Ok, this is something I’ve actually thought about doing for a long time, but have always refrained because I was sure it would bore most people to tears. But, I’m enough of a gearheadtechnogeek that I love learning the tools people use to do things. Brendon is great at writing about software tools and how they can be useful, and over the months I’ve been blogging, I’ve added a lot of tools to the toolbox. So, here’s the mechanics behind my current (ever evolving) system of blogging.
First, I’m on the Mac platform. Always have been. I’m used to it, so I much prefer it to Windows, but I recognize that as a personal preference. My current system is an iBook (800 mhz G3, so it’s getting a little long in the tooth).
I use Blogger to host my blog, primarily because I wanted to post on Jimmy’s blog and had to set up an account. It’s free, and it’s easy. You can customize the look with one of their templates, or find others easily on the web (like here). You can also learn about CSS and write your own code, if you want. In the first incarnation of Gregg’s Gambles, I modified a template or “blogskin” from here, learning quite a bit about coding on the way.
Instead of posting through the web interface of blogger, I’ve settled on client software on my computer to compose and post blog entries. I use ecto, which has both a Mac and a PC version. It’s fairly new in its development cycle, which means lots of updates and changes, but it’s great. Very easy to do basic formatting, and it has great, simple tools for building Amazon links, for instance. It’s much faster and more responsive than Blogger’s website; to me, it’s like comparing using webmail or a separate client for e-mail.
I discovered Flickr, a free service that will keep copies of pictures online for you, and that links up quite seamlessly with Blogger. When you set up your account, you can give it your user id and password for your blog on Blogger (or other blog hosting services). Then, you have all sorts of cool tools for posting pics on your blog, including a special e-mail address. When you send a picture to that address, your picture is saved on Flickr online, and it automatically posts an entry on your blog, as well. This is what I use with my camera phone; snap a pic, e-mail it to the address on Flickr, and it’s posted on my blog magically.
Then I discovered a tool that makes using Flickr even easier; it’s called 1001. On the Mac, most of us have our pictures catalogued in iPhoto; 1001 easily pulls up my iPhoto library, and offers a slick interface for uploading to Flickr, doing all the size converting transparently. It keeps an update of the photos in my photo stream on Flickr, and then I can click on the picture I want to blog about in 1001, click “blog this”, and it opens ecto with the links automatically in place for the picture. Very slick!
So far, I’ve posted two movies on my blog. I edited and compressed them with Final Cut Express (iMovie works, too), then uploaded the finished product to the file storage I get with my Comcast service at home. I had to do some digging to find the html code that can embed a movie, but I found instructions here. (I also post my sermons to my Comcast storage, and link to it from the blog.)
It took me awhile before I put a counter on my blog…but once I did, I discovered it’s way more cool than just figuring out the numbers of people who hit the blog. I use Sitemeter (there are other free services that do this), and it gives more information than I thought possible. I can see where each visitor is from, what link (if any) brought them here, even what computer platform and browser they use and what resolution their screen is at. It’s quite addictive!
Awhile back I added Haloscan’s trackback service to my blog…which has never been used yet. 🙂 The idea is, if someone links to my blog, they post a trackback, which lets anyone easily click on the trackback number to see who’s blogged about what I blogged. Sort of like glorified comments; but I think you have to be much more big time than me to have it actually get used.
My latest two additions are Amazon Associates and Technorati. Since I was already linking to lots of books and some movies on Amazon, the Associates program was worth a try. You get a free account with them, and then you can build a whole variety of links to Amazon. If someone clicks on my link and buys something on Amazon, I get a small percentage of the purchase price, like a sales commission. Technorati I’m just learning-they have lots of blog indexing tools by tags and topics, which I think I can learn to do a better job of taking advantage of to bring more traffic to the blog.
I’m realizing that the best way to build new readership is by posting on other blogs; but with literally millions out there, I wondered how people had time to read and respond to so many different blogs. Enter Bloglines. Get a free account, and when you find a blog you like, add it to bloglines. Then, it does all the grunt work of checking when there’s an update. You just log in to bloglines, and you see quickly which blogs are new. You can read the new entries right in bloglines, or just scan the headlines and read what interests you. It makes it really easy to follow a lot of different blogs and discussions with a minimum of time. And, it gives you a way to find new blogs; after you add a blog to bloglines, you can click on a link called “related feeds”. It’s sort of like, “If you like THIS blog, you might want to try…” I’ve discovered lots of new stuff that way.
I think that’s about it. And believe me, I know I’m not the big time. If you want to see big time, look at AJ or her husband Jason. They’re on the wordpress platform, which I’m still contemplating jumping to. You end up buying your own domain name and hosting service, but you get more features. The feature I love can be seen on AJ’s site. She can file each blog under a category or categories, and then on her right sidebar, it automatically keeps track. Someone could click on one of the categories, and automatically see all the posts she’s made with that tag. THAT looks sweet!
What tools do you use? How can you help me do more cool things? (And, Tanya…now you know all I know. Start blogging!)