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June 12, 2007 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I want to blog. Got the host (Dreamhost). Got the blogware (Wordpress). Have an idea (Magazine for chicks). Don't have anything else. Help.

I want to start a blog. A blog that essentially would be a web magazine for women. Problem is, I've never blogged before in my life. I'm kind of lost when it comes to using Wordpress. I don't really like any of their stylesheets (a word I picked up yesterday) and was wondering if I could design something of my own. I don't know any programming languages. I probably don't know what I'm getting into, but I do want to blog.

So help me, what are some resources I should read? Is there something in particular I should learn? Where do I go to learn how to design a stylesheet? And what should I know and learn if I want to be serious about this blog? Any links, online courses and tips would be greatly appreciated.

Also, if any women out there want to voice what they want to read about... My assumption so far is to write a bit about fashion and beauty and health, but also female heroes, travel, interesting books. I feel that most female magazines treat themselves too seriously and their readers as empty-headed consumerist bimbos. So if you have an opinion either way, tell me what you'd like your favorite mag to look like (links to interesting female blogs appreciated)
posted by barrakuda to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There are tons of free WordPress templates out there, and you could probably pay someone not much money to design a custom one. Designing your own template requires knowledge of PHP.

My friend writes Manolo for the Brides, which is wedding-specific, but the template they use is hideous.

I would also recommend looking through the blogs at wordpress.com (their free hosting service) to see what aspects of wordpress you like and dislike. third-party templates can have extra sidebars and stuff so it's good to see a wide gamut of blogs.
posted by mkb at 10:03 AM on June 12, 2007

With a little reading and some practice, you can create your own stylesheet. You need to learn a simple language called Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS. There are lots of tutorials out there, just do a Google search.

As for topics, I would focus on what you're interested in, not what you think someone else will be interested in. You will be the one producing the content, so the topics need to be interesting to you. If you do it consistently well, you will eventually build a readership.
posted by mauglir at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2007

I asked some blogging and website-related questions, and there seemed to be consensus that if you're not a tech person and aren't into administering your own webserver, patching the blog software, keeping it secure and up-to-date, you're better off using a managed blogging service like WordPress.com than running it on your own hardware or a shared host.

With a managed service, you don't worry about installing or fiddling with the blogging software, you just control it through the normal web interface.

I don't know anything about Dreamhost, but if you contact someone there, you can probably discuss what's the most elegant way of combining your static site (on Dreamhost) and the blog (hosted on the managed service, e.g. Wordpress.com's, servers). Maybe you can create a subdomain (like "blog.yourdomainname.com") and point it to the offsite blog, while keeping the rest of your site on Dreamhost.

There are a whole lot of very insecure WordPress blogs around on the 'net, because they're operated by people who just get them started and then don't keep up with the steady flow of security updates and patches. This can be pretty disastrous if you get hacked, particularly if you plan on making money from this, or depending on your Google pagerank. (You'll get spammed, torpedoing your pagerank...not to mention the content that you'll probably lose, if you haven't backed up.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:15 AM on June 12, 2007

I've got my own blog using wordpress and I consider myself technically inclined and it still took me all day to get it up and running. Go read their tutorials, they are thorough but still can be fairly difficult to understand. It sounds like you should be using wordpress.com instead of wordpress.org because you don't know a programming language. Tinkering is going to be difficult. If you can afford it I would pay someone else to design something for you because learning php, and css, and having it work without a hitch is something that is going to take a fair amount of time and patience. It seems like you want to get started writing right away, if you can't wait just go start a blog at wordpress.com. You can always transfer all of your posts and your readers to a new location once you have figured out how to use a wordpress.org platform. Also, a wordpress.com address isn't a bad thing to have (readership wise), you can even buy a domain name that points to your wordpress.com blog.
posted by pwally at 10:39 AM on June 12, 2007

I'd also recommend using a free blogging service like WordPress.com to start. It's not that getting the WordPress blog software up and running is very difficult but I think it's an unnecessary hurdle for someone who is brand new to blogging.

Sign up for the free service, pick a decent template, and start blogging. If the template isn't perfect, you can customize the stylesheet to your heart's content. The most important thing is to start blogging without worrying about the logistics. Once you get into a good rhythm and your readership starts to pick up, you can then consider going through the hoops of domains, hosts, content migration, etc. Using WordPress.com will also greatly simplify later migration to the actual WordPress blog software.
posted by junesix at 10:42 AM on June 12, 2007

Best answer: If you're serious about designing your own WordPress theme, you'll probably want to know a little PHP as well as CSS. The "stylesheet" is the CSS part (where you get to customize the colors, fonts, etc.), but you'll also want to change the way your blog actually works -- in other words, how and where your posts appear, how the sidebars work, what the archives look like, all of that stuff.

It's definitely learnable, but will take some time (and, let's be honest, you probably don't want to start a blog so you can dick around with computer code.) I strongly recommend starting with a premade theme. Spend an hour or so going through the theme viewer; there is a ton of stuff there, and it'll be much easier to just tweak an existing theme than to create your own. (When I started, I could get themes to look more or less how I wanted to without even knowing CSS.)

If you're really set on creating your own theme, you'll want to look at the WordPress Codex, a wiki that explains all the nuts and bolts of the software. Here's the relevant page on theme development. Here's a reference guide for CSS. (It's easier than it looks!) Here's the WordPress support forums if you get stuck. Again, though, try the theme viewer first -- you'll save yourself a lot of headaches.

I'm by no means an expert at these things, but I do have a WordPress blog hosted by Dreamhost. Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions. Good luck!
posted by danb at 10:44 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can't help with the technical stuff.

Blogs I read (that are written by and primarily though not exclusively for women) include:

Greta Christina
Susie Bright

(These are not necessarily safe for work.)

They are very much "the personal is political" - which is not to say that they are humorless, because they're not. Funny, smart, political, goofy, sexy. I don't care much about fashion or beauty, but there are women (and men) out there who do. Good luck.
posted by rtha at 10:55 AM on June 12, 2007

Best answer: There are lots of women out there with blogs. They range from personal diaries to niche journals to recipe boards to feminist action sites to political/news sites. Just today I found a women's site dedicated to public bathrooms. If you want to get a feel for what is out there and what need you might fill, spend the afternoon poking around BlogHer. For that matter you are almost certain to find web designers and contributors there.
posted by ilsa at 10:58 AM on June 12, 2007

I'm afraid to say that, as a woman, my gut assumption about anything with "for women!" in its title is that it's already fallen into the problem you notice with most "for women" publications. There have been so many "for women!" publications that only write about very specific "womanly" topics as if women must find those topics interesting and cannot be interested in others, that I am instantly skeptical of any "for women" publication.

That doesn't mean that a blog about beauty, fashion, and health is a bad idea. Not at all! Those are certainly interesting topics, and I am sure you will have an interesting perspective on them. So, write about them, if they are what you wish to write about!

As a woman, I want to read interesting things. I am sure you know things that are interesting! Write about those interesting things, and you will have a good blog. All the blogs I read happen to be written by women, and they all just cover whatever the authors, as individuals but not specifically female individuals, happen to find interesting. I like authors with interesting perspectives and writing styles, whatever they happen to be writing about.

This may be vague advice, but I hope it helps.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:11 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

The trouble with a lot of blogs and web sites is that they're more concerned about their looks than their content. So they may look pretty and cool, but they also have little or nothing that's worth reading. Or, they start out with a good story or two and then the blogger finds out it's a bit of work and weeks go by without anything new being added.

So first, I suggest you write, and write, and then write some more content. See if you have the discipline and talent to keep turning out good stuff on a regular basis.

Then put it out on the web using a template or service that won't get in the way of your productivity. Keep it plain and simple to start with. Looks won't matter much if the content is interesting and your site is reasonable easy to navigate. You can worry more about that after the world has a good reason to come to your blog.

Of course, you also have to promote your site so the world knows its there. But that's a topic that deserves to be addressed all by itself, along with some of the other questions that you have.
posted by 14580 at 11:18 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There is a metric assload of themes for Wordpress. In fact, there are a lot of nice themes.

Also note the difference between a theme and a stylesheet, so you don't get tripped up later. A stylesheet is a standard HTML document that defines the appearance of specific tags and attributes. A theme is a collection of template files and a stylesheet (or several); this is specific to Wordpress (and some other content-management systems).

I suggest you start a test blog, get comfortable with the admin interface, try uploading some themes, maybe even some plugins. The documentation for wordpress is a publicly contributed wiki, meaning it's incomplete, but it's a start.

I can't help you with the problem of what to write about, except to say "write about what interests you."
posted by adamrice at 11:30 AM on June 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

14580 is right.

Create the good content first, then worry about adsense, etc. Don't get hung up on the theme for your blog, it will go through lots of changes before you get it right. I have three and I'm planning a fourth...they seem to multiply on you!
posted by misha at 11:33 AM on June 12, 2007

Generally speaking, I despise women's magazines, by virtue of the fact that they they are based on the assumption that my interests are gender-based.

If I want to learn about ecomonics, I read The Wall Street Journal or The Economist. If I want to know what's going on in Darfur, I scan blogs and pick up articles from BBC, the New York Times or the Christian Science Monitor. And if I want to find out which mascara won't smudge on my face, I'll pick up InStyle or Allure -- magalogs with no editorial perspective beyond the relative merits of various clothing and makeup products. Women's interests are diverse. There's no possible way that one publication could adequately inform me about the dangers of an inverted yield curve, how the war on terror is benefitting global warlords, and the newest trends in anti-aging skincare products. And I don't need one that does that . I'm capable of informing myself on my own, a fact that many women's magazines often overlook with articles like, "OMG! 6 Health Risks You Need To Know About Today!!!1111"

Rhetorically speaking, why should I -- just because I'm a woman -- be more interested in a female hero than in the outstanding achievements of a man? (Taking that one step further, how does writing about female heroes for an exclusively female audience further the cause of gaining wider recognition for women throughout the media and culture?)

I understand your disappointment with the majority of the media targeted towards women today. It's dumb, humorless and condescending in the extreme. But I'm not sure that the answer is "smarter" content geared toward women. I'd rather see more content about women's issues -- access to birth control, workplace policies that limit flexibility for mothers, discrimination against new dad's, etc -- in the mainstream media, than see those issues relageted to "female media" only. (I realize that's totally unhelpful for your blog, but there it is.)

on preview, what Ms. Saint said
posted by junkbox at 11:35 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

You don't need to use a blogging service. Dreamhost has a one-click installation for Wordpress in the control panel under Goodies > One-Click Installs.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:12 PM on June 12, 2007

It doesn't matter what we find interesting. If you don't find it interesting - enough that you wake up in the middle of the night and think "OMG I have to write this down" - then you won't write on a consistent basis. You'll get bored.

So, what makes you an interesting woman? When you introduce yourself at parties, what do you say? How would you fill in these blanks? "Hi, I'm barrakuda and I like to _______. I have (or would like to have) a collection of _____. My dream is to ______." Pick one, or two if they're closely related, and there's your blog.
posted by desjardins at 12:18 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: i hear you junkbox. and in the ideal world, "important issues", whether related to women or to war, poverty and injustice would be in the mainstream media. but they're usually not. people actually have to look for them among the stories of shootings, rape, incest or Paris Hilton's jail ordeal. people who want to learn something and are interested in the world, will look for stories, will read a variety of publications whether they're primarily directed at women or not.

I want to write about interesting things, issues, ideas, people, books but also shoes and hats and night creams (maybe not night creams). all this, not because i want to generalize about female interests but because i'm a chick and these things intrest me among many others. and it's true that for financial news you hit wall street journal and for seeing naked males you read playgirl. i get it, there's much power to the theme, but i for one get pleasantly surprised when i learn many different things from one publication.
posted by barrakuda at 12:19 PM on June 12, 2007

Ms. Saint is right, and junkbox is right, and 14580 is right. I read a lot of blogs written by women; I don't think I read any blogs written FOR women. I don't think you should advertise your blog as a blog FOR women- all the topics you wish to write about would be interesting to men and women. I read blogs about topics that interest me. The day a site starts to pander and gets all "Hey ladies, let's grab a mountain of chocolate and suffer through our PMS together while we do our hair and talk about how to give blow jobs" is the day a site leaves my Bloglines. In fact, pandering in general for audience approval turns me off, big time (like the desperate guy at the bar, Love Me Love Me Please Love Me). Do not beg for comments or Diggs or award nominations. You have to write for yourself.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:22 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The brutal truth is that sites like yours are a dime-a-dozen these days.

I manage seven blogs and my professional opinion is prove the concept before investing time, money and energy.

Your site will live or die by the content: is it good enough and can it be found in search engines.

First step: optimize your site for search engines. There are lots of wordpress plugins that will help you with this.

Here are some additional, more general tips on SEO for blogs.
posted by johoney at 1:09 PM on June 12, 2007

i should add that wordpress (out of the box) is not optimized for search engines. the way its set up creates duplicate content which Google at least, doesn't like.
posted by johoney at 1:11 PM on June 12, 2007

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