How to set up a blog using WordPress.com

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I’m trying out WordPress using WordPress.com’s free hosting service. My main blog, Morgan McLintic on PR, is hosted on Typepad, which has had some outage problems recently. I like Typepad but as a precaution, I thought I’d look at other blogging platforms. Below is a basic ‘How To’ which I put together while configuring a new WordPress.com blog. It’s not comprehensive but will get most first time users going.

Setting up a WordPress.com blog is quick and free. Simply create an account at WordPress.com by selecting a user name, enter the title of your blog (which you can change later) and an email address. WordPress.com will send you a password to log in to your account.

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Take care when choosing your username since this will form part of the title of your blog. So mine here is ‘morganmclintic’ meaning my blog’s URL is http://morganmclintic.wordpress.com/. At present, WordPress.com does not allow you to park a different domain name over this address, though according to the FAQs, this will be offered later for a fee.

The WordPress.com management interface is pretty intuitive. A number of tabbed icons take you to different sections to configure, manage and post to your blog. There is a basic Dashboard view to direct you to the most common tasks, like writing a post or adding a link to your blogroll.

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First you might want to update or complete your profile. You’ll want to fill out your name, rather than just your username and select how it is displayed in the drop down menu. I’ve also added my AIM contact details. Below these fields is an About yourself box, where you can put some background information. This will be displayed on a separate page on your blog. You can also change your password here if you need.

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Next you might want to change the look of your blog, so hit the Presentation tab. The WordPress Default 1.5 template is fairly simple with a blue header. WordPress.com doesn’t offer much in the way of configuration options for look and feel at present, though again the FAQs suggest this will be added in due course. I’ve gone for Blix 0.9.1 here. That’s really all you can change.

Next you will want to set up some Categories for your posts. The default is Uncategorized. These will help your readers navigate to relevant content. Hit Manage/Categories. Add as many useful categories as you need. One good thing about WordPress.com is that you can even nest Categories to create Sub-categories. For instance, Personal>Pets or PR>Media Relations. You can’t do that on Typepad yet.

While we’re still setting up the blog, you might want to create a blogroll. These are basically links to other blogs which are relevant to your topic, or by people you know. They’re a bit of a throwback to early blogging but many people like them still – and it helps first time visitors to position your blog in the ecosystem. To create a blogroll, click Links – there are already two here for WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The sub-menu has Add Link – fill in the details and a description of the blog or site to link to and hit Add Link. Note – you don’t need to ask permission to link to someone’s blog. Bloggers like links since it helps their ranking in search engines, such as Google and Technorati. Be prepared though, once you set up your blogroll, for people to start visiting your blog. Bloggers normally have alerts set up to track who is linking to them, so they’ll come to check you out.

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Now it’s time to write some content, so hit the Write tab and you’ll be taken to the post section. This should look familiar since it uses the same icons as normal text editors. Give your post a descriptive or snappy title and then enter your text. You may want to create links to other blogs or websites. If it’s a blog post you are linking to, select the ‘Permalink’ or permanent URL of that post, rather than the blog’s generic homepage. This will take your readers directly to the place you are referring to rather than making the search for it. You can find permalinks in the footer of each blog post. To create a link, highlight a word or phrase, and you will see a button in the Post toolbar highlight with an image of a chain link. By pressing this, you’ll get a small dialog box in which to paste the address of the destination website.

When you have written your post, and formatted it correctly, you should also assign it to one or more of the categories you created earlier. These can be found in the menu on the right hand side – just hit the ‘+“ button to expand that menu and then check the relevant category boxes.

You can save your post at any point if you do not have time to complete it. Once ready, hit Publish and your post will appear on your blog. You can check its format by viewing the site.

If people have views on what you write or extra information, you will also receive comments from other users which you can reply to via your blog itself. The WordPress.com system should email you once you have a comment waiting (though my tests have not shown that to be the case at the moment since the system is busy).

This should get you up and running. There are lots of other tweaks and enhancements you can make, such as adding images to the sidebar (which can be done under the Links tab), but for basic posting of text to a blog, you now know enough to get started.

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  • That’s interesting, but WordPress is open source. Why not just install the software so you can host your blog on morganmclintic.com?
    http://codex.wordpress.org/Main

  • At the moment, that domain is parked over the top of my Typepad account hosted by SixApart. I don’t have space on their server to upload a different blogging engine, so would need to change hosts.
    I’m using WordPress.com as a way of testing WordPress and learning about it, just in case I need to swap. I don’t really want to at the moment.
    Plus installing WP on a hosted server, or even taking up the Yahoo! hosted WP, is technically harder and a little more costly. Don’t really want to pay two hosts or run two blogs simultaneously.
    Your blog is on WP – are you happy with it? Do you host it yourself?

  • I’ve got MT, TP, WP.com, WP, TP on Yahoo!, Drupal and CivicSpace. If you take the WP.com package you’re inevitably compromising functioinality. It’s a ‘starter for 10’ style package in my eyes – again not really business class.
    There’s no doubt in my mind that TP has done a more thorough implementation job at this time. People should realise that moving to the WP platform (not the hosted services) is a step into OSS geek land.
    It’s not as scary as it sounds and to date, I’ve found the community to be highly supportive to the point where I’m prepared to donate where appropriate.
    Problems are pretty easy to resolve. The additional effort is worth it IHMO.

  • Thanks Den. WP.com is a free hosted service, so you expect reduced funstionality. The interface isn’t as slick as TP but you can tell that the full version of WP would be much more configurable.
    You’re right, it is a leap into geek land. Despite the support from the OS community, I think for most casual/personal bloggers it might be a leap too far. For commercial use, having full control would probably be worth the effort, however.

  • Yes, I host it (helzerman.com) myself. Anyone who has a webhost with Fantastico can install very easily, but even if you have to up load it yourself it is actually easy to do. I’ve found it to be cheaper versus remote hosting because you have other space on your server or shared-server where you can upload other programs, etc.