How this blog got set up (and why I suggest you think about doing it too)

To set this up, you need:
  • About two hours for the initial work (you can do little bits at a time -- it took me a week to get to the layout present when this post was written, working in half-hour sessions).

  • A blog site. Everyone I know uses either:
I chose Blogger because I have a Google account, and it's owned by Google. I checked out WordPress as well, and it looks great, but I decided to go with the interface I already knew.

At first, I changed the settings so that the blog was only visible to its author (me). Then I invited a small group of friends that I knew would go and look and give me feedback, which in fact they did (thank you!). Finally, I made it public. I'm still tweaking here, adding links to the lists there, but it's pretty stable, and now that it's the way I like it, there's virtually nothing to maintain except the content.

I also added:

  • a Twitter feed so I could do status updates, just like on F-------, except with more ways to do the updates. Twitter has a widget in its settings that lets you add it as a feed to any blog. Note that you have to make your Twitter stream public, so don't give any statuses you don't want the whole world to know. Besides, do you really want to get deeply personal in 140 characters or less?

  • a photo feed from Picasa so I could show off my favourite photos. I don't consider myself a great photographer, but every once in a while something turns out, and I like to be able to share. Flickr is also a good choice for this, and there are lots of other options available on the web. Blogger has a widget that lets you make an on-line album a photo stream (the photo stream has to be made public, so don't include anything you don't want the whole world to see.

  • Links to other information about myself, including my Google calendar. I've set up my calendar so you can only see it if I personally invite you to, so I feel okay about putting the link on a public blog. This one isn't terribly exciting (I mean, even my best friends don't really care how I spend most of my time, and that's only one reason why I like them) unless a group of us who like to hang out together do it, and then it's a great planning tool. You can also share events, so you can use it for invitations.

  • My Orkut profile is the closest thing I have to F--------. I have to say, though, I like the internationalism and tone a lot better.

  • Scrabulous is just to show that there are fun widgets around outside of F-------. That's fun as in "fun", not "annoying."

Last but not least, if you want to set up something like a group page (like, say, for scooter enthusiasts, right Glenda?), check out Google groups. I've been using it since last October for a collaborative writing project and it's been very handy. You could use a blog page for public announcements and group contact information and the group for private information. There are other ways to do it, of course.

There's also the issue of finding people, but you know what? People will find you if you go looking for them. That sounds backwards, but what I mean is, the more you network, the more people network with you. So long as you're not being annoying, of course, or a stalker.

And that's the nice thing about getting out of F-------. There's a whole world's worth of choices in how to do things out there. It's refreshing.

Even more (more!) options are listed on Wired's how-to "Replace F------- Using Open Social Tools". The article that got me from feeling uncomfortable about F------- to actually doing something about it is the one that spawned the how-to wiki; check it out here.

By the bye, if you are in the midst of setting up your own space and want to talk shop, feel free to start a comment tree from this post. There are lots of different ways to get things the way you want, and it would be fun to compare notes.