Review: Free Blog Providers

 

This year one of my goals other than driving better than the last year is to monetize my blog. In order to achieve that, I finally realized (or conceded) that getting more traffic or subscribers in my site should be on top of the priority to-do list. It’s a no-brainer that no one pays for a deserted blog spot.

Of course traffic doesn’t come that easily. Some finger-tapping, networking and a lot of thinking on how to improve the content of the blog site are just some factors that will dictate if who and how many gets to be attracted to check the blog out. And after all the countless blog-composing moments that at times seem to even interfere with my daily driving, I learned that more factors still has to be considered. Among all these are the free blog providers’ services.

Free blog providers are to bloggers as point-and-shoot cameras are to photographers. Simply put, both the free blog provider and the point-and-shoot camera are tools that offer beginners of each field the opportunity to experiment and learn the ins and outs of the process. And since I’m still trying to get rid of the urge to dig deeper into the world of photography, I decide it would be best if I stick to my trusty keyboard, alcohol-enchanced thinking, and try reviewing other free blog providers to see which one fits for me to achieve getting payments thru paypal – by monetizing my blog.

I first got this idea when I revisited my often-ignored multiply.com account. While checking it out sometime in December, I saw that cross-posting blogs is allowed. I learned that multiply blog allows feed from different blog providers which I really find convenient if I want to stay updated with both blogs and photos coming from my contacts without having to leave the multiply network. And these providers are what I have actually reviewed since the start of this year.

Note: I rated these free blog providers by comparing it to wordpress – my current provider. Likewise, I did my best (just within my kill-time periods) to test these blog sites and I’d appreciate comments if I did the right review or not.

Yahoo 360!

Basics:

Appearance. Not so catchy. If you love text this is your dream site, but if you’re a graphics guy forget getting serious with this service.

Dashboard. WordPress need not worry. This service will need more bright minds to even match half of wordpress’ features.

New post. Fair.

Image uploading. Remember, text yes, graphics no? If yes, then there’s no point loading images here. Though I wonder if I missed the feature that would enable it to load directly from flickr.com.

Categories. Yahoo! does not categorize post. It only has Tags.

Tags. Yes.

Widget. Get wordpress. Period.

Ads. No. period.

Others:

Poll. No.

Blogroll. Yes.

URL easy to remember? No.

Members. There could be a lot mainly due to its connection with Yahoo! but I didn’t find any serious blogger here.

Recommendation: Will saying, “go get wordpress” deliver the message?

 

Blogger

Basics:

Appearance. I find this somewhere near wordpress’ depending on the capability of the user to design his own theme. However, if the available themes are to be selected and applied to blogs, I’d be very biased to wordpress’ appearance.

Dashboard. Blogger is affiliated to Google but it appears that they copied dashboard features from Yahoo!

New post. Fair enough.

Image uploading. 1 GB maximum space. Can be done thru direct uploading or by linking to a URL.

Categories. No categories, only tags.

Widget. I’ve read that there are available widgets, but I find it hard to use it on mine.

Ads. If there’s one thing that will make me leave wordpress, this is it. Blogger.com allows one blogger to get paid thru Adsense.

Others:

Blogroll. Yes, it is available. Your contacts will love you for this.

URL easy to remember? Yes. Just the same with wordpress, except for the domain (duh!).

Members. There’s a lot of good bloggers here.

Recommendation: If you want to monetize your blog then this is the place to be. And if you can come up with better themes than the available ones, then wordpress might be a thing of the past.

 

WordPress

Basics:

Appearance. There’s a lot of great themes to choose from and most of it appears quite cool enough. Graphic-illiterate bloggers like me need not worry about having a boring blog site as there’s almost one theme that will match everyone’s taste.

Dashboard. Constantly getting better than the previous one.

New post. With the dashboard improving, posting a new blog has gotten easier every time (Although, I publish drafts and post thru MS Word 2007’s publish blog feature).

Image uploading. 3 GB maximum space. Images may be uploaded directly, by using a URL or by getting it thru the media library.

Categories. The parent category feature made blogging more organized. WordPress also has a converter from categories to tags and vice-versa.

Widget. Lots of cool widgets available.

Ads. Unfortunately, no. WordPress doesn’t allow its members to get paid. One will have to subscribe to other paid-providers (but can still you wordpress’ features) if they want to get paid.

Others:

Poll. Yes, thru polldaddy.com. I find this a very cool feature.

Blogroll. Yes.

URL easy to remember? Yes.

Members. Most of its members are prolific bloggers. And there was even once a wordpress group for Filipinos. Unfortunately, it went out of service for reasons that I still don’t know until now.

Recommendation: I’m biased, but I think most will agree that this is among the best if not the best free blog provider. Sign up to wordpress if you don’t care about being paid at all.

 

Windows Live Space

Basics:

Appearance. Yahoo! people can smile now. This is the least of my favorites.

Dashboard. The appearance is a reflection of the dashboard. Need I say more?

New post. Fair.

Image uploading. Direct uploading only. I even cannot edit the image once I have my blog posted (I could be wrong, though).

Categories. Yes.

Tags. No?

Widget. No.

Ads. No.

Others:

URL easy to remember? I have so much hate with this blog provider and one reason for that is because I can’t even remember my own URL after I’ve subscribed and posted my first blog.

Members. Most likely many, but that’s because each one is probably signing up for a new blog name after forgetting what their first URL was.

Recommendation: Good for spammers and bloggers with multiple personality.

 

LiveJournal

Basics:

Appearance and Dashboard. A bit closer to wordpress.

New post. Fair. There’s also a feature to insert mood options right below the blog. Hopefully, they can come up with a honk-mood rating just like I use in my blogs.

Image uploading. This one has the most options. It can upload image directly or coming from a URL, scrapbook or photobucket.

Categories. No.

Tags. Yes.

Ads. No.

Others:

URL easy to remember? Yes.

Members. There’s also a lot.

Recommendation: As the name implies, most of the users here post articles in a manner like most journals are written. And upon browsing/lurking thru most of the post, I saw that this is the site if you want to let lose some rants and hot air. Paging all bosses, you might find your names here right after you have delivered some tough messages. Hahaha.

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

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Filipino Game Shows: Deal or No Deal?

 

 

One thing I have to contend with during the 2-week vacation is giving up from time to time to my wife’s favorite TV shows. I don’t know what attracts her and other Filipinos from watching it but despite the seemingly lack of substance or excitement from these local channels’ programming, these shows nevertheless garner a large percentage of the viewing public – that is, if the surveys are to be trusted. For most pinoys lunchtimes and dinner times aren’t complete without it.

There’s the ever repeating plots of the telenovelas where the characters (and their nationality) and settings changes but not the story, the local game shows that seems to breed more ignorance rather than educate the masses and of course, there’s the national news reports that majority of the reports dwell on the repetitive political turmoil, killings of the hoodlums (thieves, drug pushers, kidnappers, etc.), endless motorcycle riders accidents and any other reports that one would find in a tabloid instead of a reputable newspaper. Sometimes, I’d like to believe that these local networks insert a subliminal message in between their TV shows.

As much as I hate to admit it, but unthinkably I’m starting to appreciate (this is where an OMG somewhere is blurted out) a couple of what I then consider as mababaw (shallow) entertainment. A couple I can now name are Pilipinas Game Ka Na Ba (Philippines are you game?) and Deal or No Deal. But please, SWS and ABS-CBN don’t count me in yet as I’m still picky of the episodes. I know you can do better than that.

I recently learned (from wifey) that Game Ka Na Ba is doing a fairly strict screening of its participants. And it looks like there’s truth to it since I saw that the trivia questions require a bit of thinking answering it. Or is it just me? I’m now wondering if to be considered intelligent someone like me needs to add the knowledge on trivial matters in Filipino current events, star (celebrity) news and history. Am I doomed for not caring about all these stuffs? Because frankly speaking, the last time I had an interest in such was way back when I was in school.

In Deal or No Deal, I seem to enjoy its recent episodes. Not only that I wish I’d get a million this way, but I’m amused to see how different people deals differently with the game banker’s offer. Although this is one game of luck, it cannot be taken lightly. In here some kind of analysis had to be done under several pressure factors – your family and friends, the studio audience, the looks and firm smiles of the lovely girls holding the cases, the show’s host, the and the shows banker. Without any doubt, above all these, there’s time pressure to beat – although I don’t see any ticking timer. In the end it’s not about getting the case containing the one million pesos figure, but it’s all about how you analyze your chance of winning once you decide against the bankers offer if it’s a deal or no deal.

Relax my anti-Filipino game/TV show friends (you know who you are), this blog is not a prelude to patronizing all the local networks’ broadcast. This is just an acknowledgement that there is indeed something to learn from if you look at it from another point of view. Just remember, one key here is not immediately giving up when you see Kris Aquino shout the words, “Deal or No Deal”. You’ll get over with it soon. Hahaha. But if you’re asking if I’m watching telenovelas tonight, forget it. I’m a solid no. Unless….

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

Online Freebies

 

As previously mentioned, my mother’s 2 year PC remained almost in its pristine condition. Until now, the only files that got updated or added in it are pictures. And normally, it is always us who did the downloading every time we pay them a visit especially during December. The whole year round she uses it only to get connected to us through emails – thankfully she learned how to do it.

 

Having used it again for this week’s short vacation, I had mixed feelings when I discovered about its almost untouched state. I feel happy that at least she haven’t installed any bootleg softwares in it. But at the same time I feel a bit frustrated as it still obviously lacks MS Office, photo editors, file compression and other tools that I need to do a blog – easily, and also share pictures to my distant sister who always craves to see what’s happening back here.

 

So instead of wishing I had another $100 to shed for a genuine MS Office installer, my desperate mind remembered to check the web for what might be legally free so I can proceed with my business of blogging, editing, and uploading of pics.

 

Fortunately, my web searches became fruitful enough and with the help of my mother’s PLDT Vibe connection I diligently (mark this word) spent some time checking these freebies. The following are the result of my downloads:

 

*OpenOffice. This is an underdog with a surprising package compared to Microsoft’s Office. I’ve actually heard about this before from a friend who is an OSS (Linux) fan. But since I have a genuine MS Office software back then, I ignored the existence of a free OpenOffice. Now, after downloading the approx 150MB file, I instantly became a fan. I never knew that this free software will match that of its Microsoft counterpart. In fact, I’m now using its Writer (to do this blog) and I find the interface and features not so far apart from MS Word. It has all the basics such as spell checker, formatting buttons and what surprised me most it also has an autorecovery feature – no need to worry when the PC shutdowns after the baby pressed on some buttons intentionally or not.

 

*GIMP 2. It’s short for GNU Image Manipulation Program 2. I downloaded this free photo editor with the intention of just resizing the large image files for an easy Flickr.com uploading. It came as a surprise when I saw that this one is almost the same with my Canon photo editor. One cool feature I find is its ability to scale an image just by selecting the scale button and then dragging the corners of the picture. During the process a window shows the aspect ratio of your file so that one can stop at the desired size. The downside of this software though is that it’s a bit slow and cannot accommodate multiple files in an instant. File size: 15MB.

 

*VSO Image resizer. Now this one means business when the job is just about resizing. VSO resizes multiple files in a jiffy. Period. This one is highly recommended. File size: 6MB.

 

With these files I now feel that I’m getting hooked with online freewares (legit). I’m now actually looking for a free screen grabber but so far the one that I’ve downloaded (sreengrabberinstall.zip) seems to be a disappointment as its installation requires another file to be downloaded. Anyway, the three files I mentioned may be enough for now. Somehow, this just proves the cliché, “the best things in life are free.”

 

***

 

I said to mark the word “diligently” when using PLDT Vibe’s connection. Why? That’s because it did not perform to my expectation. My mother have a P999 plan and it’s supposed to have at least 500kbps (or even more) connection speed but upon using speedtest.net’s tester it only yielded 196kbps download speed. My Digitel connection at home can even match that at some point and my subscription plan is just for 128kbps. I have doubts now if I’ll change DSL provider next year. Ti abi.

 

 

Mood: 3/10Honks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In English Please

My recent blogging inactivity did not keep me away from English – fortunately or unfortunately. Instead, what I lacked in English writing was compensated by a couple of reasons or chances that compelled me to speak the language which I always thought has been my forte. But, I was wrong. I once again realized that English is still indeed foreign to my tongue.

When I was in grade school, I was among those who would rather speak than compute (if I can avoid it). I was always more comfortable filling in pages after pages of theme writing compositions than competing with someone else in the mathematical flash cards race. I did well in English than math. In short, I just love words over numbers.

It wasn’t surprising then when I jumped into the blogging bandwagon right after I got hold of my own internet connection at home. I dumped my pens. I forgot all about my paper journals – I’d rather type. And although, I rate myself as among those considered average in terms of English skills (grammar and composition, specifically), it didn’t deter me to post my entries in my so called online vandalism – or blogs. Practice, practice, practice is what always goes on inside my mind whenever writing frustration sinks in.

So just imagine how excited I was when I found a couple of perfect excuses to speak English. First, our son’s arrival meant that my much awaited time to teach English to someone came. And I find it funny that while he’s learning the basics – alphabet, words, and vowels, I on my part am silently relearning most of it. I correct myself every time I pronounced a word wrong – I should be able to perfect it when our son is old enough. Second, l attended a training last week wherein our instructor was Tenora – a black American with a doctorate degree. Obviously in this training, the activities and interaction were all done using English as the medium of communication.

Other than learning how to become a good manager by using the Symphony/Conductor metaphor, I also began to make a conscious effort to get my message across by trying to speak up every time I had the chance. And just as I was persecuting myself for the mispronunciations I regularly had, I was quite surprised when at one point Tenora had to write something on the flip chart and she seem to have seconds of doubt whether she’s spelling the word right. Sensing that some of us might be looking at her, she admitted that often times she’d falter when it comes to writing. She even joked that someone once said, “Only a wise person spells one word in different ways.” She’s not sure if it was from Thomas Jefferson. Whoever it was, at that point, I was smiling. Nodding. Well, I can’t be that bad then.

***

One of the newspaper clippings I keep until now is a poem which Philstar’s Mary Ann Quioc Tayag posted on her February 13, 2005 article: So what if my English sounds funny? This one is like a year of speech class compressed in one tiny clipping. Here it is:

Hints on pronunciation for foreigners (by TSW)

I take it you already know

Of tough and bough and cough and dough?

Others may stumble, but not you

On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?

Well done! And now you wish perhaps

To learn of less familiar traps?

 

Beware of heard, a dreadful word

That looks like beard and sounds like bird.

And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead

For goodness sake don’t call it deed!

Watch out for meat and great and threat,

They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

 

A moth is not a moth in mother

Nor both in bother, broth in brother

And here is not match for there

Nor dear and fear for bear and pear

And then there’s dose and rose and lose

Just look them up – – and goose and choose

 

And cork and work and card and ward

And font and front and word and sword

And do and go and thwart and cart

Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive,

I’d mastered it when I was five.

 

***

 

And here’s a hilarious poem I found while searching related topics:

 

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC
It plainly marks for my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea
I’ve run this poem threw it
I’m sure your please to no,
It’s letter perfect in it’s weigh
My checker tolled me sew
— anonymous

(from: http://www.etni.org.il/quotes/spelling.htm)

 

***

 

Oh by the way, I also tried searching for Thomas Jefferson’s quote related to spelling and what I find is completely opposite to what Tenora mentioned:

 

“Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.” – Thomas Jefferson, to his daughter Martha.

(from: http://www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_spelling.html)

 

Well, that’s English folks. It’s still indeed as alien as we’d like to think of it.

 

 

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

(wife and baby sleeping)

Bloody Bisaya

 

I have forgotten all about this issue that has created another stir among “majority” of the Filipinos led supposedly by our nationalistic and caring brethren here and abroad. But just as I was about stretching my yet sleepy self out of bed I heard it from the news again.

This is about the discrimination issue being raised when a comedy show somewhere in Europe featured a maid being made to perform an indecent act in front of his British master. This short scene once again made it to our national news; both print and broadcast. Everyone jumped in the bandwagon like ants smelling an open sugar container. Everyone called foul. And once again everyone called for an apology from the British.

This news is not new though. The recent one I can recall was when actress Teri Hatcher’s character made a remark questioning the credentials of Filipino doctors during one of the Desperate Housewife episodes. This one too angered “all” Filipinos. Some even rallied behind to have the show and Teri Hatcher banned here in the Philippines. Of course, do I need to mention that an apology was demanded from Teri Hatcher?

News such as this is like an irritating itch to me. I hate it but I’m amused with it as well. Why? Because most of us are quick to point out discrimination coming from foreigners but have totally forgotten that it has been actually happening here in our country. We’ve stereotyped people coming from the provinces and treated some with less respect.

If someone speaks with thick Visayan accent, most will call them Dong. I learned from a friend that this is an insult especially if used in Cebu – also a Visayan province. And not only that, most shows portray their household drivers, maids or sidekicks as Bisaya. We enjoy seeing them being slapped in both comedy and the dreaded telenovela shows. To everyone, having a thick Visayan accent is synonymous to being illiterate or ignorant. How rude.

So what are we going to do with it? I’m from Bacolod where most will immediately call one coming from there as Bisaya. Should I demand then an apology from the rest of the fair skinned, fluent Tagalog-speaking Filipino? Should I waste my time and effort to get my message across? Unfortunately, I just did. To tell you frankly, I don’t give a damn. Hence, unless we get our acts together here in treating the rest of our countrymen fairly, let’s not be surprised and stop feeling discriminated if foreign shows brand us as cooks, janitors, gasoline attendants, dog-eaters, fake doctors, fake nurses and illiterate sexy maids. Live with it.

 What do you think? Please vote.

 

(This is my first poll in my blog. Another cool wordpress feature.)

***

Here’s what I read from yesterday’s Francis J. Kong article that made me relate it to my subject matter:

From the Albany Journal, 1890 comes this material…A true Christian never looks down on anybody, and yet this habit of looking down on the less fortunate acquaintances is common enough to make the following advice given by the Albany Journal to its young readers, very timely:

“Don’t look down on a boy because he wears shabby clothes; when Edison, the inventor first entered Boston, he wore a pair of yellow breeches in the depth of winter.

“Don’t look down on a boy because his home is plain and unpretending; Abraham Lincoln’s early home was a log cabin.

“Don’t look down on a boy because of the ignorance of his parents; Shakespeare, the world’s poet, was the son of a man who was unable to write his own name.

“Don’t look down on anyone; not just because some day they may outstrip you in the race of life, but because it is neither kind, nor right, nor Christian.”

***

Did you know that?

Recently I discovered some fascinating facts:

*There’s a book in the bible called Job. (from my mother who sent me a personal message for my Playing With God blog)

*A man named Expeditus did exist. And guess what, he is the now the saint for people with urgent cases. (seen among the statues inside the humid Dasmarinas church)