Let’s say you became interested in blogs a few months back. (And if it was five months ago, there were only half as many blogs as there are now, since the number seems to be doubling every five months.) You’ve found a few — or a lot — you like to read, not necessarily naturist ones. It’s kind of addictive, isn’t it?
Well, guess what. Having a blog of your own can be even more addictive. In fact, if it’s not, you probably should not, and will not, do it for very long. And that’s OK. Not everyone needs to have a blog, let alone several. If you try it and quickly find that thinking of new things to say and then actually writing about them is tedious, just too much work, and no fun, then stop. Don’t do it. But if you find it addictive…
Well, the only way you’ll really know is to try it. You’ll probably know within a week or two whether it’s something you want to keep doing.
What follows begins with a lot of words to get you interested and maybe even excited about starting your own naturist blog. But if you don’t need the motivational spiel, just skip ahead, without further ado, to the part about “how to get started”.
Types of blogs
There seem to be several main types of blogs, which correspond to several main reasons that people have them.
One type is just a personal diary, in which you record many of the things you’d record in a physical diary — what’s happening in your life and in the lives of your friends and family, the good and not-so-good experiences, your reactions to those experiences, and your efforts to make some kind of sense out of them.
The chances are you will want to make a blog of this sort private, or available at most to selected friends and family members. You can always blog anonymously. Sometimes you can keep only selected parts of a blog private, even if you are not blogging anonymously, with the rest available to anyone who comes along. But some people do reveal (anonymously) very personal details about themselves. One might do this if one is looking for others in similar circumstances who might share sympathy and advice. It’s your choice.
A similar sort of personal diary might be kept only on special occasions, such as a vacation. By definition, a vacation on which you travel to new and interesting places is something out of the ordinary, and you’ll probably want to remember it for a long time. If it’s convenient to bring a laptop computer with you, then taking a little time every evening may be a good way to record the strange and amusing things that transpire. If you also have a digital camera, you can include your best pictures right in the blog, together with your comments and impressions. Travel writing can make good reading later, even if you’re not normally inspired to write, simply because it’s fun to write about new places and new experiences.
Read Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad sometime to get inspired with the possibilities available to those who write about their travels. Or Roughing It, which is equally funny, and even has a few passages of interest to naturists in Twain’s account of his travels in Hawaii. Today, such accounts, which consist of a series of short sketches, would be prime blogging material.
For naturists, this can make your travels even more fun, as you record the details about enjoyable naturist places and interesting naturist people you meet. You probably will want to keep such a naturist journal private by writing anonymously. But you may still like to make your writing available to anyone. This can be a good way to make new naturist friends, when you get questions and feedback from other naturists who’ve been to the same places you have.
A completely different type of blog consists of links to and quotes from interesting things you find in your virtual travels through the Web. Such things are really expanded bookmarks and allow you to save the pertinent information for locating the “good stuff” later, and for adding your own personal comments on it. Nothing’s more frustrating than trying even a few days later to locate an especially useful Web page or insightful blog comment if you haven’t taken the time to save a bookmark. And even if you did save a bookmark, without a short comment of your own, you may quickly forget why the reference seemed so important at the time.
There are many more great things that can be done with blogs, but we’ll add only one more now. That is, if you have a fair amount of experience, or even expertise, with some subject, you may enjoy writing about it for the benefit of others. Maybe you’re really into hiking and camping. So write about it. Talk about why it’s interesting, how to get started, the basic skills that are needed, what equipment to buy or borrow, where to find good places to hike and camp — and so forth. Later you’ll be able to write about specific experiences you’ve had, and what lessons you learned from them.
Although this is of obvious value for others who read it, sharing it can be useful to the writer as well. Details can and will be forgotten over time. (Like the exact location of the easily missed trailhead somewhere 250 miles from home.) But more importantly, it’s good to share what you know with others. The more you share, the more there is for everyone to benefit from, though it costs you very little.
What should you write about in a naturist blog?
But enough generalities. What, specifically, might you put in a naturist blog? Just apply the ideas above to the naturist case.
You could write about news items you see that deal with nudity or naturism, but a lot of people do that. It’s usually interesting to express your own point of view. So if you write about a news item, present some of your own opinion on it.
Better yet, write about things that only you or a few others know about. What naturist activities are you and/or your family engaged in? What beaches have you visited recently? Hiked nude lately? How do you explain naturism to your friends and relatives? Did anything amusing happen while you or your family are enjoying nude moments? (Like, maybe, your mother-in-law showing up unexpectedly.) Do your guests have problems with naked people around? That sort of thing.
Personal experiences are usually the most interesting. Seems like everyone has a story about their “first time”. Have you had any success converting friends or relatives to going naked? Tell us about it. Lots of people would like to find the magic spell to cast.
Don’t be afraid to talk about the problems too. Neighbors who give you a hard time? A spouse who’s not thrilled about it? Friends who seem to be avoiding you? Teenage kids who think you’re nuts? It’s all interesting. Everyone has some experiences like this. And you never know — someone who’s been in the same spot may have some helpful advice.
In our society, naturism is a fairly specialized interest, and there’s way too little information about it readily available. So try to write about any places of whatever kind that you have found where naturism is easily and safely enjoyed. If you like the outdoors, then talk about the beaches, rivers, swimming holes, hot springs, and hiking trails you’ve enjoyed without clothes.
On the other hand, if you like more private venues, write about the naturist/nudist camps, parks, clubs, and resorts you’ve visited. As long as you keep it truthful, talk about both the good and not-so-good points of those places. You may be able to save others the trouble of bad experiences you’ve had, as well as alerting them to enjoyable places that are easily overlooked. And keep in mind that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” so some things you’ve disliked may be just what someone else is looking for.
How to get started
It’s a lot easier than you may think.
The following sentence contains all you really need to know. Just go to blogger.com, sign up for an account (it’s free), and start writing what’s on your mind. It’s that easy, though there’s stuff to learn if you want to really get into it.
There are even simpler blogging services than Blogger (e. g. as a part of the Bloglines service I’ve written about), but they lack some nice features. This topic is changing very rapidly, as new options that cost you nothing appear almost every day. I’ll come back to this at the end, to list a few of the alternatives. But first I’ll add a little more about getting started with Blogger, because I think it really is the best place to get started, for most people.
OK, so when you go to the Blogger start page you’ll see the “3 easy steps” to create a blog. First, you have to create an account (assuming you don’t already have one). You’ll need to provide a username and password. Undoubtedly, you’ve done this before for other services. It works the same here. In general, no one else will see your actual username, so you can make it as straightforward or obscure as you like, as long as it’s not already taken. The initial page also lets you pick a name that will be used to sign each of your posts. You can use your real name if you don’t have privacy concerns. Not only will it be shown at the bottom of all your posts, but it will be picked up by search engines, and spread on the four winds. So if you’re at all sensitive about that, you probably ought to pick a pseudonym. You can always change this name later if you wish.
Step two is to give your blog a name. This is kind of a big deal, as this name will be your “trademark”, the handle by which the world knows your blog. Think about it a little beforehand. It doesn’t have to be wildly creative. “Joe’s Naturist Blog” is fine (if not already taken). Or you can make it as quirky as you like. Just keep in mind that if the name mentions naturism or nudism somehow, you may want to be more circumspect about who will know the name, unless the blog is completely private or anonymous. You also have to provide another kind of handle that will be part of the URL that others specify to access the blog. This need not reflect the actual name, though it often does. For instance, if you enter “naturgrrl”, the URL of the blog will be “http://naturgrrl.blogspot.com”.
The third step is to choose a “template” for your blog. This is a mixture of HTML and style-sheet code that specifies how the blog looks. The page will show you different styles, and you don’t need to know HTML to choose one. Just pick one of the dozen alternatives you like best. You’ll probably recognize most of them from other blogs you’ve visited. If you know a little about coding HTML and/or style sheets, you can customize the appearance of your blog and change details later, like colors, backgrounds, positions of different things on the page, etc. You can even switch to a different template, if you don’t mind losing any customization you’ve made. (Tip: you can copy the template from the template editor to something like Notepad, and save it on your own computer as a backup.) My advice is to keep it simple, and avoid if at all possible using a black or dark colored background. Although some folks feel dark backgrounds are stylish, they are very hard to read. You don’t want to discourage readers, do you?
That’s it. A few seconds after you’ve specified the template, your blog will be complete and ready for you to start writing. It would take too long to go into the mechanics of doing that, so I won’t. But Blogger is pretty intuitive to use, and the help is generally pretty good. Besides, most mistakes you make can be corrected later at any time. So don’t sweat it.
Privacy and anonymity
If, as a naturist, you are especially concerned about privacy and anonymity, there are a couple of other things you can do. First, look for the “Settings” tab at the top of the editing page. Click on it, and look for the setting labeled “Add your blog to our listings?” If you set this to “no”, Blogger will not include the blog in their index. That means people won’t be able to find it via your user profile or from the Blogger feature that lists blogs which have been recently updated. If you’re using a pseudonym, this may not be a concern.
A similar option is on the “Publishing” sub-options page. If you don’t want your blog to be picked up by search engines and aggregators, be sure “Notify Weblogs.com” is set to “no”. This won’t guarantee your blog is never found by search engines and the like, because anybody who links to a page of your blog will make the whole thing visible. If you want the blog to be as private as possible, tell very few people about it, and request anyone you do tell not to link to your pages. But if you are really that concerned about privacy, it’s probably better just to use a pseudonym and not include any personally identifying information in what you write. That way your work will be available to the most people, without compromising your privacy.
There are a couple of options you should strongly consider on the “Comments” sub-options page. Anytime you add a new message to your blog, Blogger by default allows any reader to add a comment to the message. In general, this is a good thing, since it enables your readers to have a dialog about the topic of the message. However, you can disallow comments for each message, when it is created or later. If you do allow comments, there are two options you should probably change from their default values. First, it’s a good idea to “Enable comment moderation”. If you select this, then Blogger will notify you by email when a comment is submitted. You can then proceed to either allow the comment or block it in case it’s objectionable for any reason. In particular, there are evil people who use automated tools to post “spam” to any blog messages they can, usually in order to direct readers to another page. You can prevent that, without having to use comment moderation, by turning on the “Show word verification for comments” option. This forces people who want to comment to enter a specified character string displayed as a graphic along with their comment. Automated processes can’t usually do this, so their comments are never accepted.
Alternatives to Blogger
In general, the alternatives are of two kinds: more sophisticated than Blogger, and less sophisticated. Blogger is one of the oldest blogging services, and it’s fairly complete, though it lacks a few useful features. Most notably, it lacks any simple way to sort your blog posts into different (possibly overlapping) categories. A similar capability that it also lacks is a way to quickly add descriptive tags to your posts and to search on those tags. (Adding the tags is only a little extra work, but searching on them is not so easy.) Another feature lacking in Blogger is the ability to protect individual posts with a password.
In case you want to use something more sophisticated than Blogger, you have several alternatives. If you already host Web pages on a server somewhere, you may be able to install blogging software from other sources. This blog, for instance, uses a package called WordPress, which is a very nice “open source” product. But it’s not perfect either. For instance, its ability to manage incomplete posts that you’re working on in the form of “drafts” is not quite as good as Blogger’s.
If you don’t already use a Web hosting service, there are several available that provide sophisticated blogging software. Typepad is one example. But you generally have to pay for the best services, though they usually offer free trials for a limited period of time.
On the other hand, Blogger and WordPress and similar software packages have many features and a great deal of flexibility, but that sophistication and configurability come at a cost of complexity if you want to use all the features. Many people just want to start writing and not even think about having many options. There are a lot of alternatives open to them, and the number is increasing almost daily, as blogging features are being included in a number of services that have other purposes besides blogging.
The Bloglines service that has been discussed here is one of these. If you’re already using it to manage your blog feeds, it’s very easy to use the blogging capabilities too. Bloglines included this to allow you to easily save and comment on “clippings” of information you come across in the blogs you subscribe to. But it can be used for any kind of blogging as well. The blog can be completely private, or shared with the whole world, with its own URL, depending on your preference. Bloglines blogs are structurally a lot like those hosted by Blogger, but they do lack a lot of the more advanced features.
Another possibility is LiveJournal. The primary purpose of LiveJournal is social networking, and blogging fits in with that very well. (Blogger makes some social networking possible, via information you provide, optionally, in your user profile. But it has no particular features for keeping lists of “friends”.) LiveJournal also supports communities of individual users, and the blog of such a community is a shared space for having threaded discussions. LiveJournal isn’t a bad choice if you want to experiment with social networking. They even have a naturist group (possibly several), with a community blog. Frankly, I haven’t been impressed with LiveJournal, though I’ve used only the free version, and not very much. The free version lacks a lot of blogging features and customizability, but you get more with a paid account. The blogs have a look and feel that is unlike most other blogs you’ll find. The user interface seemed to me to be unintuitive and difficult to navigate. But maybe that’s just me.
Finally, out of many other possibilities, I’ll just mention Yahoo’s new Yahoo! 360° social networking service. As of this writing, the service is still in beta test. The blogs seem to have more functionality than LiveJournal’s (which isn’t saying much), and they are free. But they’re not as good as Blogger’s. There are many other networking features, but they seemed a little awkward to me. I didn’t find it clear how to define groups of “friends” in such a way that it was easy to provide details about one’s interest in naturism only to other naturists — a feature of obvious importance to many.
There’s a larger problem with Yahoo as well. In the past — and this probably isn’t going to change — Yahoo has been unfriendly or even hostile to naturism. Although there are hundreds of naturist/nudist Yahoo discussion groups, they are not allowed to be listed in the group directory or even mention “nudism” or “nudity” in their public description. (They can, however, display pictures containing nudity on the group’s homepage.) There’s this ridiculous paranoia about making it possible for children to search for such things. (Yahoo has been harassed by the usual right-wing nutcases about allowing anything to do with nudity.) They have also an established policy of deleting without warning or recourse any group which allows pictures containing child nudity, however innocent. I have noticed remarks in the Yahoo! 360° pages of some naturists that censorship is going on there too.
Until Yahoo’s policy on nudity is improved, or at least clarified, I’d suggest using their service only with great caution. The last thing you want is to have your blog or your whole account deleted without warning.
Originally posted December 13, 2005