On starting a blog – Part 2

A quaint little antique store.In my last two posts (Maintaining a blog and Maintaining a blog – Part 2), I commented about the amount of spam I was receiving on my blog posts. I am happy to say that the amount of spam is considerably reduced (now only about 18 spam comments per day). As I continue to review the spam comments, I notice that similar questions are being asked over and over. Not sure if these comments are really spam or not, but rather than approve them, I decided to answer a few in this post.

Q: Do I have any tips for aspiring writers on starting their blog?

A: Just get started and don’t worry about it being perfect. If a primary concern of yours is that the blog be perfect, and you feel you might mess it up for a while, you will never get it started. I’m assuming here that you already have some sort of message you want to convey, with some vague idea of the types of articles you want to write.

Q: How do you get the blog started?

A: See one of my first posts: On starting a blog. See also, the high-level procedure below.

Q: What platform am I using for my blog?

A: WordPress 3.1 (I started with an earlier version, but just upgraded yesterday).

Q: What theme am I using?

A: Magazine Basic

Procedure (here I am wearing my technical writer hat)

WordPress makes it very easy to set up a blog. Here’s a high-level overview (based on my memory of what happened 14 months ago, and even that is a bit foggy):

  1. Create a WordPress account.
  2. Choose the hosting location and create the blog.
    If you have your own web site, you can host the blog on your own web server. Or you can host it on the WordPress server.
  3. Pick a theme (the “appearance”) for the blog.
    Look for the Appearance box on the left side of your blog control panel, and click Themes. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of themes to choose from with more coming out every day. Installation of the theme is really easy… just click the Install button (or something like that).
  4. Enter some configuration settings to customize the look and feel of your blog.
    Such as… adding your own graphic banner, how many columns, what those columns look like, add a custom menu (if you want one). With my theme, configuration pages were provided so I didn’t have to go messing around in the XML code. (Incidentally, I did mess around with the XML code yesterday to delete something, and completely BROKE my blog. I had to re-install the theme, which required reconfiguring my custom settings too. Aargh!)
  5. Add widgets to your blog page.
    Widgets are those little boxes that provide user functionality on your blog. My widgets are Search, Subscribe, Links, Recent Posts, Older Posts, Categories, and Featured Image. There are hundreds of widgets available to choose from, and you find them by searching for plug-ins.
  6. Install a backup plug-in and define the schedule for automatic backups.
    You never know when your blog will get broken and you need to restore it. I configured mine to be backed up weekly. You can also initiate a backup on demand.
    NOTE: The backup plug-in backs up your blog content – your posts, galleries, comments etc. But I don’t know if it backs up your theme and customization too.
  7. Install a spam filter plug-in (Akismet).
    The spam filter catches what it thinks is spam and puts it somewhere in your control panel for you to look at and manually approve or delete. It’s great to get lots of comments on your blog posts, but only if those comments are relevant to the posts themselves. (Unless… you really do want comments about penis enlargement on your blog posts…. hmmmm?)

That’s basically it! Hope this helps all you aspiring writers …

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