LeArNiNg about blog building communities (MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, Entrecard)

Community members at Life in Africa's webbed empowerment center in Gulu (Northern Uganda) see their own pictures online for the first time, using a locally built solar powered computer (2006).

While it sometimes feels like I've spent far too much of the past 10 years online, it's only now that I've actually tried to start a blog. So here I am a newbie once again. Luckily, I am not alone. One of the things I've always loved about the online wwworld is the strong sense of community that you can find out there, if you just know where to look. Over the past week I've been exploring a number of communities for bloggers. I'm excited about what I see.

I am accustomed to online communities where you become a member, log in and participate at that community website. Blog building communities, where people are helping each other to learn about and improve their blogging techniques, seem to be a little bit different. With nifty little web 2.0 tools called "widgets" that you install on your blog, participating in blog-building social networks means signing up for a bunch of services, and installing the community's activity and functionality right on your own blog. The whole blogosphere itself is an online community, and your blog is your main profile.

At MyBlogLog.com I was able to find other bloggers with interests similar to mine by using search tags. Searches on Africa, social change, social entrepreneurs and sustainable living brought up long lists of people who I checked out, then added to my contacts. When logged into MyBlogLog I now get a feed that tells me what stories my contacts dugg, blog posts they've published, and pages they've bookmarked at various sites. One of my favorite features at MyBlogLog is the connector tool, which finds your contacts on other sites like digg, delicious and twitter, so that you can easily add them to your networks at those sites as well. While you can also join individual blog communities at MyBlogLog, there is no feed that tells you when something new has been posted, so I've yet to fully understand why that function is there. Following the online activity of other bloggers in my contacts, however, has been a really great learning experience so far, and I like the widgets (you can check 'em out in the bar down the right side of your screen).

MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog.com both offer widgets for showing who has recently visited your blog. They only track their members' visits, though, so while I am actually only using the MyBlogLog widgets so far, I went ahead and signed up for BlogCatalog as well, knowing that my picture and a link to my blog content will appear on sites I visit that are using that widget. In addition to tracking visitors, BlogCatalog.com also offers groups and some promising discussion boards that I've yet to delve into. All in all, it looks to be a helpful group of active community members with a lot of information to share. Some groups in the BlogCatalog community are also working together, through group and reciprocal bookmarking, to increase the visibility of each others' blogs.

By far the most innovative blog building community I've found in my bounce around the blogsphere is Entrecard.com. The entrecard community offers a very interesting incentive structure that encourages bloggers to visit, participate in and advertise on each others' blogs. There are also active forums where community members voice their opinions about how the system is working, and help each other learn to blog better. The range of topics people are blogging about at entrecard is impressive and neatly presented (I'm in the expats category, in case you wondered). The community population includes both newbies to the blogging world like me and more established bloggers who receive thousands of visitors each day.

I must say, visiting other blogs through these blog building networks been a very enriching experience so far. Bloggers are an expressive community of ordinary people from everywhere, and all walks of life. Everybody is struggling to get a handle on the new technologies (whew! it's not just me!) I'm learning a lot, and am getting myself psyched up to join in and initiate some discussions.

Paying new attention to the blogosphere, I have been particularly touched by the number of senior bloggers out there who are sharing their fabulous perspectives on life. Work at home moms are also blogging in abundance - women with voices, hobbies and opinions as unique as their individual personalities. And it's no surprise that there are LOT of bloggers talking about politics and economics right now. My favorites are the eco-bloggers, who seem to be emerging as a formidable force in the blogosphere, at all of the blog building communities I've mentioned in this article. If YOU have a blog (or are thinking of starting one) by all means look me up and let's connect at any or all of the blog building community sites above.

By the way, you don't have to own a blog to be a member at MyBlogLog or BlogCatalog. You can also use these sites to find and follow great blogs in all kinds of categories. And if you have a photo uploaded to your profile, you will undoubtedly send smiles to the bloggers you know or follow, who will really appreciate knowing you stopped by.

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There will be ThiNkiNg and LeArNiNg