Our friend Mark Krawczuk over at Krawczuk Industries has written a great blog post about how to get started with WordPress. He sums up the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com very nicely.
WordPress is like building and owning your own house (you need to do all of the work and all of the chores, but you can customize all you want) , and WordPress.com is like renting an apartment (all of the work is done and a lot of little things are done for you behind the scenes, and you can focus on just creating the content in the environment provided).
He gives an overview of plugins he uses as well as a very kind plug for our hosting services. Thanks, Mark!