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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Using Blogger with Rootsweb's Freepages

As mentioned on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, I am now using the program Blogger to create and update pages with ongoing content, like the Asa page or the Genealogy & General Subjects blog.

Blogger is a free, online program to create web logs (called "blogs" for short). The company was recently purchased by Google. Blogs can be used as informal journals of opinion, or they can be more technical and formalized.

Entire websites can be built using a blog format, which enables you to easily incorporate links, images, videos, sound clips, and text in one place. This makes blogs an excellent tool for easily documenting a family's history with photos, images of censuses (or other primary documents), links to related sites, and videos of tombstones or other relevant locations.

Blogger comes with some built-in templates that allow easy formatting (and which may be modified for more advanced users). You type in content as though you were sending an email, and it automatically creates the coding for you. It will also, like most blogging programs, automatically archive previous posts for you as well. One of the features that makes blogging different from standard web publishers, however, is the ability for other readers to post comments about what they have read.

The other core feature of many blogs, including those produced by Blogger is that you can sydicate the page and offer a subscription to readers. This allows readers to peruse your new content with a web feed without having to visit your site as regularly. For example, readers of my Asa page can check to see if there are new updates, videos, or pictures directly from their home page or desktop or mobile phone or PDA. This is a convenience for many readers.

Most blogs are kept on dedicated servers, meaning that if you have a blog and a Rootsweb's Freepages account, you probably just have links between the two. The difference between this and what I am about to explain is that Blogger will publish your blog to your Freepages account. If you have other content that is not in blog format (as I did), this enables you to keep it all in one location.

Okay, enough explanation of the concept. Here is how you can create your blog on
Freepages:

1. Go to
Blogger and sign up for a free account.
2. Next, create your blog. Under the "create a blog" section, you will choose the "Advanced Blog Setup" link.

3. Blog details:
  • Title - whatever you like
  • Listed or unlisted - in a directory like your phone number... public or not?
4. Server details:
  • FTP server - always users.freepages.rootsweb.com
  • Protocol - always FTP
  • FTP path - depends what folder you want to use on Freepages. If your website is at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/ you are using the genealogy_html folder. If your website is at http://freepages.family.rootsweb.com/ you are using the family_html folder
Whatever folder you use, it MUST already exist on your server (i.e. if you are going to use a subfolder, you should create it before you do this step). You separate folders using the slash: /

In the example below, I opted to create a "genblog" folder inside of my genealogy folder for my Pretend Blog, so for this step I wrote in genealogy_html/genblog/. This path directs Blogger to install the files in this folder. You could just use the genealogy folder instead, however, in which case you would write in genealogy_html/.

NOTE: To direct Blogger to the appropriate path on Rootsweb, you must use the following formats:
genealogy_html (to the genealogy folder)
history_html
family_html (etc.)
The key thing to note about these formats is the underscore between the folder name and html.
  • Blog filename - you can name it pretty much whatever you want. This will be the end of your URL (website address) for the blog when you finish. In my example below, I named the file pretend.html, so my URL would be http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~mabgenealogy/genblog/pretend.html
  • Blog URL - this is the URL where your blog will be, but without the filename you gave above. In my example, the URL I wrote in is http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~mabgenealogy/genblog/
  • FTP Username - the username assigned to you by Rootsweb
  • FTP Password - the password assigned to you by Rootsweb (don't forget that it is case sensitive, so caps must be in caps!)
  • Word verification - type in what you see (a security feature)
  • Hit continue!


5. Choose the template you like and hit continue.
6. You are DONE! Now you can create posts and tell the blog to "publish" and it should put everything on your Rootsweb site exactly where you told it to.

I hope this was helpful to you. If you used this page to create a website, please use the "comments" section below to tell me about it and give me the URL.

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