Dale Carnegie's bestselling self-help book How To Win Friends and Influence People could have been written with blogging in mind. A well-designed blog can be an effective way to reach out to the world, strike up friendships and sway opinion.

Whether you want to push a political or social perspective, discuss golf or gardening or simply showcase your work so you can garner more of the same, an interactive web page is ideal. As well as being your public face, it can be an extension of your brand, an informal but visible platform for chatting with customers or simply an extension of your personality.

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A blog can help you manage your web life and act as a central contact point for all your separate interests. Few of us focus all our efforts on just one topic, and a blog allows us to maintain updates and interact with people from all these strands without having to dive into different forums, email accounts or Facebook groups.

If you're a Twitter fan who finds 140 characters too restrictive, having a permanent home for your thoughts can be invaluable. And using a blog to create associations with other bloggers and websites can help you establish yourself and give you credence among your peers, too.

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So, if you've got the slightest interest in Web 2.0 and in using the internet to keep up with like-minded associates, a blog may be your best bet.

Choosing a blogging platform

A blog is in essence a personal website - a web-based log of what you've been up to and what you've chatting about with other people. It combines text with photos (and videos, if you choose), along with weblinks and tags to aid blog visitors' navigation.

You can choose a suitable web address and get a dedicated email address to go with it. With luck, this will have a decent associated spam filter, since a public website and email will attract more spam than your standard email account.

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Your first step will be deciding on a suitable blogging platform. It's worth investigating several major ones - such as Blogger, LiveJournal, Typepad and WordPress - to get a feel for what each can do and the services they work with.

We've chosen to use WordPress for this workshop as we like the cleanliness of its approach combined with its ability to pull in content from a range of other Web 2.0 sites and make sense of various content types. However, if you only want to dabble in blogging for now and want to keep things as simple as possible, you might want to start by using Blogger. You can port your content to another platform later if you choose.

Blogger is a popular blogging service for novices

This more basic platform lets you choose between a limited range of colour schemes and templates. You're expected to use Google-owned tools to upload photos, video and so on. This may be a pain if you depend on a rival service; a photo organiser other than Google's Picasa, for instance. But most users will find this a convenient method of aggregating content for batch uploading. All such web platforms allow you to select a single file or photo from your hard drive for upload.

Another consideration with Blogger is that it displays Google AdSense adverts - again, something you will either relish as an incremental money-making opportunity or prefer not to bombard your readers with. Other free blogging tools, such as LiveJournal and WordPress, don't display adverts.

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