Whichever software option you choose, most blogs will have a similar set of features. This part of the guide will tell you about the mechanics of blogging, i.e. how to blog, and some pointers on what you might like to write, i.e. what to blog.
Like many niche activities, blogging has its own terminology, which may seem off putting to those new to it. A typical blog will have some or all of the following characteristics:
Posts are the individual articles that make up the blog. They have a title and main body of text, which you produce simply by filling in a form in your blogging software and pressing a button to submit or publish the article on your blog.
Most blogging software allows readers to comment on posts. Readers can suggest corrections, clarify information or simply add their opinion on the post. Entries are normally time stamped and include the author's name and other details. Another useful feature is that they can also be threaded allowing readers to comment on comments.
A blogroll of links is another key aspect of blogs. It usually directs a reader to interesting links that relate to the theme of the blog; and link to fellow bloggers. This provides the reader with an opportunity to discover new and interesting sites. The blogroll usually appears down the side of the blog, on every page of the site and is managed using the blogging software.
Categories enable posts to be organised by subjects (or tags) and help readers to find information about a specific topic quickly and easily. Individual posts can be assigned into several categories, often just by ticking a box when writing them.
Archives are links to chronological collections of posts, enabling a reader to go back through time and see what has been posted on this blog in the past. They can be arranged by day, week or month, depending on how frequently the site is updated.
Blogging, like other forms of online communication (e.g. email) has its own set of social conventions. It's important to be aware of the following when writing or commenting on blogs:
Potentially anything you post can read by a global audience. And a post might be archived or cached and therefore impossible to remove. Think carefully about posting contentious or provocative material, it may spark a rise in readership, but it could make you unpopular online.
Perfect prose isn't necessary but you should aim for clear, simple language. Try to avoid non-standard abbreviations and too much jargon.
Avoid quoting large extracts from a source without the consent of the copyright holder. Credit original authors appropriately, include a link, sometimes called a HatTip, to other bloggers if you are discussing their views.
Don't always take online information at face value, particularly if it deals with contentious issues. Check facts against more than one authoritative source.
Mistakes are inevitable. You might discover them yourself or readers may highlight them. Correcting them adds credibility to your blog and makes it look more professional. If possible leave the original entry intact and make corrections by adding extra material. Try to avoid rewriting or deleting posts, since others may rely on them via links.
Some people may regard simply posting a link or simple statement without any relevant information as spam. Make sure your comments are meaningful and relevant. Make sure you delete any spam comments on your own blog.
Try and ensure that your readers can contact you if necessary. If you do post comments on other blogs, it's good practice to identify yourself and provide information about how you can be contacted (usually an email address). Unattributed comments might be considered as spam (see above). If you don't want a comment to be attributed to you then you should consider whether you really want to make it.