Blogging Sites for Sailors, a review, some sugestions and how to do it yourself.
I've decided to see what's out there and try out a few of the Blogging Sites for yachties and try and come up with a review and feature comparison. As a traveler I'm aware of certain issues with blog updating, its got to be done via internet cafe's in odd corners of the world. I'd like to see how many provided interfaces for limited bandwidth iridium interfaces etc.
Rules (to be ignored and broken), one never pay for something on the internet. I may mention paid for features in the text, but opiniosn and comparison it will be the "free" blog features only.
for the impatiant, here's a summary:
- If your a yacht owner with Iridium, SSB email or similar and want to blog with that, use http:// www.sailblogs.com - otherwise use a convential blog site (you may have to shell out for some feature you need too).
- If you a boat bum with no laptop, no marine internet, setup a blog on Wordpress.com or blogger.com rather blogger sites.
- If your a geek, with a penchant for GPS coordiantes Mapping and Photo Galleries build your own site with Wordpress's software and WP geo plugin and a photo gallery plugin of some type.
Most of the millions of blogs out there are provided by other peoples servers. boatname.mailasail.com or sailblogs.com/boatname. Here's what I could find. To be honeset this was what I was intened to review, but the services are so few (the only one I can acually get on is sailblogs) disapointing I've started to expand into other options you might concider.
Sail blogs test Blog.
First on the google list for me, its a sponsored link as well which means they paid to be there, so not much can be read into it. Its a more than adequate site. The interface is simple and I manged to get a couple of a categories and an about me (henceforth refered to as a profile).
The interface for edding you posts is very simplisting, you can upload an image, but not control its position. Text layout and formating is limited to old skool write a few html tags in your code. Those of you who're familure with modern websites will find it clunky. Its functional though if your intending to add intesting features to your blog this won't cut it.
Offline blogging can be achieved through a special email address, however this is NOT straight forward, only text (no Pictures) If you pay more there's a system for doing stuff from airmail/sailmail as well. For position updates Imarsat and other systems can be used.
Themes are broadly good, and pretty swiching is simple. You can customise them, I haven't but presumably you could replace the stock graphics with your own.
Photo galleries are paid for addon which is disapointing, support for external photo sharing sties like flicker doesn't appear to be available.
Security: None as far as I can tell, no ssl logins, emiled in posts are using a special address and a password. Comments can be moderated, but this is not the default. The commets system does have a very simple anti spam feature, probably not robust enought to keep the spammers out. I'd turn on comment moderation.
- Categories to divide you blog up
- limited mapping current locations only
- email in updates
Verdict. Simple, not very many features, the very limited support for images holds it back. The abilty to work from email and yotty emails sytems is a plus. If you just want to write simple text on someone else's pretty background. This is for you.
Yotblog is currently not accepting registrations, however I'm pretty sure its using the wordpress blogging engine, possibly an old version, There's a lot of, themes in there though and a definate active blogging fraterinty.
Wordpress has several geo type (mapping, google earth, geo tagging) plugins, though there's no sign of any maps on the blogs, I asume they're not available.
x-journral.com is currnelty not accepting registrations, it uses the same sytem as sailblogs.com see above. I'll check back and see if it supports more features for free.
The White border
is their mistake,
This a service for those using the mailasail comunication system. Its a common (comercial) system for thos who use iridium and the like. There is no suport for joe public blogging on it. Its only of interest to those who are using their com system. I'm assuming its a complimnetary sytem for sailmailer users.
Its basic, but it works well, some friends (with iridium) use it, see http://blog.mailasail.com/everett they had no trouble updating it mid altantic down a iridiaum phone. I'm pretty sure you can even SMS it!
In graphic terms its very simplistic. However the've made up for it by incorportaing goggle maps really quite well. Since its designed to be updated via a very limited bandwith sytem this is probalby inevitable. I'm pretty sure you can send in pictures via iridium - so long as you keep them small.
Verdict. If you have a sailamail coms sytem this might well be for you. If you want to get creative its not.
Most blogs are not aimed at yachties, they are just blogs, having reviews above the sailing blog sites, one at least appears to be nothing more than WordPress (see bellow). These are the cutting edge of blogging with "Web two point oh" interfaces. I.E. the've tried to make website that are really simple and user friendly lotsd of java script (like facebook). These make sailblogs look a bit old skool.
Ultimatly wordpress is free software for blogging with, however they provide a site where you can just use it. Part of the wonder that is WordPress is NOT available. For instance plugins are not there, so you can't significantly customise it. That means no maps :-(.
- multipul authors
- exelent interface
- category support
- Standalone pages
- 3Gig of Space
The interface though slighly more complicated than the blogger.com one is incredibly powerful. The onely critisim is the icon's are so understated as to be difficult to guess the meaning of them.
The photo upload facility is exelent, I tried it and imbeded a bunch of photos is as a gallery, built the thunbnails and sub pages. There is a "widget" which can read your flickr photo acount, so it scores on that too.
You can't upload videos wich is a bummer. There is facilities to make it easier to deal with videos uploaded to utube google video etc. Pitty you have to go else where to upload them.
The wordpress "page" facility is available. This feature allows you to create more conventional website style pages. A bit like this, as well as diary style websites (blog).
Wordpress software is my favorite bloggin software. I've used it serveral times. If you've multiple family/crew you can geve them multipul logons.
There are paid for upgrades, such as custom css (host your own if you can do css) and storage upgrades, wow, they give you 3 Gig of storage for free thats 10 time the size of this site incuding all all the vidoes and dead wood.
It appears there is suport for using your own domain name, however I couldn't follow it terribly well. Errm I can code write databases and build large area WiFi nets. if I can't follow it that's not a good thing....
Security: There was no sugestion to "log In Securely" but putting https into the browser instead of http nailed the secure version. I've had comments running on wordpress before, with no trouble.
Verdict: WordPress is the most featured of the sites I tried. Its interface is the most powerfull too. As a result its scores a little less idiot proof than some blogs. If you want more than the ocasional story abiout your holidays and really produce some serios stuff this is the free blog for you. You can write articles, make galleries (sort of) and blog. Its missing the maps element, which is a shame. Many other sites use this software, and you can use it your self. Install it on your own hosting and you get video and maps with a little work.
One of the bigest online blog hosting sites, very common. Supports a wide array of nice free services, incuding email in blogging, email out to your mates when you change something. RSS exelent and simple sophisiticated modern interface.
If you were to buy a cheap domain name (I pay a bout £2 a year for a .org.uk) then you can set it up to point ot blogger (warning slighly techical) and you'll appear on your own domain name.
- multipul authors
- email in updates
- exelent interface
- video support
- use you own domain name
I've never used blooger.com untill I wrote this. Its chuffing EXELENT. I would really recomend it. There is one drawback. no photo galleries. Nor any features to link, import or connect to them. You can post inline pictures in you posts and arange they're layout but thats it. Given blogger is part of the huge amorphous blog that is google I'd expect some picasa intrgration at least. Ho hum.
On the missing note, no geotagging, no location features no map features. Shame. Its google for god's sake they own google earth? God know why thats missing...
Security: Ooh impressed, the main login is ONLY https, so its singed and encrypted. The sytem for comments is comprehencive so you should be able to get some settings to stop spam set up.
Summary: good easy make your own domain point to it, great interface, good tools, video and inline images however no photo galleries or way of incorporating external ones lets it down as does the lack of mapping.
Mac's come with a piece of software called errr I forgot, but mac owners frequnetly use it in conjunction with mac.com. Err right I don't own a mac. But I did recently cross the pacific with someone who does.
The software was exelent and uploaded to mac.com. Its an alternative if you own a mac. It does support blogging (offline at any rate). I've seen .mac pages with photo galleries and video's oh and yes you can add a google map. Sounds great.
Its a Mac. Now Apple rather arrogantly assume you will have a very expence hi speed internet connection all the time. The copy we used crashed when you tried to publish the output after several expenceive hours in and apple dealler in tonga's internet cafe getting massive updates we did get it work. However change a little bit and it appears to uplaod the whole shebang. Thats NOT going to be very efficenet on a thrid or even second world (rural) internet...
Try it if youv'e a mac. But its neigh gonna fly with iridium, or franky caribbean internet.
Well I'm not sure I'm entiley satified. If you want to have your cake, you can't. I wanted offline capaplility, or at least alternatives to sitting at your browsers and typing whilst online.I was looking for maps and a simple interface capable of creating good content. Unforuneatly nobody managed to tick all the boxes. Therefore anyone looking for advice will have to balance the features or find them elsewhere. Broadly the sailing blog sites, which were few and further between than I expected fell down on usability or interface. The standard on line blogs were good for ease of use and interface. So you want to blog with iridiaum satelite or similar its salblogs.com, at least till the others wake up. But you'll probably have to shell out a bit. Your going to find the interface frustrating. If your jsut going to an internet cafe. Your not going to get maps or good photogalleries. I was expecting to come out of this excercise recomeding wordpress.com. But I was so impressed by the interface for blogger.com it probably get it. Wordpress is undoutably more powerfull. But its more complicated, and not proportionally so.
You want the nearest thing to a full blown website, Wordpress.com. Easy pretty blogging, blogger.com, limited bnadwith but limited and not as pretty sailblogs.com.
If you want to hit all boxes then get a php/MySQL hosting package, isntall wordpress, add a couple of plugins to upload vids and maps and emable email blogging appears to be the only way to get every thing I was looking for.
Ok oceanhippie.net (wot your on now) is my own creation, its got a blog an editor, support for pages and features its incuded in the past or does include are vidoes, photo galleries, offline suport, pages, categories videos etc. Not to mention mapping geo tagging and an on the fly calulation of how far from home I am. It doesn't suport comments cos I don't care what other people think. Its jsut the ticket for an oceanhippie. Ok so in reality its a badly spelt buggy personal website... However if you want to go your own way here's some stuff I've learned writing it.
Main point don't re-invent the wheel. I've built my own interface and my own layouts, my own code and database. I probably wouldn't if I were you. part of this is cos I could, part is because this site dates from the mid nineties. Back then there was no word "blog" there was no google maps no yachtie had iridium imarsat or similar and probably no laptops. Flash was unknow. More to the point PHP still stood for "Personal Home Page" rather than running half the internet.
Now addays goggle will give you maps on your website, the web proliferates with free bloggin tools (of CMS content management systems) plugins.
If I was jsut after a good home website these days I'd do it different.
A "website" is three things:
- some pages, either "flat" pre made html or "generated" html pages made from a database or similar.
A blog is usually the latter its a database is used to store the "posts" and a scripting language like PHP to put the data into html that can be read in a browser and "forms" to enter it into the database.
- Hosting. Your website has to visable to the world. Not swiched off with your computer. Hosting is an always on server on the internet which suplies your amaising missive when people want it.
- A Domain Name. Computers talk to each other is a variety of confusing numbers.
Fortunatly some incredibly clever buggers came up with a system called DNS (Domain Name System). At its simplest it converts name of your site into the number (address) needed for the computer that hosts it.
Big fat note: Buying a Domian name does not (necessaraly) incude hosting. In rare occations it doesn't incude DNS.
You can buy and host a domain name website for as little as a few quid a year. However the cost of hosting rises with serveral factors.
How much storage space you want, lots of BIG pictues and videos means more space.
Bandwidth, yachties with SSB qualifications understandbandwidth, thats not what its come to mean. In computing terms is means how much data transfered in a given time. If you've no pictures and only your mum visits your site like me, you don't need much. If your giving away the latest celebrety sex tape your going to need a lot of bandwith.
Features, you want 24/7 telephone support, database and scripting techology, that costs more. (not nessaraly in proprtion to the costs).
Advice if you want to make your own site with flat pages you toddle around and make and upload (uploading is the process of copying your site from the your pc to the server) when your done, get something small and cheap. Many bugdet hosting packages try and make this easy for you. Some time it even works. I don't have hsoting run a DNS server, a real server (recently under the bed of a mate's house near pooh corner) so am not qualified to talk about hosting.
Right, if you want to blog and the online systems above weren't fo you your going to need hosting with some form of interacive techology (usually PHP and MySQL unless your a visual basic programmer). PHP is a (free) Scriping language, I.E. you can imbed bits of it on an HTML page for the server to interprate and make your site interactive. MySQL is a (free) database, usually used in conjunction with PHP. These 2 run a very significat proportion of the inernet (inc wikipedia, ebay and the like). Not bad for stuff that started like a tiny sailor blog. PHP stands for "Personal Home Page" it was a series of little guestbook type scripts, it grew.
With a server running PHP and MySQL you can upload absolutly tones of free interactive stuff. The software behind the bloggin sties above is mostly free, as are hundreds of other php things. You could uplad the wordpress php code, and have a blog, stick the software that runs wikipedia and have a sailing wiki, shunt up PHPBB and run your own forums. Add OScomerce and there's you online shop for yacht burgees and dumb caribbean novelies.
I'm going a bit far, all the above do require tweeking to get working, but in all serious ness. The building blocks for the greates sailing website in the world are all writern and free. If you want to take on SailingAnarchy. You install wordpress as the news page and smf or phpbb as the forums. Sorted. It comes down to content, I don't want to rule the world, jsut to sail arround it.
Most of the online blog sites use some sort of free blogging software, like wordpress or moveable type.