This cartoon is by Dave Walker.
This cartoon is by Dave Walker.
I’ve just installed a new widget on this blog, provided by BlogRush. You can see it in the left sidebar.
When you sign up for BlogRush (it’s free) and submit your blog details, you are provided with code for the widget to put on your page. This will display headlines from the blogs of other members of BlogRush which are relevant to the content of your blog. When a visitor clicks on a header it opens the other blog in a new window.
For every click you get on your widget you have one of your own blog headers displayed on someone else’s BlogRush widget.
In addition, if you refer someone to BlogRush, either by them clicking on the link in your widget, or on your direct referral link such as this one – BlogRush. If they sign up for and use BlogRush then you receive 10% of the traffic they generate.
I’ve used many traffic generators in the past, with mixed success. However, I believe this one could well work as it will mostly be used by bloggers with similar interests to your own. It is a way of having your blog be seen in more places.
It is very easy to look at your blog and see that everything seems normal, but underneath the surface problems might be lurking. When was the last time you checked that everything actually works as it should?
To give an example, I have a number of older blogs that use Blogger.com. Yesyerday I was setting up an RSS feed reader on the host site, Beth Tephillah Ministry Centre, of one of these blogs – Mal’s Meanderings. In order to obtain the feed URL I right-clicked on the RSS icon and copied the shortcut, as one does. I pasted this into the code where I was working and discovered that it did not work.
So, back into the blog template to see what was wrong. You guessed it – the feed URL being produced by the Blogger template code was incorrect. The code looked fine, but gave the wrong result. This had me mystified for a while, until I remembered that this blog was started on the old Blogger and later upgraded into the new Blogger. On checkingÂ the help system for the new Blogger I discovered there are now different ways of doing RSS feeds.
It seems pretty poor to me that upgrading should have broken code that used to work fine, with no warnings or error messages, just a wrong feed URL.
It also became clear why I have had no subscribers to that feed – it didn’t work! Apologies to anyone who tried.
Which brings me to the point of this post – how long since you checked all of the links on your site? It isn’t just about the possibility that things might have changed over time and no longer work properly. What about links to other sites that no longer exist, or worse, might now go to somewhere that you would not link to in your wildest dreams?
Why do people blog? People blog for many reasons. If you wish to be seen or heard on the Internet, the easiest way to achieve this is to start a blog.
You might simply wantÂ to publicise interesting sites that you find during your web surfing. You think they deserve a wider audience and want a way to point others to them. This is how blogging began – as website logs or weblogs – lists of websites that were worth visiting.
However, there are many other reasons why people blog:
So, why do you blog? This is a question worth thinking about if you want your blogging to have focus. I was particularly impressed by well known blogger Liz Strauss’ answers when asked why she blogs. I’ll summarise her answers here, but see her blog post for more:
Do you know why you blog? Why not post a comment now to tell us about it?
Blogger, a part of Google, is a free hosted blogging service which lets you post and manage your weblog from within your web browser. It is probably the simplest way to get started in blogging, yet still allows room for moving on to a more sophisticated self-hosted blogging system, as we will describe later.
Blogger provides a choice of a number of templates upon which to build your blog, and these can be edited by someone with a little HTML knowledge to personalise the features to their own liking.
In the Dashboard you can also manage and edit your posts, by clicking on Posts, and change Settings such as the blog’s description, formatting, how comments are handled, who can write to it, and much more. You can also click on Template to change or edit the template which gives your blog its appearance on the web. Don’t be afraid to explore these features. We will discuss them further in future posts.
It allows you to edit posts for your blogs while you are offline and publish them later.
“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” — Albert Einstein
From the Problogger, Darren Rowse – How to Add to Blogging Conversations And Eliminate the Echo Chamber. For it to be a conversation then each post should add some content to the dialogue.
From Techcrunch – Look Out MyBlogLog – Here Comes Explode. This could be interesting for social bookmarking.
The Technosailor tells us How to Enhance your Blog’s SEO and Attract Relevant Traffic in One Easy StepÂ by making sure outgoing links really are relevant to your site.
This is useful, from Maria at WordPress Visual QuickStart Guide blog – FeedBurner E-Mail Notification Article Now Online.
Â For a while I’ve used a neat trick to do something like this by using Blogger.com’s email post feature to send the post directly to a Google Group. Almost an instant newsletter, with the blog as a member of the group. I wasn’t game to try the reverse and have the group email posts to the blog, but it could have been interesting!
The other day I decided to upgrade two of my WordPress blogs from version 2.04 and 2.05 to version 2.1, mainly because the provider of my webhosting servers was insisting. I went to the script library in cPanel and found the new version listed, along with the upgrade button. Nothing happened when I pressed it.
So, it looked like I would have to do it the hard way, a process I had not tried before. Perhaps I’ll write it up for new users in the future, because it was a bit of a paerchase finding all of the relvant information.
I wish I had found Technosailor’s post – WordPress 2.1 Gotchas - BEFORE I did this upgrade!
I carefully backed up everything I could think of – files, database, templates, EVERYTHING! Then I followed the procedure in the WordPress Codex carefully.
All went well, except for timeouts when trying to restore the database files. Fortunately I had saved these in both open and zipped format, and found that updating directly from the zipped version was much faster and immediately successful.
Of course, after doing the first site, and overcoming the various hurdles, I got a bit more confident with the second. You guessed it – I started to forget things, like running the upgrade script. Like not copying back the old index.php and .httacess files. When I went to the site – no posts.
It’s all humming along happily now, and I’m feeling a bit more like tackling another 15 blogs, including a number I will have to transfer from Blogger.com first. I did my first such transfer a few days ago without too much drama.
I figure it is better to do this now before I have too much traffic and too many links to lose.
When writing a post, if you use a term that might not be clear to some readers, make it a link to the appropriate Wikipedia entry.
For example, in a post intended for beginners, Your first blog, I used the term WYSIWYG to describe a feature of someÂ editors. This term can be linked, as I have done, to the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wysiwyg where it is explained as “What You See Is What You Get”.
As an added bonus, this allows you to add a “title” tag to the link so that when the user hovers their mouse over the highlighted term they see your user friendly explanation for the term, even if they don’t take the link, as shown here:
Of course, if you have another post about that term available, then link to that instead of Wikipedia. As a second bonus, the outgoing links and the keywords in the links may also help your search engine rankings.
There are a few questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a platform for your first blog:
* Do I want a free blog, or do I want to pay for it
* Do I want it hosted on a blog platform, or do I want to host it on my own website with my own domain name?
* How technically capable am I?
* Is blogging just a passing interest for me or am I seriously in for the long haul?
Remember, whichever decision you make here can be changed later, but there might be a cost to it.
For example, if you move from a hosted blog to hosting it yourself, be aware that the address (URL) of your blog will change. It will change from something like yourblog.blogspot.com or yourblog.wordpress.com to something like www.yourblog.com. This will mean that if you have developed a loyal readership, with many links to your site from other blogs and directories, RSS feeds, and a good rank in the search engines, all of these will be lost. You will more or less starting all over again.
I can’t answer these questions for you. What I will do is outline my own journey into blogging.
Back in 2002 I became aware of the blogosphere (the universe of all blogs). It wasn’t called that then, but was becoming popular as an easy way to build and use a website. I had constructed a number of free sites, and was just beginning The Roaring Mouse webhosting business. One problem when you build a website for someone else, or even yourself, is that when you want to add or change something you have to edit the HTML or PHP, etc code and then upload the resulting files to the site using FTP. This is a laborious process requiring considerable technical knowledge.
I came across the Blogger.com service, and it seemed an answer to my dreams. I could quickly set up a blog using their templates. They would host it for free, and updates could be easily made using their simple WYSIWYG editor, and instantly published to the site. Anyone could do it. And what’s more, if I wanted I could even host the blog myself on my own domain, but still use their interface to post articles to it.
This is the route I chose. I still use Blogger.com for many of my blogs. It is simple to setup, easy to use, and the templates can be edited to give a degree of individualization to your site. They have just upgraded to a new version which is even better. It has added some features previously lacking, and also allows you to host your blog at Blogger while using your own domain name. Of course, as you browse the web you will see blogs that look far more attractive, and have more features than your own, and you will see mentions of other platforms such as Typepad, MovableType, WordPress, and numerous others.
I’m a skinflint at heart, so I like a bargain - and what could be a better bargain than free? So I decided to have a look at using WordPress.org. While you can host your blog with WordPress itself, at WordPress.com, most WordPress blogs are self hosted. If you have a webhost who provides WordPress installed on their servers, as most do, then you are away. I went to my control panel, to the scripts library, clicked on Install WordPress, and all the files appeared on my site using a default template. It was simple to do, and the result looked quite simple too. But it worked well. From my WordPress blog I could login to my own administration pages and set about customizing my blog. I found that there have been many themes (templates) written by users for WordPress blogs.
I’ve now used a number of these, and customized them to my own liking. There are plugins available that are easily installed and add exciting new features to your blog, such as comment spam eliminators, calendars, blogroll generators, sitemap generators, and so on. I now have a number of WordPress blogs, but still more Blogger.com blogs. A number of these do not have much traffic yet, so I might migrate them to WordPress. There are tools available for such migration. However, several do have a significant readership, so I will probable retain them and keep a foot in both camps. This is not a bad idea, because there are exciting things happening in both communities, and I would like to be able to contribute to the life of both. This is a great strength of the blogging community - the wealth of expertise available and the willingness to share it and help each other out.
Next time we will look at building a blog with Blogger.com, before tackling a WordPress blog.