educational

Blogging Right

Stephen Yagielowicz
Blogging. It's all the rage and for good reason — setting up a dynamic, syndicatable and search engine-friendly website can be done for free and literally in a matter of minutes. While some bloggers construct basic systems using modest programming skills and resources, a wide variety of open-source and commercial solutions exist — most of which are skinnable to match the look and feel of any site design — making reinvention of the wheel unnecessary. Let's take a closer look at what's involved.

There are two basic types of blogging applications: hosted services and server software, the difference between the two being that while hosted solutions tend to be free and nearly instantaneous to set up, they typically trade off power, flexibility and freedom in exchange for ease of use. Evolving terms and conditions of use requirements can also become problematic for users wanting to post adult content, resulting in a desire on the part of most adult operators to host software solutions on their own web servers.

Having said that, quite a few adult operators have made use of the Blogger service (www.blogger.com), which is owned by Google and now features the ability to make text and image posts from mobile phones and even audio posts from any phone, which are then instantly available to blog visitors as MP3 files. Comment moderation and an AdSense integration tool are also available.

While the solutions described below are skinnable, support the deployment and republishing of RSS feeds and provide basic content management tools, the choice of which one is best for you may not be as simple for some operators as for others. As for recommendations, visit each of these sites, look at the specific feature sets, demos, screen shots and sample sites to see what you like and don't like:

AutoBlogger Pro (www.autobloggerpro.com)

  • Based on WordPress, AutoBlogger Pro focuses on using RSS feeds from other websites to quickly develop a content-rich website designed to attract search engine spiders. A re-linking system dynamically takes specified keywords or phrases and automatically links them to a specified URL, which can be updated at will. Whenever an article is added or updated, AutoBlogger Pro automatically generates a new site map and submits it to Google, ensuring the most up-to-date listings at the popular search engine.

  • PRICE: $99 for single domain license, $299 for network license (up to 25 domains)

  • SERVER REQUIREMENTS: PHP 4.2 or greater, MySQL 3.23.23 or greater and the mod_rewrite Apache module.

ExpressionEngine (www.pmachine.com)

  • A high-end blogging tool, ExpressionEngine offers a modular, flexible and scalable architecture and includes an integrated photo gallery system, robust mobile capabilities and an enhanced feature set that competing products usually require the addition of plug-ins and third-party add-ons to match. Well suited as a basic CMS platform adaptable to many applications, an enhanced wiki tool, forum integration and an overall polished feel make this suite a strong contender.

  • PRICE: $249.95.

  • SERVER REQUIREMENTS: PHP 4.1 or greater with XML support, MySQL 3.23.23 or greater with grant privileges for CREATE, ALTER and DROP, plus support for GD, ImageMagick or NetPBM, in order to take advantage of the image thumbnailing feature.

Movable Type (www.movabletype.org)

  • Billed as the premier blogging and content management platform for professional bloggers and medium and small businesses, Movable Type is a powerhouse platform offering support for unlimited blogs; static or dynamic PHP publishing, allowing users to optimize their blog for fast content creation and high traffic loads; an extensible interface; customizable templates using a wide variety of unique template tags alongside standard HTML or other markup languages; flexible archiving; robust syndication tools and more.

  • PRICE: $149.95 and up.

  • SERVER REQUIREMENTS: an Apache, Microsoft IIS or Netscape web server running Linux, BSD, Mac OS X or Windows Server and either a MySQL, Berkeley DB, PostgreSQL or SQLite database.

TextPattern (www.textpattern.com)

  • Positioned as a free, flexible, elegant, easy-to-use content management system for all kinds of websites, even blogs, TextPattern offers a robust tool set, including Textile, which automatically converts rich text into valid XHTML code, and an up-to-the-minute stats system providing visitor and referrer logs. While most blogging scripts provide basic CMS functionality, TextPattern offers several unique features that could prove quite attractive for operators wanting a single-script site solution that goes beyond running a simple blog.

  • PRICE: Free.

  • SERVER REQUIREMENTS: PHP 4.3 or greater, MySQL 3.23.23 or greater.

WordPress (www.wordpress.org)

  • Considered by many to be the undisputed leader in professional, open source blogging tools, WordPress is billed as "a state-of- the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards and usability." Supported by a large and active developer and user community, WordPress offers nearly every feature that a blogger could want, with modular extensibility allowing plugins to support any non-native application the user can dream of. The documentation is thorough, well-written and comprehensive, with active user forums providing assistance to those who need it. Boasting a five-minute installation process, an intuitive interface and a large number of themes, a hosted version is available for those without their own web server.

  • PRICE: Free.

  • SERVER REQUIREMENTS: PHP 4.2 or greater, MySQL 3.23.23 or greater and the mod_rewrite Apache module.

The Right Tool?
If you're still unsure, give WordPress a try and see if it suits your needs. At best you'll have the right tool for the job; at worst, you'll better understand the technology of blogging tools and be able to more effectively search out a solution tailored for your specific needs.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when using an open source solution, you or your programmer are free to modify the code as you see fit, customizing the application to suit your operation.

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