It's not difficult to argue that blogging has done more to spread knowledge and ideas than any other publishing innovation since the printing press. Here's a look at the most popular blogging platforms to help you get your ideas out there.
Photo by Kevin Purdy.
Printer and photocopier salesmen of the late 20th century frequently peddled their wares with the pitch that a personal printing device could turn anyone—schools, neighbourhood associations, churches, individuals with a message to get out—into small time publishers. The revolution they hinted at didn't come about on their watch, however. The personal printer simply didn't have the volume and the reach that a later innovation, the internet—and more specifically, blogging—would have. Blogs give anyone an inexpensive platform to promote their ideas to a potential audience of the entire world, not just a county in Idaho or a street corner in Manhattan.
Blogger (Web-Based, Free)
Blogger is a popular and free blogging service owned by Google. Blogger's big draw is ease of use and nearly instant setup. You can go from blog-less to publishing your first post in under 15 minutes thanks to its extremely easy setup process. Blogger supports drag-and-drop template editing, dynamic updating, geo-tagging for location-based blogging, and easy publication from editing tools like Google Docs, Microsoft Word and Windows Live Writer. Blogger supports up to 100 users, so if you grow your blog beyond single editorship you can expand without any hassle.
Tumblr (Web-Based, Free)
While Blogger is an easy way to set up a full-fledged blog, Tumblr is an interesting fusion between a full-fledged blog and a Twitter feed. Known as short-form or micro blogging, the style of blogging on a Tumblr blog is focused on short and frequent posts that are normally longer (or more focused on media like images or video) than Twitter updates but not as involved and formal as a regular blog post. It's a style that appeals to a lot of people and the ease of setup coupled with the informality of Tumblr is a winning combination for people who aren't looking to commit to a blog as an involved and time-consuming project. If this is the first time you've come across the concept of micro blogging, make sure to check out Tumblr's About Us which provides an interesting picture of micro blogging.
WordPress (Web-Based, Free)
WordPress is a popular open source blogging platform along the lines of the venerable Swiss Army knife. As a WordPress user, you have the option of setting up a WordPress blog on your own server (for free) or creating a WordPress-hosted blog at WordPress.com. Thanks to an absolutely enormous community of followers and developers, WordPress has themes, plug-ins, and gadgets of all stripes. It isn't as simple to set up and configure as some of the other entries in this week's Hive, but once you get it up and running you're rewarded with a nearly limitless array of options, configurations and plug-ins. Finding a customisation tool or trick for WordPress is almost never more effort than a cursory Google search. WordPress is a scalable solution that allows you to do everything from maintain a single blog with a single user to an entire stable of blogs with multiple users all overseen by a primary administrator.
SquareSpace (Web-Based, From $US8 per month)
SquareSpace is a commercial blogging platform with packages ranging from $US8-50 per month. One of the nice things about their pricing schedule is that it's based almost entirely on volume and not on the idea that the lower tier members don't deserve all the cool toys the premium members get. Aside from a few features, mostly focused on volume and big site management, the user experience from the smallest users to the biggest power users is consistent. SquareSpace's strongest focus is on making good blog design easy for design/coding newbies. They've built their system around a modular design so building a brand new blog is as easy as snapping the pieces you want together.
Posterous (Web-Based, Free)
Posterous aims to be an absolutely no-fuss and zero-stress way to blog. You don't need to sign up, you don't need to know any code, you don't need to know how to do anything but send an email to set up your own Posterous blog and start sharing your ideas and media. Simply email [email protected] from any email account and Posterous will create a YourName.Posterous.com blog for you. They're quick to point out that they aren't a short-form or micro blogging service because there isn't anything short or micro about your Posterous blog. You can write posts and long as you want, attaching photos and media files. The only micro part about Posterous is the amount of time you'll spend setting it up. While email-based blogging might not be for everyone, it's impressive how much you can do through the Posterous system with a single email. Check out their FAQ file to see how you can do everything from multimedia posts to tagging your entries right from your email subject line.
Have a favourite blogging platform that wasn't highlighted here? A tip or trick for setting up a blogging platform that was? Let's hear all about it in the comments.