So You Want To Be A Blogger?

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It's easy to create your own blog—a good-looking one, with text, photos and links to other sites—in a flash, no technical know-how required. One good, basic service is Blogger.com, which is owned by Google. Blogger will host your site and give you a set of powerful, easy-to-use publishing tools for free. A caveat: Your blog's URL will end in blogspot.com unless you do an advanced setup. Another good bet is MSN Spaces, also free. Yahoo's 360° is still in limited beta-testing mode (you need to be invited by a current user to try it), but it should be open to the public later this summer, according to the company. There's also LiveJournal, which is popular with teens, and TypePad, which offers more advanced features for $5 to $15 per month, depending on level of service. (Both are owned by Six Apart, creators of Movable Type, a publishing platform for more serious users.)

If you regularly read several different blogs, consider using a newsreader such as Bloglines or Kinja. These services let you view content from multiple websites, putting it all in one place so you don’t have to surf around. (There are also newsreader applications that you can download to your desktop. Check out Pluck.)

A newsreader will get a website’s content in the form of a feed—essentially a list of headlines, with summaries, excerpts or the full text of each item, and links that take you back to the source. Feeds come in one of three formats: RSS (which stands for Really Simple Syndication), XML or Atom. If a site offers a feed, you’ll usually see a tiny icon or link on the home page.

But you won’t have to bother with such details if you use Bloglines or Kinja. After you register for your free account, you simply type in web addresses of the sites you like. Bloglines stores your choices in folders, which you can access under the My Feeds tab. (You can also search for specific entries: there are 500 million blog and news feed articles in Bloglines’ database.) Kinja pulls together the latest news stories and blog posts and displays them on one page, which it calls Your Digest. Choose Collapse mode to view only the top post from each site on your list; Expand links to every post on all your sites, in age order (posted 12 minutes ago, posted 8 hours ago, posted yesterday, etc.) and will go back as far as you are willing to go.

If video blogs are your thing, try Mefeedia, a free service that will notify you every time your favorite vlog adds a new clip. Want to see what’s buzzing around the blogosphere? Visit Blogdex or Technorati.