Beauty Or Beasts. Your Friday Two-Fer.

After the jump, my personal opinion on the Big Five blogging platforms is all laid out, in less than two million words. Maybe. Really, if you are happy with your platform, don't click through. Instead, go look at the most beautiful woman to ever grace this planet, and watch the damn video at the end. Bring all the Kleenez.

And now, the world's longest blog post.....



Blogspot/Blogger: Probably the most popular blogging platform. Almost everyone uses it at some point (I did for the better part of three years, happily).

Why it's great: It's great because it's easy. It's caveman easy. My four year old could probably manage a blogspot blog. All you need to know is how to type and slide boxes around a screen, so her posts would probably all just say "mom sucks", but still. Plus, Google owns it, and google pays attention to that which it owns.

With Blogger, you can com-plete-ly customize your design. You can ad shit-tons of functionality, and you don't have to mess with FTP's and plugins...you just add a widget. There are about 80 million widgets you can add to your Blogger blog with one click, to do anything from adding a picture slideshow to sharing videos to adding music to your blog. If you add music to your blog, I will hunt you down and beat you with a herring. Just sayin'. Blogger hosts its own photos, so you don't have to use Flickr or Photobucket or any similar site to prevent exceeding your allotted server space, which is a nice little touch for a free blogging platform.

And that is the best part of all...it's completely free. Which leads us to....

Why It Sucks: You get what you pay for. There is a lot you cannot do with blogger, mostly because people have some snobbish idea that it isn't professional and if you're using it, you don't need professional tools, but mostly because Google owns it and will do exactly what is good for Google, and not much more.

One major drawback is their no-follow comment system. That means that if you leave a comment on a Blogger blog, your link will not count as an incoming link to your blog, which is precisely how Google ranks websites. I think they do this to limit the amount of stats they have to calculate and ease their business a little, but it's pretty messed up. No other blogging platform does this. You can get around it as a blog owner, but you have to know enough HTML to figure out how, which totally defeats the purpose of Blogger...it's ease.

Another big issue I have with Blogger is their push to monetize your blog. This seems fine, but you have to remember that if you add the one-click ads they push you to, Google Ad Sense, you're making more money for them than you'll ever see yourself. Google wants you to monetize your blogger blog because it's good for them. It's okay for you, too; you may make toilet paper money or even shoe money if you're lucky (I've made $0.35 totally from adsense ever) but ultimately, you ARE paying them.

And all those amazingly easy widgets? They're all owned by google. You add google followers, and you're essentially adding a secondary RSS to your blog, and increasing Google's ability to go to investors and say, "Look, we're going to overtake Twitter! Give us more money." Their photos push you to Picassa, but Flickr is vastly better. Their videos bump you to YouTube, though Blip and Vimeo are highly superior. Sure, you can use all those instead, but your ease of use vanishes if you do.

I love Google, I really do. All of my emails are Gmail. I use many of their services, but I am wary of any company as hell bent on taking over the world, especially those who do so on the back of unsuspecting bloggers. Plus, you most likely will outgrow it at some point, and that leads me to Wordpress.

Wordpress.com, the free WP: Another very popular platform. I use it for my review blog and my homepage (under construction).

Why it's great: It's professional on the inside. You get every tool you need to really write a good blog, and none of the clutter you don't. Wordpress offers the same "Slide to use" widget system, but the widgets are based on what's good (Flickr, twitter, vimeo, gravatar), not what's Google (youtube, follow, picassa). Plus, Wordpress has a great stat-counter built into it, and they are great at highlighting "up and coming" blogs daily. Wordpress is exactly as easy to use at blogspot, but has a little more power behind the machine. And they really do keep up with all the latest tech. Example: There is a Wordpress iPhone app so you can easily post from your phone. I don't think ANYONE else offers that. Plus it's free to use, but still, you get what you pay for.

Why it sucks: Wordpress.com has its limits and you will not cross them. You cannot add javascript to your sidebar. Example, you can use their Flickr widget, but you cannot add a Flickr slideshow. It just won't let you do it. Also, you cannot ever, for any reason, advertise on Wordpress. If you do, they'll find out and shut you down. (Except for charities. They actually have a nice little way to take whatever revenue you'd earn and give it to charity. Props, WP.) You also cannot alter your blog in any way without paying for it. You have to pay to edit your CSS; yes, even your fonts. You get exactly 3 GB of media space (anything you upload, like photos) and not one drop more. So, if you post a lot of photos, you'll need to use Flickr or Photobucket to host them.

Basically, there are more hoops to jump through, but they're less in-bred hoops. And honestly, wordpress carries a little more credibility than blogspot. Sucks, but it's true.

Typepad::

I don't know a whole lot about Typepad. What I do know is that all of the group blogs (except Blog Nosh) that I write for use it, and it seems to really kick ass as far as group-blogging goes. It's got excellent moderation setting for the group blog moderator to use. Typepad also makes good use of SEO tools for you, like encouraging you to use pings and keywords, and spliting them up between WHERE you want what keywords for. (There is a difference between a Technorati keyword and a Google keyword) However, I personally find it confusing as all get-out and totally outdated. And you have to pay to use the service. If you're going to pay, I'd look more at Wordpress or Squarespace.

Wordpress.org, not to be confused with .com:

Wordpress.org is the self-hosted, not free wordpress. Which means exactly that; you have to self-host it. What does "self-hosted" mean? It means that I have a server (a big online bucket) where all of my information is stored (design, posts, media, all of it). Every time you open this blog, the server has to pull what you're looking out of that bucket for and send it to your computer. It puts the lotion in the bucket....And that is a service that a blogger has to pay for. It's not expensive, but it's not free, either, maybe $25 a month, depending on where you go for server space. All the other blogging platforms host your stuff for you; Wordpress makes you do it elsewhere. The actual Wordpress tools are free to use anywhere you like (the corporate blog I write is Wordpress, so is this blog, and we don't pay a dime for the platform, just our server space).

Why it's great: You can do anything to a Wordpress.org blog. Daily, new plugins are being developed. Plugins are functions you ask your blog to perform, like that Comment Luv thing or those Sociable buttons at the bottoms of posts, or stat-tracking, or database backups, or sooped up SEO tools, or sending a post to Twitter automatically on publishing. If you dream it, you can be it. Wordpress overs you a slew of pre-made basic templates that you can tweet the holy fuck out of (mine is a heavily modified version of Seashore). With Wordpress, you get a really good, solid blogging platform with the ability to make it do anything you want it to.

Why it sucks: You can do anything to a Wordpress.org blog. And you will. And you will break your blog doing it. A LOT. The biggest drawback of being able to add plugin after plugin is that plugins run off php. Php is like the synapses in your brain that tell your leg to walk. Comment php tells your brains blog to execute X, Y and Z to make your comments do what you want them to do, and so on. Your template is broken down to Header php, Footer php, sidebar php, single page php, and so on. So, every time you add a plugin, your WP brain has to work that much harder every time your blog loads anywhere. If you tell your blog to run, jump, walk, pick it's nose, eat and tweet all at the same time, it will, and it will slow your blog down. Because php takes bandwidth to execute, and bandwidth is what you pay your server for. Bandwidth is the signal that broadcasts your blog, and if you exceed your signal, your blog will shut the fuck down. Then you have to add more plugins to supercache your blog and more plugins to make supercache more effective and before you know it, you have more php code than content.

Its's a slippery slope, that's all I'm saying. If you want the good tools, and want the advanced publishing technology, and don't do well with temptation, I'd be looking as Squarespace.

SquareSpace, Blogging Evolved:

If I had my way, I'd use Squarespace for everything. I don't have my way because it's kind of hard to bang Wordpress posts into a Squarespace blog. And that's Squarespace's major drawback, or was until I just now looked and sure as hell is hot, they've upgraded. You CAN import to Squarespace from Wordpress now. Hmmm....

Why it's awesome: It's a paid service, which means you have totally creative control. It's typically cheaper than WP (at, about $18 a month, I think we pay for Kid Test Labs with multiple authors). Squarespace hosts your blog, so you don't have to worry about servers and FTP and all of that jazz you need for Wordpress, but it's arguably easier than free WP or Blogger. Why is it easier? Because Squarespace isn't so worried about bells and whistles. What it is worried about is getting you good SEO. Of all the platforms, SS is most gear towards the "professional" side of blogging, the SEO (search engine optimization) (getting your blog see best in search engines) (helping you get more than your mother in law reading your blog). It's still got that whole "slide to use" ease and a bunch of built in widgets, but it's clean. It's concise. There's nothing you don't need and everything you do. It totally kicks so much ass, you don't even know.

Why it sucks: It's stat-tracking isn't nearly as detailed as Wordpress'. I think you can add the html to use StatCounter or Woopra, but I'm not 100% sure on that. Also, it's a little complicated to start. You HAVE to read the manual when you start up on Squarespace, mostly because it's so technically designed for good publishing. It's focus isn't functioning BIGGER and BETTER, it's functioning EFFECTIVELY and WELL. Which, after a few years on Blogger, and then a few on Wordpress, you kind of have to change your mindset to get into.

Techstalk

When I started blogging, we didn't have anything at all like we have today. Seriously. Widgets were just methed out short people. Mobile browers were assholes who walked past your store and never bought shit. All we had was a bunch of html, time, and each other.

And we helped each other. Zomyboy taught me how to do this and this to words, because god knows there wasn't a button for it. I spent months googling for instructions on how to do this. (Hover over it.) I ruined code, reset it, ruined it again, reset it again, and eventually learned how to basically code all the functionality I wanted into my blog.

And then social media was born, and we taught each other that, too. I think I was the first person who asked Greeblemonkey what Twitter was and didn't get their neck punched. She and Christine were my first two friends, and they @'d me and dm'd me and basically guided me through the rocky terrain that is social media.

Of course, I went and quit it eventually, but still. I came back, and as of last week, Greeblemonkey is still teaching me how to use that fucking website.

My point is that we all used to help each other. You found a new blog tool? You told all your friends how to use it. You saw someone who needed to knowhow to do something? You showed them how to do it.

It seems like now there's more of a feeling of entitlement about the whole thing. Like, I'm not going to share my tricks with you because I paid for/earned/slaved over a hot html code for them. Meanwhile, I have friends that don't know how to do anything at all in the back-end of their blog, and don't even realize that they could know all of this, easily. We don't talk about how we blog, technically how we do it, anymore, and we're the ones supposedly revolutionizing the medium. I actually once heard a blogger say that if you didn't subscribe to ProBlogger, you weren't a real blogger and had no business here.

Huh?

Maybe I don't have the attention span to read ProBlogger. It really takes a certain breed. But maybe you do, and he's sharing all of that knowledge for free, and you're drinking the kool-aid, so why the fuck are you judging me and not just paying it forward?

*ahem*

So, I'm going to try a little something out. I really don't know a lot, but I know a little, and I'm going to share it. You got a tech-question about blogging? Hit me. There's no stupid question except the one you don't ask. Or, where are your keys? They're under the 2nd couch cushion, just like they always are. Every Friday, we're going to get our elbows greasy answering your questions and learn something about the machine behind the machine.

Lesson one: Always hover over links and images. You never know what you'll miss. {This lesson brought to you by the letters X, K, C and D, who inspired me to learn how to use sub-text}

Lesson two, for tomorrow: Which blogging platform is the right one. Like, for you.

Mommas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Little Sisters

I am the second child in my family; the first was a boy. Of course, that means I think all families should lead off with a boy, then follow up with the girl. It's the natural order of things, as I've seen it.

It's nice having a girl second instead of first because the house is full of legos, so they're instantly the cool toy, which means I'm stepping on plastic flesh-shredding landmines for 10 extra years.  When I take her to get a video game, I offer Backyardigans and she picks Phineas and Ferb, which is great because I don't have to listen to yetti-yetti-YETTI! all day long, but Phineas and Ferb is targeted at 8 year old boys, who can read, so instead of her playing Nintendo dress up with penguins and mounties and shit while I nap work, I'm making Ferb dig through nasty old trash piles to find nails to fix a fence that has nothing behind it. Seriously, rip-off. And instead of having a bazillion naked, decapitated Barbies in her bed, I tuck the kid in every night with Crystal King, because he's her baby, and then have to use tweezers try pry most of his body parts out of her flesh in the morning.

I'm beginning to think I may have done this backwards.

But she gets two big brothers, and that makes it worth it. They love her and protect her. They guide her. They help her. They teach her how to do important things like throw and catch a ball, text message, pee standing up, swear in context and have peanut envy.

When it was just me and the boys, the issue of genitalia really never came up because duh, everyone has the same junk. I was diligent about never letting them see me naked, so they only had their father to reference. If dad has it and they have it, everyone has it, right? Now, with the girl, she knows there's a division of goods here. And that child wants a peanut. She wants to be like her brothers. She has a peanut in her coochie, dammit. I've long since given up arguing this with her. Fine, have your peanut. We'll deal with this later.

Later has come.

She was a chipmunk the other day, because she's always something, and she walked right up to me and said, "Momma, I a chipmunk!" and I said super! She said, "Yeah, but I don't wick nuts" and dumbshit me assumed she meant walnuts or chestnuts but she clarified went she bent her little self over in half and said, "See? I can't wick my nuts."

I have absolutely no response to that.

I picked her up from school today and said, "Whuudup, yo?" as she got in the car. Her 12th grade buddy said, "Oh, that's where she gets it." It being what, exactly? "Oh you know, the way she talks. She's always 'awesome this' and 'wicked that'. It's pretty grown up talk for a preschooler." Yeah, just you wait. She has two big brothers. You ain't see nothing yet.

If The Paranoia Doesn't Destroy Me, The Insomnia Sure Will

When I was a little girl, I used to lie in my bed at night, totally awake, praying for sleep to come. It rarely did. I convinced myself that laying there resting was just as good as actually sleeping, but it wasn't. Every night, while I tried to sleep, visions of ghouls and witches danced in my head, and I felt the icy fingers of death clawing at my eyeballs. My mother told me evil spirits were trying to possess me. My doctor, 20 years later, told me I have astigmatism. So, woot, the pain in my eyes at night has a totally valid medical reason. The delusions of screaming banshee demons sent from hell to steal away my soul were totally my mother's fault.

Takes one to know one.

When I was in my 20's, I worked the breakfast shift at one of those places you go to clog your arteries the way your momma used to do it. I was up at 5 every morning, and by 2 I'd waited on about 200 people. Then I went home and chased two toddlers all by myself for the rest of the day. I was never up past 9 at night, ever.

Now I stay at home with my kids and I can't sleep. I can't sleep because I can not sleep. I can not sleep right now and my boys can get up and make their own breakfast, and my daughter sleeps until 1030 every day anyway, so my body knows it's going to get it's sleep in eventually. But I don't want it then...I want it now, while my eyeballs have bricks in them. I try; I lay there every night while my head spins. I'm tired, don't get me wrong, I just can't fall asleep. I think that maybe I'll get up an have a cigarette but I don't really want one. I fact, I don't think I ever want another one again. It's a digusting habit, and  I'm totally quitting as of now. It doesn't matter at all that I have quit smoking every single night for the past 2,000 nights or so. I think about all the other things I could be doing, like the laundry, which involves way more thought power than I am capable of expending at 1:30 in the morning, or going to the gym, which is open 24 hours and would totally wear me out, but it is all the way (2 minutes) over there (from my house) and I'd have to dig my gym clothes out of the laundry piles, which ugh, and then the whole thing turns into a blog post and I don't have a blog post for tomorrow and I can type one with one eye open except that one eye burns because I am beyond exhausted.

And there doesn't seem to be a way for me to get sleeping pills to help this, because I'm totally too afraid to ask a doctor for sleeping pills because he'll think I'm a drug-seeker. If he thinks I'm a drug seeker, there's no way he's going to give me the other prescriptions I need. If I can't get the other prescriptions I need, I will go stark-raving mad and the demons will start poking my eyeballs out in the middle of the night again and I will never sleep.

And so I get up and I type. And eat some chocolate cake. I think should have just had a smoke and gone to the gym.

This Will Go Down On Your Permanent Record

Dear Edward,

I loved you from the first minute I saw you, which was really convenient for both of us because the very next minute, I became your auntie.

Siblings



You were so little and sweet, open to anything, with all the love in the world to give. You are still that little boy smiling up at me and calling me auntie for the first time, except that now you're a man. Today, this day, you aren't our baby anymore. I'm going to be totally honest with you, since you're all grown up and shit, yo; I'm not ready for this.

I'm not ready to watch you march off into this very big, very ugly world all alone. I worry that I didn't tell you enough, enough of everything. I am afraid that you don't really know what's out there, and I'm mostly afraid that I won't be there to catch you when you fall. And you will fall, a lot. I worry about how many ways you could fall; into drugs or into fatherhood or into 'I'll go to college after I take a year off'. Don't take a year off, baby. I took "a year off" from seeing you and in that year you went from 3rd grade to graduating high school. It goes faster than you think it does, that year.

He Smelled Much Better Than I Did At This Point



I look at you and I see power that knows no bounds and strength that most dying, old men will never know. I see destiny before me in the most beautiful little package, and I pray that you see it, too.

Edward



I pray that you tap that thing inside of you that makes you the fastest and the strongest and the funniest and the kindest of all god's children. I dream that your dreams come true in the biggest way, and I dream that you don't have to look as hard as I did, or as your mother did, to find them. I hope that these women in your life; me, your momma and your auntie, that we've shown you what the smallest of people can do when they put their heads down and reach for something with everything they have. I hope that we've been enough to fill the void your father left, that we've shown you that anyone can, and they can anything, no matter what life shits out in their path.

Mostly, I hope that you can look back on your childhood, the one that legally comes to a screeching halt today, and smile. I hope that you knew joy and love and happiness. I hope that we were able to give you that in plentitude, because it's all we ever wanted to do.

Whee!



You changed this family the day you were born. You changed my life the first time you took my hand. You made some of the hardest times of my life easier, you reminded me to laugh when it was too hard to breath. You made me strong and brave. You kept our whole family together when the walls were falling around us, you kept us sane when there was no sanity to be had, because we all believe in you. We'd all fight for you, we'd all die for you, but more importantly, we all live for you.

I want you to know that everything that comes, goes. That nothing is so hard, you can't see it through to the other side, if you only try. I want you to know that every mistake can turn out to be a miracle if you're willing to let it. I want you to know that you have decades before you have to anything. I want you to know that no amount of fame or money or pussy will replace laughter, that no promotion or accolade will replace an honest, tight hug. That no amount of anything can fill your heart like loving someone, and having them love you back, can. I also want you to know that love changes faster than the tides, it ebbs and flows, it comes to you and it pulls away and it's never a loss when it's gone, because it always leaves a scar in your heart.

I want you to know that scars are the only thing you'll take with you out of this world, and I want you to cherish yours. They are the roadmap of your life; that football concusion, this surgery, that broken heart. Cherish everything, even what hurts, for every moment of your life is currency in the bank of your soul.

Don't neglect your soul. Feed it well. Love passionately, love often, and every time you love, you will find you do it differently, for different reasons. Only by this will you know the true capacity of your heart. Eat what makes you feel good. Sometimes, you're going to need a cheeseburger and the biggest coke they make. Get them. Sometimes, you're going to need a salad. Get that, too. It doesn't make you a sissy. And skip the brussel sprouts. They are gross and they don't do anything for you that you can't get in a Flintstone's vitamin, and I'm sorry we've lied to you all these years and made you eat them anyway, 'for your own good'. When you become a father, this particular brand of torture will be passed down to you.

Don't become a father. Good god in heaven, don't do it yet. You will spend the next 15 years feeling very grown, indeed, and very confident in every decision you make, and one day you'll wake up and realize that you were wrong about almost everything. Allow yourself that margin of error to trip and fall, to dig holes and climb out of them. Give yourself the gift of discovering you. There is plenty of time to fall truly, madly, deeply in love, and fall right back out of it, and there is plenty of time to have a family. Until then, let us be your family. Let yourself hang on to this magic you live under the spell of. Children are the most amazing, wonderful, life altering gift we're ever given in life, and they are motherfucking hard. And really expensive, but you already know that Mr I Only Wear Nike and Underarmour, now don't you? Go to college, be broke and starve, read books and learn to shoot pool and drink beer and play football and kiss girls and grow just a little more, okay? Live YOUR life, the life you've earned. And put a damn condom on while you do it.

Aside: I just threw up a little. Let's never say the word condom again, shall we?

But most importantly, remember this. No matter where you go or what you do, Team Edward is waiting in the wings, watching you more closely than you'd like, and we're cheering with raucous voices for you. We will always hold your hand, and we'll always lift you up, and we'll always be there, waiting. Even when you can't see us, even when you think there is no one in the world for you, we will always be there. You are the mortar that our family's walls are built out of, you are our beacon bringing us all back home.

Solo