Starting Your Own Blog

What is a blog and why would you want to start your own?

Firstly, a blog is often a mixture of what is happening in a person’s own life and what is happening on the web. It is usually in the form of  a  frequently updated, personal website featuring diary-type commentary and links to articles on other Web sites. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects,  there are as many unique types of blogs as there are people.

Blogging is part of the general trend of putting everything on the web, regardless of whether we are talking about business, hobbies or personal stuff. It can just be a means of communicating with friends, with others who share your hobbies or interests, or it can be a business tool. Of course it can also be a combination of these things.

So perhaps instead of asking why you would want to have your own blog, ask instead if you want to, or have a need to communicate with others. The great advantage of social media is that you don’t need to know people personally to communicate with them and for this reason it is ideal for bringing interaction with others into the lives of folk who may otherwise feel isolated.

Is this you or somebody you know? Don’t think that it would be too hard to learn how to blog, because it is in fact quite simple and there are dozens of free videos and help pages to show you exactly what to do. There is no need to have fancy looking pages, but if that is what you would like, you could soon learn how to spice them up a bit.

Generally speaking blogs tend to have a few things in common:

  • A main content area with articles listed from the lates backwards.
  • Articles are usually organized into categories.
  • There is an archive of older articles.
  • There is a way for people to leave comments about the articles.
  • A list of links to other related sites, sometimes called a “blogroll” is often included.
  • There can also be one or more “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files. (A Feedreader accesses other sites automatically looking for new content and then posts updates about that new content to another site).

Blogs can be stand-alone (self-hosted) or externally hosted. If you wish to host your own blog, you will be able to choose your own domain name, but you will be up for the cost of that domain name and your hosting at a minimum.

Externally hosted blogs are usually free but will often have limitations on what content and customisation you can have and perhaps also whether you can monetise it so if you want your blog to make some money, it is best to start out hosting your own. It is possible to change platforms later, but you would probably have to change the blog domain and that might lose you some readers. (For a more extensive discussion on the choice of blog platforms, go to  blogger.com

Some of the most popular free hosted blogs are listed below. All are very easy to set up and get you going quickly. Have a look at each one to see if it does what you want your blog to do, for example upload photos, videos, podcasts, run discussion boards etc.

wordpress.com
thoughts.com (as distinct from wordpress.org which supplies the platform for self-hosting)
weebly
yahoo 360
Windows Live

Problogger – Tips for Beginners

If you sign up to my blog this month you will get access to free ebooks about blogging (if you are already subscribed, you’ll be sent the link).

For more information, check outbecomeablogger.comProblogger – Tips for Beginners & becomeablogger.com for free video tutorials on how to create your own blog.

Blogging is an easy and economical way to share with family, friends and busuness associates alike. Make it fun!

Using E-Cards Safely

If you send or receive e-cards (electronic greeting cards), you may not think too much about whether they are safe for your computer or not. They are free and fast, making them a popular and convenient alternative to traditional greeting cards.

To send an e-card, you simply go to an e-card site, choose a card from a number of different categories, and then send it off to your recipient with a personalized greeting. Some of the more well-known companies are Hallmark, 123Greetings, American Greetings or Blue Mountain, but it’s worth doing a search as you’ll find many great e-card sites specialising in topics such as sports and nature & also charity e-cards.

Receiving an e-card is fun too. Often, these cards come equipped with short video or music clips. Millions of people receive e-cards for special days like Christmas, Easter and personal birthdays every year.

E-cards are created the same way Web sites are; they’re built on the Internet just like this page. So when you send someone an e-card, you’re actually giving them a link to click, which takes them to the online greeting card you created for them.

Not all e-cards are harmless cards, though; some may contain viruses, spyware, adware, phishing attacks or spam. At best, this is annoying and can involve pop-ups, lots of unwanted junk mail, or other minor disturbances. At worst, these viruses can crash your system or hack into your email contacts.

There are a number of ways you can protect your computer from unwanted surprises that come in the form of e-cards. The following are some tips for online safety for e-cards.

Know what to look for:

The best way to be safe from online viruses is to keep your eyes out for anything suspicious. A good indication an e-card is not legitimate includes:

  • There are misspelled words or names. The inclusion of non-letter characters such as * @ # $ % , if your name is misspelled, words are spelled with letters in the wrong order such as “Best Wsihes” or are misspelled in other ways, there is a possibility that it is spam or a virus.
  • Make sure you recognize the sender’s name before clicking on any links. The sender should always be recognizable, either in the subject line or the e-mail itself. People don’t normally send e-cards to strangers, so you should probably avoid opening e-cards from anyone you don’t know.
  • The e-card has an attachment. Most e-card companies that are legitimate don’t put their e-cards as attachments. Rather, they have a link you follow to the company’s website that takes you directly to the card. By downloading attachments, you can unknowingly be downloading a virus or other type of unwanted intrusion onto your computer.
  • Be cautious. If you have any suspicion that the e-Card you have received is fraudulent do not open, and do not click on any links within the e-mail if you do. Legitimate e-mails will always give you the option to pick up the e-Card by typing in the address of the Web site, rather than clicking on the link.
  • Preview a link’s Web address before you click it. If the link doesn’t show an address, move your mouse pointer over a link without clicking it to see where the link goes. (The address should appear on the bottom bar of your Web browser.)

Keep your anti-virus & firewall etc software up to date.

You should also have anti virus software, a firewall, anti-spyware and anti-adware installed on your computer to help to detect threats and protect your. In most cases you can get all these programs free, but they do need to be updated and run regularly to give you the best protection. Spyware and adware not only compromise your computer’s security, they will often slow your system down.

Read fine print and terms of service.

If you receive an e-card that has a check box saying you agree to their terms of service, be sure to read the fine print. If you are like most people, you simply check the I Agree box without even looking at the print. This can be a big mistake, because with spam e-cards, you might be agreeing to have them download spyware or adware or even to have access to your computer’s address books.

When in doubt, delete.

If something doesn’t look right, such as the name of the sender or vague subject lines, just delete the card. It’s better to safe than sorry.

E-cards are fun to receive and send, as long as you’re careful when doing so. The above tips will help you be safe online with e-cards.

How to Make A Great Flyer

Flyers are a great way to advertise something for yourself, for an organisation you belong to or for marketing both online and off. There’s no need to be a genius to create a great one, either; if you have some basic tools and follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to design your own flyers in no time.

1. MICROSOFT WORD – Begin with a basic software program like Microsoft Word or Publisher. Open up the program, then look under “File” then “New” to see if there are already existing flyer wizards for documents or templates. If so, start there and adjust one to suit your needs.

2. COLOR – First take a look at your project budget. Is there room for full-color printing of hard copies to distribute? If not, don’t worry. Regular black ink on colored paper produces nice looking, professional flyers. Coordinate the paper color with a theme for the month, like green paper for St. Patrick’s Day or red or blue for the 4th of July.

3. TEXT / FONT – Don’t have too many different fonts, text sizes and styles in one document. Just choose a couple of complimentary fonts and sizes. For ideas on which to use, start a collection of flyers that are stuck on your door, around your mailbox and placed on your car’s windshield. Search your favorite industry web sites for ideas, too, by looking at their online documents for downloading. Print them out and check to see what you link and don’t like about them.

4. PULL TABS – Add pull tabs to the bottom, so that if the flyer is placed on a bulletin board, passersby can pull off a tab and take the info home with them. Check the Help menu for directions. Basically you add a wide text box along the bottom portion of the flyer. Then you insert one row of columns. Click on the first column and write what you want to say – not much fits here so take care! Maybe use your URL or website address and phone number. The text will run horizontally like normal, reading from left to right. So what you do is highlight it and click on “Format” from the top menu, then “Text Direction” do make it run vertical and fit in your tabs. Do the same for each tab.

When you’re finished, print flyers for local distribution or email to others to print as needed.

For business building, you can also turn the document into an Adobe .pdf file to distribute online. Upload it and include links to it in your emails and forum posts. Attach the pdf to emails when you know recipients accept attachments and can take a look, too. Reach out online and off with great looking flyers and grow your business one step further!