Find Bloggers in Your Neck of the Woods

I just signed up for and added two of my blogs to a new directory. It’s called Loaded Web, and they call it the first fully geo-based blog directory. When you add your blog, you also choose your country, state/province, and city. Add a description and some tags and submit your blog for approval. They don’t allow sites that feature adult content (nudity included), promote gambling, promote illegal activities, promote hate, feature warez, and/or are not blogs, so your blog has to be approved before it can be listed. It was really quick though. I just submitted mine this evening, and they’re already approved and listed.

Now comes the fun part – searching the directory to find blogs in your neighborhood! I already found one from a neighboring town. Of course, you can also search to find blogs in other areas, too. It’s fairly new, so there aren’t a lot of blogs there, yet, but I think it will be fun to see where blogs are coming from.

Loaded Web is currently available for blogs from Canada, United States and United Kingdom.

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Counting Words

Since I write paid posts on a couple of my blogs, I like being able to count the number of words in my posts. If I have to write a minimum of 200 words, I need to know when I get to 200 words. I usually end up rambling on and writing more, but that’s beside the point.

I did have a tool in Firefox that counted the words for me, but since I installed Firefox 3, I haven’t been able to use it. Probably I should look for a new extension that will do it for me, but until then, this Word Count Tool works really well. Just paste the post into the box and hit ‘Submit’ to find out how many words you have. It also explains what is counted and what isn’t, and it’s free.

Windows Live Writer

I recently downloaded Windows Live Writer and have been using it to post to my blogs.  So far I have set up three of my blogs, counting this one, and can easily post to any of them.  It works with most major blog services including WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, and TypePad, and it automatically detects your blog’s theme.  As you write, you can see just how it will look on your blog, before you publish.

Windows Live Writer makes it easy to insert graphics, hyperlinks, tables, maps, and more.  Also, if you can’t be connected to the Internet, you can still write your posts, and they’ll be ready to publish when you get back online.  I used this feature last week, and it was so nice.

You can read about all the features of Windows Live Writer here.  I also downloaded some Plug-ins to extend the features.  One of them is this Polaroid Picture Plug-in I haven’t tried until now.

That’s kind of cool, but the Plug-in I have high hopes for is one that is supposed to let me easily blog a page or selection of a page right from my browser.  That will be particularly helpful for this blog.  When I see something I want to share, I just have to select the "Blog This" button at the top of my browser, and it will open a new or existing post in Windows Live Writer.  Then, I can easily share what I just found. 

Because, even though I’m always running across things I get really excited about, I still find myself forgetting to bookmark, forgetting to share, and losing them.  That is not good.

Quote web pages with kwout

I’ve been having a lot of fun with kwout. It lets you quote part of a web page as an image. If there are links in the part of the web page you quote, kwout automatically creates an image map, and all those links will still work! For instance, I used kwout to cut out the list of blogs I have linked from my other blog. Just try it – you can click on any of those links and they will work.

Kwout is easy to use. Simply drag the bookmarklet to your toolbar. Then, when you find a web page you want to quote, click on the kwout bookmarklet to get a screenshot of the page. You can either have it open in the same window or in a new window. Drag the mouse to select the area you want to cut out. Click on the “Cut Out” button, and the area you selected will be cut out as an image, with an image map if it included hyperlinks. You can set some different options, like whether or not the image has a border or a shadow, and the background color. Then kwout gives you an embed code to paste the image into your blog or website and share it with everyone. You don’t even have to save the image to your computer or anywhere else. Just link it from kwout.

Backing Up Your Blog

I’ve been blogging with Blogger for quite a while. I’ve never had any problems with it, but there is always that possibility. I hate to admit that I had never backed my blog up until very recently. I had more than a year’s worth of posts and comments that I would hate to lose. I saved each archive page to my computer, which will give me the posts but not the comments.

Recently I found out about another option. I can import all my Blogger posts and comments to my WordPress.com blog. I had signed up for a free account and created a blog a while ago, but I’m not really using it, so tonight I imported all of the posts from this blog. It was really simple and quick – of course, I don’t have nearly as many posts on this blog as on my other one, so that one will probably take a bit longer. I will also have to change it to the New Blogger, at least long enough to get it backed up.

To back up your own blog – first, if you haven’t already done so, sign up for a free account at WordPress.com. Go ahead and create a blog there. You can have as many as you want – all for FREE. (I love free stuff!) Once you have a WordPress.com blog, select your blog from the “My Dashboards” drop-down menu. Once on the blog dashboard, select “Manage” and there will be an option called “Import” – choose that. There are several options, for our purposes, and because that’s what I did, choose “Blogger” and it will ask you for permission.

Howdy! This importer allows you to import posts and comments from your Blogger account into your WordPress blog.

To use this importer, you must have a Google account, an upgraded (New, was Beta) blog, and it must be on blogspot or a custom domain (not FTP).

The first thing you need to do is tell Blogger to let WordPress access your account. You will be sent back here after providing authorization.

Hit the “Authorize” button and grant access when Google asks. Once you authorize it, you will be taken back to WordPress.com where you will see a list of your Blogger blogs. Select the blog you wish to import, and hit the “Import” button. Magically, all the posts and comments from that blog will be imported to your WordPress.com blog! In the future, when you want to do a back-up, any posts and comments that have already been imported will be skipped.

How cool is that? Now, since it’s a back-up, I will probably eventually set my WordPress blog to private, because I don’t really need duplicate content out there. What I do need is the peace of mind I get from knowing everything is backed up – just in case.

Blogger and OpenID

The comments on Blogger have changed recently, making it harder for bloggers without a Google/Blogger account to leave a link to their blog. Before they could select the ‘Other’ option and leave their name and link. Now, there’s just a ‘Nickname’ option with nowhere to put the link in. Yesterday, I read on LadyBanana that there is a fix for this:

I have just set up the facility on this blog for commenters to sign in using not only their Google/Blogger account but also their own sign in from WordPress, Aol/Aim, LiveJournal, Typekey or any OpenID.

This option is currently only possible to set up through Blogger in Draft

I’m not sure exactly what Blogger in Draft is, and that’s a question for another day, but I went in and set it up. It looks just like your regular Dashboard. Go to Settings – Comments, and you have these options, allow comments from:

  • Anyone – includes Anonymous Users
  • Registered Users – includes OpenID
  • Users with Google Accounts
  • Only members of this blog

Select ‘Anyone’ and save your settings. Now, you should have a drop-down box for comments that lets people sign in with a Blogger/Google ID, or WordPress, Aol/Aim, LiveJournal, Typekey or any OpenID. Please note that, if you edit your comment settings in your regular Dashboard after doing this, the drop-down box will go away and you will have to edit again in Blogger Draft.

I thought that would solve things and let people go back to commenting and linking back to their blogs all in one step. That works fine for people with blogs on those services, but what about the ones with their own domains and their blogs hosted elsewhere? What exactly is this OpenID, and can that solve the problem? I started looking and found this list that says, if you use one of these services, then you already have an OpenID. Some of them are already on the drop-down list for comments, so it looks like Blogger has taken some of them and made it easier to sign in with that ID. For instance, instead of typing in: username.livejournal.com, a LiveJournal user can simply select ‘LiveJournal’ in the comment drop-down and type in their username. Once their comment is submitted, the username will link to their LiveJournal blog.

My question is still – what about those who have blogs hosted elsewhere? If they’re not on the list? One option, if they have a Technorati account, is to choose ‘any OpenID’ and type in: technorati.com/people/technorati/username – This will leave a link to their Technorati profile, which isn’t bad. From there, anyone who is interested can find all of their blogs.

Still, I’m not sure that’s the best answer, either. I ended up signing up for ClaimID – a free, easy way to manage your online identity with OpenID. There I found an option for setting up your blog or website as an OpenID. I’m not sure if you can view this page without having an account and being signed in, so I’m going to quote it here:

How do I delegate my OpenID…

With OpenID, you can easily set your webpage or blog up as an identity URL using delegation. For example, say your blog is “myblog.com”, and you’d like to use this URL as your OpenID rather than your claimID URL (we promise not to be too offended). By inserting a little bit of code into your blog or website, you can easily make this blog or website your OpenID.

Rather than logging in with http://claimID.com/username, you’d log in with http://myblog.com. Of course, claimID will still be providing the backend (no need for you to install your own OpenID server!) so you’ll be asked for your password by claimID. However, when you show up as a commenter on a Livejournal thread, for example, your blog or website will be your OpenID url.

To set your blog or website up as a delegate, simply add this snippet of code into the of your page. It will need to go between the and elements on the page.

Brilliant! And now you can log into all of the great OpenID sites with your blog or webpage.

Of course, your code will have your username. ClaimID generates it for you. I had to add some extra spaces in the code for Blogger to accept it in a post, but you get the idea.

Hopefully this has given you a few options for commenting on Blogger and being able to link back to your blog. Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll see if I can find the answers.

Design and Layout for Your Site

#2 from the list I mentioned before, 75 Ways to Increase Your Site’s Traffic is:

  1. Have a good design and layout. If your site or blog’s design is messy, sloppy, hard to navigate, a rainbow of colors that don’t match or are hard on the eye, or full of errors, you will instantly go down the drain.

We certainly don’t want to go down the drain, do we? I keep an eye out for nice looking blogs and websites. When I find one, I look to see if I can find out where they found that design. Some people pay to have a professional design their site. I’m cheap, and I look for the free designs and layouts. I know they say you get what you pay for, but I have found quite a few very nice FREE layouts.

  1. FinalSense.com, where I found the layout for this blog, has some really nice ones with all kinds of themes.
  2. Blogskins, layouts and designs of all kinds. Not all of them are good as far as being easy to read, but there seems to be something for everyone.
  3. Pyzam also has a whole bunch of free Blogger templates. The hard part is picking one.

Once you find a layout you like, it doesn’t hurt to know a little html and css so you can tweak it and make it yours. Just watch that rainbow of colors!

Comment Pop-Ups

For a while now, I’ve had problems with the comment pop-ups on Blogger. If someone has selected ‘show comments in a popup window’ in their blog settings, whenever anyone clicks on the comments link, it opens a pop-up window with all the comments and the comment form. While I don’t know why someone would want this option, it wouldn’t cause a problem, except – the pop-up window is this tall, skinny box. It can’t be resized or maximized, and only about three words show up on each line. Actually trying to type a comment in? Practically impossible. If word verification has been enabled? Completely impossible, because none of the letters can even be seen, let alone typed into the box.

Now, I’m not willing to go away without commenting, so there must be a way to get around this. Yes, there is. First, I mouse over the comments link. If the link ends in ‘Popup=true’ I right-click and select ‘Open Link in New Tab’. Then I go to that new tab to submit my comment. It opens full size, and I can read all the comments and type my comment in easily.

Now, if someone can explain to me why so many pop-ups, and not just in Blogger, are popping up in such strange sizes, I would really appreciate it.

Switching to My Own Domain

I recently read an article saying I could buy my own domain, but continue hosting my blog here on Blogspot. By keeping my blog in the same place and letting Google forward everything, I won’t lose any of my incoming links, readers, or PageRank. I know that doesn’t have anything to do with this blog, because it is brand new. I don’t have any links, readers, or PageRank, yet.

But I figured that, if I was going to try the custom domain, I would try it out on a new blog first – before switching an established blog. Besides, now this blog will always have its own domain – provided I did it right. We shall see.

I followed these instructions on How to Use the New Custom Domain Feature for Your Blogspot Blog. Then I followed the instructions to use custom domain on my blog. Now I’m waiting to see if it works. It says it could take a couple days to get everything switched, which means I probably should have followed the first instructions to tell my domain where to point. Then, once it was pointing to the right place, changed my blog, instead of doing it all at once. Because the blog is already pointing to the domain, but the domain hasn’t forwarded to the blog yet.

I will be sure to let you know how it turns out.

To Increase Traffic

I’d love to have more people read my blogs. I like readers. I like comments. I like traffic – just not the kind where I’m in a car, and other people are in their cars, and we’re all trying to go our own ways, and no one is getting anywhere fast. I like website traffic. Today I was browsing through this list of 75 Ways to Increase Your Site’s Traffic, and I really want to spend some more time with this list, figuring out how many of these 75 ways I can apply for my sites. I’m starting now with #1 – write more content.

Of course, I just gotta share it, because, if you’ve got a website or a blog, you probably like traffic, too.