Plain Text Formatting

I’m working on a blog to display my ASCII art and the art from other artists which I have collected and gathering electronic dust bunnies on my hard drive.

I had a struggle to get the ASCII art to display in plain text without warping to the left. Then I found the Preserve Code Formatting plugin. It works! I just have to keep the art from getting too close to the left margin, that seems to throw it off a bit.

If you want to format your text as plain text, with a plain fixed font this will work for you as well. Might be a nice change from using blockquote as a method of highlighting text. At times the text we are using wasn’t a quote, just something we want to give an extra emphasis to.

Podcasting

A list of podcasting links I started collecting last year. Posting them today, just out of the blue. I thought I would get into podcasting (and I may yet) but I don’t seem to be heading that way right now.

Blog Copyright

» Blog Copyright.

This is the plugin I use on my WordPress blog to change my copyright each year. You really don’t need a plugin for this. It’s quite simple to adjust the end date yourself. I like the plugin cause it keeps it in place (as part of my footer) no matter how many times I flip my blog theme around.

Don’t forget to change your blog copyright date at the start of the new year!

Happy New Year!

Turn Your Words into Link Bait

It’s all about offering extras, those little things that make one blog stand out from another. Give people something extra.

Take the information you want to write about and present it in a unique and interesting way.

  • Use a quiz as part of your post. Highlight information and confirm your message.
  • Give a widget with your RSS feed.
  • An infographic (becoming a trend) can give your information in a visual way.
  • A hand drawn post. Write it long hand, add some lettering, illustrations, etc and take a photograph you post to your blog.
  • A web comic is visual and uses humour.
  • Start a blog tour. Invite others to join and set a date for the tour.
  • Try a blogging marathon. Set up how often and how long you will post for.
  • Create avatars for readers based on their blogging personality.
  • Audio like a podcast people can listen to.
  • Video posts (though I’m not a fan of anything in a big, clunky file).
  • Turn your blog into the focal point of a community for people in your niche. Bring everyone together to talk.
  • An ebook. Turn your post into something that can be downloaded and read offline.
  • A mini directory post. Pull together all the great resources you can find and turn them into a directory of information.
  • A social web application or blog plugin, etc. For those who have (or get) the know how.
  • Create a (WordPress or other CMS) blog theme/ template and offer it for free.
  • Go with a little controversy. Debate the less popular side of a pro versus con.
  • Start an event. Like ProBlogger’s 31 Days to a Better Blog.
  • Create a seasonal/ holiday web graphic (add text with best wishes/ seasons greetings) free for the taking.
  • Interview a popular blogger, someone well respected in your niche.
  • Run a contest. Make sure you have a prize worth winning and you get our winner to confirm they did get it.
  • Give out awards. Pick the ‘best of’ in your niche and create an award they can take from your site.
  • Promote another blogger, someone who inspired you or had valuable information.
  • Write a yearly round up with the best, most inspiring, etc. blog posts you’ve read in your niche.
  • Ask for information. Ask your readers to ask their friends/ readers/ followers too.
  • Write about how you solved a problem, step-by-step. Use illustrations.
  • Run a survey. Ask for feedback and opinions about your own site or the topic you write about.
  • Create an index of authorities in your niche and give links to each of them plus their Twitter  and RSS feed links.
  • Review a book or other product available. Pick something useful/ new to your readers.
  • Thank someone. Write a post thanking another blogger for something. Don’t stop at just one.

Small packages bring good things. Turn what began as a plain text blog post into a small, contained unit of information like a quiz, infographic, widget, web comic, web graphic or something else small and simple which can easily be shared through social media and links.

Wikipedia: Link Bait

Link bait is any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website. Matt Cutts defines link bait as anything “interesting enough to catch people’s attention.”

Resources:

Blue Glass: Overlooked Linkbait: The Value of Widgets, Quizzes, and Other Interactive Content.

Sam Tilston: How to Write Linkbait

ProBlogger: 20 Linkbaiting Techniques

Smashing Magazine: Golden Rules of Linkbaiting

30 Days to a Better Blog from SITS Girls

I’m posting all the steps here cause the Challenge is done but I’m not. This way I can keep working through all the steps even if I only get one each week. See The SITS Girls site for more and future events.

  • Day 01 – Write an Elevator Speech
  • Day 02 – Write a List Post -You could use this as a brainstorming session for ideas to write about related to your niche.
  • Day 03 – Promote a Blog Post -Use Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon… or ask another blogger to link to one of your individual posts.
  • Day 04 – Analyze a Top Blog in your Niche -Don’t copy another blogger. Be unique, but let them inspire you.
  • Day 05 – Email a Blog Reader –Have you ever interacted with blog commenters outside of blog comments?
  • Day 06 – 27 Must Read Tips and Tutorials for Bloggers -Pick your own tutorials rather than those on the list. You know which areas you want to know more about.
  • Day 07 – Write a Link Post -Think of it as creating a mini web directory of links for your niche.
  • Day 08 – Interlink your Old Posts -If you’ve written about a topic before (or one similar) bring your old post back as a reference.
  • Day 09 – Join a Forum and Start Participating -Keep involved with others in your niche. See what resources they use and what they write about.
  • Day 10 – Set Up Alerts to Monitor What is Happening in your Niche -It may be a good plan but I’ve never found time to use alerts, or found them very reliable.
  • Day 11 – Come Up with Ten Post Ideas -Be creative but consider gaps you may be leaving in building a resource for your niche. Look at it from the angle of someone just starting to research the topic.
  • Day 12 – Develop an Editorial Calendar for your Blog -A good idea to try. I haven’t used anything like this but will try running one of the WordPress plugins and see how it goes.
  • Day 13 – Take a Trip to the Mall -Don’t get stuck in the online world. Study how businesses/ associations do things off the Internet and how they merge online and offline.
  • Day 14 – Update a Key Page on your Blog -Your About page is the obvious one to keep updated. Consider others you have and give them a dusting off too.
  • Day 15 – Find a Blog Buddy -I have a few blog buddies. People I have known online for years both socially and as writers working on a site.
  • Day 16 – Solve a Problem: 7 Ways to Identify a Reader’s Problems -Use statistics to see how people find your site. Also, look up other sites and read their categories and tags. Is your niche missing anything? Consider your niche as a resource for your readers. Fill it up.
  • Day 17 –  Watch a First Time Reader Use your Blog -Take an objective look at your blog. Test it, check navigation, loading time, readability. Ask for reviews of your site and listen to the feedback, don’t spoil honest feedback by getting defensive.
  • Day 18 – Create a Sneeze Page -A chance to show off your archived posts and highlight some of our best information.
  • Day 19 – Write an Opinion Post for your Blog – By giving an opinion you invite people to agree or debate with you in comments.
  • Day 20 – Leave Comments on Other Blogs – Spend some time writing relevant comments in other blogs. Give the kind of comments you would like to see yourself.
  • Day 21 – Breathe Life into an Old Post – Rewrite it as a new post and link back to the original. Don’t lose old comments and give yourself a chance to see what you’ve learned, how you have improved.
  • Day 22 – Pay Special Attention to a Reader – You want special attention from your readers so start by giving some first.
  • Day 23 – Call your Readers to Action – Interact with readers and ask for what you want. Read about calls to action and how that works.
  • Day 24 – How to Use a Magazine to Improve your Blog – Take ideas from magazine layouts, how they present their pages, their content and market themselves. Do the same with any other publication such as books, ebooks and newsletters too.
  • Day 25 – Ask a Question – Asking a question gears readers into giving an answer.
  • Day 26 – Improve Another Blog – You don’t have to be a web guru to do a good deed for another blogger. Give them an honest opinion in a constructive way.
  • Day 27 – Hunt for Dead Links – When a link can’t be fixed/ updated remove the HTML and leave a note to let readers know the site is gone or missing.
  • Day 28 – Write a Review Post – A review doesn’t have to sell anything. You can review something you love or do as a hobby. Keep the review balanced with objectivity.
  • Day 29 –  Develop a Plan to Boost your Blog’s Profile and Readership Online – Basically decide who you want to be reading your blog and then go out and find them.
  • Day 30 – 17 Statistics to Monitor your Blog – Don’t become a stats whore. Rank, statistics, popularity should be something you check to mark progress. Don’t cater your writing/ blogging to raising your numbers in this way. For one thing, none of them are that reliable.
  • Day 31 – Plan the Next Steps for your Blog – Be aware of other blogs and anything you like about them. Make plans for your own site, where do you want it to be as it grows. What do you want to improve. What could be changed. Do you want to take part in ad exchanges… more social media… split your blog into subsections or sub-blogs…

How to Write a Blog Review

If you’re ready to go forth and fearlessly give an honest review of another blog… you need a list to guide you along the way. It helps to have a plan with points which can guide you through the review. You don’t have to mention each point in your final written review but they keep you on track during the actual review.

Do you want a blog reviewed? Go to UP to the D.L. for a review of your blog by experienced blogging women.

Design

  • Is site navigation simple and natural? Do you have to search for buttons, links or archives?
  • Is there any kind of error, script or advertising that makes the site drag while it loads?
  • Does the site use pop up windows, flash, sound or video files which cause the site to load slowly or freeze up?
  • Is the site cluttered in the posting area, the sidebar or the surrounding space?
  • Is there some whitespace to let the reader’s eye have a break from text and images?
  • If the blog uses a premade theme/ template is it obvious or has the blogger made a few customizations so that it feels unique and interesting?
  • Does the site make use of the footer, include links back to the top of the site, contact information, links to other posts which may be of interest, etc.?
  • Were the comments easy to find and easy to use?
  • Is the overall blog design current (versus outdated looking) engaging, energizing or inviting?
  • Is the title of the site clear and easily read, is it located at the top of the site where people would expect to find it?
  • Is the CSS on the site working or do you see any images or text which are cut off or do not otherwise fit on the screen space or space which they are placed?
  • Do all the links in the navigation bar work and does the blog make good use of a navigation bar under the header or places elsewhere easy found and workable?
  • How many times do you scroll down to reach the bottom of the blog? Is there enough to read or too much?
  • Is there something about the design, the overall look of the blog that you especially like and would comment on in the review?

Navigation

  • Does the blog use breadcrumbs so you can select the category to see related posts or skip to the home page, etc.?
  • Can you get from one post to the next without returning to the home page each time?
  • Do the links, on at least the most recent posts, all work?
  • Does the blog redirect to another site?
  • Is there a link back to the home page in the footer and at the top of the blog which is easily found on any page being viewed?
  • Are categories and/ or tags used well?

Focus

  • Is the focus/ purpose of the site easily understood before you go looking for more information or even read a post?
  • Does the site seem to reach it’s intended audience, is it appealing to the target readers?
  • Does it have relevant and current posts and information on the topic?
  • Does the blog use a subtitle and does it make sense with the content and style of the blog.

Content

  • Do the blog posts attract comments/ reader response?
  • Does the content of the site stand out enough from the rest of the site?
  • Is it easy to read the blog posts, do the colours and fonts work?
  • As you begin reading posts is there a post that you especially enjoy or find useful?
  • Does the writer have a voice or style?
  • How is the site for standard spelling, grammar and punctuation?
  • Does the writer need to spend more time proofreading to catch typos?
  • Are the blog posts proactive, give the reader something to think about or come back for?
  • Does the site bring old posts up or related posts which can be read by readers once they finish the current post?
  • Does the site have any broken image files?
  • When graphics are used in a post are they effective, do they go with the post, make sense in their use?
  • Does the blogger tackle a large topic or idea and push it all into one post? Could they use this as a series or a post continued instead?
  • Does the blogger have enough space between paragraphs and ideas in their posts or when you look at a post is it a solid wall of text and not reader friendly?
  • Is the blog sticking to it’s focus or wandering too far off? Are there niche areas which could be used or have been underexplored so far?
  • Knowing many readers will skim posts, are the posts written in the pyramid/ news format?
  • Does the site mix up the format of posts, do they have some lists, some bullet points, some quotes, a bold line to highlight a point or a subheader, maybe even some coloured text or highlighted text in a post?
  • Do the headlines grab reader attention while also letting the reader know what the post will be about?

Site Admin.

  • Is there an About page which clearly explains the purpose and/ or niche of the site?
  • Does the About page explain why the blogger is an authority on the topic with their experience and interests listed?
  • Can you find the site archive and is it easy to navigate?
  • Is there at least one way to contact the blogger, other than leaving a comment on a blog post?
  • Is the blog software up to date or a security risk?
  • Does the site use Creative Commons or some form of copyrights on the blog?
  • Is there too much comment moderation, possibly limiting comments being made?
  • Is there a way to search the site for specific content, using a Search or through categories, tags or an index of content?
  • Does the site use meta tags for title, keywords, description, etc.?
  • When images are used do they belong to the blogger or is credit given when they belong to someone else?
  • Does the blogger give link backs/ proper credit to content they cut and paste from other sites/ sources?
  • If guest posts are used or if the site is looking for writers to contribute are there clear guidelines to what is expected and what the writer will get back from it?
  • Does the blogger have an author resource box at the end of each post, introducing the blogger and the site (a good thing when a post is linked from another blog)?
  • Does the blogger have a posting schedule and is it one which they are able to stick to?
  • Is there a blogroll (list of links), if so, is there some order to the links so readers could know what to expect when they click them?

Social Media/ Networking

  • Are you able to connect to the blogger through social media links like Facebook, StumbleUpon and Twitter?
  • Does the site syndicate, use an RSS feed?
  • Does the writer interact with readers in the blog comments?
  • Does the site use other media to interact or connect with readers: forum, podcast, etc.?
  • If the blogger has other sites, activities like contests or regular events like a weekly podcast are these links and promotions found on the site? Do the links work?

Branding

  • Is there a theme with the blog that carries through to different elements and any social media sites the blogger uses?
  • Would you know this was the same blogger if you found them on Twitter or another social media site or network? Does the site use an avatar in comments or elsewhere?

Finally…

  • Did you learn anything while doing the review?
  • Maybe you found a new site, a new plugin or social media?
  • Would you recommend this blog, link to them or follow them on Twitter?
  • Does the blog feel fresh, like it is still growing and evolving or does it fall a bit flat or feel stagnant even?

Is Your Computer Running Like Glue?

Sitting here, waiting to have my computer back from whatever crappy script some site is forcing it to run, I’ve been thinking how long it’s been since I saw the stores selling computer RAM. We’ve come to the point where it is cheaper to just replace the whole computer rather than trying to speed it up with adding hardware. Seems pretty backwards, wasteful too. No wonder outdated computers are such an issue. They way software grows so easily and so quickly and hardware (the stuff we have to buy ourselves) can’t keep pace.

Why don’t sites use less software, less scripts and crap that make them not just slow to load but freeze up and even crash? After all the years we’ve had the Internet isn’t it time they brightened up about this issue? Or, do they only make sites to be seen and used by people who just bought their computer a month ago and the rest of us are too far out of it to be of any consequence?

If you went on strike against the sites that cause your computer to slow down and freeze how many would you stop visiting, how many would be big and popular sites like Facebook (one major pain in the butt with all the bloated apps). You could easily find out which are the main culprits of your slowdowns. Just get rid of some plugins on your web browser, or set them off for a day. It would be a revealing experience. Browsers come pre-plugged now. That wasn’t always the case. I remember having to install and upgrade plugins regularly. Now they just become part of the browser update and people who are new online likely don’t even know about all the background plugins they are running. Or not running, or not running very well, as the case may be.

Any thoughts on this? Are you getting tired of having your computer, just a year old, seem to be running like an old race horse, ready to be retired into glue?

Don’t Let your Blog Tags get you Down

Tags are getting me down. I spent time working on my categories and have them pretty good. Only pretty good.

In the case of tags it is a massive mess. I want/ need something that will auto suggest tags for me. Rather than me trying to weed out a few from the huge list and then missing the very one I would have used, if I hadn’t forgotten it existed.

There may be some people who have perfectly organized and uncluttered tags in their blogs, I’m not one of them. So I am looking at WordPress plugins to help me get the job done. Here are my top four out of 11 which I installed and tested.

Strictly Auto Tags –  Two features which I really appreciate are being able to block common words from being used as tags and the other was being able to automatically delete all tags which are only used once. This was great as I had an excessive amount of these from another plugin I tried tonight. This plugin is one of my top two picks!

Simple Tags – This is the keeper for me. You have a lot of features to work with, including re-tagging old posts, setting up meta keywords, tag cloud and sorting through your tags (merging and deleting them). This is the second of my top two!

WP Tag Generator – Simple and it came up with good choices for the auto generated tags. I’m going to keep it as a back up. Even though it is light on extra features I like this one third best.

Web Ninja Auto Tagging System – I like this one. It lets you go back and tag old posts over again. Though, be warned, you will have a huge, bloated list of tags to deal with afterwards (most will not be tags you will want to keep). Still, this is one of the best plugins I tried, but I didn’t keep it.

WordPress Snow Where Ever you Go

I’ve begun using WP Effects to bring a few stray snowflakes to my blog this month. With WP Effect you can set it to have a massive snowstorm or just a trickle. I thought a trickle was enough. If I look out my window chances are I can see more snow, if I want to. I don’t mind the snow really. It gets rid of a lot of bugs and other living and sub-living things. A harder Winter gives me an easier Summer with my asthma.

Anyway, I thought I would make a list of snowy plugins for anyone who likes the idea and wants to do the same. I found WP Beginner has done the same but only mentioned one plugin, there are actually a few and each is a bit different (of course).

  • WP Effects is the snow plugin I am using right now. The snowflakes are big, they remind me of those huge soft flakes that fall when it is pretty mild outside. I like those Winter days. This plugin will also let you choose other image files or add those you make yourself. You can use them for falling leaves, raindrops, lucky clovers, as you desire. With WP Effects you can set the amount of snowfall to blizzard or a single snowflake.
  • Snow, Balloons and More – This one also lets you choose different images files, snow speed and other options. One good feature I like is being able to put the snow on a timer and have it turn off for someone who is staying on your blog to read awhile. The snow could be distracting for a reader so this is a good thing.  This same page has a link for a fireworks and birthday balloon plugin as well. A very feature rich plugin.

Plugins for snow only:

  • Snowstorm shows you how to customize the script yourself. You can give your snowflakes a blue tinge, set them to twinkle and set the amount of snow to be falling. The flakes here are small white dots, some might like the smaller image. The plugin author also offers a script to have Christmas lights along the top of your blog. They will all break if you hover your mouse over them.
  • Javascript Snowflake Generator – Not a lot of information about the script other than a screenshot. It works just fine and was updated in November (2010) but I don’t know if it has any extra features to make it more adaptable.

You can set up a plugin which gives you snow people on your blog. They load once and then give a Merry Christmas and go away. Very cute.

As an extra, I just noticed that Island Paradise, one of the few Facebook games I still play, has just added snow to their game. It looks very pretty. How long does it take you to become saturated with pretty? I know there will be some people complaining about the use of snow in the game or on weblogs too. Some people just are that way, overly critical and Grinchy. I don’t take them seriously until it’s been snowing at least a week on my blog. Then, they might have reason to feel it’s snowed long enough. Still, it is up to me to decide how much snowfall there will be. I still like it!

How Does Your Syndication Grow?

We are all so syndicated these days. Using social media like Twitter and Facebook to post our posts to other networks and then the feed readers which have lost some popularity, we have been able to build a much bigger network for what we write. Do you still count subscribers? Do you know where to look for an amount of subscribers? Or does Google Analytics give you all the reader and social statistics you need?

Ben wrote about counting your Twitter followers as subscribers. This works for me. However, not all of those people are following you for your blog. If you are using Twitter well you post more than regurgitated blog entries. You should be posting relevant content as well as every day this and that which makes you seem like a real person with something to say. People are far more interesting to follow on Twitter if they post random thoughts, link to other content they find and interact with other people on Twitter. You hope they will also have a look at your blog, but there is no guarantee. Does it matter? That depends on why you keep the blog, is it a tool, a part of the whole or do you need people at the blog to make your money?

Ben also wrote about making your feed useful again. It’s a good post. If you want to revamp your feed he has ideas that will work for you. I’m going to leave mine to dwell in the land of dust bunnies. As I commented on Ben’s blog, I just don’t have the time to put into this online tool any more. It isn’t as useful for me as other options, like Twitter.

I don’t know when I will ever have time to edit my feed reader. I have really given up on it years ago, never actually got into the whole thing really. I do use Twitter and especially Facebook as my feed reader now. I miss a lot and I am fine with that. I’m not trying to be omnipotent or anything like that. What I do catch is enough. The main thing is keeping a balance in my life so I am not feeling pressured to stay up all night just catching up on things. I spend a lot more time on maintenance and promotion than I actually write anything. It’s amazing how much time gets sucked up on stuff no one really sees. I also try to be social and that isn’t something I am good at. I’d happily be a social hermit and just leave everything to be read and not put myself into the picture at all.

What does it take for you to feel read? What numbers work for you? I’ve got the WordPress.com Stats plugin and that gives me a daily head count. Of course, it’s not perfect. It omits extra details like what people read, what people were real versus comment spammers and most of all it doesn’t tell me what people liked about my site. But, the generic numbers are enough for me. The main reason I like to watch traffic is the same reason I am a clock watcher at work. It keeps me going. As I count up the readers or down the hours I know where I am headed and I keep myself on track. I have a goal I can attain.