August 7, 2006
Blogs are offered as a free service to all registered users. Along with your own blog, a free Steamboatpilot.com account allows you to comment on stories and sign up for customized news alerts. If you haven't already, go ahead and sign up today.
Once you have an account, go ahead and create your new blog. Pick a title for it and, optionally, upload an image to personalize your blog page. You can make your blog "public" or not. If you don't change anything, your blog will be public by default. If you choose not to make your blog public, you'll still be able to show your entries to your friends (by sending them links to your entries), but your blog won't be listed on any of the main Steamboatpilot.com blog index pages.
You can start posting entries as soon as you've created your blog. Whenever you're on a page in the blogs area, a list of quick links will appear which let you manage your blog and add new entries. Click the "post new blog entry" link to start writing.
A blog entry has three main parts: a title, an optional summary, and a body. The best entry titles are short and descriptive, and will grab a reader's attention. The summary, which is optional, lets you provide a slightly longer description of what you'll be writing about; if you don't fill in a summary, the blog index pages will use the first fifty words of your entry as a substitute summary.
The body of the entry is where you can really go to town; it's pretty free-form, so write as much or as little as you've got on your mind. You don't need to know anything about making web pages or writing code to write a blog entry; for the most part, just type naturally and it'll come out looking the way you wanted. If you want to add a little fancier formatting to your entry, though, you can use a few special shortcuts:
To emphasize something with italics, put one asterisk before the text and one after it; for example, if you typed "*italics*", it would come out in your entry as "italics".
You can also really emphasize something with bold text, by putting two asterisks before and after: "**bold**" becomes "bold".
To insert a link, put the link's title in square brackets, and the link's address right after it in parentheses. So this:
"[Steamboat Pilot & Today](http://www2.steamboatpilot.com/)"
becomes "Steamboat Pilot & Today".
- And to insert nicely-formatted lists, you have two options:
To make a bulleted list, put each item on its own line, with an asterisk and a space at the start of each line. So this:
* Item one
* Item two
* Item three
- Item one
- Item two
- Item three
And to make a numbered list, do the same thing but put a number and a period at the start of each line, instead of an asterisk. So this:
1. Item one
2. Item two
3. Item three
- Item one
- item two
- Item three
In addition to the "post new blog entry" link when you're in the blogs area, you should start seeing links appear around the site which say "blog about this"; all blog entries have them right now, and all of our news stories should have them soon. When you click one of those links you'll be taken to post a blog entry as normal, but our system will remember that you're blogging "about" a story or another entry or some other piece of content, and make sure that a link to it appears on the page. We'll also be making sure that blog entries and stories display lists of all the people who've blogged about them; this way you can read the news and read the discussions people are having in their blogs about the news.
In the same list with the "post new blog entry" link, you'll also see a link titled "manage my blog"; it will take you to a page where you can set up a few options for how your blog interacts with other blogs. One of the most interesting options you have is to create and join "blog groups"; a blog group is just a collection of blogs which happen to write about the same topics. Anyone who has a blog can create new groups, and anyone can join groups; so, for example, if you're interested in snowboarding you could create a "snowboarding" blog group, and anyone else who was interested could join and post entries to it. The "manage my blog" page has links which let you look through all the existing blog groups, so it's usually a good idea to look and see if someone's already created groups for the things you're interested in.
When you're part of a blog group, you decide which entries from your blog will be shown on the group's page, so if you were in a "snowboarding" group and wanted to write a couple entries that had nothing to with snowboarding, you could keep them from showing up on the group. And you can join as many groups as you like, so feel free to join up with any groups that interest you.
Finally, anyone who has a free steamboatpilot.com account can "recommend" blog entries; if you're logged in, you'll see a "recommend this entry" link appear on the page next to blog entries you're looking at. The blogs system keeps track of how many times each entry has been recommended, and the most-recommended entries will appear on the blogs home page each day. So whenever you see a blog entry you enjoy, go ahead and recommend it for others; just keep in mind that you can only recommend each entry once, and you can't recommend your own entries.
There's a lot more you can do with the new steamboatpilot.com blogs, but that's the bare minimum you'll need to know to get going; go ahead and create a blog of your own, and let the world know what you think!