This Christmas I decided to give my brother a gift that keeps on giving by designing and setting up a weblog for him. In essence, I was giving him the gift of blogging. My brother Jack is a senior in college with plans to go to law school next year. He also has political aspirations. So I thought the creating a blog for him to start connecting with others in the blogosphere would be the perfect gift in conjunction with the DVDs, books and gift cards that usually accumulate during the holiday season. We discussed blogging over Thanksgiving dessert and he express interest so I decided I would help him get started.
With the help of my girlfriend, we set out brainstorming names that would fit his blog and personality. We really wanted to use his name Jack in a cliche. We had initial discussions on what a logo might look like. We decided to go with the name A Jack In The Blog and a new blog was born!
Next, I had to decide on a blogging platform. I decided to go with TypePad as the host despite Six Apart's recent outage because I think TypePad offers the most updated feature set as well as the easiest set of tools. Once I registered the blog with TypePad, it was time to develop a design and actual logo which is shown to the right. Yes, that is a caricature of Jack as the "O" in the word blog.
The design I used was one that was conservative and classic. It has three columns and I preloaded a few of the side bar features with different items that my brother would enjoy. For example the right rail is filled with a syndicate link which I have configured to a FeedBurner account. I have set up a tip jar in case some one wants to leave a tip for Jack's two cents on this blog. I also set up a TypeList filled with some of the books that Jack had on his Christmas list figuring they were the books that most interested him at the present moment. I also set up a widgets TypeList which will hold all of his random blog related widgets. It currently holds his Creative Commons license. Additionally, I preloaded the left rail with a blog-roll of blogs about national politics but I figured he could use the links as a reference in getting started and change them to whatever he wanted to once he figured out the direction and focus he wanted to use on this blog.
I must mention that while setting up this new TypePad account I found that TypePad had added many improvements since I first started blogging and set up Somewhat Frank. A few of the notable improvements include:
- Additional TypeList types that make setting up rail items easy
- Tip Jar which allows a blogger to collect tips from visitors
- Integrated Kanoodle ad units which makes setting up text ads easy
- The ability to take in a feed. This is a great addition!
These new features have made it easier to design and customize a blog. However, I still believe there are few features that TypePad could add that would eliminate the need to have to shift to advanced templates that allow you to edit the HTML by hand. These new features include:
- The ability to add and edit each template title and meta description. For example if you could set the format of individual post template pages similar to the way you select the way you want the date, categories and permalink to display I think that there would be little need to access the HTML templates directly in the advanced mode.
- The ability to set a favorite icon of favicon to display next to the URL in a browser. This is more a nicety then a necessity but in order to set this up and override the standard TypePad Lilly pad logo from appearing you need to switch to advanced mode templates which complicates updates going forward.
- The ability to display both an image and the title and description of a blog in the head banner area. This change is important for search engine optimization purposes and in order to make it happen you currently have to switch to advanced templates and customize a banner for the header as I did with Somewhat Frank.
I feel that with these additional offerings it would help simplify the blog setup process even more and allow added customization and optimization that serious bloggers look for when setting up a blog.
I took a screen-shot of the blog I created for Jack, printed it out and put it in an envelope with a Christmas card. He should open it up tonight at some point and hopefully be pleasantly surprised.
Visit the new blog by going to A Jack In The Blog. I still am waiting for my domain register to complete a DNS mapping that would mask the URL to just ajackintheblog.com but I am cutting them some slack with the timing of this project and the holiday season. There are few more things on my list to complete but I wanted to get Jack's input before I proceed. Not to mention I need to prep Jack a little bit on "how to blog." If you visit the blog and are interested in blogging but do not know how to set a blog up yourself, I could help. Contact me and I will take on a few clients for a minimal price for a one time setup of a blog.