Micro ISV Blogging: How?

Over the last couple of weeks, I tried to tackle the what, when and why of Micro ISV blogging. This week, I’m taking a look at some of the software and services that will help you get your blog up and running.

There are a lot of different ways to start or host a blog, many of which are free. I don’t have first hand experience with them all, so I’ve just provided a brief overview of some of the best known options. Whatever system you’ve been using, I’d love to hear about your opinions and experiences in the comments.

Blogger

Blogger is the free blogging service from Google. They will host it for you for free, or you can choose to host it on your own site. You can set up multiple blogs and have multiple contributors. You also get full control over the layout, as well as a large collection of standard templates to choose from.

If you choose self hosting, your Blogger blog will be deployed to your site as a collection of static html files. This makes it a great option if you have a very basic hosting package, you don’t need server side scripting or SQL database support.

The biggest limitations with Blogger are the lack of support for Trackbacks and categories, which are standard features with most other blogging software and services. Also, because the blog is made up of static html, you have to republish every page if you make even a small change to your template.

WordPress

WordPress is a very popular, free, open source blogging platform. It seems to support everything you could want from your blog.

To get WordPress up and running, you just need to download the software and install it on your web server. It should be compatible with most web hosts, but you will need a package with PHP and MySQL database support.

I’m told the installation is easy, but some web hosts will even handle that for you. For example, Dreamhost has a one click installation option for WordPress.

As well as the self hosted option, WordPress.com now offer free hosted blog accounts. They have the edge over Blogger with Trackbacks and categories, but there are no self hosting options and you don’t have full control over your template.

TypePad

If you’d rather not deal with self hosting, TypePad is completely hosted. Pitching itself as a premium blogging service, TypePad offers three different levels of paid subscription, depending on the features you need.

Basically, if you’re happy to pay, you can get a complete hosted blog package. You can have control over your template, trackbacks and categories, and domain redirection to give the impression of self hosting.

Other Options

There are plenty more to choose from. For example, Moveable Type is the self hosted version of TypePad (it’s only free for personal use). I also found a breakdown of many other self hosted blogging solutions here.

You might also want to take a look at Content Management Systems (CMS). Codesnipers is running on Drupal, but you could also look at Mambo and TextPattern. I wasn’t involved in the technical side of building Codesnipers, but maybe KC has some Drupal experiences to share?

How I chose

My decision was made very easy at the time, because I didn’t have an SQL capable web hosting package, and because WordPress hosted accounts didn’t exist yet. I just wanted to add a blog to one of my product sites; I wasn’t sure if it would take me anywhere, or even if I’d manage to keep it going, so I didn’t want to commit to a new monthly expense.

Also, I didn’t know what a Trackback was, and categories seemed like a luxury I could manage to live without. I signed up with Blogger, and hosted the files for my blog on my web server. The reason I chose to host the files myself was because I thought it would look better as mydomain.com/blog, than as mydomain.blogspot.com.

All in all, I’ve been fairly happy, but since learning about Trackbacks and starting to understand the benefits of categories, I’ve been wishing I had them! If I’d had my current web hosting packages at the time I started blogging, I would have installed a copy of WordPress on the server.

Summary

There are plenty of options out there if you want to start a blog, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to get started, even if your choices are limited by your web hosting package.

Drupal Management

Generally, you'd want to have the blog on your own site. If the blog starts getting significant traffic and Page Rank, your company Page Rank and traffic should also increase. While CodeSnipers was conceived to be a collaborative blog to share and communicate, the traffic and professional credibility benefits to Contributors have been a wonderful secondary aspect.

I have done a good deal of development tweaking and adjusting Drupal on the backend to simplify management. CodeSnipers, blogs.CaseySoftware, and ProjectManagementBlog all run from a single codebase so fixes - and bugs unfortunately - are deployed across all systems at once. I have a few more modules and adjustments in the works, it's just a matter of deploying them. Within the next year, my wife's knitting blog - Fearless Knitting 101 - is likely to share the same code.

Now I just need to convince her to write her article idea of "mISV: The Wife's Point of View"...

Can of worms!

"mISV: The Wife's Point of View": I don't even want to think about where that could go and how it might turn out, but it would probably get your wife 15 minutes of digg/reddit/icio.us fame ;).

For sure

I've no doubt there's a great article idea there, a lot of Micro ISV bloggers would probably list a supportive wife/family as one of the most important factors in keeping things going. I'm sure we'd all learn a lot by hearing about it from the opposite point of view. Although, if my wife ever takes on that challenge, I'll be hoping she's forgotten about that Shining article...

A Blogger benefit

I've used Blogger and Word Press, and definately like Word Press better, but there is one benefit to Blogger. If you host the Blogger blog on your brand spanking new ISV website, Google (since it owns Blogger) will index your site in like 2 days. Otherwise, you may be waiting for a month or so until Google crawls your site. I would guess that Google will probably crawl your site more often if you have a Blogger blog, too.

(Note: Just don't use Blue Host!)

Comments

If you make relevant comments on other blogs and include a link back to your site, you can speed this up already. Even better if you can get them to link you...

Trackbacks would help

That's when Blogger's lack of trackback support really starts to hurt. It's a lot easier to show up on another blog thanks to a trackback than it is to get them to link to you.