Fake Plastic Doilies

Design. Style. Aesthetics. Three words I know nothing about.

You think my blog is bland? You should see my house. Every time Tanis comes to visit, she tries to take me fabric shopping. I'm a simple girl with simple needs. I like neutrals. I am boring. My blog is the absolute perfect representation of the person that I am....pasty white, with a little orange zest.

I think this is because my home growing up looked like a stoned clown had thrown up in it. We were the victims of circumstance. We only had that which we were given, which was an old leather pull-out sofa, an excessively large Sesame Street throw blanket, a block of burnt orange shag carpet and two player pianos.  For the record, if you're giving an impoverished family of 5 a player piano, good on ya. Music is the great equalizer. Also give them some fucking crackers.

After the jump, we're talking about the functionality of design in your blog. If you are quite happy with the design of your blog already, or if you have better things to do with your life than keep a blog, might I offer you some of the best damn* political writing I've seen to date this fine Friday? Otherwise, take your seats and get your pencils ready after the jump....



The first thing I'm going to say about designing your blog is don't. Unless you are a graphic designer, of websites, there's just too much you don't know. Trying to hack your CSS (cascading style sheets) and move this or change that can and probably will completely fubar the functionality of your template. Example: When I was on Blogspot, I decided to go with wide margins. I built myself a nifty little top-horizontal navigation bar (which, to my credit, worked lusciously)  and I expanded my margins to achieve the exact look I was going for...a wiiiiide posting area with one slim sidebar. It was beautiful. I loved it. Two full years later, I looked at it on another, newer computer, and realized my sleek little Virginia Slim sidebar that I had custom coded to do all kinds of awesome shit had been showing up in everyone's monitor smooshed into the footer of my blog. Why? Because I had no fucking clue what I was doing.

You don't have to pay through the teeth for a template. Sure, there are loads of big, expensive design companies that will charge you your left nut for a template, but there are also loads of bloggers who are looking to make an extra little income who will, and can, design you a perfectly lovely template that meets your needs and wants, and won't reflect the "design company's" trademark. Judith Shakespeare is my personal favorite...she's versatile (look at the difference between my blog and Redneck Mommy's. You'd never guess they came from the same hands), she's inexpensive, and she's a gem to work with. Temptation Designs does great work (see Blog Nosh, Maggie Dammit, Craftastrophe). Sweet Blog Designs is also very good, and will happily just design your twitter page (see We Covet and MamaPop). There are tons of other bloggers who will help you, too...ones who know enough not to totally fuck your blog up, but one's who are doing this for fun, so they aren't going to charge you much. I think Zoeyjane likes to dabble in design. I know there are more. The thing is, they're all bloggers. Using them is giving back to our community. I'm all for buying crap that I need from bloggers whenever I get the chance.

Also, and just as an aside, sometimes getting the perspective of you from someone that isn't can be a good thing. Like that bottle I used to have? I had not ONE thing to do with that. Judith came up with that all on her own, and it was the single greatest idea anyone's ever had in the history of ideas. I think we all would say without hesitation that her bottle was better than anything I could have come up with on my own.
Sometimes, people will give away templates for free. Like Erica M, who has a free Woo Themes Premium template to give away, just for you sweet readers o'mine. Just leave a comment on her post to enter. No Twitter retweet insanity or post-this-on-your-own blog crap required to enter. It's just the theme; you'll have to personalize it on your own, but a premium theme really is a great way to increase your blog's functionality and SEOity, if you're into that sort of thing.

The most important thing to remember when designing your blog is that every little element works together. Moving A changes B. Altering X affects Y. All this coding crap is like the Borg, and if you fuck with one Borg, The Collective comes calling to kick your ass. THERE IS NO ONE BORG. You have to tread lightly.

If you use Squarespace or free Wordpress, you can't screw too much up, really. There are ways, but it's unlikely that you're going to ruin your template. They're kind of rookie-proof. If you use Blogger, you stand a better chance of falling victim to the sort of sidebar debacle I found myself in for a few years, but someone will tell you, and Blogger has a lovely little reset button to start you back at square one.

Melanie had asked about uploading new templates and widening columns in Blogger, so here's the short answer. Which isn't very short:

To widen a column, you have to find out what width you have to work with. Your template's HTML is going to at least tell you how wide your blog is total and how wide your sidebars are. Then you know what you have to work with, but you have to factor in margins and padding and shit. If you have something like these (click to make'm bigger):



Then you know that you have a total of 950 px to work with, and 210 of them are currently begin used for your sidebar. Most post-area widths run around 450-550. If your HTML doesn't straight up tell you what your "body" px are, then you can adjust your sidebar px, and it will automatically adjust the rest to fit. Anything under 160 px for a sidebar is useless; just sayin. If you want a big fat sidebar, like one that will house one of those big, square ads like I have on top, you need 300px just for the ad, and a little extra for margins and padding. Mine is set to 360 px total.

To upload a new template to blogger, you just have to find the one you like and download it. Copy the code the download will spit out at you and paste it over whatever lives in the Edit HTML box in your dashboard. Voila! New template.

You can add all sorts of plugins that make your comments thread or add those oddly redundant signatures at the bottom of your posts or change your post titles from normal old fonts to typewriter print or swirly cursive, but any decent designer can build all of that into the functionality of your blog, which won't slow your page down like a plug-in will. Your blog design should reflect your personality, like your calling card for the modern age. It should reflect what you're trying to do online, whether that be highlighting your great photographs or selling wares or just rambling on and on without point for years on end. Not like I know anything about that. There are shit-tons of design options and ideas out there, and finding the right one for you takes time, a whole lot of thought and probably a little guidance.

In closing, you know, if you've skimmed this and just want it to be over: I am not a graphic designer. I am also not a licensed hairstylist or auto-mechanic. I will change my own oil on occasion and I have been know to throw some highlights in my hair from time to time, but like engine work or hair cuts or decent blow jobs, I believe that some things should just be left to professionals. If you're adding a nice little personalized header image to your blog, have at it. It you want your blog to be stylish and functional enough to make people's time in your space easy and pleasant, get professional help.

I'm pretty sure that each one of us who considers a string of code propagated through invisible wires "our space" is in need of all the professional help we can get.

*misguided political writing. But painfully well-written all the same.

Reminder (or The Point for those of you smart enough to not attempt reading my bullshit, enter for a free Premium Wordpress theme on Erica M's site, not here.)

You Down With FTP? (Yeah, You Know Me)

File. Transfer. Protocol. The three scariest words in the Blogging Language. FTP is the Freddy Krugar of your blogging dream. Speaking of which, did you see that there is a new Elm Street movie coming out? Sorry...you can tease me with all the Michael Bay you want; there ain't no way in hell I'm doing that shit to my brain.

Anyway, FTP. If you use a hosted blog platform like Blogger or Squarespace, you will never have to worry about this science-fiction double-feature. Go read something interesting {may I recommend some Polite Fiction?} and have a happy Friday. If you're a slave to the Wordpress, or other fun platforms that make you upload shit to your server just to function, please join class after the jump to learn how to survive the claw-handed, backwards clothes wearing, wiggedy-wiggedy-wiggedy wack nightmare that is FTP.....

There are two basic elements that makes your blog go zoom zoom, HTML and PHP. HTML is what makes your blog look the way it looks. Your stylesheet, those fonts and colors and shit, that's HTML. HTML is the walk-in closet of your blog. PHP is the nerve system. It's how your blog's heart beats without you telling it to. It's how you don't have to think 'kick', it just kicks.

Your history lesson for the day: Some dude in Greenland created the first PHP code for his personal home page (see, Personal Home Page? Clever boy) in 1994. He created the second one, too, and that one could talk to databases. Hence, the dynamic webpage was born. And then a couple of Israeli dudes tweeked Rasmus' code a bit, and you have PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor today.

That's the really short story.

Basically, PHP takes input from a file or stream containing text and/or PHP instructions and outputs another stream of data, which is usually HTML. And you blog goes. That's all you really need to know....it makes your blog go, until you fuck it up royally. And you WILL fuck it up royally, given the chance.

You don't really need to know how it works, because God gave us FTP clients and programmers give us handy little zipped filed containing Comment Luv plugins and complete blogging templates and twitter feeders that are all properly written. All you have to do is find the program you want to run on your blog, unzip it, and use your FTP client to upload it to your server. Voila! It works. Wordpress now even lets you search for the plugin you want, click install, and wait 5 seconds. No unzipping or uploading required.

This could take a very porny turn any second now; yes, I am aware.

The only thing you really need to know is how to login to your FTP client and access your server.

Your server is where everything your blog needs to run and be read is housed. Every post, every font color, every little last thing sits on a server. That's what you pay for....server space. It's the Public Storage of the Internet, complete with the pickled heads of cross-dressing psych patients.

But I'm digressing. We'll get to servers and storage space and decapitation of your blog another day.

If you self host, you have an FTP login. There are several different ways to access your FTP. When I was on PC, I used FileZilla. Now that I'm on Mac, I use Classic FTP. These let you find something you want to use in your blog...say, some plugin, on your computer and with one slide of a mouse, upload them to your blog's server. The file you've chosen then just runs with the rest of your blog, because they're written to, and you have some new template or function.

Or you know, you could use it to share song files between friends, without all that hairy email uploading wait time.


If I gave Vodkapundit the keys to my FTP*, he could log in, open that music folder, click Camper Van Beethoven, and slide it right into his own music folder. THAT'S how FTP works.

I tell you all of this to tell you how to use FTP when you see something like THIS:


If you see that pop up when you open your blog, you're fucked. Or, better put you've fucked something up. These Syntax and Parsing Errors seem to be as contagious as a yawn or herpes...one person gets them, everyone seems to get them.


If @Jim can break his blog, you can break your blog. And you will. Resistance is futile. What isn't futile is learning how to fix it.

What I'd done to garner the affections of the White Screen of Doom is try to insert some stupid, funny only to me, message into my blog for when your comment gets held in moderation. I've gotten that screen before, trying to add plugins or trying to customize my comment box. What I forget sometimes it that blogs are like scarves. They're knit together. Just because I find one line in my php that handles comment moderation, that doesn't mean there aren't 10 other lines of code that work with it, and if I only edit one of them, the whole thing unravels. I unraveled my blog.

And once you get the white screen of death, you can't do shit. You can't get into your dashboard, you can't see your blog, nothing. You. Are. Screwed. Even if you know *exactly* where you made your mistake, you can't undo it. You have to go into your server, by means of your FTP, and fix it there.

This is scarier than all the Freddy Kreugars combined. But you can do it.

When you see that SYNTAX ERROR glaring at you where your dearly beloved blog should be, the natural reaction is to freak the fuck out. Once you uncurl your body from the fetal position it reverts to underneath your desk, the first thing you need to do it READ.

That error message tells you everything you need to know to undo your wrongs. You just have to follow along with it's instructions. Mine told me that my problem was in:


So now, all you have to do is re-read all that stuff up there that I explained and you skimmed over, then log in to your FTP and on click each of those folders in the order it tells you. Once you get to Functions, it's going to pop out that Functions code. You then count 20 lines down and there you are, at what you need to fix.


You have to use the left-pointing arrow to download that popped-out sheet to your computer, then you change your mistake to what it should be, save it, click that right arrow and upload it back to your functions folder.

It sounds complicated, but it's not. I mean, I did it, and I'm kind of an idiot. Class dismissed. And what the hell should we cover next Friday?

*Stephen has been trying for years to get the keys to my, um, errr...FTP. Fat chance, buster.

How To Turn a Blog Comment Into A Very Long Blog Post

Two days before Valentine's Day. The moaning has hit full tilt.

Everyone hates Valentine's Day. I don't hate it; I just don't celebrate it, and I really never have. The Donor and I, I don't think, have ever once really 'celebrated' it. I mean, he'll run out on Sunday morning and buy me the obligatory Bunch of Asparagus, and I'll give him the obligatory Redacted.  But we'd do that because it's Sunday. We'd do that because we are wasted. These things work for us.

Besides, I think mothers day is way more fun.
Mother's Day, 2008.  Yum.
But a few weeks ago, my friend Earnest Girl wrote a post about Valentine's Day, and I left her a little comment, and this morning while I was asking Twitter to decide for me whether to bitch about getting kicked out of Canada 90 days before the reason we moved there in the first place, or bitch about explain Google Buzz, my other friend Deb Rox asked me to post about that old comment instead.

*ahem*

Why I Love Valentine's Day; A Tale of Love in the Time of Awkward Adolescence


Do you remember that kid in school? You know who I'm talking about...the one that always smelled bad, or the one who has some weird gastroenterological disorder that made them poop 8 times every day, or the one who's parents forced them to dress like Puritans, or the one who always wore clothes that were 4 years out of style, or the one who got free breakfast and lunch at school, and never once had a dime to their name? You remember that kid. I was that kid.


For the record, I always smelled good.


But I wore my brother's hand-me-down underwear, and the girl at church's hand me down clothes, and school breakfast and lunch were, on most days, the only food we saw, and I was being raised as a good little subservient cult member, and I was either getting the shit beat out of me mentally or physically, depending on the amount of coffee brewed on any given day, at home, or watching it happen to my brother. I had the self-esteem of your common household ant-trap. And I had, like, one friend. Maybe.


I was not a popular child.  I was the elementary school's class graduating class of 1985's whipping post. I still have nightmares about elementary school, not kidding.


Part of the thing with being raised all culty is that we didn't celebrate holidays. Any of them. Ever. So I got to spend an extra super fabulous day at home every time Christmas parties or Halloween parties or Valentine's Day parties rolled around. And I didn't really care so much. I was so thoroughly brainwashed that I pitied the fools who were damning themselves for eternity with their cotton ball Christmas trees and their Berry Berry Kix garland strings. But still, none of it helped my feeling that I was standing outside of my childhood, looking in. I could see what being a kid was, I just could never touch it. I was never a part of the world I lived in, and that is a hard way to be a kid.


My teachers were always respectful enough of my mother's my beliefs that they never made me a Jack O' Lantern for the wall, and I never had a picture on a construction paper bulb hanging on the foam core Christmas tree. They always excused me to the library with a smile and a nod when there were Evil Pagan Holiday things to be done in class. At least I had an out....Ash, the kid next to me who didn't stop farting for 4 years straight, he just had to sit there and take it over glitter glue festivities.


It could have been worse, that's all I'm saying.


Sometimes, my teachers would try. In 4th grade, my teacher bought me a Clifford the Big Red Dog book for my birthday, and held on to it for an extra week, and wrapped it in regular paper with a very birthdayish ribbon that could be easily disposed of before I got home, and told me as much. "I'm giving you this because I chose to celebrate your birthday, because I think you're neat, but your mom doesn't need to know. Tell her it's for homework," she said to me after the whole class was dismissed one day. I kept that book, hidden under a mattress, until high school.  It's the little things.


But there is a difference between some Big Sneaky Adult Authority Figure acknowledging your presence on the planet and your peer group doing it. There was one of her and 30 of them, all day, every day. Thirty of them with rocks, thirty of them with new clothes and shoes every January, thirty of them to remind me that I would never, ever belong in their tribe. They were just kids; they didn't know any better. In the days of 67.39% Tolerance, the runt of the litter took it hard, and me with my old clothes and stringy hair, and poor little Ash who always smelled like half-digested curried goat, we were the runts.


But for each of those 30 kids, there was at least one parent behind them with the legible handwriting and the purse strings. Enter Valentine's Day.


Maybe the teachers knew better, and maybe the kids knew better, but the moms and dads who bought the Valentine's sure didn't. You never really know beyond your kid in elementary school, especially in the 1980's.  So every year, I would return to school on the 15th of February and be greeted by a desk overflowing with cards. Cards that had my name scribbled on them in dried-up marker or stubby crayon, cards with a piece of gum lovingly taped to Scooby Doo's buttcrack or Jem's Truly Outrageous Star, cards with sugar coated chalk hearts attached that said U R Cool or I <3 U, cards from every single kid I ever prayed would be my friend late at night, once the world slept and I was left with own, private black isolation.


On February 15th, I belonged where I was. I was a normal kid who got normal cheap cardboard inclusion in the world. I was a kid in a class and everyone knew my name, they'd all acknowledged that I existed. I stayed late every year on the day after Valentine's; I ate every piece of candy and traced my name on every card with my fingers before I threw them all out so my mother wouldn't see, and for one lousy day in my lousy school year, I smiled.


So maybe obligatory redacted is kind of lame, and maybe blowing $2.99 on stupid cards your kids will hand out at school and promptly forget about is wasteful, but every year my kids and I sit together and we carefully write every name on every card, and the names we don't know so well get an extra heart scribbled in crayon on them, because maybe that's the kid who needs a Valentine to show up in their desk just so they can remember that they exist. And if it takes one really annoyingly Pepto-pink day on my calender to make that happen for some kid, I'll deal. And I'll smile.

Bedazzle Your Posts

This weekend is the Blissdom conference in Nashville, where hoards of women and the unsuspecting dude will meet Tanis and her sparklecorn walking cane, so in honor of that I thought we'd talk about how to bedazzle blog posts and comments. Why? Because sometimes you need flair, and sometimes you'll want to use this for COMMENTS. You can do almost anything is a blog comment, if you know how.

Now, making text change in a post isn't all that complicated. Most blogging platforms will give you the tools to do it with a click. If you already know all of this stuff, please enjoy Unhappy Hipsters and have a great weekend. If you don't, won't you join us in class after the jump?



Examples? We has them. (Click to make them bigger)

paid wp

squarespace

free wp

Typepad

blogger

(PS: To use "click to make them bigger", just upload your photo at full size but insert into your post using medium or thumbnail. Your blog will do the rest.)

For comments, you have to know how to do it.

As you can see, you get progressively less tools as you go down the payscale. But that's okay; all of those things can easily be done for free, and easily, if you just know the right html. If you click HTML, or edit HTML, or Raw HTML when you're composing your posts, you can change how your words look by wrapping the following around them.

Strike out: If I wanted to cross out asshole and say jerk, but wanted to leave asshole in there, all I do is go to the word asshole. Before it, I tell my blog I want to change the html with "<" That is always the opening command for, like, everything. Then I tell it what to do. < strike >asshole. Then tell it to stop after the asshole* by closing the command with "</" That's how you end any command, like, ever. < / strike > It'll look like this: < strike >asshole< / strike >, just take the spaces out.

And that is the basic idea for most of your edits. To make Italics, replace stirke with em. So, < em >italics< / em >; again, no spaces. Bold? < strong> Bold < / strong >

Now, to use a Blockquote, which is handy for quickly identifying a, you guessed it, quote, and your platform will automatically have some weird formatting for it, just type < blockquote > and then your quote and close it with < / blockquote >. And then you will have
a lovely Blockquote, formatted however your blog is set to do it automatically. It will typically be centered in the post and emphasized somehow, maybe with italics, maybe with a great big quotation mark, maybe just centered and spaced. (See? My blog did is automatically.)

To change Color or Size, you need a slightly different command. This time it's "span style". You open the command with < span style = " color : #(that means color number)(now pick one)(this pink is #ff00ff) then ; " > here is the word who's color you're changing < / (that's always END, remember?) span > It will look like this, just without spaces: < span style = "color: #ff00ff ; > Color < / span >.

Font size is also a style, so start the same by opening the command: < span style = " font-size : x- large ; " > Size < / span >

To link to a webpage, you have to open a command with < a href = " Write that down. You'll use it a ton. Then tell it where you want the link to go http : // heymrlady . com "> Now write the text you want linked: Hey Mr Lady {dot} com and close the tag with < / a > All together? < a href=" http : // heymrlady . com " > Hey Mr Lady {dot] com < /a >, no spaces.

If you want that neato subtext for people to read when they hover over your link, which I like to use A) to leave funny notes and B) to tell you where you're clicking before you bother to click there, you just change that slightly. You just have to tell it there is a title with < a title = " Hey Mr Lady {dot} com " href = " http://heymrlady.com " > Hey Mr Lady {dot} com < / a > See? Go on, hover over this. Hey Mr Lady {dot} com

You can also add a link that bumps people to email. Like, if you want me to email you from your comment, you can say, "Bitch, email me!" (click it, see what happens) and add the link directly to your email by putting < a href = "mailto: heymrlady @ gmail . com " > before the words email me! or whatever you choose and then closing it with another one of those lovely < / a > things.

Want to add pictures? Yes you can, to posts OR comments. ANYWHERE. It's the same basic principle. The thing is, you have to already have the picture uploaded somewhere to use it in a comment box. You cannot upload pictures to people's comments, but you CAN tell people's comment box to see your picture. All you have to do is this:

Tell it where the picture is: < a href = " http://mrlady.posterous.com/masochistic-fish-and-adorable-preschoolers " > If you right click or command click (mac) a picture, then choos "Copy Link", that's the url you want. Now you have to tell it to pull the picture into the comment with the image address, which is DIFFERENT that it's url. Right click on the picture or command click (mac) and choose "copy image address" < img src = " http : // posterous.com / getfile / files . posterous. com / mrlady / 6BmdhOsz57hJHW1rfknR6tGNm7UnFhFSIqO1fEnpOVmFEOaQCpFkh7JpjCM3 / IMG00272 - 20100204 - 2125 . jpg . scaled . 1000 . jpg " / > Then close it all with < / a >

All together? < a href = " http://mrlady.posterous.com/masochistic-fish-and-adorable-preschoolers " > < img src = " http : // posterous.com / getfile / files . posterous. com / mrlady / 6BmdhOsz57hJHW1rfknR6tGNm7UnFhFSIqO1fEnpOVmFEOaQCpFkh7JpjCM3 / IMG00272 - 20100204 - 2125 . jpg . scaled . 1000 . jpg " / > < / a > Again, no spaces.

Sites like Flickr will give you all of this already, so if your photo is on Flickr, just click "All sizes" above the photo, choose SMALL for a comment box, then copy the code it gives you, throw it into the comment box, and it WILL appear.

Genetic Brilliance
If you click that picture, it will take you to the Flickr Page you'll want to look for. Just for your own reference.

My brain hurts. Does yours? Good, my job here is done.

Your weekend homework is this: Leave a comment, linking me to your favorite post you've written this week or photo you've taken. Use at least one of the tricks (strike, color, size, etc) and in the link to your post, leave us all a sub-text hovery-thingy note. Preferably filthy in nature. If you leave a picture, ACTUALLY LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENTS. If you're at Blissdom, stop reading my blog and go socialize. But leave us a photo of the conference, k's?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go see if I can still drink at altitude. Denver, here I come....

*Always stop after the asshole. Just sayin'.

Beauty Or Beasts. Your Friday Two-Fer.

After the jump, my personal opinion on the Big Five blogging platforms is all laid out, in less than two million words. Maybe. Really, if you are happy with your platform, don't click through. Instead, go look at the most beautiful woman to ever grace this planet, and watch the damn video at the end. Bring all the Kleenez.

And now, the world's longest blog post.....



Blogspot/Blogger: Probably the most popular blogging platform. Almost everyone uses it at some point (I did for the better part of three years, happily).

Why it's great: It's great because it's easy. It's caveman easy. My four year old could probably manage a blogspot blog. All you need to know is how to type and slide boxes around a screen, so her posts would probably all just say "mom sucks", but still. Plus, Google owns it, and google pays attention to that which it owns.

With Blogger, you can com-plete-ly customize your design. You can ad shit-tons of functionality, and you don't have to mess with FTP's and plugins...you just add a widget. There are about 80 million widgets you can add to your Blogger blog with one click, to do anything from adding a picture slideshow to sharing videos to adding music to your blog. If you add music to your blog, I will hunt you down and beat you with a herring. Just sayin'. Blogger hosts its own photos, so you don't have to use Flickr or Photobucket or any similar site to prevent exceeding your allotted server space, which is a nice little touch for a free blogging platform.

And that is the best part of all...it's completely free. Which leads us to....

Why It Sucks: You get what you pay for. There is a lot you cannot do with blogger, mostly because people have some snobbish idea that it isn't professional and if you're using it, you don't need professional tools, but mostly because Google owns it and will do exactly what is good for Google, and not much more.

One major drawback is their no-follow comment system. That means that if you leave a comment on a Blogger blog, your link will not count as an incoming link to your blog, which is precisely how Google ranks websites. I think they do this to limit the amount of stats they have to calculate and ease their business a little, but it's pretty messed up. No other blogging platform does this. You can get around it as a blog owner, but you have to know enough HTML to figure out how, which totally defeats the purpose of Blogger...it's ease.

Another big issue I have with Blogger is their push to monetize your blog. This seems fine, but you have to remember that if you add the one-click ads they push you to, Google Ad Sense, you're making more money for them than you'll ever see yourself. Google wants you to monetize your blogger blog because it's good for them. It's okay for you, too; you may make toilet paper money or even shoe money if you're lucky (I've made $0.35 totally from adsense ever) but ultimately, you ARE paying them.

And all those amazingly easy widgets? They're all owned by google. You add google followers, and you're essentially adding a secondary RSS to your blog, and increasing Google's ability to go to investors and say, "Look, we're going to overtake Twitter! Give us more money." Their photos push you to Picassa, but Flickr is vastly better. Their videos bump you to YouTube, though Blip and Vimeo are highly superior. Sure, you can use all those instead, but your ease of use vanishes if you do.

I love Google, I really do. All of my emails are Gmail. I use many of their services, but I am wary of any company as hell bent on taking over the world, especially those who do so on the back of unsuspecting bloggers. Plus, you most likely will outgrow it at some point, and that leads me to Wordpress.

Wordpress.com, the free WP: Another very popular platform. I use it for my review blog and my homepage (under construction).

Why it's great: It's professional on the inside. You get every tool you need to really write a good blog, and none of the clutter you don't. Wordpress offers the same "Slide to use" widget system, but the widgets are based on what's good (Flickr, twitter, vimeo, gravatar), not what's Google (youtube, follow, picassa). Plus, Wordpress has a great stat-counter built into it, and they are great at highlighting "up and coming" blogs daily. Wordpress is exactly as easy to use at blogspot, but has a little more power behind the machine. And they really do keep up with all the latest tech. Example: There is a Wordpress iPhone app so you can easily post from your phone. I don't think ANYONE else offers that. Plus it's free to use, but still, you get what you pay for.

Why it sucks: Wordpress.com has its limits and you will not cross them. You cannot add javascript to your sidebar. Example, you can use their Flickr widget, but you cannot add a Flickr slideshow. It just won't let you do it. Also, you cannot ever, for any reason, advertise on Wordpress. If you do, they'll find out and shut you down. (Except for charities. They actually have a nice little way to take whatever revenue you'd earn and give it to charity. Props, WP.) You also cannot alter your blog in any way without paying for it. You have to pay to edit your CSS; yes, even your fonts. You get exactly 3 GB of media space (anything you upload, like photos) and not one drop more. So, if you post a lot of photos, you'll need to use Flickr or Photobucket to host them.

Basically, there are more hoops to jump through, but they're less in-bred hoops. And honestly, wordpress carries a little more credibility than blogspot. Sucks, but it's true.

Typepad::

I don't know a whole lot about Typepad. What I do know is that all of the group blogs (except Blog Nosh) that I write for use it, and it seems to really kick ass as far as group-blogging goes. It's got excellent moderation setting for the group blog moderator to use. Typepad also makes good use of SEO tools for you, like encouraging you to use pings and keywords, and spliting them up between WHERE you want what keywords for. (There is a difference between a Technorati keyword and a Google keyword) However, I personally find it confusing as all get-out and totally outdated. And you have to pay to use the service. If you're going to pay, I'd look more at Wordpress or Squarespace.

Wordpress.org, not to be confused with .com:

Wordpress.org is the self-hosted, not free wordpress. Which means exactly that; you have to self-host it. What does "self-hosted" mean? It means that I have a server (a big online bucket) where all of my information is stored (design, posts, media, all of it). Every time you open this blog, the server has to pull what you're looking out of that bucket for and send it to your computer. It puts the lotion in the bucket....And that is a service that a blogger has to pay for. It's not expensive, but it's not free, either, maybe $25 a month, depending on where you go for server space. All the other blogging platforms host your stuff for you; Wordpress makes you do it elsewhere. The actual Wordpress tools are free to use anywhere you like (the corporate blog I write is Wordpress, so is this blog, and we don't pay a dime for the platform, just our server space).

Why it's great: You can do anything to a Wordpress.org blog. Daily, new plugins are being developed. Plugins are functions you ask your blog to perform, like that Comment Luv thing or those Sociable buttons at the bottoms of posts, or stat-tracking, or database backups, or sooped up SEO tools, or sending a post to Twitter automatically on publishing. If you dream it, you can be it. Wordpress overs you a slew of pre-made basic templates that you can tweet the holy fuck out of (mine is a heavily modified version of Seashore). With Wordpress, you get a really good, solid blogging platform with the ability to make it do anything you want it to.

Why it sucks: You can do anything to a Wordpress.org blog. And you will. And you will break your blog doing it. A LOT. The biggest drawback of being able to add plugin after plugin is that plugins run off php. Php is like the synapses in your brain that tell your leg to walk. Comment php tells your brains blog to execute X, Y and Z to make your comments do what you want them to do, and so on. Your template is broken down to Header php, Footer php, sidebar php, single page php, and so on. So, every time you add a plugin, your WP brain has to work that much harder every time your blog loads anywhere. If you tell your blog to run, jump, walk, pick it's nose, eat and tweet all at the same time, it will, and it will slow your blog down. Because php takes bandwidth to execute, and bandwidth is what you pay your server for. Bandwidth is the signal that broadcasts your blog, and if you exceed your signal, your blog will shut the fuck down. Then you have to add more plugins to supercache your blog and more plugins to make supercache more effective and before you know it, you have more php code than content.

Its's a slippery slope, that's all I'm saying. If you want the good tools, and want the advanced publishing technology, and don't do well with temptation, I'd be looking as Squarespace.

SquareSpace, Blogging Evolved:

If I had my way, I'd use Squarespace for everything. I don't have my way because it's kind of hard to bang Wordpress posts into a Squarespace blog. And that's Squarespace's major drawback, or was until I just now looked and sure as hell is hot, they've upgraded. You CAN import to Squarespace from Wordpress now. Hmmm....

Why it's awesome: It's a paid service, which means you have totally creative control. It's typically cheaper than WP (at, about $18 a month, I think we pay for Kid Test Labs with multiple authors). Squarespace hosts your blog, so you don't have to worry about servers and FTP and all of that jazz you need for Wordpress, but it's arguably easier than free WP or Blogger. Why is it easier? Because Squarespace isn't so worried about bells and whistles. What it is worried about is getting you good SEO. Of all the platforms, SS is most gear towards the "professional" side of blogging, the SEO (search engine optimization) (getting your blog see best in search engines) (helping you get more than your mother in law reading your blog). It's still got that whole "slide to use" ease and a bunch of built in widgets, but it's clean. It's concise. There's nothing you don't need and everything you do. It totally kicks so much ass, you don't even know.

Why it sucks: It's stat-tracking isn't nearly as detailed as Wordpress'. I think you can add the html to use StatCounter or Woopra, but I'm not 100% sure on that. Also, it's a little complicated to start. You HAVE to read the manual when you start up on Squarespace, mostly because it's so technically designed for good publishing. It's focus isn't functioning BIGGER and BETTER, it's functioning EFFECTIVELY and WELL. Which, after a few years on Blogger, and then a few on Wordpress, you kind of have to change your mindset to get into.