Thirteen Things about LINDSEY
A bit of an intro here, LOL! So many people responded to my Firefox Extentions post and my Why I Love Blogging post about technical ineptitude that I decided to make up this post about helpful blogging tech-y things. Please note that this only barely scratches the surface (mostly because I am very novice at all this)! If you want clarification on these things, ask! If I don’t have a clue about what you are curious about, I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction !
1. Get the right blogging platform. Robin over at PENSIEVE writes “Iâ€™m technically deficient, but I wanna pursue learning more about that side of bloggingâ€¦any suggestions where to begin? (You said â€œask awayâ€ in your profile page, so Iâ€™m a askinâ€™ ).” The beginning seems like a good place to start, LOL! And in my opinion, the first technical thing you need to get straight is your blogging platform.
I personally prefer WordPress. I started off using Blogger, but I felt too restricted – the upload time is aweful, the spam is horrendous, and there are so few things you can do with the layout. I wanted a blog that was an expression of me, not me confined within someone else’s restrictions.
WordPress also has a VERY easy importing tool, so if you’re using Blogger, Textpattern, Dotclear, Movable Type, or LiveJournal, you can have your entire blog transferred in a few short steps. Importing from other platforms may be a little trickier, but it can be done. You can also import from an RSS feed very easily (more on that in a minute).
2. Find an affordable host. A lot of people are using Blogger because it is free. I understand – as a graduate student with no income, money’s pretty tight around here too! However, switching to WordPress doesn’t need to be difficult OR expensive! The actual WordPress install is free – you can go download it right now if you want. But without somewhere to host it, that’s not much help. There are lots of great, affordable hosts out there. But I have to put in a glowing recommendation for LDM Hosting. I have been hosted by LDM Hosting for almost 2 years, and I’ve sent several friends over there as well. The prices are ridiculously low, yet the support and customer service is impeccable. There are many great hosting packages that would allow you to host multiple websites off of one package (I host six on mine!), but the golden ticket is the blogger’s package. This package gives you 50MB of space, 1 GIG of bandwidth, 10 email accounts @ your domain (which they’ll help you set up if you need help), and one-click WordPress install – PERFECT for the blogger. How much does this little ray of sunshine cost? $2 per month, for a grand total of $24 per year. Would you pay $24 a YEAR to get rid of all frusterations of Blogger and gain the freedom of WordPress? That’s what I thought ! If you want more info, let me know – or go visit LDM Hosting’s website.
3. Pick a theme you love! Now that you’ve got your blog with all your posts, you want it to look good. After all, the default theme that comes with WordPress is kind of . . . boring. You can try to build your own, but this gets difficult and confusing very quickly, especially if you are knew to blog design. You’ve got 2 options – either find a free theme for download, or have someone design a theme for you! There are hundreds of free themes online (check here for starters), and this is a great way to go, especially if you’re just starting out. However, some people really want their blog to be an expression of their personalities and interests. If this sounds like you, and you can’t find the perfect thing for free, then go to the professionals. I HIGHLY recommend E. Webscapes. They’ve made three awesome themes for me (see the theme switcher in my sidebar), and they’re working on a fourth for me right now! They have extremely talented designers, and they’re used to working with newbies!
4. Make your email address available, but safe. OK, you’ve got a great looking blog with your posts. What about all the mumbo jumbo in the side? First things first – people want to be able to get in touch with you. But you don’t want to just put your email address on there for all the spambots to take, do you? I’ll let you in on a secret – click on my sidebar where it says “Contact Me.” It opened up an email addressed to me, right? However, I don’t actually have my email address on my website. I’ve used a really neat program called ECloaker to encode my email address! That sounds really complicated, but I promise you it’s not. You download the program, and all you have to do is open it up, input your email address and what you want the text to be (in my case, “Contact Me”), and click “Make Code.” The code it creates will look like a bunch of gobbeldy gook – letters and numbers and #s. You take this, copy and paste it where you want your email address on your blog, and BAM! It looks just like it does on my blog. Pretty sweet, huh?
5. What the heck is an RSS feed? This was the question I heard the most last week, LOL! It took me a while to catch on too, but now that I’ve got this little gem figured out, I’m ADDICTED. You know how lots of websites and blogs have a way for you to subscribe to updates via email? An RSS feed is sort of like this. Here’s the Wikipedia explaination. This is how I understand RSS (and keep in mind – this is MY understanding, not the true technical definition). Every time that I publish a post, the post is sent to my RSS feed for my site. The address for my RSS feed is: http://www.mysuspensionofdisbelief.com/?feed=rss2 If you click on this link, you’ll see all the post info from my site, but it isn’t very visually pleasing. That’s just fine. People don’t read RSS feeds in this format. Instead, they read them in a feed reader.
There are many different types of feed readers. Different web browsers have them integrated – there are extensions for Firefox and for the new Internet Explorer 7. There are web based feed readers such as NewsGator and Feedster. And there are programs you can download to your computer, such as FeedReader (the one I use) and Pluck.
A feed reader works like an email program. For example, let’s say that I want to know when Suspension of Disbelief updates. I could either check the site every day to see if there is an update, or I could subscribe to the feed, and every time that a new post is made, my feed reader gets the new feed . . . like you’d get an email update. I can read the post in my feed reader, or I can click the link to read it on the web. The key is that I don’t have to go check the site every day. This can be VERY helpful if you have lots of blogs that you like to read. I have different folders in my feed reader for blogs of my friends, business blogs, tech blogs, etc. I can read so much more because I don’t have to keep checking the sites!
6. RSS sounds neat! How can I make one for my blog? If you have WordPress, you’re in luck! All WordPress blogs have an RSS feed! Just make sure that you put a link or a button or something on your blog so that people can have the link!
If you’re on a blogging platform that doesn’t have an RSS feed already, then you need to make one. I’m sure there are several services, but the one I am familiar with is FeedBurner. If you go to their website, they’ll talk you through setting up a feed for your blog and how to display it on your site. Reeeeally user-friendly!
And why should you do this? You WILL increase your readership. There are some people (like myself) who find blogs they really like, but they know that they don’t have time to go and check them out all the time! If the site has an RSS feed, then I get the link, add it to my feed reader, and the blog has a new reader. If I can’t find an RSS feed, then I feel sad that I won’t be able to keep up with the blog, and I hope that I stumble back there in the future (and that they’ll have gotten an RSS feed by then).
7. You mentioned that there is a Firefox extention for RSS feeds. What exactly is
? This was the second most addressed issue of last week! Probably because I posted my thirteen favorite Firefox extensions! Firefox is . . . amazing. It’s a web browser, like Internet Explorer, yet soooooooooo much better. You can customize it to your little heart’s desire. There are different themes to change the look of the browser, and you can download extensions, which work as little add-ons for your browser. It’s really easy to switch over from Internet Explorer (when you download it, it asks if you want to do that).
Aside from customization, why should you switch? Firefox is a safer browser – your chances of becoming the victim of malware and spyware are SIGNIFICANTLY decreased. Pop-ups are a thing of the past. It’s very easy to use, and it’s a standards-compliant browser!!!
8. What does standards-compliant mean? What is “valid XHTML”?
“The Extensible HyperText Markup Language, or XHTML, is a markup language that has the same expressive possibilities as HTML, but a stricter syntax.”
Huh? Basically XHTML is code for building websites that is more standardized than HTML. While right now this is just a good practice and it creates a “universal language” for websites, in the future sites that don’t use valid XHTML may not work. At the moment, you’ll notice websites that aren’t in standard might look wierd – look at some of the sites you like in Internet Explorer, then look at them in Firefox. Or, better yet, look at your own site. It might not look as cool as you thought . . . Sites that are XHTML complaint should look great in all browsers (though there’s always a chance that they might not).
The good news? WordPress is valid, and many of the themes that you can find for download are compliant as well. And if you get a theme made for you, request that the designer make it compliant – they usually do that anyways!
9. Whoa, how did you make that little box with the quote from Wikipedia?! I don’t know about other blogging platforms, but in WordPress, you just add a little bit of code! If I wanted to make a box with the word “Blogging” in it, I would write this: and it will show up like this:
10. What is the little checker thing under your posts? What’s del.icio.us? del.icio.us is a social bookmarking site. Basically you open an account, and then, instead of adding sites you like to your browser bookmarks, you can add them to your del.icio.us account. When you add them, you can tag them so that you can search through them easier. Also, you can view other peoples’ bookmarks, to see other things you might like. And best of all, since it’s web-based, you can view your bookmarks from any computer. So click on that little checkered thing, it’ll add that post to your del.icio.us account! If you want to add this feature to your WordPress blog, let me know, I’ll tell you what to do!
11. Why does everyone “tag” their blogs? Tags are really helpful when you use a tool called Technorati. Most all the blogs in the blogosphere are logged on here (if you haven’t claimed your blog, go do it)! You can search for blogs, you can search for subjects, you can look up statistics about blogs, all sorts of goodies! Again, if you want to add this feature to your WordPress blog, let me know, I’ll tell you what to do!
12. What’s the deal with the Rent My Blog thing? One more great blog networking tool is to link link link! And what better way to do it than to feature a different blog every week? Rent My Blog is run by BlogExplosion, and it’s basically a “blog of the week” type feature. Run over and check it out for details!
13. Where do you find out all this stuff? I read a lot of technical blogs and websites, LOL! Many of them are listed in my sidebar, so go take a look! You can also receive RSS feeds from newspapers and news sites, so I subscribe to CNN Technology and New York Times Technology Section. You can find out anything on the internet! I also learn a lot from reading other peoples blogs and asking questions !
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