Starting with a Burnt Phoenix

This is a bare bones blog theme. You are not having a computer glitch.

I want to enjoy blogging again so I am creating this blog from the start. Not that I want to reinvent the wheel – I’m starting with WordPress and working my way up from there. I have used other blog software, including Blogger, but WordPress has the most support these days so if I hit a snag or want to do something unique, chances are I can find help when/ if I break something.

I’ve been blogging (web publishing) a long time and I have several sites in various stages of activity. This domain is going to be one I keep to myself (mostly) as I get back to basics and make blogging fun (for me) again.

You are welcome here. Leave your own thoughts about blogging. Negative stuff I don’t want to read (or post) will be moderated.

I’m Posting this with ScribeFire

ScribeFireI’ve tried ScribeFire before. I just didn’t stick with it long enough to find it useful. This time around I’m going to try to give it more time and patience for the learning and setting up process.

Do you use third party software for your online writing/ blogging or web site publishing? I avoid a lot of it. More stuff just makes things complicated and confusing – for me anyway. Keep it simple is one of my favourite mottos.

My first impression of ScribeFire this time around was not great. The site has no updates since 2011. That makes me suspect it is a project which faded out along the way. But, so far it seems to be working. I don’t see spellcheck popping up yet though. I know myself enough to know spellcheck has saved me from hundreds of typos. When spellcheck lights up I (usually) listen.

Blog Security

Procrastinating Writers wrote about being hacked and so could you… but wouldn’t you rather avoid getting into that situation?

Essentially…

Be prepared by having a back up of your content. Keep your files, blog posts, comments and images in a back up so you can easily get everything back online whether you are hacked, have content lost on your web server for some other reason or an error while upgrading blog software.

Use preventive measures by keeping your software (blog software, plugins, applications and etc) updated and manage your passwords. Use strong passwords, don’t share them with others and change them now and then.

ProBlogger – A post about using WP Database Backup plugin to keep back ups of your WordPress blog.

I am trying LastPass which was recommended in comments on the Procrastinating Writers blog post.

Set new passwords using StrongPasswordGenerator rather than coming up with something you come up with yourself.

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.

A WordPress Plugin to Share with Kindle

This is a great plugin to have added in, smarter than social media I think. Getting your blog post forwarded to hardware (like a printer) is better than the software of Twitter, Facebook and the other social media sites.

The Send to Kindle Button lets readers enjoy your blog anytime, everywhere on their Kindle devices and free reading apps.

via WordPress › Send to Kindle « WordPress Plugins.

Avatar-Making for your Online Profile

avatar makingAn avatar gives you a face when you fill out a profile online. There are endless places you can use an avatar on the web: email signatures, blog comments, forum profiles, HubPages or any other site you create an account on.

For this post I am focusing on sites which let you create the avatar online, from start to finish. You may need a screen capture software to save your finished avatar in an image file on your own computer. Go to the home site for your web browser and look up the add-ons. I use Chrome and Firefox (at different times) both of those have simple add-ons which let you use screen capture right from your web browser.

Many online game sites will give you an avatar when you sign up to play their game. This is another way to create an avatar, but it requires you to register for the site and have an account first. If you are not interested in playing the game you can still create an avatar and save it on your own computer, but you will have to take the time to register for the site, first.

Creating an Avatar with Your Own Art

The avatar can be an image of your own choosing. Use a photo you have taken. Your own art/ drawings in an image file (png, jpg or gif files) are great as avatars too.

Modify the image to fit the size you need. Most profiles will have a size limit. Some will have a limit for the pixels/ bandwidth of the image as well. There are web graphic programs which can resize an image. Some have features which let you add text, change colours and change the shape of the image, give it a different background and so on. You can use software such as Gimp, for image editing.

Globally Recognized Avatar

Once you have your avatar go to Gravatar and set up an account. This is a free online service which gives you a globally recognized avatar which will automatically show up when you comment on WordPress blogs or use various comment services and forums online.

Try Making Your Own Web Avatar (last updated on March 18, 2012).

Movable Type: Faded and Beat Up a Bit but not Forgotten

movabletypeMovable Type can run several different blogs from a single domain. It gives you the basic features, just like WordPress. But, Movable Type doesn’t have as much community support for extra plugins, themes and widgets.

There are trade-offs when you want to run alternative software, the underdog. But, Movable Type works, even if it’s not the hugely popular and well known content management software it once was.

I’m making slow progress on re-learning Movable Type for my own site. But, I want a slow start while I decide on my direction and overall plan. One thing I do know – I don’t want to stick to the mainstream and use WordPress or Blogger. So, there’s going to be a learning curve, some adventure, some frustration and I’ll see how it all turns out in the end.

An Alternative to WordPress

movable typeToday the books I ordered for Movable Type arrived. Both are for out dated versions because almost no one is writing books about Movable Type now. But, it used to be the most popular blog software – it was beating out WordPress when WordPress was still new. Then, Movable Type decided to change their marketing plan.

They offered to let people pay for it. It was a bad decision at that time. People were used to the Internet being free. Yes, you paid for your ISP but once you got online it was all free. Sure there were some shareware and software you had to pay for, but there were always free alternatives. There wasn’t anything you really had to pay for.

So, when Movable Type changed their policy, they lost the final battle and WordPress had an easy victory – they didn’t have to lift a finger. In just a few months Movable Type had lost almost all the ground it had gained. A shame, it was still the same software, still a great way to run your blog wtih a lot of features and room to be creative.

I’m glad Movable Type hasn’t disappeared in the years since then. It’s changed owners, Ben and Mena Trott have moved on. But, it’s still a good package and another option for anyone who wants something less mainstream than WordPress but still reliable (and free). Movable Type brought back the free software plan years ago. Give it a look.

Movable Type Links and Resources

Open Melody: The Open Source Version of Movable Type (The Project that Died Out)

melody CMS

Other Alternatives to WordPress

b2evolution is a free open source project.

Text Pattern is also a free and open source CMS.

Sample Image Only for Content Curation?

sample image only

How Much is too Much?

There are a few issues with content ownership (copyrights) and content curating. The focus is – how much is too much? When you curate content the main point is to show what you found worth linking to. Explaining your reason for the link in a quick, simple way which will send readers to the source to read or view more. Content curators should not be copying so much information that their reader will not need to visit the source.

I know I have not done a 100% job of staying on the right side of that line. A content curator is an aggregator – the person who casts the net and chooses which hooks have the best bait in their lake (niche/ topic). The readers are the little and big fish who choose which hook to bite based on their own needs. A curator finds a lot of good stuff in the net and we want the readers to find our resource useful, topical, resourceful and an authority on the topic. It is tempting to give just a bit more, to post the information in a quick, simplified or condensed form. However, I also like being the provider of that little nibble to send readers to the mother fish. I like knowing I am generating traffic for the source of the information.

Getting it from the Source

Another issue is backtracking the link to find the actual, original source rather than those who have shared and re-shared the link. For the content curator, the original source is important to catch. To be just one more person re-linking and re-sharing is not the way to make ourselves seem a reliable authority.

Sample Image Only?

Another issue is images versus text. To content curate an image you take the whole image and paste it up. Meanwhile, for text content we take only some of the content. Should images be curated differently, as a small preview size or a partial image? I don’t see many people talking about this aspect.

When an image is the post, should we use screen capture software to just give a preview of the image, a sample of the original image, photograph or web graphic? Why is text content given more protection and consideration than illustration and image content?

Who is the Big Winner in a Web Battle?

Forgotten Movable TypeThe end of Google Reader and the rush of new Feedly accounts has caused people to declare Feedly a “big winner” in the battle for picking up the sudden slack now that Google is closing Google Reader.

I think it is early to call Feedly a big winner. For one thing, it is not so hard to get a lot of new accounts when the tide turns suddenly. Keeping them is another issue. How will Feedly manage the load on their servers? Not so well that first several hours. I began setting up an account and could not complete the process. Is my half done account one of those they have counted as a new member? Likely. How many others are accounted for mistakenly this way?

Beyond that, will Feedly keep it’s new accounts with new features, will they adapt what they have for what the Google Reader crowd will be expecting? People seldom want change, even when they make a change they really want everything to be about the same. The Google Feedlies won’t want to learn how to use a new site, with different software, different buttons to mash.

Anyway, what I really got thinking about is how small this little battle is compared to past web service/ software battles.

RIP NetscapeThe first which comes to my mind  is the browser wars between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. At the time MSIExplorer won. Even now you could be kind and say MSIExplorer is still the winner. But, it would be a kindness. At this time Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is the web browser which has to be coddled along when it comes to web design and development. Code has to be added for it, like bottle feeding an over grown baby. Poor Netscape is gone. You may find an old version, unsupported and dusty. Isn’t there some quote about the heros of the past or the underdogs?

The other big battle was the one between the ruling blog software (not counting Blogger/ Blogspot, this was a war between the stand alones, the blogs for people who bought domains and learned how to write code, or at least manipulate and customize it).

In the beginning Ben and Mena Trott had Movable Type as the most popular, undisputed champion of the blogging world. If you had a blog, on a domain, you were most likely, proudly running Movable Type. Then, along came an upstart, WordPress. At first WordPress wasn’t even an underdog, it was just some little pretender to the throne. Movable Type was king, who needed anything else? Then… Movable Type made a change… just one change… they asked people to pay for what had been free. The utopia toppled, there were grumbling rebels and when the rubble and smoke cleared WordPress (and Matt Mullenweg) were sitting on the throne. Movable Type hung on, there were many who kept their old versions afloat, stubbornly refusing to be disloyal. But, in the end, a blog software is only as good as the community support behind it.

Now, Movable Type is a relic, still standing in some far off place, unknown to anyone but old timers. WordPress was the big winner, in that case there was a big winner. I couldn’t say the same for the battle of the web browsers. Neither of them have ended on top. Firefox and Google Chrome have a friendly rivalry, not a war, not a battle, but not quite a friendship.

What do you think were the biggest wars for turf online? There have been a lot of them, even for the people who haven’t been online for the long haul. Which one or two web battle comes to your mind and what did it change for you?

Disqus Can Take a Flying Leap!

Disqus Doesn't Work

I had read about Disqus on lynda.com, one of the courses. I decided to give Disqus another try based on how good it was made to sound. I had trouble with it before, as a commenter on other blogs/ sites. I should have stuck to that and never started with the damned thing.

I don’t know how it is for anyone commenting (trying to comment) on my sites. But, it is SHITE on a stick, when I try to use it to comment anywhere else. It can not find my login. It does not have my API – neither do I!  I can’t see anywhere to login to Disqus. Am I just imagining the whole thing, is this some blog commenting nightmare? No, it’s blog commenting software that demands I jump through hoops, do some backflips and maybe then I will be allowed to comment.

Piss off Disqus. How is that for great professionalism?

Urrrgggggh! DELETED!!!