When I was five years old and started school I felt completely lost. All the other children seemed confident, knew each other, and knew what games to play. To this day I remember that feeling: what I would later come to recognise all too well as not being the cool kid.
If you’re new to the world of online social networking, to the world beyond email, it can feel a lot like you’re not the cool kid. So if you’re new to blogs, read this: it will help you.
What is a blog?
A blog is a series of articles written by ordinary (and sometimes extraordinary) people, and published on the internet.
Some blogs are simply online diaries, some concentrate on particular topics. Some aim to teach, some to amuse, some to raise awareness of political and other issues. Many concentrate on a particular hobby or interest.
Typically, a blog contains words and pictures; often it will have music, video and the spoken word (podcasting) as well.
What’s a blog post?
A post is simply one article on a blog. So I might write something on a topic and publish it. I would then be said to have published a post, or “posted”, on the topic. Posts can be any length: a couple of lines sharing something interesting, or an essay-length article.
How do I keep up to date with your blog?
Presumably you’ve got better things to do with your life than keep clicking over to see if I’ve written something new!
There are two main ways to stay up to date with new content.
1. Subscribe by RSS
You can use something called a feed reader to subscribe to all the blogs you’re interested in, then just check that one place. At a glance, you’ll be able to see which blogs have new content.
This is possible because most blogs publish an RSS feed – a bit like a homing device – that tells the software when a new post has been published. Feed readers are free, you just have to register. Google Reader is one of the most popular.
To add Pilgrim’s Moon to your feed reader, click the little orange stripy button. Then choose your reader (you’ll have to sign up if it’s your first time – just follow the instructions).
Then all you have to do is sign in to your feed reader to see if there are any updates on any of the blogs you’re subscribed to.
2. Subscribe by email
Click the link that says Subscribe by email, fill in your details, click “complete subscription request”, respond to the verification email you’ll receive and voila! All new blog posts will arrive in your in-box with no effort needed from you.
You’ll find that most blogs you come across have those two options – subscribe by RSS feed or by email.
What about comments, and who writes comments?
I LOVE to get comments. That interaction with and between readers brings the site alive and makes it into a community. Click “join the conversation…” at the bottom of each blog post to begin.
If it’s your first comment, I will approve it manually (“moderate it”). I do this as soon as possible but there may be a delay depending on what I’m up to. The reason for this is that otherwise spam gets through, and the comments space gets real ugly, real fast!
You’ll also notice you can subscribe to the comments on a post-by-post basis. So if there’s a discussion going on to which you’ve contributed and that particularly interests you, you’ll get updates (by email) as others add their comments.
Like the content? Feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter, or via any of the other links you’ll see below each post, or vote it up on Google+. You can do this whether or not you’ve commented.
Not a blogger?
People sometimes think you need to have your own blog in order to leave comments. Couldn’t be further from the truth: the comments space can provide a great forum for discussion, and several of my regular contributors don’t have their own sites.
Share your own site
If you do have your own blog, you may be familiar with a plugin (a special piece of software) called CommentLuv. Once you enter the URL of your blog into the comment box, it provides an automatic link to your most recent post. And even better, once you’ve made three comments on Pilgrim’s Moon, you’ll have the option to choose which of your last ten posts you’d like to link to. So if your most recent post isn’t exactly setting the world on fire (surely not!), you can link to more popular one instead. (You also get a choice of ten posts immediately if you share my content on Facebook or Twitter, or vote it up on Google+.)
This is a great way to share your content with other readers and entice them away from me to your own site! Hmm…
One other subscription option
As well as individual blog posts, I publish a monthly newsletter and other occasional updates. To subscribe to that, click the link on the About page or the one below each blog post which says, rather unimaginatively, Click this link to sign up for our free monthly newsletter. (Or just click that last link!) No spam, ever.
Want your own blog?
If the blogging bug well and truly bites you, it’s easy to set up your own blog. You can do it in minutes with no technical knowledge. Probably the best-known services for setting up a free blog are WordPress and Blogger.
They both come complete with a range of templates (the design elements of your blog), which you can often customise with very little difficulty to get your own distinctive look.
If you want to go beyond free blogs and set up your own customised site (like this one) with its own URL, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.
What else would you like to know?
It can be a bit daunting, starting out in the world of blogs and online social network, and it’s easy to forget we all had to start somewhere. If there’s anything in particular you’re puzzled about, or with which you need a helping hand, just let me know below in the comments, or drop me a line. I’ll do my best to help.