Saturday, 17 February 2007

How to use this blog - the basics

1. What's a blog?

Since we began the blog, several people have told me that they've never viewed a blog before and would appreciate some tips. It's all quite straightforward really, so relax and have a good look around. You can't break anything here (or on your own computer) by clicking anything.

A blog is rather different from a conventional website. Good websites provide information in a logical way, usually beginning with a 'home page'. From the homepage of a well-designed site, you can click on links (text that's usually underlined and in blue) to find your way to sections of the site that interest you.

Blogs work slightly differently. They still use links, so you can click around in a similar way. But blogs are better than websites at providing up to date and fast-changing information. And writing information for a blog and getting it to appear in a presentable way is much easier than revising a conventional website.

Like all blogs, the information on the St Paul's blog appears in 'posts' or 'articles'. The posts are displayed on the main page in the order that they are posted, with the latest first. This means that when you come back to the main page, you'll always see the most up-to-date information. Come back often and you'll find the new posts appear all the time.

So there's a clue to one way that blogs can work. A bit like flicking through a magazine, you can visit the blog and work your way through all the posts, in the order they were written. This is one way of keeping up with what's happening at St Paul's.

But perhaps there's some specific information you want to find out, like what's on for children, or the details of a particular event. For more about how to find what your looking for, click on this link: How to use this blog - How to find information

Read on to find out more about the basics of the St Paul's blog.

2. The blog in all its glory

So now you know roughly how the blog works, let's go a little deeper. Look at the screen and you'll see that it's basically in two columns. On the left are the posts themselves. This is the area that changes most frequently, as new and up to date information is constantly appearing.

The right column contains information that you might always want to have to hand, so it appears on every page on the site. Here's what's going on:
  • Go to our Main Blog Page - Click this link, and you'll be sent to the main blog page at which always includes the very latest posts.
  • Subscribe to this blog - The easiest way to read this blog is to keep coming back to this site. But keeping up with lots of blogs can be time-consuming. So many people us a feed reader (I use Google Reader) to make the whole process easier. Click the subscribe link to be taken to the feed for this site. For more about feeds, see this explanation.
  • Contact us - Information about how to find us in the real world, and which number to call to speak with a real human being. My email address is also shown - don't be afraid to click and send me an email; I'll try and help if I can.
  • Welcome - A brief introduction to the blog and to St Paul's.
  • A picture - A shot of the church building, taken from Hamble Road.
  • Calendar - This blog started as a way of sharing the calendar of events and bookings of the church buildings. The calendar is automatically updated with event information, from Google Calendar. For more information about the calendar, click here: How to use the calendar.
  • Parish Map - The map is provided by embedding code from A Church Near You, which itself uses data from Google Maps. You can click the control buttons at the top left of the map to move around or to zoom. Even better, click and drag on the map itself and you'll be able to move around. For more information about the calendar, click here: How to use the parish map.
  • Links - We won't go mad by flooding the blog with links but there are several websites that you might want to visit from any page.
  • Labels and categories - One of the neat things about the blog is that each post can be labelled according to the kind of information it contains. If you're interested in events, for example, clicking the "events" label will return a list of posts that are all labelled accordingly.
  • Blog archive - perhaps you're interested in what we were writing about in January 2007. Use the blog archive to go back in time. The blog archive always shows every post in the current month but compresses previous months and years to save space. To view a full list of posts from a past month, click on the little sideways-pointing triangle.
3. Blogging style

The written style of a blog is usually informal. Perhaps that's because content can be generated so easily, published so quickly, and edited even after publishing - there's less pressure to 'get it right'. Blogs tend to be written as a commentary on events, so their tone is often provisional or tentative. Blogs are interactive too - the fact that comments can be made by anyone who reads the blog tends to make them a conversational medium.

Now there are pitfalls with this informal approach. It's rather easy to get carried away and allow oneself to blather on about irrelevant things, or to lose focus, or (even worse) to be indiscrete. I shall try to stick to the following self-imposed discipline:
  • Privacy - I want to respect the rights of people to remain anonymous, so won't use full names in any post unless I've asked permission first. I'll never publish anyone's email or phone number without ensuring that they're happy for me to do so.
  • Church, not me - Inevitably, the style of the blog makes it quite personal. You'll probably get a good idea of who I am and the way I think by reading the St Paul's blog. But it's easy for the ego to take over, so I shall try to keep focus on the church and it's community-life, rather than bore you with personal stuff.
  • Seasoned with grace - Colossians 4.6 urges the believers as follows: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone." I shall endeavour to ensure that posts are gracious and honour God without causing offence or embarrassment. But a little "saltiness" seems appropriate to avoid things getting too bland.
If you've got any suggestions, criticisms or ideas, please feel free to use the comments facility.