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Creating a Blog and Writing Your First Post 


Returning students: Make a new blog for this class as explained below; more details here for returning students.


For this assignment, you will create a blog for this class, and you will be using this blog every week all semester. Don't worry if you have never blogged before; you will find detailed (very very very detailed) step-by-step instructions below, and the goal for the Orientation Week is to make you feel totally confident about your blog before Week 2 begins. :-)


You will probably need about 30-45 minutes to finish this assignment. And don't be nervous: I think you will be surprised when you find out how easy it is to use a blog. Publishing a blog post is basically like sending an email... but a lot more fun. 


(made with cheezburger)




If you have never used a blog before, here are some key terms to understand:

  • Blog. A blog is a website with content that is (usually) arranged by date. You will create one blog for this class and you will be adding new blog posts for each assignment. As an example, here is a Myth-Folklore blog from last year, and here is one from Indian Epics. As you can see, they look different from each other, which is one of the great things about a blog: it's your own personal creation, showing and sharing the work you are doing in class in your own way, different from the other students. It's very individual!
  • Post. Each new piece of content that you add to the blog is called a post, and most of the assignments in this class will result in a new blog post. A post can be just a sentence or two, or it can be something that would be several pages long if you were to print it out on paper. A post can contain text, links, images, and video; most of your posts for this class will contain at least one image.
  • Template. Most blog software uses a design template so that each post in your blog has the same basic look as every other post in the blog (font, colors, etc.). You can modify or switch templates at any time, changing the design of the blog without changing the content. So, don't worry about the design right now; you can keep on playing with the blog design later until it feels right to you. Some people play with their template design all semester long!
  • Sidebar with widgets. Most blog templates allow you to have a sidebar (or multiple sidebars) with content in little boxes that are called widgets or gadgets. If you look at the class announcements blog, you'll see lots of sidebar widgets there.


Blogging platforms. There are lots of different blogging platforms; Blogger and WordPress are the two most popular, but there are lots of them out there. If this is your first time blogging, I recommend using Google Blogger and that is the platform I will be documenting in detail for the assignment instructions. But you do not have to use Blogger; as long as your blogging platform meets the requirements listed here, you can create your class blog using whatever software you prefer:

  • full RSS feed for posts
  • separate RSS feed for comments
  • linkable post labels
  • no advertisements

If you don't understand what all that jargon means, no worries: just use Blogger to get started. :-) 


About WordPress: As an OU student, you can set up your own WordPress installation at Create.ou.edu. So, if you already have some WordPress experience, then creating a WordPress blog is a great option to use for this class. The free WordPress.com option won't work for this class because of the ads (more about that), but as an OU student, you can have an ad-free WordPress installation at oucreate.com completely free, and you can get your own domain if you want for just $12. If you have some WordPress experience, I would highly recommend that option! I don't use OUCreate for blogging, but I use it for all my randomizing widgets — and you will see I use a lot of randomizing widgets in these classes, and I am a huge fan of the whole OUCreate project.


And now: the blog assignment. It has THREE PARTS:

Part 1. Create a Google account (if you don't have one already) OR set up an OUCreate account (if you don't have one already.
Part 2. Create a blog and publish a test post.
Part 3. Adjust your blog settings.






Google Account. Do you have a Google/Gmail account already? If so, you are good to go. If not, then create a Google account now. 


Step 1: Google account. Here's the link: Create your Google Account. You can use your real name or a pseudonym; either way is fine with me! So, if you don't want to leave any kind of digital trail, create an account using a pseudonym. (You can also use a pseudonym for your blog even if you have your real name at your Google account; more about pseudonyms and Blogger.)


Step 2. Google account security. I would recommend that you check your Google account security to make sure you have set up an account recovery procedure along with any other privacy settings you want to adjust. Here is the Google Security Checklist. The key thing is to make sure you have a recovery email and/or recovery phone number in case you forget your password. I would also advise you to turn on the two-factor authentication (it works like the two-factor authentication for your OU password).




If you are going to create a WordPress blog using OUCreate, just follow the instructions at Create.ou.edu; if you have any questions, you can let me know. You can use the free oucreate.com option or get your own domain; either approach will work for this class. (I use LauraGibbs.net as my domain through OUCreate.)




The instructions below assume you are using Blogger; if you are using WordPress instead, create a new WordPress blog, publish a post (Part 2) here, and then adjust the settings as needed (see Part Three below). The specific instructions are different, but the blog features work the same way.


Step 1. Create a new Blogger blog. To create your new blog, go to Blogger.com. If you are not logged in, you can click the "Create" button and it will prompt you to log in. Then, from the Blogger Dashboard, you can use the hamburger menu in the upper left-hand corner to create a new blog (you will have one blog for this class, and you could create other blogs for your other classes if you want, for example; I use a blog as a kind of notebook for every project I am working on).



You will then need to give your blog a TITLE (you can change the title whenever you want), and also a WEB ADDRESS. It's not really important what the web address is, but you cannot change the web address later, so keep it short and simple.

* You do not need your own domain, so if Blogger prompts you about that, you can just ignore that option.

* You can choose the Theme (design) later, so if Blogger prompts you about that, you can just make your choice later.


Step 2. Create your first post. Now that you have a new blog, you can add your first post. Use the "new post" link in the upper left-hand corner to do that:



Step 3. Write your first post. The screen for writing a new post has a lot of different features. You'll probably recognize the icons used here from other browser editors you use like in your email, etc.



Some features that might not be familiar:

* Title line at top of screen — you can type your title there.

* Labels options to the right — and labels are VERY important for blog navigation, as you will learn later this week.

* Tx is the "remove all formatting" function which is really useful if you are cutting and pasting from somewhere else; just highlight anything that has unwanted formatting and use the Tx button to remove the formatting.


Step 4. Type and publish the post. Type a title for your post plus a quick message in the title line. Then, type something to test to make sure your blog is working. Try out some of the formatting like bold and italics and then highlight the text and use the Tx button to remove the formatting if you want to see how that works. (In your next assignment, you'll learn about images and other formatting options, labels, etc.) When you are done, click Publish to publish your first post, and then Confirm.


Now you have published a blog post!


You will then see the post listing page. When you hover over the post you will see some icons for the different actions: revert to draft (unpublish), edit labels, delete, and view. Click on the view icon to see how your post looks and to get the post address.


After you click on view, you should see your post in a new browser tab with its own address. Every post in a blog has its own address.




So, now that you have a blog and a blog post, you have just one more task to complete for this assignment:


Step 5. Adjust settings. To adjust your settings, go the blog dashboard at Blogger.com, and click on Settings in the left-hand menu (that is also where you will be adjusting the blog design and layout). Here are the specific settings you should adjust now... just scroll on down to find the specific settings:


  • Comments. For "Who can comment?" confirm that it shows "Users with Google Accounts" and that the moderation is set to never, and then TURN CAPTCHA OFF (it is on by default). In my experience, this combination is a good balance between reducing spam while still making it easy for people in class to leave comments for you. If you do run into a spam problem, let me know and I'll help you find a good solution (so far, though, this combination has worked well). 
  • Formatting. Choose your time zone (it defaults to Pacific, but you are probably on Central time).


ALL DONE! Your blog is up and running, ready to go go go! If you want to take some time now to play with the design of your blog, you can do that too; just choose Themes from the left sidebar of the blog dashboard. There are lots of options, and you can then customize within each option. In a blog, the content and design are kept completely separate so that means you can change the design at any time during the semester, and all your existing posts will display with the new design and layout. So, if you want to play with this now, go ahead, or you can wait and explore the Themes later on. Either way is good! :-)



When you are done, SEND ME AN EMAIL with your blog post address, and use this subject line for the email: Class Blog AddressIn the email, let me know if you have done any blogging before for school or otherwise, and also let me know if you have any questions about as you get started with this blog adventure. Even if you are just curious about something, please ask! The more questions you ask, the more you will learn... and that will also help me to improve these instructions for the other students.


Then, after you send me the email, you can complete the Declaration for this assignment! Next assignment: you will create a new blog post! Here are those instructions: Picture a Favorite Place. 



Test post. I created a blog for this class and published my first post. 

Comments. I have configured the blog for comments

Time zone setting. I have adjusted the time zone setting. 

Email. I have sent the instructor an email with my blog post address.



Cartoon by Harley Schwadron






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