Lesson #2: Finding a Blogging Platform

By | April 24, 2008

Perhaps the biggest question that affects the blogger is which platform do you choose. This article continues my series of short articles aimed at getting you started blogging (as an avid blogger, I like nothing better than to pass on the craze to the next person!)

In the first article

In the first article, we looked at how to find a suitable place for blogging. There are free hosted solutions but these entail a number of limitations, and most people share the same opinion as Michael commented in my review of his Blogger Blog, The View from Taiwan, does:

“…I face similar dilemmas with my own Blogger template, and wish now that I had used WordPress from the beginning. Blogger is just too antiquated, buggy, and sluggish to do anything …”

What’s the difference?

It’s important to choose between having your blog hosted for you (as at Blogger or WordPress.com or similar hosting companies – and there are many) and hosting it yourself on your own domain. For new bloggers, though, without much technical background, the issue boils down to:

Your own hosted domain gives you:

BUT

  • you don’t get much help to RUN your domain;
  • there’s quite a learning curve to running your own site; and
  • it costs some money.

Using a Blogger or similar hosted service gives you:

  • a well tested service;
  • fairly decent startup templates; and
  • it’s usually free

BUT

  • if you decide you like to blog, moving can be a pain;
  • some people regret the complexity of moving; and
  • you DON’T get a decent domain name, usually http://yoursubdomain.blogger.com

For this article, we are going to assume that you have chosen to host the blog on your own domain, in the main folder for your website, http://yourdomain.com or whatever.

What is a Blogging Platform?

A Blogging Platform is the actual software (or computer program) that you place (or upload) to your server via FTP. For this you will need an actual database set up as well, whichever platform you use. For many of the hosting companies, though, when you login into your panel (that website thath controls the functions of your hosting account), you’ll be able to set up your blog, e.g. WordPress, in one or two steps. I’d suggest that you choose the easiest setup yourself at the beginning.

One-Click Install on Self-Hosted Domain

Dreamhost offers one blogging option on its Easy Install and one in its Advanced Install mode: WordPress 2.5. I’m including this as an example of a one-click install.

easy install

You simply fill in the name of the Blog, the email address you will use, and the (sub)domain you want to host it on. As you will see, there are some limitations on this install, but it will give you a perfectly functional install of WordPress that you can easily update to a full-blown install. Many hosting companies, including BlueHost, Dreamhost, MediaTemple, etc. offer one-click type installs that make it easy to install a blog. You may not always get the platform of your choice, so check first before you hand over the dosh. A typical choice would be WordPress, B2, or any of a dozen other second-tier blogging platforms.

WordPress vs. Moveable Type – Tier 1

Is WordPress #1?

Perhaps this is the best known blogging platform. In fact, if you are seriously considering using this, sign up for a free blog at WordPress.com account and test out the latest blogging tools in WordPress BEFORE you even install it. Once you’re ready, just use the one-click install feature on hosting account.

It’s a pretty good platform overall, and you can be posting within minutes, if you wish, too.

wordpress

Moveable Type: Confused?

MoveableType is the next major choice for an independent platform. In fact, some of my favorite blogs are hosted using MT software, such as Scott Sommers’ blog on Taiwan. I haven’t used MT yet myself, though I am interested in trying it out for its native support of multiple blogs (it’s uploading now).

mt-image

The tools operate in a similar fashion to WordPress and it is a very worthy choice. BUT users need to note that there are free options and commercial options.

On your own host: If you wish to host MT on your own host, then you can download one of the different versions: Personal (ie. non-commercial) Edition, Commercial or Enterprise editions. The key to the different versions seems to be how many users will be editing the blogs and/or whether the primary motive is running a commercial or non-commercial site. Then, of course, there’s the OpenSource version, too.

On their hosting: Moveable Type also provides their own hosting on TypePad that you can pay for an annual basis from $4.95 per month right on upto Premium and Business Class plans.

So will it be OpenSource, MT or TypePad?

Confused? I know I am. Also the other concern is – what is non-commercial?… A popular choice – undoubtedly! A solid choice – certainly! A confusing choice?… For sure. Also, if I were setting up a blog, I’d be much more inclined to pay for their own hosting on TypePad or choose the OpenSource version for my own hosting plan.

While nothing beats free, TypePad offers an easy solution to bloggers not wanting to deal with the hassles of setting up, configuring and updating the software or the database. Of course, you’re subject to some similar restrictions as on Blogger or WordPress.com but for beginners that may be okay.

And my conclusion?…

There are a lot of second-tier blogging platforms out in the wild, but for beginners it would be wise to choose one that is first-tier to make the transition to blogging easier. There are enough problems to deal with, without worrying about technical details, too. To make it easier to choose, try this:

  1. If you have money but lack time or technological background, paying for TypePad would be a good place to start.
  2. If you have some money and some time/skill in technology, self-hosting either WordPress or MT (OpenSource) would be a good choice.
  3. If you have a little money but no skill in tech, self-hosting but going the one-click route would be appropriate for you.
  4. If you have no money and no skills, then WordPress.com would be the best as it leaves you with an upgrade path (though money making options may be restricted somewhat by the TOS – and blogs are removed for breaking TOS). Blogger would also be a choice for you without the TOS restrictions on advertising.

What did you choose…?

Let me know what you chose for your first platform, why and what problems you faced in your choice.