Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thing 25 : Bloggers' Toolkit

This Thing was my idea, a toolkit of things that would help make it easier for you to blog and to make your blog more friendly for those readers who visit it. There are a variety of tools out there that help "automate" or organize you when adding to your blog whether it be via post or other functionality. I found some things that help me when getting a post ready and wanted to share what helps me. My helpers include Zemanta, Pixresizer, Irfanview, Picasa and a number of Firefox addons among others. This thing took quite a bit of time, but I just did a bit at a time. It was nice to have all the information in one place even if it did take a lot of time to get through it all.

20 Usability Tips for Your Blog offered many tips and ideas for making your blog a good one that people will want to visit. While currently my blog is an eclectic mix because it is a sandbox for the Things on a Stick program and my explorations of the web, after this program I may make some changes to focus on specific topics related to work, or else make it more personal. I need to think about this and decide what avenue to take, but for now the eclectic mix suits me, and I really am not trying to please or cater to others.

Posting by e-mail was among the things to do, so since I had already e-mailed an article on My Favorite Things to be used in the More on a Stick newsletter, I decided to use it as a test and e-mailed it to blogger as well. I set up the process in my dashboard. It was easy and worked flawlessly. However, if you e-mail your post, you do have to make any edits, pictures or links you want to put in it from Blogger itself. This elicits some error messages that I chose to ignore and just made the changes and saved anyway. Again it worked just fine.

About the gadgets: I read the info and watched the videos, but really learned nothing I didn't already know. Since I already had more than forty widgets on my blog page, I had quite a bit of experience with them. Gadgets added recently are a weather gadget, my latest TwitPic picture, another Flickr gadget, a federal legislative tracker, West of East's widget with samples of their soon to released allbum, and a monthly calendar of events.

Shortly after the second round of 23 Things on a Stick ended, I had read in an RSS feed I subscribe to how to turn your blog into a podcast, and also make it possible for people to listen to your post when they visit your blog. I did this using Odiogo in May. Sometimes the voice uses some interesting pronunciations, but for the most part provides an acceptable result. It's a male voice, and one of the other apps uses a female voice that's nice, but I chose to stay with my Odiogo app since when I had a problem in September the Odiogo help staff was quick to respond and fix my problem, and it works well. I did try all the other options just to see how they worked.

About Comments: I investigated Disqus, ClickComments, and Outbrain. All looked like they had some value to offer and I will probably explore them further later. Right now I like the ability to control comments on Blogger that is offered by their own comment system. I don't have time to deal with possible dumping of spam in the comments as I've seen elsewhere. I noticed while reading blogs that the Outbrain people gave some advice about how to set up Outbrain so you had some control of the content it added at the end of your post. Since I mostly use Zemanta to add content,I won't use Outbrain now, but may change my mind later, not wanting to add so much stuff to my posts that it's cumbersome.

About Statistics Collection: I added ClustrMaps to my blog about the same time as I added Odiogo. I also have two other map gadgets in the sidebar: MapLoco and Who's Amung Us. I like the place name lists generated by MapLoco telling where visitors are from. When it was hiccuping a while back I tried out Who's Amung Us. It's interesting to compare the results of each of the three map gadgets which each give somewhat different information. Maybe it's overkill, but I find it satisfies my curiosity. Since I signed up for Darren Rowse's building a better blog 31 day course discovered via Twitter, I needed to install Google Analytics to get ready for it. I combed through the code of my blog template only to find the tag I needed two lines from the end of the code, thirty-seven pages of code at that. Good thing I had my new glasses and they work! Google Analytics is now successfully installed in my template according to the reports I accessed the day after installation.

About Photos & Photo Tools: I have used PixResizer and Picasa since the original 23 Things on a Stick, having found them when seeking tools to help make photos usable with some of the social software apps included in 23 Things. ResizeImage.Org online was easy to use and marked for future use. Pixenate also was easy to use for general photo editing and didn't require a download either so was marked for future use. I looked at all of the copyright free photo sites and did the searches. The amount and quality of the photos available for use just for the attribution is nothing short of amazing. I created a Flickr slideshow, and have also added some from Slideshare, PictureTrail,, and Animoto. I made my Christmas card using Animoto this year, in fact several of them, and they can be found in some posts in December 2008.

About Blog Quizzes/Polls: I read the articles on using polls in your blog which were very good. I looked at each of the applications listed and tried them out. I posted just one as an example, asking about social applications used that I made in Glowday, posted here.

I find the added functionality of Snapshots to be annoying and won't be doing that. Apture is possible down the road. I want to keep things simple right now, and turning my blog into a multimedia experience isn't high on my list of priorities. I want to think about how to do it effectively, not distractingly.

About useful features: I did add a search box at the top of my blog. I already had a tag cloud, an archive calendar,a a clock (My Slice of Time.) I had a share this button in my sidebar, but also added this to each blog post to make sharing easier. I also claimed my blog at Technorati, added a Twit This button, buttons for subscribing to my blog, comments, and podcast among others.

About Get Social: I looked at all the listed items. I already have my Friendfeed Badge in the sidebar leading to my feed. My twitter feed is also in the sidebar. Some of the other things could be added to my blog, but many are already part of my iGoogle page.

I had already done the two fun things here: Blog Readability test and Typealyzer. I apparently didn't post the Typealyzer results, but my recollection is that the result was I was a DO-er. One of the other tests indicated that my blog was written by a man, news to me. I've done the test a number of times with a time period in between results and gotten different results. I know I saved the code, but can't seem to find it at present and it doesn't seem to be working tonight as I write this.

I looked at the various widget sources and the amount of these available is astounding as well. I checked out some that my region bloggers were having trouble with so as to help them be able to use those they wanted in their blogs. They didn't realize that many of the widgets allow you to adjust the size to fit the space you have available. It doesn't require much knowledge of code to be able to make the adjustments.

I also backed up my blog before changing the template and plan to do regular back ups. I read the information on exporting your blog which may prove to be useful in the future. I plan to keep refining and adding functionality and interest to my blog as I try and discover things, and can make an organized plan for it. I'm hoping that the course on building a better blog will help with this. I shared the link via Twitter and at least two others doing More on a Stick have signed up for it as well.

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Sticking 23 things said...

I need to read your blog more often! Your knowledge, aka "coolness", when it comes to this whole deal is wonderful and helpful. I'm still trying to figure out how much time I can afford to use on all of these things. Uses seem to be combined, with personal and professional each with their own needs and wants! My brain hurts - I think I'll go to bed now!