Basic Software Upgrades for Your Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

Many of the hosted services available to bloggers offer a basic blogging package at no cost. A great number of the non-hosted blogging software packages are also free, but the web server that you need to install them on most definitely isn’t. How much money you can commit to your new blog can help you figure out what platform you should acquire.

Consider how much financial commitment you want to dedicate to your new blogging life. Costs can be associated with

  • Blogging software: Some packages are free; others aren’t. In some cases, the blogging software might be free for personal use but can cost money if you use it for commercial purposes.

  • Upgrades: When you choose a software package that has a price tag, be sure to note the costs for upgrading that software down the line. Blog software is in flux, and you’ll need updates!

  • A domain name: Regardless of whether you choose a hosted or non-hosted solution, you can buy a domain name (also called a web address) and point it at your blog.

  • Web hosting: If you choose a blogging software package that needs to be installed on a web server, you need to find web hosting.

  • Support costs: If you have questions about your blog software or web hosting, getting answers might cost you. Find out what the support policies are for both software and hosting before you buy.

  • Web designers: If you choose to hire a web designer or developer to produce a design, install the software, and get your blog started, you have to pay those folks.

  • Special bells and whistles: You might find that you can purchase and use extra add-ons with your blog, from cool functionality to exciting designs.

It is possible to start a blog completely for free by opting for a hosted blog with a free basic package and choosing not to buy a custom URL.

You can implement a number of cool toys on your blog:

  • Trackbacks: Trackbacks are a useful technology that allows bloggers to link to blog posts on related topics. If your blog software is trackback-enabled, you can link to another blog simply by using the URL of the original posting. In this automatic process, your blog software lets another blogger’s software know that your blog has referenced a post so that the software can create a link on the original post.

Trackbacks can also be a source of spam, and as a result, they’re not as important in the blogosphere as they used to be. So although they’re nice to have, if the blog software package that you want to use doesn’t offer trackbacks, don’t automatically eliminate that software from consideration.

  • Spam blacklist: Most blogging packages have some kind of blacklist protection against spam comments. These blacklists are often centralized lists of e-mail addresses, URLs, and IP addresses that spammers use, which the blog software prevents from commenting in any blog post on your blog. With an up-to-date blacklist, you can stop a lot of spam before it becomes a comment.

  • Spam whitelist: Some blogging software includes the capability to use a whitelist, in which you preselect the users who can comment. Spam-filtering systems and blog user accounts are quickly replacing this type of system, however.

  • CAPTCHAs: CAPTCHAs are images that display letters and/or numbers that a person can read but a machine can’t. When someone wants to leave a comment on a post, he or she must correctly type these letter/number combinations into a text box, which proves to the blog software that the commenter is indeed a human and not a computer spam system.

    This process blocks out the comment spam and lets through the valuable feedback.

    Variations on CAPTCHAs include simple math problems that a user needs to solve in order to post a comment. Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini blog uses one form of a CAPTCHA.

    Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini blog uses one form of a CAPTCHA to post comments.

You can tie together more and more web services these days, from your photos on Flickr, to your Twitter updates, to your… well, you have a lot of possibilities. Some blog software allows you to automate those kinds of connections, so if that interests you, keep an eye out for software with these features.