Over the past couple of years, I have been successful in motivating a couple of my friends to start a blog and I am happy about that. Every time I discuss starting a blog the most common things that come up are what platform to choose, where to host, where to buy the domain, blogging frequency,will anyone even read my posts, what to blog etc. These were the same questions that I had when I wanted to start a blog and good reasons to procrastinate on for a long time. Over the years having changed the blog platform a couple of times, changing domain name providers, hosting platform, blogging tools here is what I have learned.

The Golden Rule of Blogging!

You should have already guessed that from the post title - The URL where you blog under - Make sure you own it. Buy one of your choices, from any of the domain providers (more on this later) and blog under that. While it’s easy to start blogging under popular services like WordPress.com/Blogspot.com, you actually don’t own your domain.

Own your URL

I have committed this mistake, of blogging under a URL not owned by me, not once but twice,and ended up having to edit the posts to redirect here. (I did not want to pay the providers a monthly fee just for the redirect and didn’t have many readers). It’s not that these external platforms are bad, but you are just throwing away the flexibility to change platforms (without any extra charge) when you want to. Owning your URLs allows you to change platforms, hosts, URL formats, redirects anything that you want to and I like to have that flexibility.

The lesser important things

Other than the URL that you blog on, other things are not that important and here’s why I feel that. If you are completely new to terms like domain, website, hosting etc. check out this article on the difference between all these.

Where to buy the domain?

Choose one and move on with it, even if you do not like it you can change your domain provider anytime. You can transfer from one host to another very easily and I have done that. I started off with GoDaddy for the first year as they seemed the cheapest when I started. But at the time of renewal, I learned that it was just for the first year that it was cheap but for renewals, it was costlier. So I moved on to Namecheap(affiliate) and am with them ever since. Nothing against GoDaddy though, if it works for you get it from there or somewhere - Get one right now if you don’t own a domain!

Where to host?

For a website to be accessible to all, it needs to be running somewhere on the internet and accessible to all, and this is what typically a hosting service provides. The hosting and domain provider need not be the same entity, so you can get your hosting space anywhere and link it with your domain. Your domain provider will give you some console/website where you can configure this. There are also free hosts like Github, tumblr, Blogger etc., which allows custom domain mapping for free, unlike wordpress.com. Godaddy, Namecheap, Azure, AWS etc are few popular options for hosting, if not Google to find what matches your need. Switching from one web host to another is even easier than transferring domains, so do not spend much time deciding where to host.

Which blogging platform to choose?

There are a large number of blogging platforms available today and it is a very difficult choice to decide on one. If all you are planning to put is a blog with static text, then static site generators are a good choice and it ends up you hosting just plain HTML, Javascript, CSS and images, like this one (at time of writing). But this does involve some knowledge of development environments and tools, so ignore it if you are not that person. WordPress is easy to start with and is famous for its 5-minute installations. Note that this is not the wordpress.com site which is like a hosting service, but this is the WordPress platform itself which you can host yourself anywhere you choose to, like I did for some time in Azure. WordPress is just one that is popular, but there are a lot of similar platforms that you can choose from.

When starting to blog, choose a platform that makes writing easy and not have the overhead of using the platform stop you from writing

Who will read my blog?

This one was the biggest stopper for me - Who cares about what I write? Maybe no one does, but now I write for myself, it makes me happy as I like to share information with others. Blogging helps me understand and explore topics more deeply. Finally, it’s a reference that I can always go back to when I face something similar. If you have faced a particular scenario (which might be totally weird) then it is very likely that it is going to be experienced by somebody else too. And Google makes finding things easy, and it will be found!

Frequency and commitment

I have been irregular with my blogging schedules (until lately) and used to blog just when motivation strikes. But since the start of this year, I am trying to blog on a schedule. Just experimenting with it and seeing how it goes, so far I am really liking it.It has given a different outlook to work and life in general, as it makes me look more closely for opportunities to generate a blog post. But it’s fine even without a commitment and blog irregularly unless you have some expectations of your reader base or generate revenue from the blog. But have a place to go and scribble down whenever you feel to and own that place!

Blog frequency as on 26-06-2-16 http://www.rahulpnath.com
Blog frequency as on June,2016 http://www.rahulpnath.com

It’s a good idea to have a schedule to blog , so that you don’t just end up writing one post and forget about your blog forever. Pick a schedule that works for you and try to stick with it.

No Original Content

It’s fine to blog about things that you have not created yourself, the way you learned things or anything you feel to write about, necessarily not even current at the time of writing. For eg., You might be working on Mainframes system and MainFrame is not current and cutting edge now. But that does not mean you should not be blogging about it. Just like you, there are a lot of mainframe developers and it might just help one of them. So don’t bother much about the originality of content, it’s your experiences and the way you see it- that’s always going to be unique.

“A blog is neither a diary nor a journal. Many people think of blogging in relation to those two things, confessional or practical. It is neither but includes elements of both.” - Lemn Sissay

Every ‘professional’ should have a blog, and if you don’t yet, now is a good time to start one. Sound off in the comments on what you feel about blogging in general, especially if you bought a domain and set up your blog after reading this. It will prove a point for this post!