Essential Blogging
Selecting and Using Weblog Tools
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: August 2002
Pages: 262

Anyone can run a blog (an online journal). From personal diaries to political commentary and technology observations, bloggers are making their voices heard around the world. Essential Blogging helps you select the right blogging software for your needs and show how to get your blog up and running.You'll learn the ingredients of a successful blog, and then get detailed installation, configuration and operation instructions for the leading blogging software: Blogger, Radio Userland, Movable Type, and Blosxom. After showing you how to acquire, set-up, and run these leading software packages, Essential Blogging takes you through the more advanced features, so that by the time you finish, you'll be up and blogging with the best of them.Essential Blogging covers:

  • the important components of a blog and a blog post
  • installing and configuring the tools
  • a survey of desktop blogging clients
  • advice and experience from real-world bloggers
  • hosted blogging with Blogger and Blogger Pro
  • desktop blogging with Radio Userland
  • server blogging with Movable Type
  • posting, editing, and deleting blog entries
  • adding pictures to blog entries
  • syndicating your stories with RSS
  • consuming RSS feeds with Radio Userland
  • customizing the appearance of your blog with templates
  • managing and customizing archives of blog entries
  • adding comments to your blog
  • self-hosting your blog vs using a blog-hosting service
  • going under the hood with the Blosxom blogging system
Written by prominent bloggers and authors of blogging tools, Essential Blogging is a no-nonsense guide to the technology of blogging.
Table of Contents
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About the Author
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Essential Blogging: Selecting and Using Weblog Tools"

By Kirsten Czupryna

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Essential Blogging:

"Blogging has exploded. Every day 1500-3,000 new bloggers join the Internet. That's a staggering number of new voices, new opinions, and new experiences. You can join these bloggers - all it takes is some software and something to say. We've written this book to help you quickly get up and running with the software."

-From the Preface

Overview and Notes

"Essential Blogging" is a typical O'Reilly offering in its no-nonsense, "dive right in" approach to subject matter. It covers the world of blogging from beginner to advanced levels without sacrificing necessary technical depth or terminology. The step by step, linear organization of the text serves to orient those readers at a lower level of technical skill and at the same time provide shortcuts for more experienced users. The book is divided into ten chapters that fall into four major subject areas:

*introduction to blogging and blog tools

*overview of hosted, desktop,and server blog tools

*advanced use of blogging tools

*blogging voices - advice from the field

Introduction to blogging, blogs, and desktop clients

Chapter 1 "Introduction to Blogging"

Chapter 2 "Desktop Clients"

"Essential Blogging" opens with a discussion of the current blogging revolution and answers the questions, "Can I blog?" and "What would I talk about?" The authors assert that yes, of course anyone can blog. And why not? Blog tools exist for every level of technical ability, and the options for subject matter are limitless. There are no hard and fast rules in the "blogiverse", and just to prove this point, a number of current blogs covering very different genres are used as examples.

In order to understand blogging, one must understand the basic anatomy of a blog posting. The authors dissect a typical blog post and explain each piece. Screenshots accompany and serve to clarify terms that may be completely new to many readers. Common blog options are also discussed, including blogrolls, counters, discussion links, use of mailing lists, etc. The concept of syndication - crucial to more experienced bloggers - is introduced, along with guidelines for blog etiquette when quoting others' posts or linking to them.

Blog tools to be discussed throughout the rest of the book are introduced briefly, and their main points of difference are highlighted with checklists. These checklists cover hosting and installation options, price, RSS capabilities, and interface options. This overview is enormously useful in helping the reader to get a grasp on which tool is most appropriate for him or her at an early stage.

Desktop clients - desktop applications which communicate with blog systems via a special blog protocol - are described and reviewed. Many of these clients are freebies, and this is indicated where true. Also, desktop clients for both Windows and Mac are included.

Overview of Hosted, Desktop, and Server Blogging Concepts and Tools

Chapter 3 "Hosted Blogging with Blogger"

Chapter 4 "Desktop Blogging with RadioUserland"

Chapter 5 "Server Blogging with Movable Type"

Many would-be bloggers have no idea that there are choices regarding where one's blog resides, or how it is accessed. Chapters 3, 4, and 5, provide a basic overview of various options using a popular blog tool from each camp to illustrate key concepts. Beginning with what is commonly considered to be the simplest blogging tool, Blogger, the authors discuss the pros and cons of hosted blogging. Basic Blogger account setup and management topics are discussed and illustrated through use of screenshots. This is a great standalone primer for anyone interested in getting quickly up to speed with Blogger.

For the more prolific Blogger, Radio Userland is a good option. Radio is a full-featured blog tool that can be installed on the desktop and used to upstream blog entries to Radio's servers. Similar to a word processing program, Radio offers numerous formatting options for blog customization. Download, installation and registration procedures are detailed. Program features are discussed in detail, including Radio's RSS capabilities.

Movable Type, the server-based blog tool, is reviewed last . Actually a full-featured content management system, Movable Type is not for beginners. However, for those bloggers who maintain their own servers and wish to move up from a hosted blogging solution such as Blogger, this is a fine choice. Movable Type offers "the benefits of reliability, accesibility, and customization." Independence from a central server, greater security, and ability to access and backup post data are the main reasons behing Movable Type's growing popularity. Download and installation instructions are provided.

NOTE* A newer version of Movable Type (which supports MySql and is the recommended installation) has become available since publication of this book. Updated installation instructions are available at

Advanced Blogger, Radio Userland, Movable Type, and Blosxom

Chapters 6 through 9 deal with more advanced options for each blog program respectively, as well as an introduction to the minimalist server-based solution, Blosxom. The authors note that, "Generally, it takes two chapters to explain all the functions of each tool. Some products might have very simple posting maintenance but complex templates, or have simple installation but complex syndication. For this reason, the division of material between the introductory and the advanced chapters isn't consistent from product to product."

The distinction between beginner and advanced levels for each tool is subjective, and will depend on previous blogging experience, technical proficiency, and goals of the reader. The "advanced" chapters, while not always more technical, do provide much more detail on each program's functionality and scalability. Of note are an overview of third party add-ons and advanced archiving for Blogger, a breakdown of the components of Radio Userland for power users, and numerous archiving options and security reminders for Movable Type.

NOTE* Since Google recently acquired Blogger, the tool is undergoing a major overhaul. At the present time, Blogger Pro is unavailable as it is in the process of "retooling" its product. Support for basic Blogger remains unchanged. However, the chapter on "advanced" Blogger does not focus exclusively on Blogger Pro-specific features.

Blogging Voices

The final chapter of the book is a collection of personal anecdotes and advice from bloggers of all skill levels. By turns educational, inspiring, and just plain humorous, this is a must-read. While offering no detailed instructions or technical assistance for any specific blog tool, this epilogue provides valuable insight into the world of blogging and the opportunities it provides for personal growth.

Intended Audience and Summary

"Essential Blogging" is a solid yet light-weight reference manual, written in an easy to follow style with a good dose of humor. Generous screenshots throughout simplify the various installation and setup processes reviewed. The blog tools chosen for the book are reviewed in equal detail. Readers will learn to choose a desktop client and a blog tool to suit their individual needs.

As stated previously, there have been major changes to both Blogger and Movable Type since this book went to press. That said, a good deal of the program-specific information presented is of little or uncertain use to the reader. The authors do note where appropriate which information is likely to change.

The authors thoroughly describe the range of blog options and their availability by product. Readers interested in a specific functionality such as commenting, group blogging, template customization, image handling, archiving, etc. can learn the extent to which it is supported by each tool.

"Essential Blogging" is not for every blogger. This is not a book about how to write, promote, or earn a residual income from one's blog. Experienced bloggers who are not curious about alternative tools will find little to hold their interest. At the other end of the spectrum, total beginners to the web may find themselves a bit overwhelmed by the more technical O'Reilly focus. What the book does provide is an excellent survey of current blog technologies and their applications. It is a great jumping-off point for technical-minded users who need to come up to speed quickly, yet want to understand the range of desktop clients, tools, and features in order to make appropriate product decisions.

Kirsten Czupryna is a Web Consultant with Technik IT, a networking and web development firm near Boston. She enjoys discussing the fields of Usability and Information Architecture as often as possible with like-minded geeks.

(2 of 3 customers found this review helpful)


Essential Blogging Review

By George Woolley

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Essential Blogging:

A very good book.

When I started I didn't know what a blog was.

Using this book, I went from that to successfully setting up blogs

using two different blogging systems quickly and painlessly.

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