November 2006


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Vox is new free blogging software package available from Sixapart, the same company that owns LiveJournal, Moveable Type and Typepad.

I think anyone who is not that web savvy will love it. If newbies to blogging are presented with interfaces that assume a certain level of technical knowledge or have help files that use unfamiliar terms immediately feel confused and what is worse excluded.

Because of the audience of my other blog In a minute Ago weekly I would have an email that indicates to me that many people are just discovering the net and their level of tech literacy is extremely low. This is of course not the case for the whole community, as many have been online for years but it is worth remembering that good percentage of people are not tech literate.

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When you sign up for one of Vox’s free blogs you are sent a verification email.

When you log in the top bar navigates to tools you need to create posts, select layouts etc. To write a post simply click on the compose tab. Here you encounter a window with a Title field an are in which to write your post, a field so that you can tag your post and a drop down menu which allows you to select who can read your post.

I liked this feature as it means that you can share posts with the world or limit the people who view it to friends and family, or you can make private entries for your personal record.

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I went straight to the feature many people want, which is to be easily load photos. It is quite simple, click on the photos icon if you have an image on your computer you select the My Computer tab, choose a file, mark it as being public or private which ever applies, type in some keywords and click OK.

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You are given options to display the photo at number of sizes and then given the option to center it or align it right or left. You choose and click OK.

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It is also easy to insert images from your flickr account using the tab marked flickr. Once I had authorized Vox to access my flickr account it was simple to pull an image from there. Photobucket, iStockPhoto and sites like YouTube, are also supported.

You have an upload limit of 2 Gigabytes a month. That is generous. If you take advantage of the video and sound features I could see people using it but for images it is more than enough.

To facilitate file management, the site gives you Vox library, where you can easily store files for reuse. Books, videos, audio files, and images can all be saved as collections. This is a great advantage as it means all sorts of file types can be saved in the one place online. Vox blogs have a clear interface that loads images into a ‘collection’. Within seconds I had a collection of images that I uploaded from my computer.

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I know that for many new bloggers creating a link is a big issue. Links are easily created. In your compose window type the text you want to become the link. Highlight the text then click the link icon in your compose menu bar. In the widow that pops up paste the URL into the field and click OK. Bingo you are done

Vox supports Tags. For instance I poked about the tag art and found a number bloggers who has posted entries on Vox blogs under that topic. The Craft tag indicated to me that there are already a number of younger crafters using Vox.

The downside of this is that everything is tagged and there are no categories. I like both systems as some people use tags to browse a topic others like to see a category system clearly.

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There are over 150 templates to choose from and designs are easily applied to a blog with a click of a mouse. You simply follow the numbered steps, selecting a layout first choosing between two column or three column layouts then selecting a theme.

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While you are in the Design tab, click on the Customize your sidebars link and check or uncheck the items you wish to have in your sidebar. When finished click Apply.

Neighbourhood feature is good but the neighbourhood is Vox blogs. You can designate who friends and family are and publish photos etc for their eyes only using the privacy feature. When they visit, they needn’t key in a username and password for your particular page they log into their Vox accounts. That means friends and family have to become Vox members to view your private content. This for me was a downside as I have a family that is split one half are very tech savvy the other half can barely navigate the net let alone set up an account and use it. We live at either side of this large continent so popping over to help them with their computer issues is not an option. I think a simple password access would be easier for these folks.

That said I found myself quickly poking about the Vox blogs and quickly got a sense that the site provided a good social network for many bloggers. One social binder is a feature called ‘Question of the Day’ for anyone who has a problem thinking up topics to write about these prompts are not only a good idea but since it is set within a community it means that people discover your blog if you participate. All answers are tagged qotd and you can explore the answers other bloggers have written on Vox blogs.

Other features are that Vox has a spellchecker. If something is misspelt it is underlined. Multiple languages are supported as Vox blogs can be read in English, French and Japanese.

Comment spam is a problem with blogs so a feature I did check out was the comment moderation options. You can set comments from your friends and family to be automatically approved and moderate any other comments manually approve them under the Organize tab.

The business model that drives this service is that of generating income advertising. So if you want a free blog you have to put up with advertising on your site. Although Vox say the advertising is unobtrusive I found it a bit heavy handed in the editing screen. For some that would be a downside.

On the downside I could not find a way to add a list of blogs in the side bar. This is annoying as many people still discover blogs via these blogrolls.

That said I think many people who are not tech savvy will enjoy the experience of keeping a blog and establishing a social network online with a Vox blog. It is an good introduction to keeping a blog.

David Sifry has released his State of the Blogosphere, October, 2006 . Some of the highlights are the blogosphere continues to be strong with technorati tracking more than 57 Million Blogs. As of October 2006, about 100,000 new weblogs were created each day. The blogosphere is doubling every 236 days with about 1.3 million postings per day.

Sifry’s feels that technorati are better at dealing with Spam blog (splogs) with only about 4% of new blogs that evading technorati filters.

With the genre maturing Sirfry asked “What are the common characteristics of top bloggers?” and examined the posting habits of 3 groups revealing some interesting habits established by popular bloggers.

Andrew Johnson asks What makes a good blog post? I can see good advice in all his points with the exception of number 9 which I think is simply not applicable to many areas of the online.

I know that my other blog In a minute Ago which is aimed at the quilting and crafting community online it would not work. This niche community has its own dynamic and many of the social norms that I see in quilting and stitching groups are transferred online. I know many readers would simply turn away not only from one particular blog but blogging if it became OK criticise someone simply to create a bit of buzz.

In the online crafting community if you want to create a buzz writing a good tutorial on how to do something, making an exceptional piece or starting a creative challenge that people can join in on are ways to draw attention.

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