According to The New York Times, 17 percent of adult Internet users either write for blogs - their own or someone else's - and/or edit articles on the multitude of wikis out there (not necessarily Wikipedia, though, thanks to the tough new rules the site has implemented for editors, as described at http://tinyurl.com/krkeh9). So, we may be wasting time on the Web, but at least we're helping others waste time, too!
Those percentages mean that if you haven't already started your own blog or Web site, chances are good that you will at some point - because as someone with something to say, you probably won't be satisfied remaining someone's "employee" and will likely want to be your own boss. Especially when you find out how much money the person you're writing for is actually earning from the site (it's probably more than s/he's telling you).
Building your blog the easy way
Fortunately, there is an easy way for you to get a very professional-looking blog - indistinguishable from a "Web site," if you feel the need to differentiate between the two - that will cost you little or nothing, depending on how much work you put into it. How? By using Wordpress to build your sites.
While Wordpress is properly considered a blog-authoring platform, the truth is that Wordpress has morphed far beyond blogs. The later versions of the platform (the latest release was 2.8.4) support myriad plug-ins and widgets, which allow you to integrate advanced features on your site - such as flash slide shows, shopping carts, podcasts, mailing lists, links to social sites like Twitter and Facebook, SEO management capabilities, and much more - with the click of a button.
Wordpress, in fact, is more like a content management system; the Wordpress software sets up your site and provides you with an easy way to upload information, whether text or images. You get a perfect-looking blog/site, without having to poke around with the "guts" of html or css code running behind the scenes.
Wordpress is free, available at http://wordpress.org/ (actually, as the site says, it is "both free and priceless at the same time"). You can download the software for installation on your favorite Web host (a list of free hosts can be found at http://www.clickherefree.com/, but note that most of them either put ads on your site or don't let you use your own domain name).
Actually you probably don't even need to upload Wordpress to your site host, because it's probably already included in the batch of software and services they provide. (If the site where your Web pages are hosted has you log in using Cpanel, Wordpress is already there.) And, if all else fails, you can join the 223,954 other people with blogs/sites at the free http://wordpress.com/ hosting site, a free service provided by Wordpress. In addition, Wordpress is available in just about every language you can name, including Hebrew.
In search of uniqueness
Everyone wants to be unique; nobody likes cookie-cutter platforms, where the tools make your site end up looking similar to others who've used the platform. Uniqueness (along with advanced capabilities) is one reason professional Web site builders are still in business, despite the plethora of free blog- and site-building platforms like Wordpress and Blogger.com. But folks like us who want to save money are aiming a little lower. Luckily, though, with Wordpress, your aim can be almost as good as a pro's!
When you first install Wordpress, the software sets you up with a default theme - one that will seem very familiar to you, because you will have seen it on dozens of blogs and sites on the Internet, belonging to people who never bothered to change the default theme (called, oddly enough, Wordpress Default theme). But changing a theme is simple; all you have to do is find a theme you like, upload it to your host and click on the "themes" button in your Wordpress site's control panel to switch. Wordpress does all the heavy lifting, fitting your blog/site's data into the new layout you've chosen.
So where do you find themes? That, I have found, is one of the biggest challenges in using Wordpress - not because they're hard to find, but because there are so many! You can pay hundreds of dollars for Wordpress themes, but there are plenty of free ones to choose from as well, such as those listed at http://tinyurl.com/onnhvz.
How long does it take?
The thing I look for when searching out a Wordpress theme (I recently converted all four of my sites to Wordpress) is support, flexibility/features (i.e. how much the site can be easily customized) and, of course, price (free). Among the themes I've used are Mandingo, Atahualpa, Arthemia, Mimbo and others - all with nice features and easy to access and understand support.
How long does it take to set up a Wordpress site? That depends on how much you tinker with the features and how much configuring you want to do (Atahualpa, for example, has over 200 options you can tweak until you get things "just right"). Between the configuration options and the hundreds (thousands?) of plug-ins, you can easily and quickly (within a couple of days, even for newbies) build a blog/site you will be proud of posting on and promoting.
Sounds great, doesn't it? To most of you, that is. You'll note that I haven't made any comparisons between Wordpress and other blogging/site building platforms. No doubt there is someone out there who is ready to pounce and e-mail me something like, "Why didn't you mention that Blogger.com lets you do xyz that Wordpress can't?"
Whew! I'm already afraid to open my e-mail! The truth is, there are many platforms out there that can be used to do what Wordpress does (not as easily or as successfully, though). The reason I wouldn't consider Blogger is because I want to host my sites under my own domain names, something you can't do at Blogger.com. And then there's the analysis of Wordpress (the platform) versus Blogger.com at http://tinyurl.com/7xr5g9. But there's no need for a Blogger versus Wordpress showdown; the blogosphere is big enough for both of them.