More and more people are beginning to use blogs as a medium to deliver their genealogy research, and this is definitely a trend I want to encourage. Many genealogists who create blogs are new to Web 2.0 or Read/Write web technologies. The terms Web 2.0 and Read/Write web refer to tools that allow users to contribute content to the web, including video, photographs, blogs, wikis, and more. Lots of possibilities exist, and I decided that it might be helpful to genealogists to learn more about how Web 2.0 technologies can help them get their family history online. In this post, I will discuss several blogging platforms available to genealogists.
Blogger is arguably the most popular content management system, and not just among genealogy bloggers. Registration and blog creation is very easy. You can choose from a variety of attractive templates. Blogger allows users to upload images. Blogger’s images are actually stored in Picasa Web Albums, which have 1024 MB of storage space for images. I would imagine that is standard, but if you use Blogger and have a different amount, let me know. Blogger also offers spell check and auto save features. Auto save will prevent you from completely losing a post if your computer freezes or crashes while you’re writing.
Blogger is perfect for people who want to get started quickly. With Blogger’s new editor, you no longer have to know CSS and HTML in order to alter your template easily. You can select which elements you want to appear on your blog and customize their appearance, and you can change the colors and font on your blog in a snap.
As the largest blogging platform, Blogger is the target of comment spam. Blogger allows users to moderate comments before they post. In order to post comments on most Blogger blogs I’ve seen, commenters must successfully reproduce the characters in a CAPTCHA. I am going to go on record as stating I hate CAPTCHAs. Sometimes it is very difficult to determine what the characters are, and it takes me two or more tries to enter a comment. Even worse, spam comments have become such a problem on Blogger that some Blogger users will only accept comments from people who have registered with Blogger. I will step on my soapbox long enough to say that while I certainly have no problem with comment moderation, I think it is heinous to ask users to register with a service they may not want to use in any fashion just to leave a comment on your blog. Another problem I have with Blogger’s commenting system is that it isn’t customizable to look like your blog’s template. I think Blogger is a fairly good option aside from its commenting system. Many Blogger users actually go with outside commenting services such as HaloScan. Free HaloScan commenting systems allow users to customize the appearance to match their blog, but the service does include ads.
Another feature of Blogger that you might want to be wary of is the navigation bar. This bar allows users to search your blog posts, but it also contains a feature that allows users to surf to the next blog. Just like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates, the “Next Blog” feature offers a wide variety of mysterious options. You might click through to an entertaining, enlightening blog you never would have found another way. You might click through to a spam blog or a blog with content you find inappropriate. Will all of your family members understand that this feature is a link to a random blog and not a link you created? You can disable the navigation bar, but doing so will take search capability out of your blog, which is probably something genealogy bloggers in particular want to retain.
WordPress, like Blogger, has a quick set-up that will having you blogging in minutes. WordPress has a variety of attractive templates. You can also upload images. WordPress gives users 50 MB of space for file uploads. However, if you want more space you can either purchase it or use an image upload service like Picasa, Photobucket, or Flickr. Like Blogger, WordPress has spell check and auto save features.
One of WordPress’s best features is tagging. Tagging is important for helping others find your blog. It will enable search engines like Google Blog Search and Technorati to categorize your posts and make them easier to find.
By far, WordPress’s best feature is its commenting system. Rather than opening up comments in a new window or popup window, WordPress integrates comments within posts. WordPress users can moderate comments. WordPress users can also take advantage of WordPress’s excellent comment spam killer, Akismet. Akismet works with a variety of platforms, but was developed for WordPress. It does not work with Blogger.
Other Free Players
A wide variety of other options exist for bloggers who want to write about their family history, including LiveJournal, Xanga, and MSN Spaces. If you have a favorite, feel free to write about it in the comments. Also if you have any thoughts to add about the free blog hosts mentioned, feel free to contribute.
In my next post, I will discuss options for genealogists who own their own domains and want to put content management systems on their websites, rather than use hosted blogs.