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Ask the MACist -- Starting a Blog

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Welcome to the latest edition of Ask the MACist, the column where I answer your Macintosh, Macintosh-related and other technology questions with hopefully more clarity and insight than you could ever need. We'll get to your questions in a moment but first I just want to thank those of you who sent well-wishes to me during my bout with pneumonia last week. I'm happy to say that I'm well on the road to recovery and your messages were very much appreciated.

As always, I also want to thank those of you who sent in questions. Please, keep it up! Remember, if you ever have a question about anything Macintosh, Macintosh-related, or a question about other tech like TiVo, cell phones, Blackberry, video, digital cameras and yes, even Windows, send them to me, The MACist, at: themacist at gmail dot com. Ok, let's get to it.

Our question this week comes from Jessica in Los Angeles. She asks: "I want to start a blog. Which of the places on the net is the best place to start one?"

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That's a great question and one that I get asked often -- mostly because I have blogs in one form or another all over the internet. Currently, there are several good choices of where to put your blog. Some cost a little money and some are free. For our purposes here I will concentrate on the major places with probably the most users and the best set of features.

Plus, I'll assume from the question that Jessica doesn't want to host her own blog and is looking for more of a plug-and play deal where she can sign-up and within a few minutes, start experiencing the joy of telling everyone what she thinks, feels, hopes and dreams. So, taking that info into account, the three places I'm going to focus on are: TypePad, Blogger and WordPress.

Up until very recently, my personal blog, chris.word, was hosted at TypePad. As of yesterday, I moved it to WordPress and there it will live for the foreseeable future. I have absolutely nothing against TypePad and the folks at SixApart -- they make great software and are great people. But for my purposes, I feel WordPress will serve my needs better.

I don't need anything too complicated or extremely customizable but with enough built-in features to make it worthwhile. That, I think, is the beauty of something like WordPress. It's pretty simple, has some useful tweaks available if you want them and, best of all, its free. For more advanced users who want to have multiple blogs and authors, custom control over all aspects of the look and feel of their blog, large storage and bandwidth limits and a host of other great features, something like TypePad would be a better way to go.

TypePad is also very good about customer support and responding to any issues you might have. Although, in the several years my site was hosted on TypePad, I only recall a few minor issues and very little downtime. However, good service, few issues and uptime are really something you should expect from a pay service.

For me, I want something easy and, to be honest, I want something cheap. So, it was move over to WordPress for me. Simple and cheap are also some of the strengths of Blogger as well. Like WordPress, Blogger is also free and has many great features similar to WordPress. Plus, its owned by the folks at Google so you can probably rely on good uptime, speedy page loads, widgets and plugins and a lot of other stuff that will be provided for free to the user. And again, I really like free.

One of the things I don't like about Blogger is that you end up with the Blogger "Navbar" at the top of your blog, even if you don't want it there. I realize you're not going to get everything you want in a free service but aesthetically the "Navbar" just bothers me. The "Navbar" may not be a problem for you so go check it out for yourself and see. Plus, in the past Blogger has had some problems with uptime that seem, for now, to be fixed.

However, the uptime and availability issues were something that forced quite a few people to move away from Blogger in the past. Personally, I never experienced any downtime when I was testing Blogger but I do know these issues existed after conversations with others who were experiencing them.

Really, the best way to decide on a service you like and a home for your blog is to get accounts at all three of the major services and try them out. Both WordPress and Blogger offer free accounts for life but TypePad's account is only free for the first 30 days so be aware and don't forget to check back and cancel if you don't want to use it.

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As I have moved from TypePad to WordPress I have to say that, for me, WordPress is the best choice. It offers a free blog, some nice customizable templates for the look and feel of your blog, a well-designed and easy-to-use interface and a host of other features that make it the best choice for me, and maybe for you too.

Plus, I feel that supporting the little guy is a good thing. Now that TypePad is a big company and doing very well and Blogger is part of the Google empire, I think the people at WordPress could use some love and support. So, go out and get some test accounts, see what you like and don't like and most importantly, start writing. Who knows, if you work hard you, someday you might end up writing for us.

About Chris Ullrich: Chris is the technology editor at LAist as well as a frequent contributor to other sites like Cinematical and Comic Book Resources. He also consults with clients in entertainment and related industries about how technology can best help them exceed their goals.

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