Blogging Platforms Compared

Note: This post is Blogging 105, part of the Blogging curriculum at Social Media University, Global.

In developing the curriculum for Social Media University, Global I had originally planned to have Blogging 105 be about the pros and cons of and WordPress, with Blogging 106 and 107 providing the same analysis for Blogger and Typepad/Movable Type, respectively.

If someone wants to write those posts (106 and 107), I would be glad to have you join the SMUG faculty as a visiting professor. But given limited time (and my increasing satisfaction with and WordPress), I will focus on why this platform is both a great way to get started with blogging, and also why it provides flexibility for growth as you become more serious about it.

I have limited experience with both Blogger and Typepad. They’re both fine, and their major advantages from my perspective is that you can embed flash-based widgets, which is something you can’t do, for security reasons, on That lets you put all those sharing icons like this:

…at the bottom of your posts. I had a friend describe as “Digg-proof,” which is a limitation, I suppose. You can overcome it by moving to a WordPress installation on a rented server, however, so it’s not a crucial deficiency in, from my perspective. And I guess it helps with security, so some malicious Flash application can’t bring down thousands of blogs Benefits

  • It’s free, and comes with 3 gigs of storage for photos and documents. No credit card needed to get going. No 14-day free trial. You can start now in about 30 seconds, and could quite possibly blog long-term without spending a penny.
  • If you’re nervous about starting, you can make your blog private and get hands-on experience without anyone seeing. (Or if you want to get experience in a blogging playground, check out the Training Wheels blog, where I would be happy to make you an Author.)
  • It’s Open Source, so lots of unpaid programmers are adding cool features really rapidly.
  • You can embed YouTube or Google videos (and some other types), as well as slide shows.
  • If you want to use as a podcast server, you can pay another $20 a year to upgrade your storage to 8 gigs, and to enable you to upload mp3 or video files. (More on this soon.)
  • Bandwidth is unlimited and free. If you can upload it to, your blog visitors can download it. It doesn’t matter how many of them visit.
  • You can create workflows for an editorial process. You have a hierarchy that runs from Contributor (can write posts but can’t publish) to Author (can publish and edit own posts) to Editor (can edit anyone’s posts) to Administrator (can do all of the above plus add or delete users and change blog design.) So if you want people to be able to write posts but want a quality check before they go live, you can have that process built into your publishing tool.
  • URLs are in plain English, and you can edit them for search engine benefits. For example, I have given this post a URL that ends …global/blogging-platforms-compared/. Google looks at that URL and deduces that this post might just be about comparing blogging platforms. So if anyone searches on those terms, I’ll be likely to come up higher in the rankings than if I had a Typepad URL like …/blogging-platfo.html
  • Upgrade costs are minimal. For $15 a year you can customize the look and feel of your blog, as we did here and here and here. For $10 a year you can map your blog to another domain or subdomain (see the same examples, as well as the domain name you see in your browser right now), although it may cost you another $10 to register a domain name (like I already mentioned the $20 a year fee for 5 gigs of extra storage, and for $30 you can have an unlimited number of private users. Add it all up and you’d have a hard time finding a way to spend over $100 a year on a fully featured blog. A comparably equipped TypePad blog would be at least $300 a year, and more likely $900.
  • If your blog becomes wildly successful and you want to start offering Google Adwords or Flash-based applications, you can transfer your blog from to a server you control (and that you can rent for maybe $10 a month.) Just update your server’s IP address with your registrar, and you can make the move without losing any links.

As I said earlier, I would welcome as a visiting professor anyone who would want to explore the pros and cons of either Blogger or Typepad in a guest post. Or if you have experiences with any of these platforms that you would like to share in the comments, please do!

Otherwise, what are you waiting for? Get started with now.

Twitter 110: Tools to Automate Cross-Platform Status Updates

Note: Twitter 110 is part of the Twitter curriculum for Social Media University, Global (SMUG).

Here are some great tools that enable you to automatically use one of your social media tools to update others. They save you double-entry of the same information, and also help ensure that your profiles don’t go stale.

Twittersync is a handy Facebook application that turns your latest Tweet from Twitter into your Facebook status update. This is really helpful for me, because I’m notoriously bad at updating my Facebook status. It’s not that I don’t spend time in Facebook; it’s just that I’m doing other things instead of updating status.

Update: See Nathon’s comment below, about why Twittersync isn’t working and the alternative method for updating your Facebook status through Twitter.

Twitterfeed, by contrast, takes any RSS feed, such as this one from my blog, and uses it to create Tweets in an account of your choosing. For Mayo Clinic’s Twitter account, for example, I connected Twitterfeed to our RSS feed of news releases. That way if people want to use Twitter as their all-purpose river of news, we can make sure the Mayo Clinic tributary is flowing into it. And tonight I just added the SMUG feed to my personal Twitter account.

I have previously Tweeted about new blog posts. Now I don’t need to remember to do that anymore. By combining Twitterfeed and Twittersync, I can write a post to my blog and have that fact posted both to Twitter and to my Facebook status.

I like both of these services, and another that’s really helpful is Twittermail. One of the most irritating parts of mobile Tweeting is that when you do it via SMS text message it’s really slow. At least for me. But with Twittermail I have an e-mail address I can use to send a Blackberry e-mail message, which is much faster: unlike SMS, I don’t have to hit keys multiple times to select the right letters.

So, for example, I just used my Blackberry and Twittermail to Tweet the following:

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Blogging 131: How NOT to Shoot Web Video

The Flip video camera, which I reviewed and demonstrated in Blogging 130, enables you to easily shoot and quickly edit video to be uploaded to YouTube and embedded on a blog.

But as my friend Jane likes to say, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”

Or, at least you should get training and follow some basic principles so you can produce better-looking content.

Here’s an example of the wrong way to shoot web video:


The main problem (aside from needing a better spokesmodel), is the brightly lit window behind me at the Seattle airport. It makes me all shadowy. Even so, you can still distinguish some of my features and it’s not completely intolerable (although you can weigh in on that in the comments), but it’s definitely not high quality shooting.

Here’s a better example, which comes from just turning the camera the other way:


The subject matter isn’t any better looking, but at least you get a more accurate map of the creases created by four-and-a-half decades of smiling and laughing (and squinting in the sun).

I’m also temporarily password-protecting this post, and making the videos on YouTube only visible to me, to see how that works. I’ll remove the password protection later.

Updated: Here’s what I learned. By setting the videos as “Private” in YouTube, that overrides the other setting I had done to allow embedding within this blog post. So if you have video you only want to share through a password-protected post, you can’t use YouTube embedding to display it. It has to be public on YouTube to be embedded in a post. I’ve now removed both the password protection on this post and the privacy on the YouTube videos so you can learn from these stellar examples.


Charlene Li Forrester Web 2.0 Presentation

I had the pleasure yesterday of presenting at a Web 2.0 Summit sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. Our panel was moderated by Ted Eytan, M.D., who also presented on his blogging experience from the last four years as part of Kaiser’s sister (or cousin, or some other relation I don’t completely understand) organization, Group Health. He’s an interesting guy who also has a passion for LEAN in Health Care, which is the topic of the other blog on which he is a collaborator. I also got to meet and hear Tim Collins from Wells Fargo, whose company has official blogs that include Guided by History, The Student LoanDown and one that supports Stagecoach Island, its virtual world. TIm says Wells Fargo was the first big brand in Second Life, but that they got out just as many others were starting to get in. Now they have a world of their own.

Charlene Li from Forrester Research opened the Summit with an overview of Web 2.0. She’s also the co-author of Groundswell, a book I just bought at (It’s also here on Amazon, and I’ll be reviewing it after I listen to it over the next few days). Before her presentation, we got to talk about our experience with audio books, and I recommended some from Patrick Lencioni that I think most people in business would find extremely helpful (and which I have reviewed on this blog): The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Silos, Politics and Turf Wars. (I thought I had reviewed Death by Meeting, too…but I guess that’s on my to-do list.)

I’ll have my full review of Groundswell, but meanwhile here are some of the high points and recommendations from Charlene’s presentation:

Focus on the relationships, not the technologies. At Forrester, they have developed a four-step process using the acronym POST. You should consider:

  • People – for those you want to reach and with whom you want to interact, consider their characteristics and what kinds of social media involvement they have already. Getting seniors into a 3D virtual world may be a mismatch, unless the group you’re targeting is retired Microsoft or IBM engineers.
  • Objectives – Decide what you want to accomplish
  • Strategy – Plan for how relationships with customers will change
  • Technology – Decide which social technologies to use

Charlene’s blog has a fuller discussion of POST, and I’m sure Groundswell will be even more detailed.

Part of analyzing People is determining where they are on the Ladder of Participation.

Charlene had a lot of other great material in her presentation, but she closed with some Keys to Success:

  1. Start with Your Customers.
  2. Choose Objectives You Can Measure
  3. LIne Up Executive Backing
  4. Romance the Naysayers
  5. Start Small, but Think Big

I particularly like that last point, because it fits with the SMUG (It’s all Free) philosophy. It’s possible to start small because the barriers to entry are practically non-existent, but you should plan for success to that you can scale up as necessary.

For example, you can start a blog hosted on and map to a domain or subdomain of your choosing for $10-$20 (and can extensively customize your look and feel for another $15). Later, if your blog is successful and you decide you want to host it elsewhere to allow more use of Flash and embedded widgets, you can just download and install WordPress from and re-map the domain, and you won’t lose any of your links. I’ll have more on that as I build out the Blogging curriculum.

Blogging 130: Video Blogging with Flip and iSight

Note: Every required course in the Social Media University, Global curriculum is free. In this one, I’m reviewing a product for video blogging that isn’t free, but it’s certainly inexpensive. Because of the cost, however, this course is an elective, not part of the core curriculum. But please at least do the course reading below, even if you’re not able to complete the homework assignment.

For the last several years I’ve been using my miniDV camera for producing amateur movies, whether for fun work projects or family videos. In fact, I have a huge drawer full of miniDV tapes that have captured many of my family memories, and which I have used to create high school graduation retrospectives for my two oldest kids, and for some wedding videos. And although I’m a self-taught producer, I’m pretty pleased at what I’ve been able to create with relatively simple tools.

One thing that makes producing these videos, well…a production is the need to digitize the footage, connecting the camera to the computer via Firewire, and playing the whole tape to import files that can be edited in iMovie (or one of the Final Cut versions.)

But thanks to recommendations from Steve Lubetkin and Monty Flinsch, I’ve recently (this weekend) begun exploring the Flip camera as a video blogging alternative. My one-word review:


I’ve seen Scoble do his Qik gig, and it’s pretty cool to have “a TV station in your pocket,” which you can use to stream video live to the web. But while I personally find my life really interesting, I think most of my readers would prefer the edited version. And besides, the quality of the live video stream (even from a 3G phone) still needs some work.

That’s what’s so compelling about the Flip: for a ridiculously low price ($119 for 30 minutes, $149 for 60 minutes), you can get a camera that records 640 x 480 video with decent sound into files that you can edit instantly and upload to YouTube or another video blogging platform, or to Facebook.

In fact, I started shooting the segment you see below at 7:15 p.m. CDT Tuesday, using a Flip Ultra and a cheap tripod. It took a couple of tries to say something close to what I wanted. So I was done recording by 7:20. Then I plugged the camera’s built-in USB extension that flips out (Get it? Flip?) into my computer’s USB port, and completed the editing by 7:25 using QuickTime Pro. I exported at 30 frames per second and best quality, which took about four minutes for this 75-second clip. By 7:32 I was uploading to YouTube. Total time from shooting to uploading: 17 minutes.

Then my youngest son asked me to go out for a run (with him on his scooter), so I took a blogging break. I’m not sure how long the upload took because I was away while it finished, but that will vary for you anyway, based on your Internet connection speed.

One hour later…

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