“To my Lord’s in the morning, where
I met with Captain Cuttance , but my Lord not being up
I went out to Charing Cross , to see Major-General Harrison
hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he
looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition.
He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown
to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy.”
Ah, how I would love to be able to write a weblog filled
with episodes like that! The entry above was written by
that greatest of bloggers, Samuel Pepys. I am not being
entirely flippant when I describe Pepys as a blogger. There
really is a Samuel Pepys weblog. You can find it here: www.pepysdiary.com.
You’ll find the entry
quoted above here.
Still good after all these years….
From Cats to Call Girls
I have been much concerned by weblogs of late having
begun no less than four of my own. This may, I concede,
seem a little ambitious. I mean, I would be the first to
admit that my daily life is not so filled with incident
that I am unable to fit an account of its events into one
blog at a time. All the same, I decided to start three
blogs in order to test out competing blog providers. The
fourth blog came about almost by chance. More on that shortly.
Until recently, I had paid scant attention to blogging.
This is possibly because I never have been a keen diarist.
I did once try to keep a diary but the daily entries rarely
got much more exciting than: “Monday, 10:30,
dentist” or “Thursday,
3:30, cat to vet.” Important as these events may
have seemed to me personally, I rather doubt whether they
would have millions of Internet users logged on with baited
breath, eager to read what happens next.
In fact, it’s surprising just how many blogs seem
to be filled with incidents of pretty much the dentist,
cat and vet variety. There are some notable exceptions.
Belle de Jour – the Diary of a London Call Girl is one of the most notable of the notables (by the way,
don’t click that link if you are easily shocked.
At any rate, if you do click it and are shocked, don’t
blame me!). Purporting to document the daily life of the
eponymous Ms de Jour, this blog has appeared online for
the past couple of years and has now become a bestseller
in book form.
Fame, fortune and book deals are, of course the dream
of many bloggers. But few indeed will ever achieve the
success of the loquacious Belle. This is no doubt due in
part to the fact that Belle simply has a more interesting
occupation than most of us. Assuming, that is, that what
she writes is the plain unvarnished truth. Belle, one senses,
is occasionally prone to exaggeration. Indeed, it is not
beyond the bounds of possibility that she may actually
tell some pretty juicy fibs from time to time.
There are some suspicious souls who even doubt whether
Ms de Jour really is the call girl she claims to be. Indeed,
it has been rumoured that she may not be a girl at all.
For all you know, she could be me. Only I know that she
isn’t. For all I know, she could be you. But since
I have no idea who you are, this is an untestable hypothesis.
Speculation on the identity of Belle de Jour has recently
even spread as far as the august pages of the Sunday
The newspaper claims that “The evidence points
to Belle being largely the work of Lisa Hilton, a British
author based in America, who has written about her own
steamy sex life in the past.” Clues to her identity
can be found in a new blog called “Belle
de Hypothesis - Fictional Account Of A London Publishing
Personally, I’m not convinced. I shall shortly be
launching a new blog in which I shall be presenting new
evidence which points to the real-life Belle being none
other than the very lovely Elton John.
But I fear I am straying from the subject. I seem to
recall that I had planned to devote this month’s
Rant to the subject of blogs and how to get one – or,
as I said, in my own case, four. There are numerous blog
providers in the world. Some provide software that you
have to install on your own web space, others provide web
space but charge you for the privilege. A few provide both
the software and the web space and don’t charge at
all. It goes without saying that this is the category of
blog which attracted me.
This is my Blogger blog: : http://huwsrant.blogspot.com
This is my MyBlogSite blog: http://rants.myblogsite.com
And finally, my ModBlog blog: http://rantsandraves.modblog.com
I decided to try out three free blogs: Blogger, MyBlogSite
and ModBlog. Of these Blogger is probably the best know,
not least due to the fact that it is owned by the world’s
favourite search engine, Google. To get a Blogger blog
you just sign up for a free account at www.blogger.com.
Then you choose a name for your blog and pick a template
to define the appearance of each page. Unfortunately, there
are now so many Blogger blogs that finding a spare name
is quite tricky. For example, when I created my Rants and
Raves blog I found that the names ‘rantsandraves’, ‘rants’, ‘randr’ and
even ‘huwsrants’ (in the plural) had already
been taken. In the end, I opted for ‘huwsrant’ in
the singular. Blogger blogs are hosted in the Blogspot
domain so the address to my blog is: http://huwsrant.blogspot.com.
On the whole I like the Blogger system. It is easy to
post new entries. You just add the text into an editing
window and use shortcuts such as Ctrl+B and Ctrl+I to format
selected text in Bold or Italics. There is also an HTML
editing mode if you prefer to mess around with the formatting
code. Unfortunately it isn’t so easy to edit the
page template. If you want to make adjustments to the appearance
of your pages you have to mess around with raw HTML code
using a very, very basic text editor. Not for the faint
Blogger provides syndication (the ability for readers
to ‘subscribe’ to your blog and receive notification
when new entries are added) in a format known as Atom.
It does not currently provide the more popular RSS syndication
format – though, in fact, many RSS Reader programs
support Atom too, so this is not a major problem.
To format your Blogger
pages you will need to delve into the underlying code!
At least the Blogger post editor is user-friendly.
Getting pictures hosted for display in your Blog is a
complicated business on Blogger. First you have to download
Google’s free picture management software, Picasa
then you have to download a Blogger add-on for Picasa called
You can then use Hello to select and resize pictures from
your hard disk and upload them to your blog. This is all
very slick once you have the software installed. However,
there are much easier ways of uploading graphics and one
is led to wonder why Google insists upon this rather complicated
method. I suspect that it is aimed at getting people to
install Picasa whether they want to or not - though I haven’t
yet figured out what’s in it for Google. No doubt
all will become clear in time…
A Site For Sore Eyes
Meanwhile, I also tried out another blog host called
This is another completely free blog provider which uses
the same Blogware system (home.blogware.com)
used by some pay-to-blog providers. There is much that
I like about MyBlogSite. In particular, it is quite easy
to adapt the design of your blog pages without having to
do any hands on HTML coding. As with Blogger, you start
out by picking a ready-to-use page template. Once you’ve
done that you can add and delete elements from the pages
simply by dragging and dropping pre-designed components
such as an RSS link, a calendar, favourite links and so
on. But this isn’t exactly a WYSIWYG editor.
What you see when dragging categories around is just a
collection of labelled boxes. You won’t see what
you’ll get on your finished page until you’ve
saved your completed design. While this isn’t as
user friendly as it could be, it’s a damn’ sight
friendlier than Blogger!
The MyBlogSite page layout
is edited by dragging and dropping elements onto 'page
MyBlogSite has a good editor for formatting your posts
MyBlogSite has a good text editor for posting blog entries
with even more formatting options than Blogger. There are
icons to set text in bold, italic and underline, to align
text to the left, centre or right and even to change the
colour and font. You can also upload pictures direct from
your hard disk and add either them to the post you are
currently editing or to a separate ‘photo album’.
You can put the photo album on a separate element on the
page of your blog if you want to give people the option
of looking at a ‘standalone’ collection of
photos. Uploading, resizing and adding images to your blog
is much simpler procedure with MyBlogSite than with Blogger
and you don’t need to install any additional software.
Another good thing about MyBlogSite is its statistics.
These give you a detailed breakdown of the number of page
views by hour, day or month and the most popular articles
in your blog. My MyBlogSite blog can be found at: http://rants.myblogsite.com.
The last of the three blogs systems I’ve been trying
is ModBlog (www.modblog.com).
If you like fancy page designs, ModBlog will be right up
your street. Many of the standard templates are more highly
designed and graphical than those provided by Blogger or
MyBlogSite and you can create or modify templates to your
own taste. In fact there are three alternative ways of
editing ModBlog templates, none of which, however, is particularly
easy. While it certainly is possible to customise the appearance
of your blog to a considerable extent, you will need a
good knowledge of HTML. Nerves of steel would be an added
Once again, editing the ModBlog
page layout requires a knowledge of HTML
The ModBlog editor is the least friendly of the three I
In common with MyBlogSite, ModBlog provides comprehensive
statistics on the pages that have been viewed by visitors.
It even shows the names of sites on which visitors clicked
links to your blog. The post editor is a bit hard going
as it doesn’t have icons and keyboard shortcuts to
apply text formatting. You can add some formatting effects
by enclosing text between HTML tags but when this option
is selected any web site addresses in your post do not
automatically have hotlinks to the specified address. Curiously,
web address linking becomes active when HTML code formatting
There is a very large range of ‘added extras’ available
on ModBlog. In addition to an image gallery (once again,
uploading images is straightforward), you can also add
a ‘chatterbox’ area in which visitors can natter
among themselves, plus polls for people to vote on specific
subjects, a calendar, an RSS feed and even a forum where
people can discuss topics at greater length. Incidentally,
ModBlog is the only blog which had my preferred blog name, ‘rantsandraves’ available.
Visit the blog at: http://rantsandraves.modblog.com.
Well, having tried out three free blogs, the time eventually
came to decide on one of them to use as the default blog
to complement this column. It wasn’t an easy decision.
All three blog systems have their own particular strengths.
ModBlog, for example, is hugely customisable and has a
great many added extras. I found it hard to get to grips
with the layout designers, however, and its post editor
is about as friendly as a cornered rat. Even so, it lets
you create some striking looking designs and would be a
good choice if you want to encourage a high degree of interaction
with your blog’s visitors.
MyBlogSite also has quite a few added extras and makes
lighter work of designing your page layouts. Its post editor
is easy to use and it provides a good range of statistics
on page views. If you want a fast, easy-to-use Blog and
don’t plan on customising every last element of your
page design, MyBlogSite is hard to beat.
On the face of it, Blogger is most notable for what it
lacks. It hasn’t got all the added extras of ModBlog,
it hasn’t got the simple layout manager provided
by MyBlogSite, it doesn’t support RSS feeds directly
(though its alternative Atom format feed provides similar
functionality), it hasn’t got built-in image uploading
(though the additional Picasa and Hello software fill this
gap), and it lacks detailed statistics.
Even so, in the end I decided to put the Rants
and Raves Blog on Blogger. I decided against ModBlog because I don’t
care for its layout manager and post editor. But it was
a pretty close run thing between Blogger and MyBlogSite.
I opted for Blogger for the simple reason that it’s
part of the Google network. Google is expanding dramatically
and I anticipate that its blog service will expand accordingly.
Already there is a popup BlogThis tool built into the Google
Toolbar (a free web browser add-in). Blogger is also expanding
into the world of audioblogging to let you add audio entries
to your blog over the phone. Unfortunately, this service
is only available in the USA at the time of writing. I
live in the UK so that’s no good to me. Still, Blogger
says audioblogging is coming soon to the rest of the world.
Apart from the backing of Google, I would probably have
opted for MyBlogSite. Indeed, I may yet do so. After all,
there’s no rule against keeping more than one blog.
Hmmmm… now what kind of blog is likely to be the
next international sensation, I ask myself? I don’t
know, but somehow ‘Diary of
a middle-aged Welsh Computer Journalist’ doesn’t have ‘best-seller’ written
all over it. Maybe I need to use a little more artistic
licence. How about ‘Diary of
a Betws y Coed Rent Boy’?
By George! That’s it! Interested publishers can
fight over the novelisation rights at my usual email address.
Incidentally, when they make the film, I’d like to
be played by Brad Pitt….
I almost forgot. At the start of this month’s Rant
I mentioned that I have four blogs but thus far I have
mentioned but three of them. The fourth one is called ‘Stuck
In The ‘80s’ and it came about as a result
of a complex set of events which I shall simplify thus:
1) Back in the 1980s, I used to interview pop stars for
a living, 2) A couple of years ago I decided to reprint
some of my old interviews on my web site www.darkneon.com,
3) As a result of which I was contacted by the owner of
the Internet music station, all80sradio.com,
4) who asked me to record some reports ‘live from
the ‘80s’ to
be broadcast on the station, 5) which gave me the idea
of writing a weblog ‘live from the ‘80s too’.
And that, dear reader, is what this blog is. Log on to
Stuck In The ‘80s at http://stuckinthe80s.blogspot.com.