Blogs

What is a blog and what does it look like?

The word ‘Blog’ is short for we(b)(log) a log of information stored on the web. It has some similarities with a podcast since both allow you to subscribe to automatically updated information known as an RSS feed. Blogs usually take the form of text with links whereas podcasts usually take the form of audio or video content.

The second part of that question is quite easy to answer, since you are reading a blog page using a web browser now. The main part of this blog has 3 columns showing the main blog entries on the left, a navigation column, and information column. As well as subscribing to a blog’s RSS feed, further information can be displayed, such as this page explaining all about blogs. If you subscribe to a blog, individual blog entries often link back to the blog pages containing further information. This is very useful when you are reading blog entries using specific software often referred to as a feed reader.

blogs in plain english

Methods of reading blogs

There is nothing stopping you reading a blog from its webpage, but just imagine if you had 100 blogs you were interested in. It would take a very long time to try to keep up to date with reading blogs by visiting each web page in turn. There are a few ways to read blogs more easily, one is to subscribe to the blog content (its RSS feed) within your web browser. This will show just the headlines of the blog entries when clicking its link. The other is to use a reader application or service.

Recommended ways to read blogs

One of the best ways to read blogs is to make use of an excellent cloud service called “Google Reader“. This free on-line service allows you to aggregate all the RSS feeds from the blogs you want to keep up with. Whenever you log on to Google Reader with a web browser you see all the headlines from all your blogs in one place. Google reader has extensive support for mobile phones such as the iPhone, Blackberry, Windows mobile, and Android based phones.

Recently another popular service called “NewsGator” has announced joining forces with Google reader. This is excellent news if you make extensive use of RSS reading software, as their software will now sync with Google reader. FeedDemon (Windows) and NetNewsWire (Mac) are available now both of which can sync with Google reader, a new version of NetNewsWire for the iPhone and iPod touch will be available soon allowing powerful offline RSS feed reading.

Important announcement from NewsGator regarding Google reader.

Essentially when using the newsgator service you can read a blog post using a web browser, a news reader application on your computer, or mobile phone, each of which remains in sync with the other so that you don’t end up re-reading posts you have already read.

Enough with the words already, What does this all look like?

Google reader works on any browser on any computer

Google reader works on any browser on any computer

Google reader Blackberry Storm

Google reader Blackberry Storm

Google reader iPhone

Google reader iPhone

Mac NetNewsWire syncing with Google

Mac NetNewsWire syncing with Google

Windows FeedDemon syncing with Google

Windows FeedDemon syncing with Google

rss feed iconNow you need to subscribe to your favourite blogs. You can either cut and paste the link to the blog into your RSS reader, or you may find buttons on webpages that look like the icon used for this paragraph. When you see this icon, you should be able to click it to add that RSS feed to your RSS reader.

How do I write a blog?

The University of Exeter has recently launched a new hosted WordPress blogging service, currently available to Postgraduate Students and Staff.  If you are interested in starting a blog for discussion around University activities such as projects, research or societies then please visit our Blog Application & Information page for more information. It is possible for several people to collaborate as part of a team to create a blog, and no software will need to be installed.

Wordpress admin page

Wordpress admin page

If you would like to make a private blog the easiest way is to use Google’s blogging service called Blogger. This is even easier to use than wordpress, and allows you to start blogging minutes after you sign up for an account. Alternatively you may create a private blog hosted on the wordpress servers, expertise in using wordpress is a marketable skill that could benefit staff at home and work. And its free!

Blogger admin page

Blogger admin page

Go ahead, start reading some blogs and find out about making one for yourself or the University. Get creative!

To start writing an official University of Exeter blog all you need to do is use our central blogging service. This is as simple as requesting your blog space from the link at http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk, logging in using your admin username and password, then using a web browser you can start to make content using the excellent wordpress blogging software. Your blog will appear on the University blog server. For instance the web innovation project’s (WIP) blog address is http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/wip. It is possible for several people to collaborate as part of a team to create a blog, and no software will need to be installed.

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