you can add, plus a large number of templates for you to customise the look and feel of your blog. So you can add things like I've got on the sidebar - blogs I'm following, an archive of posts - and anything else from a Wikipedia search bar to a dodgeball game! One of the things I like about Blogger is how I am able to access it from my google account, and also how it automatically adds the blogs I'm following to google reader. However, if you want to keep track of how many people visit your blog and various other stats, you will need to use something like Google Analytics or StatCounter and insert a piece of code to keep track of this for you. In contrast, Wordpress keeps a record of a lot of the same information for you. Additionally, it also allows you to decide which of your posts are public or private, which turned out to be a deciding factor for Anesa. Oh, and I just found out that there is a Wordpress plugin for Zotero (thanks Katherine!) if you're thinking about how to integrate referencing tools to your blog.
At the end of the day, there is no one tool that is going to work for everyone. It's going to depend on what you want to use your blog for and what features you think are best going to support this use. If anyone has any comments about their own experiences or advice for others, I'd be interested to hear them.

2 comments:

Virtually Scholastic said...

Hi Jo,

Thanks for breaking all this down. I wish I had your post to read back in January when I was figuring out all the steps involved in (and all the choices to be made about) setting up a blog for the first time!
Even though you didn't delve into the self-hosted world of wordpress.org, I just wanted to point out something that, were I to have known it from the beginning, would have saved me a couple of days of re-development. For anyone who wants to include any kind of flash content in their blog posts, it's important to know that wordpress.com doesn't support it! (They say it's for security reasons.) Wordpress.org, on the other hand, allows you to customise the features and functionality of your blog (with the help of plugins) that will allow you to publish flash easily and seamlessly. There are also plugins that allow your to integrate Google Analytics or other statistical trackers, etc. And I think that the wordpress plugin for Zotero is only relevant to wordpress.org blogs, but I could be mistaken. I write about it more here (http://www.virtuallyscholastic.com/2009/01/keeping-up-with-technology-choice-or-necessity/) but the important thing to know is that if you are at all entertaining the thought of posting messages with even the occasional snippet of flash code, you may want to consider hosting your own wordpress blog, or going for a paid service.
Katherine

Costas said...

I am using Wordpress and i am pretty happy with it. Yes you have issues with things like embedding Youtube videos. Also it has a more dull look compared to other options offered by my paid service. So presentation is something i would like to see improved.

But it does allow you to add those widgets which add a lot to content and customization of how to show this content.