If you’ve spent any amount of time online looking at blogs, you may well have thought about setting up a blog if you haven’t already tried it (though with the increasing use of social networks online, blogs are perhaps seeing a decline at least in the number of updates – too much effort?).
Social networks such as Facebook are great for keeping up-to-speed with friend’s lives when they’re doing interesting stuff but is prone to random changes to the terms of service and having to de-tag photos, delete the ‘drunk texts’ of friends who should know better and random nastiness from people who wouldn’t say that to your face in the street… it can be a bit of a nightmare.
Twitter is useful in quickly forwarding a useful link to an interesting web article but limited to 140-odd characters, it struggles to cope with longer, readable links. Hence, the increasing use of bit.ly and other URL shortening services. A question remains, however: how do you know that shortlink is safe and doesn’t lead you to a page littered with drive-by downloads? Further, how can you reasonably debate something like the independence referendum when the facts are so much more complex than the soundbites that even the BBC struggles to conceal its anti-Scottishness?
So, I continue blogging. It’s a great tool for composing everything from a short paragraph that says ‘Hey, what do you think of this thing that I made?‘ to posting an album of photographs that you want to share more widely than your circle of friends on Facebook to giving the full credit to someone else’s considered point-of-view with pertinent extracts to invite more readers in. It should be noted that if you’re already on Twitter then you can still post to your Twitter followers using the short-link tools available on halfway decent blogging platform. With a Twitter account, why not go the next step and begin a blog?
My wife, Rose, is a fantastic artist and creates beautiful botanical illustrations but in the hectic pace of also holding down a full-time job, she finds there is no time to promote her work. She’s seen my blog and wants to know how to set up something similar, so I started a little investigation.
Twitter is text-based and who knows what new rules Facebook is going to cook-up next that will disallow or disable features on Rose’s profile, these ‘social’ media were never really contenders.
Blogger? I used to use that service but since Google handed over the identities of activists to the Chinese authorities, I switched. Though Google has now more-or-less stopped doing business in China, I haven’t gone back.
Way back when I first started thinking about blogging to promote my own art, I looked at various platforms such as TypePad, Drupal and Moveable Type but back in 2004 (or thereabouts), there was a remarkable amount of coding required to get started. Though I was reasonably confident of being able to do this (oddly, I coded my own website a couple of years before I took to blogging), I felt that there would be too much work involved to make the ‘skins’ look anything but clunky. Though these platforms have dramatically improved their user interface since then – as this page claims – and made it much easier for non-programmers to get a blog started, I have become a creature of habit…
While programmers admire a website that runs on very skinny, standards-compliant code, they are not the majority of web-users. Most people online want to look at a website that has smooth transitions and nice, rounded corners. Websites should work much like the cream sofa you just bought that when you were a teenager you promised you’d never have in your house because then you really will have turned into your parents… but as you’re sitting there in plump comfort after a day of graft of the office, you have to admit your parents had it about right. Websites should be comfy, regardless of what device you’re viewing them on.
Take a look at my Tumblog to compare with what you can see here.
As WordPress has grown and become more feature-rich, I’ve found it takes longer to get from the log-in to where I can post stuff. I don’t want QuickPress. If I wanted to QuickPress an item, I’d put it straight on Twitter. From my phone. The fully-functional ‘more than meets the eye’ dashboard has however managed to retain an intuitive, no rulebook needed feel and if you do make a mistake, it won’t delete your blog because any errors are easy to fix.
With a smartphone and not always near a computer, I’ve been trying out Tumblr. The dashboard is one page. The settings which you won’t need to tinker with once you’re up-and-running, are on a different page. Want to read someone else’s blog or just see what’s trending? Click the tab ‘Explore’ and be amazed. Being able to quickly incorporate other author’s stuff means that there is a huge amount available to look that you would never have seen through a simple Google search. (What I would not recommend for any blog platform, is trying to use the respective app on your phone – be patient and just persevere with the browser if you really have to post something from your phone).
There are perhaps more ‘skins’ on Tumblr on than are available for WordPress users who aren’t paying for the all-singing, all-dancing variety of blog. With Tumblr, you can very easily reblog another users post and as with social sites (and WordPress), you can ‘Like’ a page.
In essence, if you don’t need a feature-rich blog and just want to post interesting items like images that won’t fit into a Tweet, use Tumblr. If you want the float-like-a-butterfly, sting-like-a-bunch-of-nettles functionality of an annotated photo-album of your life’s work – and who doesn’t? – then go WordPress. This is especially true if you may want to ‘go Pro’ in the future .ie. set-up a self-hosted weblog that is easily transferable and for which you are paying for the after-burner.
Here’s another big plus – for both platforms: you can feature content from one blog platform on the other. Take a look at this page to see how.
(For those already blogging, there is a big plus in WordPress’ favour: being able to move your blog. I found it so easy to transfer my old blog from Blogger that I asked around other bloggers: it seems that moving to other rival platforms was actually a bit of a faff. It didn’t take me five minutes to move from Blogger to WordPress and there was no coding needed.)
It seems strange to say but as we’re so used to paying for premium apps on smartphones that it is worth pointing out that the big deal for both platforms – Tumblr and WordPress – is that they are both completely free to join. Both service providers update the necessary software regularly – you won’t see that bit happen and won’t notice any downtime.
As you’ve just been told it costs nothing, what are you waiting for?