Setting Up A Blog Part 2: Tumblr, Blogger, And Other Services

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wtf logo   Setting Up A Blog Part 2: Tumblr, Blogger, And Other ServicesYesterday’s article examined the pros and cons of setting up your own blog using a web host, domain name and software like WordPress. While this method takes some time, money and effort on your part it also provides a high level of control over your personal online outlet.

The alternative is to use a “sign-up” service like Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress.com which provides a quicker way to start writing rather than creating SQL databases and fiddling with plugins. While this method is more appealing for newcomers, there are some drawbacks and potential concerns and we’ll be looking out for them here.

Hopefully you can then decide which service is right for you.

Choosing A Service

The hardest thing you’ll have to do if you opt to not host your own blog is decide on the service you want to use. A few years ago this was easy – LiveJournal and Blogger dominated, providing a generation of teenagers with a place to moan about the wrongs in the world but these days there are more services to choose from than ever before, each with a niche.

wordpress com   Setting Up A Blog Part 2: Tumblr, Blogger, And Other Services

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WordPress.com might be the first port of call, largely because it’s very similar to hosting your own WordPress install with a little less control over the end results. You get 3GB of free space, social integration and analytics as well as the ability to change themes and such. Premium features include themes, custom domains and the removal of adverts, each of which is billed yearly.

Tumblr is home to a mixed bag of content creators, with an emphasis on visual and rich media. That’s not to say words don’t belong on Tumblr, and there are some great themes with an emphasis on typography. Blogger, a Google product, is used by the company to release news about new and existing products which received a facelift a few years ago and continues to focus on being a primarily written-word platform. Last of all, there’s a crossover platform in the form of social media.

tumblr   Setting Up A Blog Part 2: Tumblr, Blogger, And Other Services

Tumblr, Blogger and the big two “publishing” social platforms that are Facebook and Google+ are all infinitely more “social” than your self-hosted website. Tumblr has the ability to follow users, like Twitter. Blogger can use your Google account to keep track of updates and Facebook and Google+ are built on top of swelling user bases and a demand for shared content. Facebook has the subscribe button for individuals, or the Like button for pages and G+ is all about circling people you like. These are now viable options for publishing your thoughts, though the price is customization and an opportunity to appear unique. Put simply, everyone’s Google+ and Facebook posts look the same.

Once you’ve come to a decision the hard part is over – next you’ve got to name, theme and get on with it. Theming such services is often restrictive, though Blogger, WordPress.com and Tumblr all have options for custom themes, with the latter two offering a range of premium themes as well. In addition to this, each service can be used with a custom domain, though WordPress.com will charge you for this.

wordpress themes   Setting Up A Blog Part 2: Tumblr, Blogger, And Other Services

These “sign-up” services will never ask you to maintain the workings of your blog – it will all be taken care of for you. This is in contrast to a self-hosted WordPress blog which requires constant maintenance to patch security holes in both the core engine and plugins.

Made Your Mind Up?

As a blogger looking to use one of these services you should be prepared for restrictions, particularly those designed to make the providers money. Small premium upgrades can add up to more than the price of a hosting plan and domain, so be wary of this. You’re also bound in writing when it comes to submitting yourself to the service’s terms of service and privacy agreements which can (and do) change at any time. Don’t agree with something? Time to move your musings elsewhere – and what a hassle that can be.

While it’s true that the maintenance of your blog using a service like this is not necessarily down to you, that’s not to say you’re safe. No website is safe from attack, and the implications of a service-wide attack can be just as damaging as an isolated attack on your personal webspace. Tumblr recently exemplified this when their support system, Zendesk, was compromised…though the support system is also used by Twitter and Pinterest.

zendesk   Setting Up A Blog Part 2: Tumblr, Blogger, And Other Services

The company admitted that: “subject lines of your emails to Tumblr Support may have included the address of your blog which could potentially allow your blog to be unwillingly associated with your email address” and “other information included in the subject lines of emails you’ve sent to Tumblr Support may be exposed“. For some people this could be a devastating event, particularly if the whole point of the blog is to remain anonymous.

One Last Thing

Despite the restrictions, the chance that your blog will look virtually identical to someone else’s and those small premium upgrades that add up to a lot of money, there is one far greater potential drawback to choosing to host your blog using such a service: the potential for closure. Who is to say that Google, who have recently closed iGoogle and Google Reader, won’t just pull the plug on Blogger? For the moment that looks unlikely, because Google still uses Blogger but the point still stands for any of these services.

posterous   Setting Up A Blog Part 2: Tumblr, Blogger, And Other Services

Posterous was a real alternative to Tumblr that had been running since 2008, providing tight typographic layouts and manageable mini-sites to professional, Twitter-types. Unfortunately for the many who still use the service it has been announced that on April 30 of this year the service will be switched off, a direct result of the service being acquired by Twitter. Thankfully the service has made it easy to export data, and there is even talk of a premium alternative. The fact remains that this could happen to the service you choose, and you should be aware before making a decision.

Pros to choosing an existing blog service:

  • Fast and easy set up, the quickest way to get blogging.
  • No maintenance on software.
  • Themes, custom domains and other limited customizations.
  • Social, community-driven services aided with sharing.

Cons to choosing an existing blog service:

  • Restrictions on what you can do to your blog, some premium features.
  • Must adhere to terms and conditions as well as privacy policies.
  • Potential closure of the service.
  • Security breaches can affect a whole network of users.

Whatever you choose remember that the real reason people will visit your blog is for the content. Without this, you don’t even have a blog and take it from me, spending ages trying to work out which option is right for you only slows down the process of actually publishing some content. Make your choice, and stick to it – happy blogging!

What do you think – is it better to pick a self-hosted blog or sign up for a service? Have your say in the comments below and don’t forget to read part 1 of this article.

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18 Comments - Write a Comment

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Nevzat A

Well, that was a fast update. Thanks for the Part two!

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Milos D

Nice picture, WTF :))) Coincidence or…..creativity.

Rustam Iminov

must be coincident creativity

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Bumferry

Nice article. I’m a blogger myself. I tried WordPress but found it too complicated to set up. That’s not to say it’s too complicated, but Blogger was much easier and I had a nice looking blog ready to rock in under 15minutes.
I also find that Blogger and its users are a tight knit bunch of friendly people who chat and comment and even write for each others blogs.
It feels more social than wordpress which, to me, seems a more professional webiste creator.
Horses for courses i suppose.
Having said that, my only gripe with Blogger is that it really REALLY wants you use your google account name rather than a pseudonym which is a little annoying. but thats just me.

Tim Brookes

You’re not alone, Google has been pressuring its YouTube users to do the same. I think it’s in a bid to clean up the YouTube comments which are usually a free-for-all trollfest.

Every time I login or authorise a new device I get the same message telling me to use my real name. No thanks Google!

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Having used both services, I agree. Blogger is for ‘fun’ as opposed to WordPress’ clean ‘professional’. Each has different advantages and disadvantages, providing alternatives to users.

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macwitty

I prefer self-hosting to be in charge of my stuff (Reader, anyone?) Saying that, if you are not sure you will do the security update even at times you blog less frequent – choose a service and have it done

Tim Brookes

I think if you’re “creating” something – i.e. a magazine or blog for a cause then WordPress just offers so much more customisation and in that sense then yes it’s definitely the better choice. While it does take time to learn how to set it up and update it (well, not long) these skills are easy to learn and useful for as long as you intend to carry on.

Personal bloggers can choose a service like Tumblr that they’re confident has enough steam that it’ll be around for a good while yet. At the moment I wouldn’t personally choose to use Blogger, thanks primarily to Google’s past couple of moves. I’m sure Blogger accounts are relatively safe, after all Google uses it, but it’s also in competition with Google+ if you think about it – which might spell disaster at some point.

I’m sure Google would rather us all use Google+ instead of our own blogs.

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Onaje Asheber

Thank for part two info! Now I need to get to work.

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Graham Richardson

I have been with Blogger for many years now and have seen it grow into a much better service with a lot more customisation possible now than ever before. It was easy and cheap to use my own .com address too which has helped my ‘branding’ so the site is mine with the look I want. I can also use other external services such as Windows Live Writer which makes posting even easier (although it has just stopped working for me this week – anyone else had issues?)
The main article does hit the mark with the ‘worry’ that Google could just close Blogger down whenever it feels like. I am sure it is extremely unlikely but then I felt that to be the case with Reader too.

At least Google are pretty good at making it easy for users to get their info out so it can be transferred across to other services if the worst does happen. Then we just rely on MUO to help us decide where to go next!

Thanks for this series on blogging – look forward to more in the series…

Tim Brookes

Anything you’d particularly like to see, Graham?

I agree with you about Blogger, Google and potential closures. Google+ is where Google wants us all to be – in Google’s eyes it’s a social layer, a news reader and a blogging service, but to the rest of us it’s a stale social network that never really took off.

I’m genuinely annoyed that Reader is going, I wasn’t too bothered about iGoogle though I know a lot of people who were (again, I don’t see why that had to go) but I’d hate to have my personal blog taken away and that’s what I see happening to Blogger one day.

Graham Richardson

I actually like G+ and when I can spare the time I will have another look to see how I can use it more, but I cant see why Google cant just keep making G+ better and better so that users actually want to use it more in conjunction with other services rather than forcing us to use it.
I guess in terms of future articles it would be nice to see something along the lines of how to export your Blogger to WordPress. Its not something I want to do but it seems a good thing to know about at the moment.

Tim Brookes

Great stuff, I will stick it on the list and see what I can do. I don’t personally have a Blogger myself – in fact I partly wrote this series as an incentive to just set SOMETHING up and write more. I just find myself a little drained at the end of the week when all I’ve done is write!

As for G+… it was the social network I never really wanted. Billed as a replacement for Facebook, though after a week or two I felt it was a bit deserted and thus neglected it myself. I don’t know what Google could do to make me use it more… perhaps less of the rigid Google UI and more flexibility would be nice. I haven’t really been impressed with their past revisions, though the G+ iOS app is very nice indeed – so maybe more of that!

Lisa Santika Onggrid

To me G+ is compelling, if only it stops hoarding my everything I accidentally supplied to the service, have a little bit extra respect of privacy, and stop telling me to integrate it to everything I use. Its feature is way better than Facebook IMHO. A social network will never take off if no one is there.

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Alaina Rubin

YES to this one. For pretty much all the reasons you said. I think, if this one lives up to its premise, it’ll be insanely fantastic.

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Angela Alcorn

Hah, love the title image, Tim. :)

Misan Bel

@Angela: LOL! me too… i’ve been wondering if anyone else caught on.

@Tim: Nice post Tim. ;)

Misan Bel

@Angela: LOL! me too… i’ve been wondering if anyone else caught on.

@Tim: Nice post Tim. ;)

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