Monday, March 31, 2014

Blogger, forgive us!

Here's a great unsung feature of Blogger: Undo.

If only it applied all the time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A sidebar-widget beastiary: 6 gadgets and what do do with them

Smart bloggers populate their blogs with widgets to connect readers with older blog posts (and with related content on the web).

Three sidebar areas take widgets: Top, side, footer.

Here's a quick appraisal of a half dozen powerful widgets you should know.

Profile You know this one, but do you know everything it does? The Profile widget shows the photo and other short information from your profile page, to which it links. There's room for more about you on your profile page.

Add authors and the title switches from "About Me" to "Contributors" and the gadget shows only links to the profile pages of each.

You can edit the title to whatever you want, and if you don't like what the Profile widget shows you can make your own.

Archive Along with Profile, this gadget is included in new blogs by default. It lets readers find older content by date, displaying the post titles as clickable links (unless you turn that part off).

The default "hierarchy" display, with little flippy triangles, is pretty slick, but you can also configure it to be a drop-down menu or a flat list.

You can change the title of this widget, the order it displays links, the way it displays dates, and the time interval used (month, week, or day). If you disable the display of post titles it will just display the interval, which links to an archive page of posts from the selected period.

Link List This underrated gadget lets you post a list of clickable text links. You input both the text and the web url and determine the order in which the links appear. In most templates, if you drag the Link List to the top area between title and post, the widget will format as tabs.

Link List's stability, simplicity, and control contrast favorably with the more-specialized Pages widget. If you'd like to use it for a tabbed menu bar, this little refinement might interest you.

Pages There always seems to be something wrong with the Pages widget, originally designed as a navigational toolbar to help readers find static pages. It has since been expanded to allow you to add other links as well.

Consequently, Pages now duplicates the functionality of the Link List gadget, with the added promise that it can include static pages automatically. In practice Link List has proven itself to be more stable, configurable, and easy to set up.

HTML/JavaScript This, the Swiss army knife of sidebar widgets, will render HTML and Javascript output on your blog without any edits to your template. It's not really for the novice, though if all you are after is formatted text and hyperlinks the editing tools for this widget should be perfectly intelligible.

What it really does, if you know what you are doing, is to make custom widgets. I like to use it to list every post in a label topic.

Use this awesome widget only for good, however, by posting code only from trusted sources.

Labels This widget lists labels in two modes, simple list and a "cloud" of labels differentiated by size and color. In both each label name is a link to its related label-search page.

Label your posts intelligently and this gadget will make a handy topical index to your blog.

The list order can be either alphabetical or by frequency for all the labels or any subset. You can also show the number of posts per label. Tinkerers can tweak the appearance of the cloud list further by adding formatting for css classes .label-size-1 through .label-size-5.

Be a widget skinflint. Everything you add slows your blog down and adds clutter. Avoid sidebar bling. Only use widgets that clearly add more than they distract.

The striking images in this post are from the Aberdeen Bestiary. They are in the public domain.

A sidebar-widget beastiary: 6 gadgets and what do do with them

Smart bloggers populate their blogs with widgets to connect readers with older blog posts (and with related content on the web).

Three sidebar areas take widgets: Top, side, footer.

Here's a quick appraisal of a half dozen powerful widgets you should know.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blogger, Google+ pages, and the frontiers of science

The R&D Division here at Too Clever, ever pushing the envelope, has used a Google+ page of a regular Blogger blog to create a second blog.

To be precise:
  • a Google+ page identity (not a personal profile)
  • that was created for a regular Blogger blog
  • in turn created, and now administers, a second blog.
Here is the proof that, when it comes to Blogger, a Google+ page can do everything your blogging account can. Including being anonymous.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Claiming your blog's Google+ page

A Google+ page for your blog can be a (nearly) freestanding identity. It is your blog's own Google account.

If you want your blog to have a presence on Google+ but don't want it linked to a personal profile with your name on it, that page is made for you.

Assuming you know that you want one and why, here's how to set one up.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Give your blog its own Google+ identity

You can give your creation a Google+ identity of its own
I will cut to the chase: Your blog can have its own page on Google+ that, for all intents and purposes, is a Google account without your name.

Google+'s "first and last name required" policy is a challenge if you blog anonymously or with an institutional or business or group identity.

If so, Google+ pages are designed for you.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The silent-partner gambit

It's your move
On its face, Google+ breaks privacy with its requirement that your G+ account bear your actual name.

But you can preserve your blog's anonymity if you like, Google+ notwithstanding.

Not everyone blogs anonymously. But can we agree that there's nothing wrong in using anonymity to manage your online identity?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The case for Google+ comments

The greatest problem with switching to Google+ comments on your blog?

They are restricted to people with G+ accounts. That locks out a lot of people.

Nonetheless, for some it's worth the sacrifice. Google+ comments promise some compelling benefits. Every blogger should weigh them carefully.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Have your Blogger identity and Google+ too!

You can have it both ways.

Do you have privacy concerns about linking your blog to a Google+ account?

You can promote your blog on Google+ using a separate account not linked to your blog.

But associating your blog with a G+ account unlocks more options. And you can still keep the account hidden on your blog and stay as anonymous to your readers as you like.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Anonymous blogging on Google+

Google+ can send you readers whether you plus or not.

But odds are that's not going to happen often unless someone actively promotes your blog. So you might wonder if it is a good idea to join Google+ to get readers and blog traffic and search reputation.

Google+ profiles bear owners' real names. For some bloggers that makes G+ a nonstarter.

However, your G+ account does not need to be the same as your blogging account (though it can be). You can set things up so that there is no link to your Google+ identity from your blog.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Nonplussed: How Google+ affects every blog

Even if you are not on Google+, someone who is can share your blog to his or her G+ circles.

These shares arrive as personal recommendations from the sharer, usually with his or her photo, a link and, if there is one, an image from your blog. Usually the sharer will add a few thoughts about why your blog post is worth reading.

That's great word-of-mouth publicity that can bring you attention and new readers.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Your secret blogging identity

Photo courtesy of Jessica
On the internet, as the New Yorker cartoon famously noted, no one knows you are a dog.

Anonymity, and pseudonymity, have been features (or bugs) of online life since the internet's inception.

Google is moving away from that model towards one where a single account, under your real name, manages Bogger and all of your Google services.

There are some very good arguments for that approach. No more anonymous internet trolling, at least on Google+, and some clever new ways to promote and publicize your online projects (such as your blog) with you as the hub.

But for many of us, managing our online identity is nuanced and compartmentalized by design. Adopting the new model means surrendering our freedom to be creative.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Make a custom Profile widget

Profile widget, stripped-down edition
Blogger provides an excellent ID widget for your sidebar.

It pulls your photo and, if you want, other information from your Blogger (or Google+) profile page.

The widget is connected to the profile page, so if you change the page information the widget revises
automatically.

If you add an author or three, the title changes, automatically, to "Contributors" and the content becomes a clickable list of all authors, each linked to its profile.