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VIII. Academic Blogging: Choosing the Right Platform

Nov 09, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

There are an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to blogging platforms, but the first and most important is whether you will use a third-party host for your blog or host it yourself. What does this mean? The most common third-part blogging platforms are Blogger/Blogspot or Wordpress. This means your blog’s website address will look like yourblogname.blogspot.com or yourblogname.wordpress.com, and your blogs will live on their servers. Self-hosting your blog means that you pay for a domain name, server space, and maintain your own blog/webspace yourself, yourblogname.com.

Third-Party Hosting

There are a number of advantages to third-party blog hosting. It’s easy, it’s ready to go, and there is not a very steep learning curve. It’s free, which is also good. But, the various options to track traffic to your blog aren’t terribly robust, and you don’t have a lot of control over your formatting, design, or the host itself. For example, popular blogging platform, Posterous, was bought by Twitter and eventually shut down. Any blog that was hosted by Posterous had to be exported or lost forever.

There are a number of third-part hosts to choose from, and they all have certain advantages and disadvantages. Which host you choose may also depend on the purpose of your blog. For example, Tumblr is a very popular platform for blogs that are more visually oriented or that deal with fandom of all kinds. If these are elements that you are interested in exploring in your blog, Tumblr would be an excellent platform for you.

The best option, to my mind, is to use Wordpress if you want a simple, out-of-the-box, free blog. Wordpress.org is the gold standard for this kind of setup, and they offer specials for educators. They are not-for-profit and open-sourced, which means that all of the code they use in making your blog can be hacked or modified. It also means that there is a large community of bloggers and programmers who work to enhance the Wordpress experience, providing free or low-cost solutions for your work. If you are just interested in an easy-to-publish self-hosted blog space, Wordpress will provide that for you. The analytics they provide (in other words, knowing who is visiting your blog and how they found you) are much more reliable than Blogger’s. They also make exporting your content easy if you choose to later buy your own domain name.

Self-Hosting

Alternately, you may pay to register your domain name and also pay to have your website/blog hosted somewhere. Registering your domain name and then paying to host your own site does have certain advantages. Google prefers these kinds of setups in their searches. When people google your name, for example, your site/blog will be the first thing that they find. You also have much more control over your site in terms of its content, layout, statistics, analytics, and tools. The drawback, of course, is that this costs money. Also, if you want to have these kinds of high-level controls on what your site looks like and knowing who is visiting, you will need to know basic coding, learn how to do it, or pay someone to help you. How much money your blog/webspace will cost you depends on what web hosting service you choose, as well as your choice or either hiring a developer to help you set up your site or doing it yourself.

Hybridized Hosting

There is a hybrid hosting option, too. You can register your own domain name and then direct traffic to your third-party hosted blog. The blog, Hook and Eye, does this. You type the web address and it directs you to a blogger site. Universities are increasingly offering blogging space on their servers to faculty and students. The blog, Easily Distracted, is an example of that (and you’ll notice that the university is using a Wordpress platform). And finally, professional organizations like the Modern Languages Association are providing blogging space through their new MLA Commons platform.

These are all suggested platforms, options for you to consider for hosting your own blog. One way to decide what is right for you is to browse other people’s blogs and see which ones you like, and then scroll down to the bottom to see who they are using to host their blog. Choose the platform that feels right for you, is at your comfort level, and satisfies your purpose. And then, start blogging!
 

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