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Internet newbies unite

New 'blogging' technology helps create yourlife.com

By Christine Boese
CNN Headline News

New 'blogging' technology helps create yourlife.com

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(CNN) -- I've been writing and talking about weblogs and news feed readers to the point that folks think of me as some sort of "blog nut." By writing this column, I risk perpetuating that notion, but this is too big of a deal to keep quiet.

This column is directed at folks who haven't been online for very long and who may have very basic computers and connections, and young people using computers at schools or libraries or cyber cafés.

Want an easy way to keep your photo albums online? How would you like to be able to post observations and concert reviews to the Internet from the next big concert you attend, directly from the mosh pit or the stadium floor?

This article can help you.

College and high school students are already on to this; most know someone who has a free LiveJournal or Blogger account, some of the most popular blog formats among young people.

Meanwhile, the hottest new category of blog software is more basic, aimed at beginners, non-technical types, thinkers and creative folks who have a lot to say but are often put off by technology.

AOL Journals and TypePad

AOL jumped in first with the release of AOL Journals in July 2003. The company said it chose "Journals" rather than the word "Blog" because few beginners had heard of blogs. It's only available to paid AOL subscribers. While AOL Journals are a quick and easy way for beginners to enter the blog universe, there are few options to personalize your page. All have an identically-branded AOL toolbar at the top and similar placement of navigational buttons.

(AOL and CNN Headline News are both part of AOL Time Warner.)

Another beginner product was released in August from Six Apart, the Webby Award-winning producers of Movable Type, one of the leading blog products for cybergeeks like me.

It's called TypePad, and it's a thing of beauty. It costs $4.95 to $8.95 a month. Already more than 1,000 people have signed up, according Anil Dash of Six Apart. (There is a 30-day free trial as well)

Layout and content are easily customized, from typefaces to colors to number of columns, with no coding.

Many TypePad bloggers are so proud of their new identity that they are adding additional branding badges to their sites. How often does a new product unite people like that in just one month?

For example, you can build photo albums in minutes and the blog will link to them. You can list favorite books, DVDs or music, and TypePad will automatically grab the link code from Amazon.com for a picture icon.

'Mo-blogging' and 'photoblogging'

Even a rank beginner can become an on-the-scene correspondent, by "mo-blogging" (using mobile phone or Blackberry) and "photoblogging" (creating a visual journal). You might be at a cyber café in Australia, a protest march in New York City or a three-day Phish concert, and you can post an immediate, real-time update to family and friends.

How easy is this? I helped a colleague set up a TypePad blog one week. By the weekend, he had gone to Michigan to see a concert by his favorite band, posting up-to-the-minute updates and an immediate concert review by Blackberry. By the end of the weekend, his blog was coming up number five and number three in two different searches for the name of the band. The Detroit Free Press was one link above his, but the newspaper was slower getting its concert review up on the Web.


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