A Better Display of Categories

I often get ideas from seeing things on other sites. This time I had two great ideas from How to Write it Better.

First, this idea for showcasing my categories. Instead of the standard flat intdex… why not promote them to the reader this way? On this site it’s posted as an image file and not linking to the categories. But, it could be done with HTML and links. Not difficult and yet very smart. I’m adding it to my to-do list!

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The other thing I like is the post for her email list. Fairly standard really but reading it sparked an idea for me. I content curate offsite, for Scoop.it mainly. But, I don’t really do much with that feed beyond adding a widget in my footer. Instead I could promote it as a source for fresh, daily information. I don’t want to get into newsletters and email lists again. Email seems to be a dead horse. However… why not push my curated feeds this way? I keep them active (if not daily, at least a few times a week). howtowritebetter2

Source: HowToWriteBetter.net | how to write better | Everything you need for great results, whatever you write

So today I found two great ideas from one blog I happened to read a post from today. Pretty nice.

Gopher Proxy

Gopher was a competitor of the early World Wide Web, differing in its simpler, more structured interface. The flexibility of HTML led to the World Wide Web eclipsing Gopher, and today few people are aware that Gopher even existed. Gopher has not, however, entirely vanished, and over one hundred Gopher servers still provide access to more than a million content items. Unfortunately the number of modern web browsers with support for Gopher is dwindling, potentially rendering all of this content inaccessible.

Gopher Proxy allows Gopher content to be viewed in any web browser, by converting Gopher content into web pages as you request it. With Gopher Proxy you can browse Gopher exactly as you would browse the World Wide Web. To start, enter an address in the address bar and click on the green arrow, or enter some words in the search bar and click on the magnifying glass.

gopher proxy

via Gopher Proxy – browse Gopher content through your web browser.

It’s been a long time since I came across something using Gopher. Good that it can still be viewed/ adapted for viewing. A lot of Internet history would be found in older Gopher content.

Blog This! – I’m Not Giving up on Blogger

blogthisBlog This! – Chrome Web Store.

Although it feels like no one from Google is behind the wheel at Blogger these days. I still love Blogger. I’d like to use it but it’s not easy. Blogger is under developed and fairly ignored.

I think it began with WordPress snobbery.

There was a time when people either used Blogger or WordPress. A lot of people were using Blogger. It was simple, basic and you didn’t need to know a lot about HTML, scripts, plugins or themes. If you wanted to – you could work with extra code, themes and add-ons for Blogger too. But, ideally it was for people who wanted a site up without the hurdles of doing it all themselves.

You would think that would be ideal for most people. It was, for a time. Then came along the WordPress snobs. People who thought Blogger wasn’t good enough because WordPress let you do more and was gaining in community support with even more extras, gadgets and gizmos.

Blogger fell behind. It could have kept going, in second place but still strong… only Google put it on a back burner and didn’t keep developing it. There was a very big update with adding new themes, flexibility with themes and a lot more layout options. But, that was years ago.

I noticed a new post about using Blogger with your own domain, making it easier. But, that doesn’t give people a reason to use Blogger. It needs updates, new community and fresh ideas.

Please almighty Google, don’t let Blogger die!

Using the Chrome Web Browser to Post to WordPress

I want to post to my sites with a content curation sort of bookmarklet. I already have an account with Scoop.it where I have several topics and post to them regularly, there. I’d rather put all that work, time and energy into content curation for my own sites instead. So, I’ve been looking for options.

I found a few options and then began trying them all out one by one.

Word This

wordthis

Will only let you do one blog. But, I didn’t even get that far. Right click the icon and and set your blog link in the options. Then it got stuck, never saved, didn’t do anything. The bookmarklet itself opened a window which went no where. So, as much as I liked the name of this one, it is also the first one I’m deleting from the web browser.

WPWrite

wpwrite

Another which will work for one blog only. I have a few and need to post to all of them. It would not work to have a bookmarklet for each one.  Way too complicated.

MultiPress

multipress

Although this one is available to download from the Chrome Extensions, the website is 404. You can add up to five blogs but, I was not able to post to my blog when I tried to run this one.

Postek

postek

This was not what I wanted at all. Only one blog and it doesn’t work to add content from another site you want to link to. This is just a quick way to write a new post without clicking through to your blog. Maybe useful for some, not worth keeping around for me. Plus, I did not like being asked to type in my password on a website other than my own. Overall, I did not mind deleting this one.

Editoy Writer

editoy

This one was more work to set up. I finally got through finding and adding an API key and authorizing the whole thing with WordPpress.com and then… it didn’t work. I don’t know why.  I found a page written in Chinese (I think) which even once translated was no help with setting Editoy up or getting it to work.

Express Curate

expresscurate

This is the one I most want to work. It does work well as the WordPress plugin.  I have found it gives a memory error on my two biggest blogs, but I contacted the developers and they are working on it.

So far I am not getting the Chrome Extension to work. The developers say it should and it should work for multiple sites. So, I’m keeping it around and working getting it to work. It looks great and has all the features I want.

Addendum to Express Curate: One complication I am having with this plugin is the added code for tags which is does on auto pilot. I turned the feature on to give it a try, not entirely sure what it would do but expecting I’d have some control over it. I did not. Express Curate automatically gave all of my WordPress tags an HTML link and a hashtag. This is not a terrible thing – if you want that. I didn’t really, my tags are not that tidy and I didn’t really want the extra links. However, the real problem for me is that this also removed my capital letters, turning titles into all small letters and abbreviations too. Even once I deactivated the plugin, the HTML code remained (and the small letters too). Because of this I am now trying to go through my blogs and fix titles, remove hashtags and the extra code on tags. It is a chore.

So far nothing is working better than the old PressThis which comes with WordPress. But, I’m hoping for more.

From the Endless Bucket of SEO Comment Spam

SEOdoesntread

I know you have seen this same post in your comment spam. Sometimes I read them before flushing them. This one bugs me. It assumes we are all writing for SEO. As if writing were just a formula of HTML. Writing, making sense, having a voice or something to write about means nothing. You could write gibberish as long as you throw in keyword gibberish and use bold and italics and various sizes of headers.

Too shallow to be sustainable

Stuff like this makes us all seem worthless.

Stuff like this makes it seem it really is all about money.

Stuff like this is why people don’t read and have the attention span of a potato chip.

Don’t become part of the problem. Keep writing for human readers. Let Google find you because someone actually read your work and thought you were great.  Anything less is too shallow to be sustainable. 

Content Curation with Scoop.it

This was originally posted to HubPages in 2012. Moved it from there because it wasn’t being read.

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Content curation is all about finding great links and resources to share with others interested in your topic/ niche. The great thing is creating a resource which give credit and promotion to great sites and knowing you are getting them the readers they want. Directed traffic. Also, for your own benefit, you build yourself as an authority on the topic you curate the content for.

There is limited customization you can use to decorate or fix up your topic on Scoop.it. If you use a paid account, of course, you have more options.

Scoop.it does let you export your topic as a widget which works well in your blog’s sidebar if you want to promote it and get traffic to your Scoop.it topic.

See my topic – Creative Writing Inspiration on Scoop.it as an example.

Update: Since I originally wrote this, Scoop.it has begun offering their content curators the ability to send newsletters out for each of their topics on the network. There is a new mobile app too. Take a look.

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How to Use Scoop.it

There are a few elements to creating the post (once you have found the link you want to add):

The image which is posted with the link.

You don’t want to post an image which is not relevant to the post. Don’t post whatever image comes up first and leave it like that. You won’t build yourself up as an authority by being sloppy or careless.

When you use Scoop.it you are able to add an image of your own choosing. So anything you cut and paste or even create yourself can be used. If I am not happy with the images to choose from I will use screen capture and take a quick capture of the site’s logo, part of the header, something to identify the link.

Also, whatever image you use is going to be a big factor in whether the link gets noticed and then clicked. Keep that in mind. The image is making a first impression.

Next up, the title of the link you are posting.

Don’t ignore the title. Scoop.it gives you a title taken from the HTML code on the site you’re linking to. But, not all titles are just fine right out of the box this way. Adjust them. You might even go all out and rewrite them to something your readers will be more likely to want to read.

Then comes the description.

I admit I get lazy at this point, probably more often than I should. If my title and the image are working I think that is enough. Most of the time. People are mainly going to notice the image and then the title to see what the image is actually about. So, a description is extra.

However, a description can be a nice extra. I will use “” and quote something from the post I’m linking to. Or, I might write a quick blurb about why I’m linking to that post. Something about my first impression or an idea I got from it.

Don’t forget to add tags/ keywords.

Scoop.it has the option to add keywords to each link. I leave it up to you to decide how valid this is compare to the extra time and effort it takes to forever be typing in the same words. This is one thing which doesn’t work for me at Scoop.it. I wish they would let the content curators set their keywords and have them posted automatically. Then, it would just be a matter of changing them if necessary, for individual links.

We already use a niche/ topic/ category to add the links/ posts we are linking to. So the topic is set and keywords could be set along with it. This would save some extra steps which seem pretty unnecessary to me.

With Scoop.it you can click where you want to share the link as you post it.

Pick your poison… Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Before you actually click on Publish, make sure you have set the category your link is being curated to on Scoop.it.

But, if you do send a link to the wrong place you can go back and edit it. Rescoop the link to the right category and then delete the one which was sent to the wrong one. No disaster to fix a little mistake but getting it right the first time will save you from opening another window on your web browser. I’m always using the bookmarklet in my toolbar when I curate content for Scoop.it, so I don’t have to go to the Scoop.it site to add content, I can just keep cruising along and find more.

My History as a Web Publisher (Blogger)

When I started a blog, back in 1998 the early blogs, the very best of them, were all done by creative people who loved words, colours and design. Some of them wanted readers, fame, popularity and most of them got it. Blogging was new. Blogs were inventive, creative, an adventure. No one questioned what Google would like because Google didn’t exist. Blogs were something magical, seeming to exist outside of time and space and even reality (if they knew how to work the code). This was before Blogger, WordPress or any other blog software or client.

I was not a coder, or a programmer and my HTML was very limited. I bought a couple of books to learn HTML. I made progress. I had a rudimentary blog up, but they weren’t really called that yet. You were as likely to call them a web log or an online journal as anything else. Images were new and changed so much about the early web logs. Most people did not put up a site because it was easier to just play on the networks like the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and the newsgroups (which were eventually moved to Google, becoming the backbone of Google Groups).  I joined newsgroups for ASCII artists.

This post will be continued as I feel like writing more.

How to Be a Great Guest Blogger

What makes someone a great guest poster?

Great guest bloggers know the blog they want to write for. They know the content published, the niche the blog aims for.

This doesn’t mean you have to camp out for weeks studying the blog. Start by reading the About section on the blog. Is this even a topic or niche you would have something to write for? Have you got something in mind that the blog owner will want to post?

Read back entries. Skim headlines for anything connected to what you plan to offer as a guest post. What has already been written about the topic? Do you have a new thought, a fresh angle? If so, this is a great thing to let the blog owner know when you submit your proposal.

Plan ahead and make sure your site (the place you choose to showcase your writing) is actually putting your best foot forward. Are there typos? Do all your links work? (You don’t want them to find a broken link because you moved a post – or a broken image file). What do you say about yourself? Do you have an introduction to who you are and what you are doing?

How can you interest blog publishers in the posts you offer them?

You submit a proposal for the post you want to write. Have your idea ready, have the whole post written or at least planned out. If this blog doesn’t want it you can find and ask other blogs who would be interested in the same content. But, if this blog owner is interested you want to have the content ready to send as quickly as you can.

Before you rush to send your post make sure you agree to terms with the blogger.

Ask when the post will be published, if the blogger has a schedule (most will).

Set out what you would like when it comes to an author bio and any links in the bio or the post itself.

How long or short should your post be?

Do you need to include an image? If not, can you get the chance to ok the image which is used with your post?

Do they have rules about using extras like text in bold or list posts?

Do they want to set the title themselves or will they be using whatever you send as a title?

Will other content be run with the post you have written, are they posting their own links or creating an introduction to go with your post?

Don’t spring any surprises on the blog owner once your post has been accepted. You also don’t want to find yourself surprised. Try to think ahead and… if you do get a surprise about how your post is used, keep calm, take a break away from the computer before you send off a note to the blog owner.

What is guest post etiquette?

Proofread your post, more than once. The blog owner won’t be impressed if they have to fix typos.

Ask the blog owner how they want the post sent. Some might prefer HTML or plain text. Some will want it as an attached file and some will want it in the email itself.

Keep your author bio short and don’t use more than two links. Pick smart links: your best source for showing your content and your most active (non-personal) social media account.

Don’t use too many links in the content of the post you write. Two is a nice amount. Three is less acceptable. Over three links will probably not sit well with the blog owner at all. Even if they publish the post they aren’t so likely to agree to more.

Afterwards… Promote Your Post!

Don’t sit on your laurels once your post has been published on the blog. Now is the time to promote your post. Get readers, bring in traffic and show the blog owner you have some pull, some regular readers and social media clout.

If you bring them traffic they will be far more interested in working with you again, and again.

Also, don’t abandon your post too quickly. Check for reader comments and answer them. Provide more information or just chat and use the post to build your own social network and bring people over to read more of what you have written. (This is why it’s a good idea to keep writing in the same niche/ topics where you want to build up your own authority).

A day after the post is up send the blog owner a note. A thank you note. Include any statistics you have about the post traffic. Ask for feedback from them. Ask if they have any ideas they would like worked on for a future post. There could be ideas they have not had time or resources to create a post about themselves.

You could become a regular contributor if things work out. But, watch your time management and don’t over commit yourself. Don’t undo what you have started by missing deadlines.Accept the work you know you have the time, energry and knowledge to complete.

None of these have my personal recommendation but they are a place for you to start looking for sites that want your content.

How to Approach Blogs Which Don’t Want Guest Posts

Pay attention to a site which does not accept guest posts. Don’t send them a guest post!

Chances are, a site which specifically does not want guest posts has been flooded with spam offers and they are fed up with the whole thing.

If this is a site or blog you really do want to write for, approach them through their blog comments. Do not offer them a guest post. You could also find them on Twitter and other social media (choose one they are actively using).

Begin by giving them real comments on the posts they have. Offer some ideas, tips, insights you have. Keep it light and neutral.

Make sure every communication and comment you have with them is typo free and use spell check.

Make sure you include a link back to your own blog (a place where your content is showcased). Let them find you.

After some time and several comments you could suggest an idea for a guest post relevant to their niche and offer to write it. Use your common sense and don’t end up sounding like just another spammer.

This way you are not one more half-assed idiot offering them a ‘free’ (typically irrelevant) post for their blog.

Read More

Building a Web Directory with WordPress

You can use WordPress plugins to create your own web directory. There are premium plugins and themes, or you can try the free plugins. Expect to do some work, making some changes to HTML and CSS code and work with an FTP program. If you can’t (or won’t) do the extra work then look at the premium options instead. However, if your plan is to make money with a web directory aren’t you smarter to use free options and do some of the work yourself?  Note: I do pay for software and themes and even the odd plugin, but I prefer to give business to the open source and free software as often as I can.

Link Library is the plugin I have been using longest. You can work with the links you already have in your WordPress blogroll. Take a look at the information given for setting it up. It is fairly simple and most of the work is just done inside WordPress itself. Pretty simple.

Open Links Directory is the one I’m looking at and thinking I will start with for a new directory I’ve been wanting to sort out and get active. See the demo. I’ve done the install but I’ve got a bug to work out with FTP. Your own install may be bug-free. Other than a small bug, it looks great and I’m impressed.

WP Link Dir looks interesting and they say it works with pages on WordPress instead of posts. So that could leave you with the ability to run posts as a regular blog with the directory in the background, or as a feature. I’m only hesitant to download this one because they want to gather your email address first. (I don’t like having my email address harvested for spammers).

Outdated, possibly forgotten plugins which you can still find to give a try:

Article Directory is an interesting plugin to try. You can read the FAQ and find the plugin (and a theme) on the site which also acts as a demo for the plugin.

Web Directory WordPress plugin has not been updated for years so it is use at your own risk. But, you can find more information for using and installing it on the site (the download link there is broken).

WordPress Link Directory is outdated but available. The link to the site from WordPress is broken but I found it myself.

Making a Plan for Running Ads on your Blog

If you accept ads on your site have you set up a pricing schedule? This is something I had not really done. I haven’t really thought of myself as a blog which runs ads yet either. So, it’s time I got it together and sorted out a plan.

First, I have to get my brain around the fact that I do accept ads. I thought I would hold out longer but, the fact is that money does talk. It’s also useful for so many things.

Second, I am deciding on a pricing plan and giving space on my blog real estate for running the ads. These two things come together because they are very dependent on each other. Your pricing plan should reflect the time and space the ad will require. Time being the length of time the ad will run. Space being the position and size of the ad on your blog real estate.

Also, the actual payment versus not getting paid. You need a contingency plan of some kind. How long after posting an ad will you wait for payment? When do you decide to pull the ad due to non-payment?

Another thing which I didn’t think of until I had run a few ads and lost track of them… is keeping track of them. Keeping track of when they expire and where they were placed (some are in individual blog posts rather than your blog sidebar) so you can remove them when the time is up.

So far the ads I have run have been from advertisers who approached me. If I take it to the next logical step and begin approaching advertisers myself I will need to have information for them. So it’s time for me to figure out what my numbers are. I’m not someone who loves bean counting so this step will  be the one I have to push myself to work at and finish.

I’m also going to look into WordPress plugins for running ads. Not because I can’t continue adding in the code myself but, I think it would be simpler to have the software/ plugin to help me keep track of it and likely deal with extras like images which need to be resized to fit my WordPress layout, or to watch for malware links hidden in the code. This is something else you should check before posting whatever the advertiser sends you.

Read the HTML code and watch for anything suspicious, something that shouldn’t be there. You don’t want the advertiser to have tricky code which pops up extras you didn’t agree to, or code which will send them to another site as soon as they land on your site. Stuff like that does happen.

To rehash for the blog skimmers:

  • Make a payment schedule
  • Decide on time and space
  • Create rules for advertisers
  • Keep track of ads 
  • Work on statistics

Don’t ignore ad networks. You can sign up, figure out how to add the code to your site, etc. But, once you get over the hurdle of starting up an ad network can make it pretty simple to run ads on your blog. However, you don’t get the full ad price yourself when you involve a middle man this way. On the plus side, the ad network finds the advertisers and evaluates them. I like Project Wonderful, mainly for their excellent customer service. However, the advertisers are mainly small sites with a small budget. So, Project Wonderful won’t suit everyone.