Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Free Blogging Services: Mini-Reviews

I've been meaning to do this, so without further ado:

Here's a brief overview of some free blog services. To be honest, I don't recall how each of the services I tried work for posting. Some are WYSIWYG and have spellcheck, but I don't remember all of them doing that. Blogger and LiveJournal definitely have those features and allow previewing (which is LJ's WYSIWYG).

Blog-City. This is fairly nice and easy for newbies to use. You can customize the look one section at a time. I didn't like having the login directly on the page and got frustrated trying to remember which sections were which. There are a lot of good looking blogs using this service and I'm sure you can do more with the templates than I was able to figure out.

Blogdrive. This is similar to Blog-City with sections and login. The templates come with tagboards and some other nifty features, and you can go into the html and completely redo the code if you want. It's a nice enough service, but again, I didn't seem to be able to figure it out as fast as I'd like. I also didn't like the ad on top for the free service and it doesn't seem to have rss feeds. The email notice of updates to people's blogs is, IMO, cumbersome. I get emails re: one Blogdrive blog and it gives just a tease so I have to click on the link to read the rest. I much prefer reading my blogs in one place, ie Bloglines, though there are other blogs I read that don't publish rss feeds. I still have my blog here, but I'mnot maintaining it. I'm just sort of holding the blog name, just in case. The help screens are reasonably helpful.

Blogger. My favorite, hands down. You can use the templates as is and never worry about coding or you can play with the templates. By copying and pasting, making a blog for experimenting, I've learned a fair amount about html. The post writing/editing is easy and the site itself is very helpful with its Blogger Knowledge Base and news updates. There's a separate site for Blogger Status to keep abreast of problems. Being on a separate site, it's not likely to be down if Blogger itself is down. You can turn on or off the publication of the rss feeds and you can have as many blogs here on one account as you want. Yes, it gets wonky, and sometimes hasn't allowed posting or commenting, etc, but I think that's due to a growth spurt. I'm hoping when they iron out hardware and software issues, things will improve.

Bravenet: There are a lot of things here for blogs (tagboards, counters, polls...) as well as blog templates and hosting. The templates are decent and customizable, the blogs come with tagboards, and Bravenet is aiming for a community atmosphere. I did not like the ads on top of the page, many of which blink and some which talk. I also didn't like it putting in some links for you (you can edit them out, but still, it was rather presumptuoous) and there was actually a welcome entry added in for MY blog. I thought that was rude and saw no way to remove it. It's a nice step up for folks from AOL journals who want more functionality, but it wasn't for me.

DiaryLand. Limited template choices and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to do much here other than create entries. And even that was a chore. 'Nuff said.

Easy Journal. I didn't try this one. From the sample journals here that I looked at, the templates look fairly nice and clean. A few had a nice retro look I like.

GreatestJournal. Looks a lot like LiveJournal. I didn't try it, but wasn't much impressed by what I saw on the site. Seems to skew rather young.

Journalscape. I haven't tried this, either. The journals I sampled had basic looks, fairly clean layout.

LiveJournal. Community-based with a nifty Friends feature to keep up with the LiveJournals you read. This took me too long to figure out, template-wise (you can customize them, but figuring out where all the features and functions are was not intuitive to me). I persevered and got a look I like, but it was hard work. It didn't help that LJ gets cranky and when giving me fits being very slow when I was making my LJ version of Presto Speaks! The free version has limited space for links, which is the thing I most dislike about it. The icons and mood icons are fun and the commenting works well in that you can reply to individual entries or to the comments in the entries and have all sorts of subdivisions that way. It can look like a real conversation. There's a nice variety of templates, once you figure out hwo they work. And you can have rss feeds here, too.

Modblog. This service is aiming for a community feel. The blog titles aren't really obvious on the blogs which bothered me. There are three levels of template: basic template with customization for color and font, an intermediate level that allows customization by section, and full design customizing. You can also go into the html or import your own template. Comes with a form of tagboard and counter. Easy enough to use, and the templates were okay, but it seemed to lack something I can't put my finger on. Might just be me.

Open Diary. Another community-based service, with nearly 7,000 blogs now. When I tried to sample some, I got popups and couldn't go back. I didn't try making a blog because the site itself annoyed me.

SquareSpace. The site looked interesting, but I didn't try making a blog. This looks like a fairly serious site, for business blogs more than fun personal ones.

Xanga. This skewed very young to me and I didn't try it. The templates looked fine, but most of the blogs I sampled had tiny, light-colored text. Many had a lot packed on the screens. I've found Xanga blogs hard to read and wasn't interested in joining what looks like a fairly youngcommunity of bloggers who wouldn't get the concept of aging eyes.

I also came across another service today called BlogStudio, which didn't impress me at all from the sample blogs I looked at. If anyone knows of other free blogging services, please let me know and I'll give them a look.