Category Archives: Weblogs

Comment feed fixed

I noticed this evening a problem with the comment feed for 42. It has now been fixed and comments are making their way through again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Personally I like site wide comment feeds as they seem like a lot less hassle than per post comment feeds.

Amazon Associates

As an experiment, when I mention a book I will make it a link to it on Amazon.co.uk, the link will be an Amazon associates link which means if someone clicks my link and buys the book I get a small % from Amazon.

At least while I remember I will put a comment next to the link to say this is the case.

Let me know if you think I have sold out (equally if you think this is ok). If you are indifferent then I guess you won’t bother to tell me :-)

Blogging Technology: Writing

Some hints on options for writing blogs, it follows on from 42: Blogging Technology: Reading.

This post is the result of a conversation during the UK Methodist Bloggers Meeting help 4 & 5 January 2008.

If your technical ability is such that you have considered writing your own blog application then this is not going to be very helpful.

Like my review of reading blogs this is going to be simplistic, there are many other possibilities beyond the limited options I am going to suggest.

I am grouping the options under three headings.

Free Hosted

By this I mean your blog does not cost you anything and it runs within a web application hosted by the provider. So you interact with it using your web browser using some blog administration pages. The two best known options for this are Blogger (part of google) and WordPress.com

Both these will work well and are used by millions of bloggers. There are limitations of course in terms of flexibility and power but they are still deservedly popular. If nothing else the price and lack of technical knowledge required make these very attractive options to start your blog.

Paid Hosted

The service I use (typepad) falls into this category. You gain some extra features and power and the ability to customise your blog rather more. For example you can use your own domain name as I do (blogger does also support this, obviously at that point it is not free and is a competitor to typepad). You can be certain that you can have an ad free blog with no visible branding from the service provider. Cost is between $5 and $30 per month (plus your domain registration costs).

I have been happy with this option for 42 since August 2003.

Self Hosted

This option may use free software, however, it is unlikely to be free as you are going to need web site hosting. It is unlikely that any free hosting will be sufficient (if only because you will want control over the domain name). It seems to be that by far the most popular software for this option is WordPress (yes essentially the same as used at wordpress.com) although there are thousand’s of alternatives.

This is more work to setup and manage but you get unrivalled control, the ability to connect seamlessly into other parts of your website and limitless options for customisation. I have considered this option for 42 a number of times, however, not actually ever made the jump. I have used it for other blogs and been happy with the results.

Conclusion

All these host good blogs and there are an infinite number of other options. Hopefully this gives a useful summary, but use the comments to provide more info or request more detail and it should gradually expand to be more comprehensive.

Blogging Technology: Reading

Some hints on how to use technology to save time and increase effectiveness when reading blogs.

This post is the result of a conversation during the UK Methodist Bloggers Meeting help 4 & 5 January 2008.

Blogs are web pages and so many of us read them normally within our normal Web Browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera etc). This works well and is of course the default for most of us when we end up at a blog page after a search on a search engine such as google. It also works well when exploring blogs (for example by following links within a blog post or when looking at a blogroll).

However, for regular reading of your favourite blogs this has a major flaw. The only way to discover if a blog has new content is by viewing it, very time consuming and inefficient (especially for both very active and very quiet blogs). Using this technique it is typically only possible to monitor a small number of blogs and even then it can be hard to feel part of the community.

The solution is at the heart of what makes a blog a blog. All blogs (essentially by definition) produce "feeds", sometimes called "newsfeeds". There are two main alternative formats for these which you may see mentioned "atom" and "rss". You will also see an icon for feeds such as . In simplistic terms a feed contains a list of new posts on a blog.

Feeds are of no (or very limited) use on their own, they are not designed to be human readable but to be read by computer software. So you use feeds in conjunction with a Newsfeed Reader. If you have not tried one before then I recommend that you start with either Bloglines or Google Reader. Both are free, both are web based (which means there is nothing to install on your computer). When you use either of these you can subscribe to any blog (or indeed any website with a feed) and the newsfeed reader will then track new posts for you.

Using either Bloglines or Google Reader (or one of the 1,000′s of alternatives) saves hours. When you login you will see a list of all the blogs that you have subscribed to. All the blogs with new posts will be clearly marked (it is very like seeing your email organised into folders and seeing which folders have unread messages in them). You can then read the new posts within that browser window (much quicker as for example I can see all the new posts from UK Methodists in a single list and just page down through it). You can also open any post in a new window or tab (for example if you wish to leave a comment, write your own post, or view the complete original formatting).

All newsfeed readers offer other facilities as well (searching, marking etc).

Beyond using a newsreader to read/monitor blogs (and currently I have subscribed to 230 in bloglines) the other big help in reading blogs is Blog Flux Commentful. You can see when I discovered it via a helpful comment from  Dave Faulkner on 42: Do blog comments work? Commentful makes it simple and practicable to contribute to discussions on blogs knowing that you can tell when extra comments are added. No more randomly going back to see if someone has replied to your comment. It is a huge time saver.

As with any well behaved web application commentful can provide you with a feed to monitor in your newsfeed reader (or you can use the plugin for Firefox). Other applications that can do this include facebook (all the notifications without cluttering up your email).

Methodist General Secretary endorses blogging for proclamation

I got one of my favourite mailings from the Methodist Church today. It is the one that comes once per quarter with my payslip – whoo hoo!

As normal it included a letter from Rev David Deeks, current General Secretary and Secretary of the Conference (most senior permanent position in the Methodist Church in Great Britain).

He writes about the "ministry of the Word" and reflects on a  variety of ways in which this can happen. Blogging gets a mention, oh we are so official now! No doubt any future Methodist Worship Book will include a service of recognition for Bloggers.

I guess that David has been influenced by the effective blogging of our President (and the next General Secretary), Martyn Atkins and the Vice President, Ruby Beech. See their blog here. However, it seems that David could do with spending a little more time with Ruby to learn something about facebook and the large Methodist Group there.

On the other hand I suggest nobody tells  David about twitter or he will have to add a new bottom to his range of communication that currently stretches from incessant chatter to silence .

More seriously David is recognising something that is being recognised widely within the Methodist Church. The "ministry of the Word" is central to Methodism and is being tackled in an every increasing  number of ways by the Church. More to be done but lots already in play.

The blogging world goes crazy

So what is it with blogging at the moment?

As you see in 42: Blogger friend under attack my friend TC has been viciously attacked over his blogging. At the same time Adrian has had to close his comments while Dave is struggling to cope with attacking spam.

I have written 42: Do blog comments work? but I am wondering if I need to change my own views somewhat. I have been against a number of techniques for controlling comments such as registration not just for usability reasons but also because I am concerned about privacy. Sadly attacks by vicious people and spam are going to increasingly deny the rest of us any privacy.

Ideas on how to protect bloggers while also protecting the privacy of well mannered and behaved blog commentators would be gratefully received.

I have also been under an attack for blogging in recent weeks. I am not yet ready to go public on the details, however, suggestions for handling bullies over blogging will also be very welcome.

I am certain that issues such as this will be discussed at the Methodist Bloggers Meeting – January 4th&5th 2008. Contact me to book a place.