Q. I have been journaling my child's life since before his birth. I would now like to create entries online using photos along with text. I am concerned about the site I choose being available years down the road. I've read about apps where information can easily be added to an existing journal. Are there any sites and apps you would recommend? -- Amy from Shreveport, LA
A. A journal for your child is a great idea. Keeping these memories will have a lot of value later. Years from now, he'll be able to learn what life was like when he grew up. He'll also have something to refer to when he starts his own family.
Not to mention the blackmail material this gives you. I'm sure his future girlfriends would just love seeing those baby pictures!
The Internet provides some great tools to help journal your son's early life. Many of these are extremely popular, so I don't see them shutting down any time soon. They also offer backup or exporting features to keep your memories safe.
These sites are simple to use and easy to navigate. You won't be distracted by a lot of technical requirements, formatting or site management. Adding photos and text is a breeze. This allows you to focus on making new memories with your family.
The best services offer templates to automate some of the difficult Web-authoring tasks. This creates a much cleaner final product for others to view. Plus, they look great.
Online journals and blogs don't have to be publicly available. Using the sites' privacy settings, you control who who'll be able to see them. Your journal will be by-invitation-only and invisible to everyone else.
Now, I assume you haven't been living under a rock and know about Facebook. It's the biggest social networking site around. It boasts over 750 million active users. You might be one of them.
Facebook's mission is connecting people and helping them share information. That's basically what you want to do, right? Facebook lets you share text with friends and upload pictures to albums.
You can share journal entries about your son through your account. Or you can create an account dedicated to this project. That could give you tighter control over who is able to see the journal. Plus, you won't be mixing journal posts in with your other Facebook activity.
Facebook's status update system probably won't work for journaling. All status updates are limited to 420 characters. Granted, that's more that Twitter's 140-character limit, but it's still very brief.
Status updates will work best for short anecdotes. You can also use updates to link to photos or videos and blog entries hosted elsewhere. You can post links from anywhere on the web.
For longer journal entries, you can use Facebook's built-in Notes application. Notes can be as long as you want. You'll find the Note application in the left-hand sidebar.
Click the Notes link to go to the Notes page. Then click the Write a New Note button. Start writing your journal entry.
If you want, click the Add a Photo link. This lets you select a photo from your album. You can then add a caption and place it in your text.
When you're done writing, you can choose the note's privacy settings. This is a drop-down menu at the bottom of the page. You'll probably want to choose Friends Only or Just Me. Then click Publish to post the note.
Facebook also lets you import entries from other sites. For example, you can import a post from another blog as a Note. I'll cover some excellent blogging options in a second.
To import posts, go to the Notes page. On the right side of the page, click the Import a Blog link. Then follow the directions. It's important to note that imported blog entries can be seen by everyone, regardless of the privacy settings you choose.
Facebook is accessible no matter where you are. You can post from any computer with Internet access. You can also post using one of the many Facebook mobile apps. These allow you to post, upload, and chat right from your smartphone.
If you prefer privacy, Facebook has several valuable privacy settings. You can set your profile and posts to be seen only by specific people. After all, you don't want information about your child visible to just anyone.
Search-giant Google owns the blogging platform Blogger. Blogger is a lot of fun. You can customize anything from the background to your page's format. Customizing is so easy you might end up making periodic changes.
While the layout takes time to set up, the settings are simple to understand. If you don't understand a setting or term, just use Blogger's help page.
The privacy settings are also very robust on Blogger. Much like Facebook, you can limit who can see your blog. You can also control how your blog appears in Google searches.
You can even keep posts hidden entirely. Then you'll have a by-invitation-only. You might choose to let some visitors see more than others. Blogger also allows that level of control.
I've found Blogger to be much more user-friendly than Facebook. Blogger, in general, has a more appealing layout. That's because Facebook focuses on connecting people. Blogger focuses more on customizing your content. As a result, it offers a much more intuitive method of giving you control over your posts.
Blogger can host pictures as well. Pictures uploaded to Blogger get stored in Google's Picasa Web Albums. Like blogger, Picasa is one of the many free Google services.
There are some limits on pictures, but they are very lax. Picasa allows unlimited Blogger pictures as long as you meet a couple of specific criteria.
Google rewards people for using multiple Google services. There are fewer limitations if you also belong to Google+. In that case, free pictures can be up to 2048x2048 resolution. That enables a fairly high-quality photo. If you don't belong to Google+, pictures must be 800x800 or smaller.
But for blog posts, the lower resolution may be all you need. You'll want to keep higher-quality copies on your own computer, of course. Be sure to keep them backed up so you don't lose them,
You can also embed YouTube videos in Blogger posts with no problem. Learn more about embedding media in blog posts and websites.
Google lets you export your blog. You can then import the entries into another blog, print them out, or just save them on a disc for your personal files.
Google Blogger also has a mobile app. The mobile app lets you write posts, add Web links and upload photos in an instant. Overall, Google has developed a really useful combination of services. They should provide just the right complement of user-friendly tools you'll to journal.
Remember, you can control the amount of time you'll spend on this project. Just make sure to set your blog's sharing and privacy options. That is the most important part of any site you use. Blogger's help pages, FAQs and forums will easily guide you through that process.
Wordpress is another popular blogging site that has a high level of customization. Be aware, however, that some of the customization features require a yearly fee. Still, you might prefer Wordpress's functionality. You'll just want to choose the components you need carefully, because the extra fees can really add up.
The first difference I noticed between Blogger and Wordpress is theme customization. You can choose pre-configured themes in both platforms. With Google Blogger, though, you can manipulate themes once you've chosen them. With Wordpress you can't. You must pay $30 a year for the Custom Design Upgrade.
Upgrades are also required for domain hosting, removing advertisements, text messaging and video hosting. You may also need to upgrade if you want to keep your blog private. With a private blog, you can invite 35 people to create a Wordpress account. Only those invited may see your blog.
The alternative to a private blog is allowing it to be seen by strangers or search engines. If you don't mind that, then there's no need to upgrade. However, I would advise against it. This journal is for you and your family, not the world of predators and criminals.
Free Wordpress blogs are allowed 3GB of space for uploading files or pictures. Individual files cannot be more than 1GB. Video hosting is not allowed on free accounts. However, you can still embed videos from other sources like YouTube. To upload your own videos to your blog, you'd need to purchase the video upgrade.
Wordpress does have features not found in Blogger. Many of these extra features revolve around site statistics and ratings. They tell you how many users have visited your page and what they liked. This won't be an issue if you're only using a page for a handful of visitors. But if you want the stats, it's a real advantage.
Wordpress also has a great import tool. It allows you to import your blog straight from other providers. That includes hosts like Blogger, LiveJournal, Yahoo360! and Vox. Wordpress' export feature is the same as Blogger's.
Finally, Wordpress has a mobile app that allows posting to your blog. You can manage some of your content, but you won't be able to manage your blog. Blogger's mobile app is nearly identical so this shouldn't be a selling point.
Those are just three of the options available, but they're the ones that seem to suit a journaling project best. They also don't run the risk of disappearing anytime soon. They're established, widely used, and see regular enhancement.
Give them a try. Sign up, create a few test posts and see what you think. If you don't like how one works, try another. Then just delete the accounts for those you won't use.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Get the podcast or find the station nearest you at www.komando.com/listen. Subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters at www.komando.com/newsletters. Copyright 1995-2011, WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved.