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Learning Lab






Understanding Weblogs

by Wei-Meng Lee
12/30/2002

One of my favorite stops when browsing O'Reilly Network is the list of weblogs running down the right side of the home page. Explained simply, weblogs, or blogs, are informal writings, discussing something of interest or simply trying to make a point. O'Reilly weblogs tend to be technology-focused. But other weblog sites, such as Boing Boing, or Brian Jepson's Radio Weblog, cover a wide array of topics.

On the surface, weblogs appear no different than conventional Web articles, but one salient feature of these posts is that they depend on specific lines of XML that are usually referred to as an RSS document (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary). The use of this RSS document allows other webloggers to exchange content as well as integrate information into their own postings. An interesting history of blogging can be found at www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html.

In this article, I'll show you how to build a simple weblog using Radio UserLand, then I'll spend some time explaining the fundamentals behind weblogging.

Publishing Your First Weblog with Radio UserLand

Let's build a very simple blog using Radio UserLand. The Radio UserLand is an easy-to-use weblog tool from UserLand that allows you to publish blogs, as well as subscribe to those written by others. You can download a 30-day trial of Radio UserLand at radio.userland.com.

First, install the just-downloaded version of Radio UserLand (version 8.08 at the time of this writing). If you are running a Web server on your machine, Radio UserLand may prompt you to enter a port number other than 80. In this case, enter 5335. Radio UserLand works like a Web server that runs on your machine, hence your interaction with Radio UserLand is all through a Web browser. All changes to your weblog will first be saved locally, and then uploaded to an Upstream Server.

Next, enter in the registration information to set up your weblog on radio.weblogs.com. UserLand provides a hosting service for its customers, who pay $39.95/year. For the 30-day trial, UserLand will host your weblog at no cost for the first 60 days. You can also upload to a Web server of your choice via FTP.

Figure 1. Registering for an account on Radio UserLand
Figure 1. Registering for an account on Radio UserLand

Once the registration is completed, you'll be given a user number. In my case, my user number is 116465. My weblog will thus be hosted at: radio.weblogs.com/0116465/

You can now start writing your weblog:

Figure 2. Adding an entry to my weblog
Figure 2. Adding an entry to my weblog

You can use the WYSIWYG option and treat the editor window just like a word processor (bold, italic, underline, change fonts, add Web link, etc.) or you can use the Source option to type in HTML codes. When you are done, click on the Post Changes button to save your posting.

Besides allowing you to create a weblog, Radio UserLand allows you to aggregate news from the Web (select News from the top menu).

Figure 3. Using the News Aggregator in Radio UserLand
Figure 3. Using the News Aggregator in Radio UserLand

You can either read the news or select the required news clip that you like and paste it into your weblog (by clicking on the Post link):

Figure 4. Editing a post from another source.
Figure 4. Editing a post from another source. This posting would be added to my weblog

Radio UserLand also allows you to add your own news subscription by clicking on the XML icon (with the coffee cup):

Figure 5. The two buttons on a Radio UserLand weblog
Figure 5. The two buttons on a Radio UserLand weblog

To add a subscription, you can enter an URL containing an RSS document (more on this later) or, for those weblogs created with Radio UserLand, you can click on the XML icon, as shown in Figure 5. Here I am subscribing to Brian Jepson's weblog:

Figure 6. Subscribing to other Weblogs
Figure 6. Subscribing to other weblogs

You can also change the theme of your weblog by clicking on the Themes item on the top menu. To view your newly-created weblog, click on the Home link, as shown in Figure 7:

Figure 7. Click on Home to view your weblog
Figure 7. Click on Home to view your weblog

So there you are! You have just created your first weblog in less than 15 minutes! Isn't it easy?

Figure 8. Viewing your newly created weblog
Figure 8. Viewing your newly-created weblog

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