Choosing Web Scripts, Gadgets and Widgets

One thing I have learned to watch for when I look at free web scripts, gadgets, widgets and such are hitchhikers. Before you paste the code into your HTML paste it into Notepad first. Read the code. Do you see a link to a third party URL? A site not your own or the one you are using the code from?

Some of the sites offering freebies are also making a buck by using your blog to spam for another site. Watch for it. You can remove that part of the code or just choose not to use the script, find something else.

Why does it matter? Well, not a big deal, but do you really want someone else using the time, resources and energy you put into your blog to make money for themselves? Whether your blog is completely spam/ ad free or not, I doubt you want someone piggy backing on your work?

Pretty Simple Site Promotion Ignored

It bugs me when I go to a business or charity type of site and find they have nothing extra to offer me. Not only is it harder and harder to find a real way of contacting anyone online but they are often really skimpy on content too. What are they saving it for? Why not use the free promotion opportunities right in front of them?

Charities or campaigns such as breast cancer, saving the whale or keeping the Internet free should have something I can stick on my own site as a link back. I like having some kind of graphic and if that is included in prepared HTML code for me I can scoop it right up and paste it into my site’s HTML. Simple and sweet and don’t they want linkbacks anyway?

Businesses create lovely packaging for their products and you go to the website to see what else they have, where are other stores located and can you get some of that wonderful art as wallpaper/ background for your own site? Businesses should make this available as most people will recognize the design and notice the referral to the company placed at the bottom corner of the wallpaper. Why don’t they share it this way? Or offer us something else? It’s free promotion for them. So much thought and energy is put into SEO games and yet here is something that doesn’t rely on search engines and would bring in a lot of link backs and traffic, yet it is ignored. How silly.

Simple SEO for Your Site

Have a look at URL Appraisal for fun, mainly. See what it says your domain is worth. I think anything not on it’s own domain is already going to score low from this SEO based site. WordGrrls was appraised at $512.80.

I had a look at what they recommend for simple things you can do for SEO (search engine optimization). Two of them are things I am going to work on today:

3. Take advantage of alt and title tags in your URLs and images. When creating an image or link within your HTML, you have the option of including a TITLE attribute in URLs and an ALT attribute to1 images. Use these fields to add additional text about the link/image. This text is picked up by search engine spiders and can add to the keyword content of your pages.

7. Make sure you take advantage of meta tags like keywords and descriptions. Many sites often overlook meta tags. There are a large number of these tags you can add to your html pages to help give search engines a better idea of what’s in your site. Two tags in particular, the description and keywords tags, allow you to write a description of each page and also list relevant keywords contained within your site. Use these on every page of your entire site.

I may go the lazy way and see if I can find a plugin to play around with the meta tags. That way I don’t need to look at my HTML code to add a few words or change a spelling error I am bound to notice once I’ve had it up for a few weeks.

For the titles with links, I’m pretty sure that is set up for you in WordPress already. I’ve just ignored it up to now. So I will vow to do better. It is just adding a description to the link you are typing in. The description you type in will appear if someone hovers their mouse over the clickable link. It is a good thing. You may have noticed it on other sites and wondered how they did that. Now you know! it would be nice if Blogger picked up on this too.

Type in Your Own Style

In writing we use fonts far more than we actually think about them. What font are you reading right now? Do you know for sure, me either. I could check the HTML and find out but I don’t need to. I know it’s working and it’s readable.

Still, there are endless fonts of every style imaginable. I hunt for fonts when I want to make a new banner or header. Sometimes I have a fairly good idea of roughly what I want. I can almost see it, the shape and size of the letters. Have you ever thought about making your own font? It’s really quite interesting, typography. Try drawing an alphabet, not writing the letters but drawing them.

Here are three links about making your own fonts in case you are more than just curious.

I Love Typography: So You Want to Create a Font

BitBox: How to Make a Hand Drawn Font

Chank: How to Make Your Own Fonts

Slate: You Type – The Strange Allure of Making Your Own Fonts

Last of all, you can use FontStruct to make your fonts. It is free web software. You can create your font and save it to use on Mac or Windows.

Especially Special Events

Do you know enough HTML code to change your site for the holidays? Try it! I know we are supposed to bow to the gods of branding but take a break from worshipping at Christmas time, Halloween, Valentines Day and other events. Even if it’s just for one day. Brighten up your site with a big red bow or a fresh banner in seasonal colours. Find something you can do even if all you can do is change the colours of your fonts to read and green. Keep your site readable but give it a holiday make over.

Blogs We Luv: 10 Questions

The Ten Questions from Blogs We Luv

1* Describe your blog in five sentences or less.
2* Link us to one post from your blog that best defines who you are.
3* What sets you apart from other bloggers?
4* When and how did you first discover blogging?
5* What is your biggest pet peeve related to blogging or the internet?
6* Name one plugin, blogging widget, or service that you can’t live without.
7* If you could choose anyone, living or dead, to write a guest post for your blog, who would it be and why?
8* How has blogging made you a better person?
9* What are your tips for becoming a better blogger?
10* Name one great blog that you read on a regular basis. What makes it unique?

1. A scrapbook/ junk drawer of things I create, write, think or just find interesting. Rural exploration photos when I have been out taking photos. Cartoon drawings to illustrate the blog mostly every day. Basically it is things I think of when I’m in the shower. Conversations I have with myself. Ideas I find somewhere else and want to keep track of to explore further. It’s made of stuff I love, stuff that bothers me and just stuff in general. Kind of like life.

2. Love the World – Doesn’t define who I am. There is no one post that does that. But it has some of the elements of who I am. I think there is too much in my head for any one post to contain it all.

3. I don’t especially want to be set apart from other bloggers. With all the other bloggers out there I’m sure there are several doing the same stuff I am. I post for myself. I still feel the passion for web publishing that I first did over ten years ago when I began my first weblog. I like the ideas of diy web publishing, free journalism, creative CSS and HTML and having the freedom to do it all my way.

4. Over ten years ago. I almost remember some of the first blogs I read. They were still new in 1996, most people had a webpage up if anything. Blogs were software which made keeping a site updated easier as your newest work would show up on top of the older work. They weren’t all journal-like then either. People who knew code were doing wonders. The rest were trying to learn from the best of them. I remember being awed and amazed by those who created blogs back then, they really were feats of artistic and geeky genius. I was working more on ASCII art, newsgroups and IRC than blogging. My first blog was on Blogger though, I liked it even way back then.

5. Biggest peeve are the ads (and splogs which followed the ads). If anything is killing blogs it is monetizing and seo obsessed people who don’t really create anything. All too often it is recycled, stolen or mass contributed content which lacks anything personal at that point. Splogs are like a huge clog in the drain of the kitchen sink and they spoil blogging by making it harder to find real blogs that would awe and amaze as they did once upon a time.

6. Nothing is coming to mind. But it’s always the widget that you don’t even think about which is most essential and taken for granted. I couldn’t live without Blogger itself. I love finding good avatar making sites, Blessthischick.com is my favourite at the moment. I like Firefox though lately it hasn’t been keeping me logged in anywhere as it used to do. I like StumbleUpon and Flickr too, both services.

7. No one. What would be the point of having someone else write a post? It’s a personal blog, a way for me to hear myself think as much as a way to create something for others to view. To have someone else post would turn it into something else and then it wouldn’t be me writing for me any more. I’d have to start another new one. 🙂

8. That’s easy. Blogging kept me from going insane when I was alone in a foreign country and getting divorced. Not sure if it really made me a better person but it really did keep me from feeling completely alone and isolated with just all kinds of thoughts and feelings spinning in my head. It gave me focus and a place to put my feelings out there and get feedback from a few blog friends so that I felt someone was listening to me even if I was still in a room all by myself.

9. That depends if you really are a blogger or someone using blog software. If you really have the genuine interest in creating something go for it. Try new things and don’t worry about the opinions of others. You should be doing this for yourself. Making your own footsteps into the virtual world. Don’t go too far into the idea of writing for an audience, write for yourself or it soon becomes meaningless. You get burnt out when you really don’t have anything of yourself there any more. If you focus on traffic and link backs to your blog instead of adding colour, ideas and thoughts you won’t have anything of your real self invested in it any more. Readers won’t find that interesting either.

Work on keeping your blog easy to navigate, organized, not too cluttered and keep it to a simple, clean layout. Also, make sure your colours and the font size don’t strain your reader’s eyeballs right out of their sockets. If you want to post every day but feel stuck a few days try a new way of expressing yourself: draw something, post a photo, a poem, write about a new hobby you are interested in, take a day off and do something new to write about, anything else you can think of that will fit into a blog post. Just like the old days when I wrote penpal letters and would think of new things you could fit into an envelope and mail acros the oceans, a blog is a format you can fit a lot of things into if you put your mind to it.

10. Had to think about it for a bit. It’s a tie between The Useless Men and Blog U now. The Useless Men are fun to read but Blog U has been a great source for blog innovations especially when there was something specific I wanted to change or fix.

Outside the Envelope Bloggers

Gave it a space of its own on Outside the Envelope. Will see how it goes.

I thought about doing this as an award but… that makes it seem everyone who gets it should actually be professional, polished and really good at it. I don’t want to exclude people like myself who don’t have any real skill just blundering along and having fun trying. So anyone who tries is welcome as well as those who really are good at creating, coding, drawing and illustrating and make people like me jealous or at least very wishful.

So, this is here for anyone who wants to join up a group of creative bloggers. Every Monday (not for any good reason) create a blog entry which uses some other art form, not the standard typed post. Think along the lines of mail art, anything you can stuff into or onto an envelope. But, in this case it has to fit into a blog post.

I think it’s a step in the direction of re-making blogs as they once were. Long ago in the dinosaur age when blogs were about fun, creativity and trying it out in order to learn HTML and testing your own power as someone who can bring their own ideas and adventures to the Internet through web publishing.

Just let me know so we can build a list, visit back and forth and roll it up into a blogroll when it’s more than just me talking to myself.

Choosing Web Scripts, Gadgets and Widgets

One thing I have learned to watch for when I look at free web scripts, gadgets, widgets and such for adding to my blog are hitchhikers. Before you paste the code into your HTML paste it into Notepad first. Read the code. Do you see a link to a third party URL? A site not your own or the one you are using the code from.

Some of the sites offering freebies are also making a buck by using your blog to spam another site. Watch for it. You can remove that part of the code or just choose not to use the script, find something else.

Why does it matter? Well, not a big deal, but do you really want someone else using your blog to make money for themselves? Whether your blog is completely spam/ ad free or not, do you want people getting away with piggy backing on your work?