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Monday, February 25, 2008

Bloggers need home IT support

I don't know about you, but my field is science, not IT. I have no formal training in IT and whatever I learned about HTML, XHTML, CSS, skills needed by a webmaster (bloggers are by default webmasters as they are response for how their blog are displayed and found by surfers on the Web). Further, I have 4 computers in my home which are networked together for Internet access. Beyond that, I have not done any further networking such as sharing files, printers, scanners, etc. Sometimes, I have problems with the computer and need the problem solved urgently as they may be a post I need to publish urgently. It has happened before and it can happen again. The last time it happened, I had to lug the CPU (that big black box with processor or CPU, hard disk, CD-ROM, etc.) on my scooter and carried the heavy desktop from the parked scooter to the computer repair shop a long distance away.

Now with the availability of Home IT Support service which offers computer repair or pc help at your home itself, I can save myself all that bother if I make a decision to subscribe to their services.

From the website, it appears that you can get IT support via home visits and support via telephone. It appear to me they can even access your computer remotely and get the problem fixed to get your Personal Computer working again.

Sounds tempting.

Protection for bloggers and surfers

I have read of many cases of blogs being hijacked, hacked into, and all kind of very unpleasant stuff. If your blog get hijacked, not only you may not have access to your blog, you may find it being redirected to porn or sexually explicit websites which can be really embarrassing especially if you have given the blog URL to relatives, friends, colleagues, business associates, etc. Further, as a blogger, I have many files in my hard disk which are essential for my blogging tasks and which I cannot afford to lose. That may well happen if somehow my computer get infected with a virus which may wipe out the content of my hard disk.

I am not a hacker, so I don't know exactly how they do it, but I guess one of the way is to somehow, for example, by installing a key logger into your computer without you knowing it, and stealing your user names and passwords. Whatever it is, I think important stuff like these are best left to experts with antivirus software. With such antivirus software installed, I can at least blog with better peace of mind knowing that I am protected.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Searching for blogs by topics or subjects

I have previously published Technorati blog search engine and blog ranking website but a more comprehensive post need to be published. We will discuss the possibilities one by one:

Blogger Profile's Interests and Favorites

You can add your interests and favorites in various fields when editing your Blogger Profile (if you don't know how to do this, you will have to commend and ask for help). The interests and favorites you add become active links when you or anyone view the profile. Check Peter Chen's Profile, for example. To show exactly what I am talking about, below is a screenshot of the "Interest section" of my Profile (note that the screenshot below is an image and therefore the links you see there will result in surfing to the web page just containing the screenshot):

Blogger Profile Interests (favorites)

While the links, "blogging", in Peter Chen's Profile for example, if you click on it, will lead you to a page containing all the bloggers using the Google Blogger blogging platform or those whose interests include blogging, and you can click on a chosen profile and see the blog or list of blogs that that blogger has.

Blog search engines

Google blog search engine

Google introduced the Google blog search engine not too long ago. As I have no time to try it out, I will greatly appreciate feedback from those who have or intend to try out this Google blog search engine by commenting and letting us know of your experience.

UPDATE 24 February 2008: Received news that Google blog search engine returns not only blogs, but ordinary websites. The team that is working on Google blog search has been informed and is working on it. I have not tested it but if you have, will greatly you letting us know of your experience by leaving a comment.


Yahoo blog search

People are really taking notice of blogs. Google is not the only giant that has introduced a specialized search engine for blogs. Yahoo has also came up with its own Yahoo blog search engine which is different from the very basic and plain Google blog search engine, which is rather like the standard Google general Web search engine. The Yahoo blog search engine has in addition to the search box at the top left corner of the page, also have frequently updated posts on topics of interest to bloggers. It is more like a blog cum blog search engine. and like above and the rest below, I will greatly appreciate feedback from those who have or intend to try these blog search engines by leaving a comment or comments.

Blogs Search Engine

You can also try Blog Search Engine.

Blog Search blog directory

Blog search blog directory is almost like the Yahoo blog search engine in that it is a blog search engine cum blog categories where blogs are classified according to various topics like "family", "politics", etc.

Bloggernity Search Engine Directory

Bloggernity Search Engine Directory is another blog search engine cum blog directory.

BlogDigger blog search engine

BlogDigger blog search engine is rather like Google blog search engine except that in this case, you can download and install their BlogDigger toolbar into your Web browsers and search for blogs direct from the toolbar in the Web browser. I have too many toolbars and I don't think I will ever add one more toolbar to any of my Web browsers.

In addition to the above, BlogDigger blog search engine also have a tab LINKS to get to a page where you can find which website is linking to your blog or any other websites. However, the last time I search for back links to my popular blogs, it turned up no result. There are also tabs for MEDIA, GROUPS and LOCAL, the last I supposed, is to search for blogs of bloggers in specific localities. I am not too impressed by these new features, but you may have a better experience.

BlogPulse

BlogPulse is another blog search engine cum other things. Among the "other things" are TREND SEARCH where you can create your own graphs plotting blog buzz for certain search terms. A trend search for "Blogger", for example, turned up the graph below:

blog trend chart

A trend chart like this may be useful, for example, to show a particular topic is quickly becoming a hot topic and you may want to capitalize on that by blogging more on that topic.

There are other things you may want to explore, but perhaps want to mention just one. One of my most popular posts which as of 23 February 2008, attracted 79 comments. BlogPulse has a Conversion tracker where you input a search term or a post post URL (permalink) (or "seed") and you can track blogs where other bloggers link to it, the original post. From those seeds sprout other links, and so and so on, until it creates an entire conversation. Unfortunately the maximum depth of the tree is only 3, so I found only 3 links to that post, one of which was Like my favicon?. The other 2 were non-English blog, but what warmed my heart were some comments about my post. Example: "And there, in words of one syllable and with clear step by step instructions, I discovered how and succeeded in adding my favicon using My Favatar.
And it really was quite easy! I could see that the post has been updated several times with additional information, and was cheered to see that the final amendment was the idiot proof, step by step instructions in words of one syllable that I needed - so I'm not the only one who sometimes needs a bit of 'intervention support' ;o"."

Ice Rocket blog search engine

Ice Rocket blog search engine like many others, have additional features which I have no time to explore, but there is a box for you to submit your blog to Ice Rocket blog search engine and I think it is a good thing for you to do that.

Read a Blog search engine

Looks like every blog search engines want to make their search engine slightly different from the other, and Read a Blog search engine is no exception. Below the blog search box will be categories listing "New blogs", "Most popular", and I don't know if I would have included this if it had been my blog search engine - "Recently view". Below that are keywords used for searches which are links to the blog search engine result page. I am now going to coin a new acronym - BSERP which stand for "blog search engine result page". Now if ever this new acronym ever catches on, I hope they remember to credit it to its creator - Peter Chen of Blogger Tips and Tricks

Monday, February 18, 2008

Update: Why use plain narrow template for my blog

I have previously explained why my main blogs are so plain (no graphics) and narrow with "wasted blank space" on both sides if viewed with large screen at Why I use this plain (Minima) template for my main blogs (click BACK button to get back to this page) where I pointed (linked) to a big news website (BBC news) which will have large "wasted blank space" on the right side. Today, while examining Alexa statistics for one of my blogs, I saw a link (tab) "Blog", clicked on it, and ended up at Alexa - Web Discovery. Although it is not stated that the blog is an official Alexa blog, the fact I got to that blog, the blog is very frequently updated with content only those very familiar with Alexa will be able to do plus the first of a few contributors I see is Geoffrey Mack, an Alexa Product Manager. That blog use the 2 column standard Blogger Minima template while this blog uses the same plain template but modified to 3 columns. So even large corporations like Alexa uses such template, and these people are web experts. Gives me extra reason to stick to such templates despite a comment by a visitor as to why I continue to use such plain template and asked isn't it time to change to something more fanciful. Note: Alexa had been bought over by the giant Amazon which is feeding on Google Blogger generosity. When I get time to make a post about why I don't migrate to Wordpress but is sticking with Google Blogger, I am going to mention this, even a subsidiary of the giant Amazon uses the free blogspot.com for their official blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why I use this plain template for this blog

Choices of templates are very personal, as different people have different preferences and requirements. Some like very fanciful ones with lots of colors and graphics, some like plain ones like this blog. Some cannot stand the blank "wasted" space of this blog if you are viewing this blog with a wide or big screen and prefer templates which display the blog across the whole screen with no blank space. Some like fixed width templates, some fluid templates (more on this later). But take a look at this very high traffic and high reputation website BBC News. If you go to that website with a large screen, you will see all the content on the left and a large, blank "wasted" space on the right. Do you think that BBC News has a lousy webmaster? Or this one cnn.com which is likely to be more familiar to Americans. I am viewing cnn.com with a 22" wide screen and I see blank space on both sides just like this blog. Why do they do that? Most likely, they, just like me, have statistics to tell them a significant percentage of their visitors are still using small screen, and this blog as well as the above 2 huge websites will just fit nicely into their small screens. They, like me, probably do not want to discourage visitors with small screens from visiting again.

For more information on why I prefer such a template like this, including mention of a readability study, surf over to What is the best template for my blog?.

Graphics heavy templates versus plain templates

I like a plain template for this blog because its purpose is to provide useful information and help. I have no need for fanciful graphics which increases downloading time and also need the graphics to be hosted somewhere on the web. However, it is not that I do not use graphics heavy templates. I used the Rounders 4 for environmental blogs because I think that suits environmental blogs like Environmentally friendly presents (gifts). The graphics are hosted by Amanda of Blogger Buster (hope to publish a post on this soon), and this means my blog is dependent on Amanda keeping the graphics on the web. Once they disappear from the web, my blog is in trouble. I can of course host the graphics on my own, but that will involve work and time, but I will probably do that later and write about how I go about it. In the meantime, if you use a graphics heavy template for your blog and will like to host the graphics on your own, the post New Blogger Sweet Dreams 3 column template by Blogger Buster will give you an idea as to how to go about it.

Unable to find post? Possible reasons and solutions

We get frequent questions who are keen to have their blogs found by search engines. They say they search for their blog by searching for their own name or the topic of the blog or post, but failed to find any.

Before your blog or posts can be found by search engines, they must be indexed first, and that may take some time. So the first thing to do is to find out if your blog had been indexed. Search using the search term

site:blog URL

For example, you can try to see if this blog had been indexed by searching for

site:http://bloggerfordummies.blogspot.com/

You will find many of my posts in the SERP (search engine result page). If the search had given no result, it means your blog had not been indexed yet, and what you need to do is to submit your blog to various search engines. However, many are of the opinion that this is an unnecessary step as all websites will eventually get indexed. It is only a question of time. The fastest way I believe is to get an inbound link from a website which have a high PageRank and which is frequently crawled by search engines.

Now your blog may be indexed, and a search may get a link to your blog. However, only those blogs which appear in the first few pages of the SERP (search engine result page are likely to get traffic from search engines. There may be thousands of results in the SERP and your blog may appear very deep and to find it, you will have to do lots of clickings, and I doubt you will have the patience to do that.

The thing to do is to try to improve link popularity, PageRank, search engine rankings, submit blog to directories, especially the important ones, get more inbound links from other websites, etc. Here are some posts that might be helpful:

Improving link popularity and PageRank of your blog by removing the NOFOLLOW attribute (click BACK button to get back to this page)

get listed in DMOZ, the most important directory (click BACK button to get back to this page)

Submit blog to Google (I am doubtful about the usefulness of this)

Add your blog to MyBlogDirectory (click "Add my blog" at the bottom of the directory. Don't expect too much from this)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Green Bloggercon 2008, United States of America

Bloggers conferences, forums, exhibitions

Unfortunately for us non-US residents, most of the bloggers related events are held in the United States of America. My first blog was an Environmental blog: Enviroman Says and if it is practical, I would love to go for this event:

Green Bloggercon 2008
May 16th Chicago, Illinois

It will be a conference for green bloggers, by green bloggers. Not only that, it will be conveniently sandwiched between two environmental events, the Green Business Conferences and the Chicago Green Festival from May 17 to 18, 2008.

Vacation rentals

Obviously, if I ever get the means to attend, I will be a sojourner and I will need to rent temporary accommodation. That can be done online via vacation rentals and what I found there is the Chicago guest house:

http://www.goin2travel.com/chicagoguesthouse.htm
Now if I ever find the means to afford the expenses of flying half way round the globe plus take care of my living expenses (including food and lodging plus internal transport), it would be a sheer waste just confining myself to the Chicago area.

Traveling around the United States of America

The last time I was in the United States, I think around the early 80s, I moved around the California, Arizona and Nevada area on some kind of season Greyhound bus ticket. There are also other cheap ways of traveling around United States including flying standby. With these possibilities, the whole of the United States is open for me to travel on a budget. I can go to Florida which is world famous for its theme parks and other great tourist destinations. I can get sojourner accommodation which could be found at Florida vacation rental. I have never been to Florida and it should be a great place to visit.

On the other hand, I may want to relive sweet memories and cross this great continent to the other side of the coast and visit the beautiful Lake Tahoe. For this area, online accommodation booking is also available from Lake Tahoe vacation rental. Just wondering how we managed without the Internet in the bad old days.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Spell check for Blogger: How to overcome current problem with Blogger built-in spell check problems

The spell check built-in the toolbar of the Blogger post editor is broken (not working). Blogger is aware of the problem and is working on the problem and hopefully will get it licked soon. In the meantime, you will have to use other ways:

Spell check with Google toolbar in Internet Explorer

I used to very much prefer using the spell check with the Google toolbar in FireFox. However, ever since FireFox upgraded from 1.5 to 2.0, this spell check do not work anymore. I have since discovered that you can install Google toolbar for Internet Explorer and the spell check in this case work. However, results can be a bit unpredictable, but I feel it is superior to the Blogger spell check. Try that out and let us know about your experience by leaving a comment.

Spell check PLUS grammar check with Microsoft WORD

This is a bit more laborious, but advantage is, it not only check the spelling, but also the grammar. To perform spell check for your post, click inside the post editor window, press ctrl+A to highlight the whole post, then press ctrl+C to copy into clipboard. Open Microsoft WORD and paste the post into a WORD file (ctrl+V), click "Tools" in the menu bar and select "Spelling and grammar….". Correct any spelling and grammar mistakes, click ctrl+A to highlight the whole file, press ctrl+C to copy into clipboard, open a Notepad file, paste the correct post into Notepad to strip all the formatting that WORD has added to the post, highlight all in the Notepad file by pressing ctrl+A followed by ctrl+C go copy everything (minus the unwanted formatting) into clipboard. Go back to the Blogger post editor window. The whole of the uncorrected post should still be highlighted. Just click the DELETE key to clear the post editor window, press ctrl+V to paste the corrected post into the post editor window, preview, then publish.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Moderating comments from Dashboard plus problems

moderating comments from Dashboard with comment expanded

Advantages of moderating comments via email notification

I have set comments in almost all my blogs for moderation via email notification. This means each time a visitor makes a comment, I get an email with the full message and I can approve or reject a comment from there. Moderating comments via email notification has many advantages over moderating via the Dashboard. The first big one I would point out is there is a link to the post where the comment was made. When you have read the message and see that it is not spam, and you click "Publish", a new tab or window (depending on your browser settings) will open with a link to the post itself. Click on the link and you are now in the post, ready to respond to the comment. Another advantage is, you have a permanent record of the comment in your Inbox, and in cases like you accidentally deleted a comment you wanted publish, or you want to edit the comment, you can use a work-around (trick) to republish or edit the comment. See What you can do if you accidentally deleted a comment or you want to edit a comment (click BACK button to get back to this page). Of course if you have set your comments to only registered bloggers, you will have to temporarily set it to allow anonymous comments first. The above advantages are not available when you moderate via the Dashboard.

However, I am often forced to moderate comments via the Dashboard because I don't get email notification for some comments.

How to moderate comments via the Dashboard and respond to comments

Moderating comments via the Dashboard and respond to comments is a real big hassle, one I hate to go because I often get a long list of such comments to moderate and respond to. It is irritating, it is time consuming as I have to go through a series of steps and heaven help me if I forget the most important steps.

Here is a screenshot of what you might see in the Dashboard:

comments in Dashboard waiting for moderation

Note that it says there are 5 comments waiting to be moderated. Here is a screenshot of the list of comments waiting for moderation when you click "5 comments":

List of comments to moderate in Dashboard

Take very careful attention of the "Post Name" link (highlighted by a red arrow pointing at it). Make sure you click on this "Post Name" link before you do anything, because if you don't. and if you approve any comment or comments, finding the comment or comments to respond to is going to be a real headache. However, atter clicking on the "Post Name" link, the list of comments waiting to be moderated will changed as shown in the screenshot below:

List of comments with post titles waiting for moderatation in Dashboard

Note that now the title of the posts in which those comments are posted are now being listed and one "How to Contact Blogger Support" is highlighted by a red arrow pointing at it. One more important step or steps you need to do before you approve any comment if you have intention to respond to it or them. Highlight the title or titles, right-click on your mouse and select copy (or press ctrl+C) to copy the post title into clipboard, open a Notepad file, paste the post title or titles. This is very important because once you approved the comment, it will be deleted from the list of comments waiting for moderation, and if you didn't save the post title or remember it, you will not be able to go to the post to respond to the comment. Compare this with moderating via email where you have a email notification with the comment plus the link to the post which is permanently in your Inbox unless you choose to delete it.

Next thing to do is to expand the comment to read the full comment, then make a decision as to whether to publish or reject the comment.

moderating comments from Dashboard with comment expanded

My normal practice is to publish a comment, then right-click on "Edit Post", select "Open in a new tab" using a web browser with tabbed browing. This will open a new tab in the same window of the browser with the list of posts. Copy the title of the post you pasted into the Notepad file into the search box above the list of posts and click "SEARCH". From experience, I have found that sometimes, the search does not turn up the relevant post and I have to delete part of the post title and search again.

Once you find the post, click on VIEW to open the post, find the comment, respond to it. Go back to the tab containing the list of comments waiting for moderation and repeat the process for the other remaining comments.

As you can see, this is a much more tedious and time consuming task as compared with moderating comment via email notification, but often cannot be helped because Blogger has still not solve this problem of not receiving email notification for comment moderation.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Earn with blogs

Why people blog

Blogs are created for various reasons. Some are created as a result of an itchy mouth like
http://my-first-grandchild.blogspot.com/
(My first grandchild)

which resulted from a simple question when my daughter gave me the CD containing the nuchal scan of her unborn baby, my first grandchild: "Why don't you put it on the Web?". She retorted: "Why don't YOU do it?".

Some created blogs to help spread environmental awareness like
http://enviromansays.blogspot.com
(Environmental blog: Enviroman Says)

Some are health related blogs like
http://foodasmedicine.blogspot.com
(original blog title "Food as Medicine" changed to "Natural Remedies"

http://good-health-information.blogspot.com/
(Health is wealth)

Some are personal blogs like

http://lewis-chew.blogspot.com/
(Lewis Chew, the youngest "blogger" in the world)

which happened to be another blog created because of an itchy mouth, a consequence of a question: "What am I going to do with this blog if and when I get a second grandchild?". Some like this blog, which was almost abandoned,
http://bloggerfordummies.blogspot.com
("Blogger for Dummies" changed to Dummies Guide to Blogger)
(ask me why if you are the curious type) and sort of replaced by my main blog
http://blogger-tricks.blogspot.com
(Blogger Tips and Tricks).

However, a lot of time and efforts goes into the above blog, highly interactive and lots of comments plus lots of inbound link has only a PageRank of 4 compared with the less active, less inbound links original blog which was almost abandoned, have a higher PageRank of 6. If anyone can explain this situation to me by leaving a comment, it will be highly appreciated. Plus note that the "nofollow" attribute had been removed so that active links in the comments will be followed by search engine and will help your blog, so you are highly encourage to post comments, but please no spam.

Get paid to blog

I am also a pensioner who still have to support a college going son (used to be 2) through college on my pension. I need to supplement my pension desperately. So what did I do? I started a blog and applied for a Google AdSense account
http://signup-page.blogspot.com/
(Sign up for Google AdSense account).

I provide good content and Google AdSense provide RELEVANT ads (relevance is important). It is a win-win situation and that helped me put 2 sons through college on my pension supplemented from being a content publisher.

However, there are other ways to get paid to blog. Smorty is a website which helps bring together advertisers with bloggers. It looks like a good alternative to try out as even after my son graduate from college, there are still other considerations which require me to get income in addition to my pension. It is very difficult for people of my race in my country to get into the public universities where fees are subsidized and low. Further, flawed policies have caused what used to be a very good educational system to become an educational system where the non-dominant races don't enroll their children in the national schools anymore. Our public universities are poor shadows of the past. None of our universities made in into the top 200 of any of the university ranking systems. Many graduates from the public universities are unemployed and many says, unemployable. Many parents are forced to send their children overseas for their education, some at very tender age. Education is therefore very expensive for us, and if the situation does not change for the better, that will be the kind of situation my grandson and soon another grandchild, will face in the future. We have to build up a nest egg for that eventuality. Smorty will likely to be that additional avenue to help build that nest egg.
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