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Archives: How To
Updated: Monday, May 3, 2004 7:47 AM EDT

DAN ACKLEY / ChallengerNKY.com

Start Your Own "Blog"

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Have you ever thought about having an avenue of unedited, unrestricted free speech to address issues, or maybe thought about helping others by sharing your story, or are looking for intellectual banter in your field of choice? If so, blogging may be for you.

Blogs, online weblogs/journals, can be updated easily without knowledge of hypertext markup language (html) or other software languages. Surpassing the limits of traditional publishing, blogs are an avenue for people who may be moderately tech-savvy to weigh in opinions and commentaries or just to share thoughts, ideas, or even great links we've found with others on the Internet.

Wondering where to get started? Highland Heights resident Phil Ulrich, a videographer / technology specialist for Northern Kentucky University's Institute for Freedom Studies, began his blog, among other things, at http://www.interalia.org/ because it was the "in thing to do for the net-savvy" when Blogger.com had been just launched. Other free sites include http://www.mBlog.com and America Online's Journals. All three are set up with menu drive questions.

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Just as the technology Ulrich uses has morphed over time, so has the range of his topics from personal, to political, to almost entirely technology related.

What Happens Here Stays Here

"I personally feel that what happens on a blog should stay on a blog. A friend of mine recently got his 15 minutes of fame because an innocuous photo he posted on his blog got him fired from Microsoft…I try not to use real names or full names where necessary…I try to make sure that my blog is more-or-less disconnected from my real life, so that anyone who stumbled on by blog (a potential employer, or a grad school, for example) would only see my commentary on technology and political issues."

Dr. Kenneth Rhee, professor of management at NKU, has been interested in innovation and creativity as long as he can remember. He uses his blog, http://www.gearbits.com/ that was created with peers, to communicate and publish articles that are technology related.

When asked about feeling compelled to contribute regularly, Rhee suggested that people should not get mired in feeling obligation.

"One thing you have to remember is that you are doing this for your enjoyment."

Rhee doesn't see privacy as an issue since this is a public forum. He suggests that if you want privacy for a personal blog, you can make your blog password protected.

Surprised by Feedback

When Kathryn Miller Ridiman began blogging on AOL Journals to document her home schooling experiences for her children and to meet documentation requirements for the State of Kentucky, she didn't realize that it was public, allowing anyone online to see and comment back on her entries. She was surprised the next time she logged on to find lots of hits and feedback. "Once I got such a positive response, I saw it as a way for my family and friends to keep up with what was going on in our lives. I also saw it as a way to share community and local resources with homeschooling families."

Ridiman, an experienced homeschooler, includes the day to day experiences and serves as an online resource and support for those who are new to homeschooling or are looking for resources in the area. She includes links to resources on her blog at . "I suppose the greatest message of my journal is to love your children and enjoy them."

Northern-Kentucky-based Mary Fitzgerald, a.k.a. Alphawoman, tells almost anything about herself except where she works, who she works for and where she lives. She uses initials and nicknames for siblings but keeps her boyfriend and children out of it. "I am afraid of hurting their feelings or to put anyone in a position to feel embarrassed." But she says her daughter is fair game because she's a good sport about it.

Fitzgerald discovered blogging while reading Pamela Ribon's "Why Girls Are Weird." She liked the idea of putting her writing into a public forum. She thought blogger.com was "User friendly, but it did not feel right for me." After reading some AOL Journals, she decided it was something she could do.

As you begin your journey into blogging, it's helpful to remember that blogs stretch beyond the limits of traditional publishing, circumventing traditional media by opening unedited discourse in a public environment. Therefore, you are the writer, editor and publisher. So here are a few suggestions to consider before blogging.

1. This may sound simplistic, but, state something as fact only if it is fact. If you are speculating, then say so. If you know something may not be true, include your uncertainly. Of course, your personal opinion is yours.

2. Put in links to other sites you reference. This reduces redundancy and allows readers to learn more and to judge the material themselves. If you selectivity include references, and if someone follows up, it could discredit the opinion you assert.

3. Please note links and references you think are questionable or biased. For example, if your blog entry is about terrorism and you link to a site of Muslim fundamentalists because of interesting insight, it might be nice for the reader to know. Linking to articles with strong or unpopular agendas is fine as long as readers are alerted to the source.

4. Post entries like they can't be changed. Once an entry has been added, make corrections or additions on a new entry. This maintains the integrity of the blog as if it were a paper journal. Then you can never be cited for inaccuracy.

5. Cite conflicts of interest. If you hold stock in a company that you're extolling the virtues of their product, or if you get free dinners, movie passes, or cd's for reviews, say so.

The collective advice from those currently blogging is to jump right in and do it. As Phil Ulrich says, "Blogging can be a great form of expression, but don't feel pressured to do it just because it's what the readers want, and don't expect to get famous…but you'll find that if you value your writing, other people very well may, too." Happy blogging.

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