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May 10, 2020

Starting a Blog: Your First Post




Welcome to the start of the Summer 2020 Blog Fest!

Your blog project. To get going, you'll want to think of some kind of blog project that is of interest to you. I always have a lot of blog projects going on (like this one!), and for the purposes of the Blog Fest, I've decided to do some Twitter curation, taking a few minutes each day to look back on the past day at what I've seen go by at Twitter that is of special; here's that Twitter Highlights project taking shape. Another project I am working on this summer is 100-word stories; you can see that blog here: Drabbles: Stories in 100 Words.

So now: think of a blog project for yourself! It can be something fun or something useful or both, perhaps something related to school and teaching, but perhaps nothing to do with school and teaching at all! Blogs can serve any kind of purpose: that might be original writing, or it might be curation, where you are collecting digital stuff and adding your thoughts.

Your blog platform.  You'll also want to choose a blog platform. If you're never blogged before, I'd recommend using Google Blogger; I've some notes here about Why I Use Blogger. If you already know how to use WordPress or want to learn WordPress, you can also do that, or any other blogging platform. I'll be providing step by step instructions based on Blogger, but the same blogging ideas/strategies apply to WordPress or any other blogging platform, and you can always find tutorials online to help you with step-by-step instructions for those other platforms.

And now... getting started! First, some basic information: blogs are websites where the content is date-based. If you use Twitter, for example, you already know how that works (some people even use the term "microblogging" for Twitter): you type something in a box, and it then appears on your Twitter page, newest content at the top. Of course Twitter is also a social network, and in Part Two of this summer experience, you'll learn how to create a blog network too! Here are some more helpful terms to know:
  • Post. Each new piece of content that you add to the blog is called a post. A post can be just a sentence or two, or it can be something that would be several pages long if you were to print it out on paper. A post can contain text, links, images, and video; being able to include media is one of the most fun and useful aspects of blogging.
  • Template. Most blog software uses a design template so that each post in your blog has the same basic look as every other post in the blog (font, colors, etc.). You can modify or switch templates at any time, changing the design of the blog without changing the content. 
  • Sidebar. Most blog templates allow you to have a sidebar (or multiple sidebars) with content in little boxes separate from the contents of your posts; those sidebar boxes are usually called "widgets" or "gadgets." If you look at the sidebar of this blog, you will see that I am a fan of sidebar widgets.
The instructions below walk you through setting up a Blogger blog at Google, and you can find similar instructions online for WordPress (including Edublogs), etc. 

Log in at Google. To use Blogger, you'll need a Google.com account. If you don't have an account yet, create one; if you have an account, log in.

Blogger.com. Next, go to Blogger.com. If you are not signed in, there's a link in the upper-right-hand corner that will prompt you to sign in with your Google account. If you don't have a profile set up yet, it will prompt you to choose a display name. You can use a pseudonym if you want as your display name, and you can also remove the profile from your blog template; more about pseudonyms and your blog identity here.

CREATE A NEW BLOG. In the upper left-hand corner you will see a dropdown which is a list of all your blogs. You can create different blogs for different purposes! To create a new blog, choose "new blog" from the dropdown menu:


You will then be be prompted to give your blog a title (which can be anything, and which you can change later), and also a blogspot.com blog address (which should be short, and which you cannot change later; my advice: keep is simple!). You can also choose a theme now, and you can change that theme anytime later:


Click create blog (lower right-hand corner) when you are done. If it prompts you about a domain, just click "No Thanks" (if you want to get a domain, go to Reclaim Hosting: best-ever hosting for educators). And now ........ you have a blog!

CREATE A BLOG POST. To create a new post, just click on the New post button in the upper left part of the screen... or click on the orange "+" button in the lower right of the screen. Blogger is rolling out a new mobile-friendly interface, and I'm seeing a mix and old and new interfaces right now.

Old version (button at upper left):


New version (button at lower right):


You'll see a content editor that looks like most content editors you've used for email, discussion boards, etc. 

Old version:


New version:



Also, be sure to notice the "post settings" options over to the left. The most important setting there is Labels. Labels are a blog superpower! I try to make sure every post has at least one label (even if that label is "Unlabeled" to remind me to think about how to label it later).

Old version:


New version:



To get in the habit of adding labels to your posts now, you can do that from the start; for example, you could use Summer2020 (or something like that) as your post label for this project. Later on, you'll see later on why blog labels are super-useful for blog navigation and management.

Also, don't forget to use a Post Title. Each post should have a title (and you can change the title later, so don't worry about that). The post title box is above the main text editing area.

Old version:


New version:


And now... type! I'll have some more to say in future posts about specific features of the Blogger editor, but for now just go ahead and type something, anything at all, for your first post.

And yes, there are emojis! 😊

So, type something in the main box, make sure you have a post title and at least one label, and then hit "Publish" which is just above the label box in the old editor; it will say "Update" if you are editing an existing post. In the new editor, there are just icons (part of that whole mobile-friendly approach); the publish icon is an arrow, and the publish arrow will be greyed out if you don't have any changes in the post to publish:


If the publish arrow is greyed out, that means your post is published and you can safely close the editing window. To return to your Blogger dashboard, just click the backward arrow in the upper left-hand corner.

And now: congratulations: you have published a blog post!

In the next section, you'll learn about your blog address, and the address of the post you just created:  Blog URLs: Homepage and Posts.


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