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.