I have been running this blog for two months now, so I thought I would pause and share my experience in setting up and running a blog so far.
Get a website
The first thing you need when setting up a blog is a website. This requires that you obtain a URL and a web host. Fortunately, I already had that. In fact, I have several URLs. Since I wanted this blog to actually be part of my commercial photographic site I had a bit of a problem: the software that I use for my commercial site will not allow me to put the blog directly on that site (at least, not yet). My solution was three-fold: 1) I used a site name that I obtained that is very close to my commercial site (LifelikePhoto.com instead of LifelikePhotos.com); 2) I added a custom page to my commercial site called ‘blog’ that redirects the viewers to this page; and 3) I have this site set up to direct people back to my commercial site via the side-link in the panel to the right.
Get your blog software
Once you have your URL and web host, then you need software. My web host provided me with that in the form of WordPress – one of the most widely used blog frameworks on the web and one that is available without charge. WordPress is a blogging framework which allows people to install a theme to use. These themes allow a wide range of formats that allow you to change font types and colors, backgrounds, page layout and much more. There is a large selection of free themes to choose from with even more available for purchase. After trying out a variety of themes, I selected the one called “Graphene”. For the most part, I have been very happy with it.
Modify your basic theme
The next step is to modify the original theme. There are again a large selection of “gadgets” and plug-ins that can be installed that provide modifications to the basic theme. I initially installed three: One to add “breadcrumbing” to the top of each page. This shows the path taken from the home page to the current page and allows you to immediately jump to any of the prior pages with a single click. The next was adding the ability to insert a poll onto the page. The third provides a “shadowbox” form of image display that darkens the screen and expands an image that is clicked upon to full size.
Once the basic site layout has been addressed, then you need content! This is the ongoing process of blogging itself. Ideally, you should provide new content every day. My goal is to be able to provide one to three blogs each week, with the idea that I would like people to find it worthwhile to visit at least once a week. I must admit that this is proving to be more difficult than I expected. Part of that is that because this is a photo blog, I would like to have appropriate photos to go with each blog (this one is a notable exception). Secondly, one of my goals is to do real-life experiments as I analyze various photographic techniques or aspects and that just takes time. So if you are considering creating your own blog, think carefully about whether you have enough to say to warrant a blog and make it worth visiting.
Alright! You’ve got a URL. You’ve got your blogging software installed. You’ve customized your site. You’ve got content! You’re done, right? WRONG! You still don’t have anyone actually viewing all this wonderful stuff you’ve put up. You still need to publicize your site. This means letting your friends, associates, and everyone and anyone you can think of, know that you’ve got a blog site. Post it on your Facebook or Google+ page. Send out emails. Hopefully, if you’ve got good content the word will spread.
I have to admit that this is the part that I haven’t really figured out yet. Partly is that I’m not exactly sure how to best do this and partly because, being a fairly new blogger, I don’t have all that much content yet. I’m hoping that by making regular high-quality posts that people will find the material useful and spread the word. Time will tell.
The final aspect (so far) that I was not prepared for was spam. Apparently there are an incredible number of jerks out there in the world who have decided that by (automatically) making useless, inane comments to blogs all over the world they will rise in the search engine ratings or otherwise drive traffic to their sites. For the first month or so, this amounted to perhaps 3-5 spams a week and I was able to handle it without much difficulty.
Then the spammers found me.
In one day I went from receiving perhaps 1 spam a day to 50-60 spams a day, and currently I am receiving about 75 per day. I had only two options to deal with this: Either I turn comments off entirely or I automate the process. Ultimately I chose to add another plug-in to my blog called Akismet. This is a service that takes each comment and runs it against their spam database, automatically moving it to the spam folder if they deem it to be spam. I find that they catch over 99% of all the spam I receive. Making a donation is optional (unless you have a commercial site), but I chose to donate $24 per year. I believe it to be the best $2 per month I ever spent.
That just about covers my blogging experience so far. It has proven to be much easier to set up than I thought, but also harder to maintain than I expected. A viable alternative would be to set up a Google+ account. This provides the basic blogging experience without all the required setup. If you are inclined to try blogging for yourself, I urge you to try out Google+ first and see how that works for you. You may find that Google+ is all you need. You may also find out that blogging isn’t your thing.