Colwich Computer Club. 

Going On-line With Guest Books, Blogs, Forums, Chat Rooms, etc.  

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A Guest Book is in essence the same thing that you often find in small hotels. It is meant for surfers to post small messages about the main Web-site to which the Guest Book is attached on the Internet. It is though, a separate Web-site, but there is only one page, albeit often broken up into separate lengths as it gets more comments added to it it. It is very easy for people to add comments and the operating Web Master has quite a lot of control over it as regards deleting/altering offending entries or even banning certain users. Some Guest Books seem more user-friendly then others and they do vary a lot in appearance, but basically they all operate the same way.

A Blog is really an online diary recording and displaying personal information in such a way that others can see it and again the operating Web Master can usually facilitate surfers posting comments on it with whatever restrictions he wants. Postings are automatically separated and catalogued by the site as to date etc. It is more versatile with regards to adding links to other sites etc and adding personal pictures. Some Blogs have become very famous such as one by a local policeman who perhaps unwisely criticised procedure and another blog made the creator famous, or perhaps infamous would be a better description, as it diarised her exploits as a prostitute. I believe she actually turned out to be a Psychiatrist!

Forums are, as the name suggests, an online place where surfers can start/join a discussion group about almost any subject. There are probably thousands around the world for just about every sport and activity you can imagine. Some are better maintained and used than others. Forums are really the next stage on as regards complexity in free, ready made web-sites for anybody to use whether they have much in the way of computer skills or not. Surfers can start their own topics for discussion, often after registering first, and say pretty much what they want. Basically the addition of a new subject/topic for discussion adds a new web-page.

Chat Rooms are another on-line presence that people can set up relatively easily. Nowadays these come in many shapes and forms as they can be of the old type where users simply type in messages and await for others on-line to respond and chat, (a bit like a live Forum) or they can use real speech and live video so you can actually see and hear the person that you are talking to. At first chat rooms seemed to be the domain of only children and unfortunately paedophiles, but they have moved on and are now used by all types of people.

I suppose all of the above could be loosely classed as Social Networking Sites, but usually when people use that term they are referring to things like Facebook and Bebo or the old Friends reunited. These are large web-sites where anybody can register, (with user restrictions) and add their own page about themselves including pictures if they want. They can of course, connect with and contact others, through the sites, hence the Social Networking name.

All of the above are really different types of web-sites that can be obtained and run by almost anybody at no cost. There are tens of thousands of companies that offer them, but for those that want their own on-line presence, but do not want one of the above, there are a multitude of web companies, offering “FREE” web-sites with hosting, where clubs, societies, charities and ordinary people can have a web presence. With nearly all of them there are numerous restrictions of one sort or another, from a limit on the amount of usage and web space provided, to the type of files that you can use. Some come with compulsory advertising and expensive programs to build them. Others have to be built on-line and can vary tremendously in their ease of use. You might even have the option of a free hosted web-site from your ISP such as BT, Virgin, etc. One provided by Google is perhaps one of the easiest to get started with, for those who want to have the freedom of a real web-site without learning to use anything difficult and time consuming. Really if you can handle Word with any competency at all this is an easy option for a real web-site.

A big point to remember with many free web-sites is that the host will sometimes specify that they must not be used for commercial enterprises. This applies to the free sites provided by my ISP, Tiscali and free sites provided by Google. Another big problem with many types of free sites, whether they are an independent Blog, or actual web-site, is that Google search bots do not like listing them on their searches. The host of your free site will probably give you a free listing on their sites indexing, but will probably charge you to list it with Google. Without a proper listing it can be difficult to direct people to your site. Using one of the toolbars on your internet explorer you can either, E-mail a link to your site, or indeed the whole page. Alternatively if you look towards the top left of your screen you will see a long box with the whole web-site address of your page when you are looking at it live on the net. If you RIGHT click with your mouse in that box and then left click to cut, you can then paste this easily into E-mails to send to your friends. This in fact goes for any web-site that you might have found on the Net.