Because others may have similar questions, and this response is itself an example of free publishing, information sharing, and the potential connectivity that the internet offers.
Our discussion almost entirely comprises 3 themes:
1. Free Software and Services;
2. Online Publishing;
3. Sources of Information.
so I'll try to deal with one at a time.
1. Free Software and Services
For running your Desktop, laptop, etc, there is no good reason to submit to the attempted monopoly of internet corporations. My personal favourite for home use is Ubuntu Linux. Most of the world's web servers, Google, enlightened governments, and many major publishers use Linux, and Ubuntu is the best maintained Desktop version to my knowledge.
LibreOfficeFor creating documents, spreadsheets etc, LibreOffice, which was previously known as OpenOffice (because it is an Open Source project) can do practically everything. Having dedicated, highly skilled contributors, it continues to evolve to include new possibilities.
The GimpThe Gimp (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) is capable of all sorts of wonders with images, not only manipulation, but creating images from scratch (paint, draw etc.). Their introduction is particularly good, so follow the link and enjoy.
Gmail is my choice of free email, because it's worked perfectly for a decade (for me) and ties in with dozens of other free Google services that I use.
BloggerThis page is created on Google's free blogging platform,
Blogger, which we'll come back to later! It can be colourful, if that appeals to you ...
2. Online PublishingBlogger is fast, reliable, free, you can use your own domain name (better still use a subdomain, like blog .pjf.org.uk and you can do something else with your domain too). Unlike Facebook, you have pretty much complete control, you can edit a post, delete, make the blog private (invited members only), upload videos (though uploading to YouTube and embedding in you Blogger post is better) and photos galore. If you ever change your mind, you can export all your content to WordPress and lose nothing.
https://wordpress.com/create/ hosted by them - restricted
https://wordpress.org download and install on a webhost - much better but not free.
(see also part 3 Finding Information)
3. Finding Information
YouTube is excellent for publishing creative work of all kinds. Even static images work well, when compiled into a slideshow. Perhaps the most useful content on YouTube is 'howto' videos. People's willingness to share things they've learned really finds a huge audience, and the videos I've used have been excellent. You can tell someone how to clip a hens wings, but the hen is a lot safer if the person wielding the scissors has seen exactly where to trim, and where not to!
Facebook is perhaps the speediest way of finding 'friends' that share your interests. It works well for a private group, for example an association, but the popups continually trying to get you more involved, the friend requests from unknown strangers, and the inability to edit or delete content you no longer wish to share isn't my cup of tea.
Twitter is excellent if you wish to promote information to the world, and/or receive information by the ton. You don't to have to use a mobile phone (or even possess one); the Desktop/laptop works well.
If you want to be constantly updated about your favourite interest (e.g. crochet and heavyweight boxing), just follow the hashtags ( #crochet and #heavyweightboxing)
There are forums for practically everything (e.g. boxing and heavyweight crochet !). A forum that has been recommended is best. Failing that, a forum with lots of members that has been running for years.
Google Search has more options than many people realise. At the moment there will be several (!) searches for Rio 2016. But you don't have keep visiting google.com to search.
Provided you have a google account, and with so many freebies available, why wouldn't you?, then you have access to google alerts. Originally this was designed to send news updates to you mail box, but nowadays there is also the option of an RSS feed, which could be displayed on a webpage (even on your desktop) for the web-savvy.
internet, open source, publishing, software