Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why Is This Blog Different Than All Other Blogs?

It isn’t, really. At least not in the sense of “Why is this night different than all other nights?”, when this night we drink 4 cups of wine, eat flour-and-water Matzah, read a long story in Hebrew, eat a 4 course meal, sterilize the sinuses with horseradish root, and sit around a table till the wee hours of the morning talking metaphysics and freedom. To bed with us on all other nights.

I switched from the non-profit world to the corporate world a year ago. The peculiarities and peccadilloes of companies made for a fascinating journey, and although each company has a unique culture, there are ties that bind all companies, even if it is by being polar opposites of each other. Mostly an exploration of the corporate world that dominates most of the world we live in, meandering may happen as well.
I've played with the latest technology since 1985. Never an early adopter, more of an early awarer - eew. Early tester? Early tuner? Early player? Desktop publishing, graphic design, web design, web writing, and then the fancy word for "website updated often" which is blogging, followed by the explosion in people sharing personal information while stalkers nip, nibble, climb and eviscerate their heels. The simplest explanation for the personal info proliferation is: websites need to update more often with fresh information > personal information is easier and more readily interesting than investigative information > Let There Be Blogging!. Or maybe it was just the spillover from BBS to Internet. Who knows? I don't, but it's been a pleasure to watch and participate. The pleasure continues, although from a different point of view.

Continue to how the blog was put together in Nuts 'N' Bolts. Do not continue if technical stuff gives you nightmares.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nuts 'N' Bolts

Lots of thought and work went into setting up the technical end of this blog, as with most blogs. Clicking through Google link after Google link, I wished each blog owner would explain how they set up the interesting features of their blog. The least I can do is explain what I discovered during my journey.

Choosing Blogger
I wanted a free blogging platform, hosted online. That left me choosing between the two most powerful in that area, WordPress and Blogger. Neither is perfect, both have features lacking in the other. Wordpress.com does not allow editing themes, and this was a deal breaker for me. The major feature missing in Blogger is the ability to edit comments, and moderating comments without having to approve each comment. I want the comments to show up when posted, and have the liberty to delete or edit afterwards. Nothing is as frustrating as posting a comment to a blog, and not being able to see it right away. Disqus solved that problem, and held my hand with perfect instructions for changing from Blogger comments to Disqus comments. Blogger doesn't have an About page feature either, so I created my own, and after it had the URL name ...about.htm I changed the name to Why Is This Blog etc. and stuck a link on top of the sidebar.

Removing Navigation Bar
Most Blogger blogs have a thin blue bar on top that show Google and general stuff, and I didn't want that. Placing this line of code:
<![CDATA[/* By Aditya http://the-lastword.blogspot.com/
----------------------------------------------- */
div.navbar {
right after this line of code in the Template, almost at the beginning:
removed the bar.

Twitter Feed
This was simple enough. An HTML/Javascript Page Element in the sidebar, cut and paste this code with the correct Twitter name. Voila!
<div id="twitter_div">
<ul id="twitter_update_list"></ul>
<a id="twitter-link" style="display:block;text-align:right;" href="http://twitter.com/ymandel">follow me on Twitter</a>

<script src="http://twitter.com/javascripts/blogger.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/ymandel.json?callback=twitterCallback2&count=5" type="text/javascript">

Google Analytics
Google has all these awesome tools. Search is the powerhouse, but a check of tools I use includes Reader, Docs, Blogger, YouTube, Picasa and now Analytics. Tried iGoogle and Talk, didn't go anywhere. If I need a product that will give me reports on blog visitors, and Google makes a tool that is easily integrated, of course I'm going to use it.

ReTweet & Sharing button
I don't know why, but this was the biggest pain, a combination of finding the right script and then finding where to put it in the code. It's still a pain, because the new RSS image/button seems like it has to have the URL of each post pasted in, and I can't figure out how to have the image in the RSS feed only, so no RSS ReTweet button for me. Help, anyone?
I wanted the TweetMeme button in the top right corner of each post. In Edit HTML of Layout, click "expand widget code", then about halfway down find these lines:
<div class='post-header-line-1'/>
<div class='post-body entry-content'>
and paste this code in:
<div style='float:right; margin-left:14px;'>
<script type='text/javascript'>
tweetmeme_url = '<data:post.url/>';
tweetmeme_source = 'ymandel';
<script src='http://tweetmeme.com/i/scripts/button.js' type='text/javascript'/>
with the source as your Twitter name. Once that was done, the AddThis.com button code for the gazillions of sharing sites out there was added right after the TweetMeme script before the closing /div, so that both buttons appear together in the top right.

Font & Display
Do I want squinty readers trying to decipher ant-size screen writing? Or would I prefer readers sitting back comfortably and reading in leisure? I'll take the latter, thank you.
Instead of having to change the font of each post, I just changed the standard font for posts in the Layout to Trebuchet MS at 120% of whatever the browser is set to. Readers can still change the size, but the default is much larger than usual.
Most blogs are too narrow, especially for larger text size. The blog width was expanded in Layout as well, to 900px for the entire, 650 for posts and 250 for the sidebar. A white background is a must for text, so pictures and other stuff will have to spice it up.

RSS Tweaks
Working on this now.