The first portion of this post is simply FAQs about mission blogs. The second portion is how to set up your very own blog.
Q. Who/Why should start a blog?
A. I would say anyone who has a desire to share with others the blessings they enjoy from their passion and journey with Operation Smile. Dr. Magee himself has told us students how much they invest in us to share our stories and grow the organization. A blog is a very simple and modern way to share these incredible experiences with the world and help spread the message.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. As far as a monetary amount, a blog costs nothing. It is free for anyone to use and create. However, creating a blog does come with responsibilities and obligations. While it does not cost me any money to maintain this blog, it is an enormous investment of time and effort to keep it updated and interesting. This should not serve as a discouragement to your blogging though. I promise it is so worth it and you will really see the blessing it will become. While I have decided to pursue my blog beyond my mission, others have left theirs to simply stand as a journalistic and inspirational reminder of their time on their mission. There is no obligation to continue a blog as I have.
Q. How does it work?
A. There are many means and methods in the blog world. There are different types of blogs (Blogger, Mac, OSCentral, etc). However, all blogs simply put are webpages on the internet that are likened unto an online journal. People post entries that include photos, links, and words and help communicate messages.
Q. What guidelines are there to follow?
A. There are no specific rules to blogging. It is a personal page that you can share with others who view it. It is another type of social networking. As far as general blogging guidelines, you should always be courteous, polite, sensitive, and respectful with the material you decide to post. The internet is a very vast and open world. Especially in the context of an Operation Smile blog, you should always be respectful and mindful in the sharing of names, pictures and experiences. Many things that go on within a mission are very emotional and touching, therefore should be handled with the utmost respect. No photos of operating room and directly post-operative patient should ever be on the internet (Facebook, blogs, etc.)
***Also, if you are to create a blog specific to Operation Smile, you must remember at all times that you are standing as a representative of not only yourself, but Operation Student Programs, your school, family, friends, community, students and the organization as a whole. With this in mind, please be sure to verify facts you share with the online community for accuracy. If there are any questions about this, you should inquire of Student Programs Staff or refer to OSCentral/OperationSmile.org
Q. Do I have to bring a laptop with me on my mission to update?
A. No. You should not bring anything of much value on your mission, especially a laptop. While each mission site is completely different, you will most likely have access to a computer and the internet. When using others computers, be respectful for their time and willingness to lend it to you.
Q. When should I post?
A. On my mission, I posted daily when I returned home from either the hospital or dinner, whatever time and energy allotted. It was a very difficult thing to diligently blog my experiences from the day when I was more exhausted than I have ever felt in my life- but to me, it was worth it. However, DO NOT jeopardize your performance, enthusiasm, work ethic, energy, will or determination to blog. Use your best self judgement.
Q. What types of things should I post?
A. At first, I posted some introductory material about Operation Smile and my experience/background with the organization. I then went on to post details about donations I received, thoughts I was having, goals for my mission and so on. When I arrived in Amman, I documented my experiences and shared some insight into my mission. (You can read my Jordan experience here) After I returned from my mission, I posted about my future endeavors and experiences with Operation Smile. Fundraisers, awareness, etc. I also post news about OpSmile, inspirational/motivational messages, guides for students, or anything that my readers would enjoy reading.
For additional questions, please leave a comment or contact me through email. I would be more than happy to do my best to answer your questions!
How to start your very own mission blog- a step by step tutorial
Since I started this blog for my medical mission to Jordan, I have had many people approach me and either A) Tell me they would do their own, but they just aren't too computer-savvy, or B) Ask how to do it themselves.
Here is your answer.
To start off, do not be intimidated. If you don yourself "Technologically-illiterate", do not fear. This is quite possibly the easiest thing you'll do online. There are several types of blogs out there, but the one that I find to be the most common and the one I use both for my personal blog and this mission blog is Blogger. Here is a step by step tutorial
1) Decide which blog network you'd like to use. I use and will be talking about Blogger.
2) One on Blogger.com, you can either A) Sign in with your Google account or B) Just click on CREATE A BLOG
3) Once on that page, it will ask you for basic info about yourself to create a Google account. (Email, password, etc)
4) After you have created an account, you will name your blog. I chose to name mine "B-TOWN TO A-TOWN", because I live in a city called Bountiful and we call it "B-town" here.. I know you care.
This is the name that will appear on the header of your blog.
5) At this time, you will also be asked to provide a URL address. This is the name that you type into the address bar of your browser. For example, to get to this blog, you typed in "bountifultoamman.blogspot.com"
Choose your own URL address and check for availability. Once you have typed in those two fields, you will be asked to pick a template.
6) Blogger will give you several options of what you would like your blog to look like. Choose the one that best fits your needs and your style. The one that I like is Minima. Keep in mind you can come back at any time to change the template of your blog. For some reason, they only give you a few options at this point.
7) Now, you are ready to start blogging! It will initially come up with the "Postings" screen. If you would like to change the template of your blog even more, click under the heading "Layout" (where you can drag and drop different elements) and "Pick new template". This will take you to a scroll down menu of a much wider variety of templates. The one that is used on this blog is Minima Lefty.
8) Play around and see what you like.
9) To Post, if you click under the heading of "Posting", you will come up to a screen with a text box. Simply start typing, and there ya go! You can link (put a line under a word and upon clicking, will take you to a different site) anything by typing a WORD OR PHRASE, navigating to the specified page you want to go to in another tab or window, copy the URL address, then highlight the WORD OR PHRASE with your cursor, click on LINK, and paste the URL into the bar. This will take you to anywhere else you'd like to link to.10) You can save your posts and edit them later, or post them as is.
To add pictures, simply click on the picture icon (next to the link button) and you can either upload a picture onto blogger from your computer, or right click almost any picture on the web and select "Copy image URL" and then select the "from web" option and paste the URL into the bar. The picture should show up in a few minutes. This is a very convenient option however, be wary of copyright infringement and always give credit to others' pictures.
You can further personalize your blog by adding a Wallpaper or Background. To do this, I recommend sites like The Cutest Blog on the Block, Aqua Poppy Designs, and Hot Bliggity Blog, though there are tons of different places out there. You simply copy the html address they give you for the background of your choice, and go under LAYOUT, and hit ADD GADGET. You will find an option called HTML/Java Script. You paste the html address they gave you in, and then click save. View your blog. The background will have appeared automatically. You can go on to change colors, fonts, etc. from there on.
If you would like a header (Mine is a map that I just edited in paint to show my travel path), you can either upload one from your computer, or from the web using URL (Again, be wary of copyright infringement).
Linking is a good way to suggest places to visit without having messy URL's within your posts.
1) Within your post, highlight the word you would like to link to
2) In your web browser, open up the specified webpage. This can be another post, another website, blog, or location. COPY the URL address (Cntrl C)
3) Click on the LINK button in your text editor. It is usually blue and is underlined.
4) A box (pictured above) will come up with the highlighted work in the box and ask you TO WHAT URL SHOULD THIS LINK GO?
5) At this point, paste (Ctnrl V) in the URL you had copied earlier
6) Click OK and you're done!
A page is simply another "page" on your blog that takes you to another location within your blog. To create a page
1) Access your DASHBOARD and click under NEW POST
2) This will take you by default to the page where you write your posts.
3) Next to the subtab NEW POST, there are additional options- EDIT POSTS and EDIT PAGES.
4) Click EDIT PAGES
5) As illustrated above, click on NEW PAGE to add a new page.
6) After you add a new page, you can individually click on the page after if appears as mine have and EDIT them to your liking.
I have tabs for Operation Smile, OSCentral, About Me, etc.
Everything else is pretty much self-explanatory. Play around with it and use your gadgets to add photos, text, and other fun things to your sidebar. A cool thing that I use on this blog is called StatCounter which is a free application that tracks who visits your blog from where, how long they stay, and how they got there. So it is really cool to see where you get the most hits from and if people are actually looking at it.
If you have any other questions, don't be afraid to ask. It is so simple and really fun and easy. Blogs are a great way to communicate and share with others and I know you will enjoy it. I have had several friends start mission blogs and they said that it was the best idea ever and they are really glad that they were able to keep it. It is fun to look back and see what you wrote because it is hard to journal while on a mission and you forget a lot when you come back.
Good luck and happy blogging!