// Internet Duct Tape

Dude, Your Online Photo Portfolio Sucks

Posted in Becoming a Better Blogger, Miscellaneous by engtech on September 08, 2008

I’ve been browing through my local photographers looking for family portrait photographers and wedding photographers. As someone who is very familiar with the web, I’m always struck at how poorly some people do their web portfolioes.

How Do They Find You?

Like anything, the most important thing about a photography site is how it ranks on google for location + keyword searches.

I’m sure that ottawaportraitphotographers.com does quite well when it comes to new clients finding them via Google.

The Good

I chose my wedding photographer because he uses a blog to display his pictures. The pictures are big enough that I can see the quality, there isn’t anything hiding the images, and enough pictures load all at once that I can get a good indication that I want to see more without having to click on each individual photo. Blogs also have the added feature where I actually can tell that the photos are recent work. With some sites only the hairstyles give any indication of when the photo was taken.

There were a few Ottawa wedding photographers who use this approach of having both a blog and a flash-based gallery, and I have to say I was impressed with all of them.

The blogs are photo galleries all on their own. None of them mix personal blog posts in with the photos.

The Bad

One of my biggest pet-peeves with photo gallery sites is having to click on each individual photograph to load it. It isn’t so bad if I can middle-click on them to open them in a new tab to look at later, but with some flash- or javascript-based sites it takes forever! I have to click on each individual picture, wait for it to load, look at it, then click again… it ends up taking 20 times as long to view the entire gallery vs a blog-based sites.

If you use a flash-based site for displaying your photos, it has to be FAST. Use something like SimpleViewer instead of coding it yourself.

Another pet-peeve is when the pictures aren’t big enough to see the photo in detail. Thumbnails are great for overall navigation, but it’s very hard to tell photo quality when the picture takes up less than one fifth of my screen.

The Ugly

One of the worst things I’ve seen is watermarks embedded in the image. We all understand that you don’t want other people to steal your livelyhood, but much like how digital rights management shouldn’t prevent people from watching a DVD, the embedded watermark in a photo shouldn’t prevent your potential customer from seeing how good your pictures are. I can’t appreciate a photo when the writing on top of them is too distracting.

Of course, it’s even worse to have blurry photos in your portfolio. Thank you, but if I wanted an out-of-focus shot I could do it myself.

I hope if there are any amateur or semi-pro photographers in the audience they can learn a few things about what customers are looking for.

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Competition

Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Startups and Business, Technology by engtech on April 29, 2008

Marketing, Branding and Promotion

When we look at technology we use everyday, the great success stories all have one thing in common: competition. They all achieved their success despite healthy competition, or perhaps because of it.

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Fixing the WordPress.com Possibly Related Feature

Posted in Technology, WordPress, WordPress.com Tips by engtech on April 27, 2008

WordPress Tips and Tricks

You might want to skip this post if you aren’t hosted on WordPress.com.

You may have heard talks about how “Related Posts” was going to become an integrated feature in the WordPress core. Last friday they released a feature called “Possibly Related”. They use Sphere.com’s technology to analyze what posts are related to the current post and add links to the bottom of it. Doesn’t sound bad, right? Wait for it…

For WordPress Multiuser (like WordPress.com) they’re including links to other “related” posts by other people.

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Who Moved My Cheese? The New WordPress Admin Interface

Posted in Programming and Software Development, Technology, WordPress by engtech on April 18, 2008

WordPress Tips and Tricks

Two of my blogging heroes and inspiration Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky have joined together on a new venture called StackOverflow: overflowing with awesomeness. They are also doing a weekly podcast, and you can download the first 45 minute podcast here (8 MB). In the discussion, Joel makes a great comment: Windows Vista gives you change without giving you any value. As a Windows XP user there is no compelling reason to upgrade because you’re going to have to relearn where everything is, but you don’t get any new and compelling features or applications to offset that.

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Presenting: Livejournal Theme for WordPress

Posted in CSS and Web Design, Technology, WordPress by engtech on April 01, 2008

WordPress Tips and Tricks

You know the story. You’ve been using LiveJournal since 1999. It’s your home. You’re familiar with it. You’re on the list of notable LiveJournal users. But times they be a changin’. You’re friends are all leaving LiveJournal for WordPress because it’s a better C-M-S (whatever that is). You’ve switched to WordPress, but everything looks strange and confusing.

Don’t worry, as usual engtech has your back.

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How to Generate 100s of Backlinks in Minutes

Posted in Marketing and Promotion, Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, Technology by engtech on March 25, 2008

Bloggin Tips and Tricks

In 25 ways to get an insanely popular blog Skellie describes 25 models for blogging that leads to an ever increasing audience. There’s one she missed out on: the abrasive model.

  1. Say something bone-headed so people clamour to their keyboards in order to prove you wrong.
  2. Make commenting on your post as hard as possible so that people will respond with blog posts of their own instead of a comment.

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Free WP Plugin Idea: Use Referrers Instead of Trackbacks

Posted in Free Ideas, Technology, The War on Spam, WordPress by engtech on March 19, 2008

Free Ideas

Blogs have a way of keeping track of who is linking to them using trackbacks or pingbacks. It’s a good idea in theory because it helps you follow the discussion as it spreads to new areas, but in practice it is mostly filled with spam because getting a well-placed trackback on a popular website can be a good source of traffic.

Trackbacks were designed without any kind of authentication mechanism whatsoever, not even the most trivial test that the person who is says they are linking to you really is linking to you. So screw spammy trackbacks. Screw them in their naughty place. Take them out of your blog themes and blog engines and let’s build something better.

Here’s the idea: instead of showing a list of trackbacks for spammers to abuse, show a list of referrers.

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The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion

Connect with your readers

I’m a social web app junkie. Where most people use a few on a regular basis as a consumer and only a couple as a producer I am an active user on far too many sites. I’m not a beta junkie to the point where I try out every web service (especially not the ones spamming my blog contact email), but I do try out more than my fair share and manage to get involved before they reach the tipping point (like Friend Feed is reaching now).

The sheer amount of web apps out there leads to fragmentization of our online identities, but that isn’t a bad thing. The people who read my blog aren’t necessarily people I’m interested in talking to on Twitter, and none of us might share the same taste in music on Last.FM. For a while there I was talking about the Ruby programming language like crazy on this blog, but now I’m using a niche tumbleblog so that I can post more often on that specific technical subject without alienating my existing audience.

But it isn’t only our online identities that are fragmenting: it’s also the discussion around content. Once upon a time the way someone would comment on something you wrote would be to write a blog post of their own in response. Then blogs got a comment section and people could write what they had to say directly on the post. Now the discussion around a post has completely fragmented: people are saying stuff about your content on Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Facebook… pretty much anywhere except for the post where you originally wrote it.

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Building an RSS Templating System

Hacking RSS with Yahoo Pipes

The blog posts might have been slow lately, but that’s only because there’s been an accumulation of interesting projects piling up on my hard drive. Here’s a few things that are in the pipe (which I’m talking about to stop my procrastination and force me to release them):

  • Sandbox Theme for Tumblr so that you can use Sandbox CSS themes on tumblr.com
  • Tumblr Theme Templates to make it easier to develop themes for tumblr.com without having to upload your theme to tumblr.com
  • Tumblr automatic backup + restore
  • WordPress.com automatic backup
  • Twitter There Will Be Followers – program to automatically follow back anyone who is following you on Twitter
  • PostMaster html2blog – automatically post formatted HTML to Tumblr, Blogger or WordPress
  • rss2html – powerful templating system for converting an RSS feed into HTML

It’s the last one I want to talk about. I’ve gotten tired of using Yahoo Pipes + Pipe Cleaner to build digest posts. It’s kind of a pain in the butt. So I want something that can take an rss feed, convert it to html so that I can use another program for automatically posting it to the blog. I’m not going the plugin route because of WordPress.com’s inability to support javascript or PHP plugins.

This is what I’ve come up with.

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How to Explain RSS to Normal People – 2008 Edition

Posted in Building a Community, Facebook, Humor, RSS Syndication, Ruby, Technology by engtech on February 28, 2008

Social Software and You

As a geek who enjoys spending too much time on the internet, I like RSS almost as much as delicious toast. As a blogger, RSS is the shiznitz because it lets you consume a lot more information and it makes it easier for other people to read your blog without having to drop by every few days to see if you’ve written something new.

For something so useful, it’s pretty hard to explain why people should use RSS. Lots of people try to do it. This is my take on it. It’s 2008 and explaining RSS should be much simpler because if you’ve used Facebook, then you’ve used RSS.

RSS for Normal People (who use Facebook)

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How to Play Downloaded Videos on Your iPod, Xbox 360, or DVD Player

Posted in Group Writing Projects, How I Use, Software, Technology by engtech on January 27, 2008

Software

I’ve been slumming through the support forums at answers.yahoo.com lately and this is a question I see come up often: how do I download a video and put it on my electronic device? More and more consumer electronics devices that can play videos, but that means we have to learn more about the big, bad scary world of video codecs.

The steps are simple:

  1. Find a video source (source)
    • video from your camera/phone, off the Internet, or from a DVD you own
  2. Get the video on to your computer (source/download)
  3. Convert the format of the video to something your portable media player can play (convert)
  4. Copy the video to your portable media player (destination)

…but the devil is in the details.

What is a Codec?

Codec stands for coder-decoder. It’s a mathematical algorithm that stores the video into a file. It’s like VHS vs beta or HD-DVD vs Blu-ray — different codecs have different formats and they aren’t interchangeable. There are many different video codecs, and that’s where the headache with downloaded content comes from. Your computer can play many more codec formats that your iPod, Xbox 360 or DVD player.

What Codecs Can My iPod, Xbox 360 or DVD Player Play?

This is the hardest part, especially when you aren’t familiar with video codecs. You’re going to have to do some research and find out what your portable media player supports. This is how I find information for any electronic device I’m having problems with:

Once you’ve found the information make sure to save it somewhere you can find it again. I keep a folder on my computer with PDFs of the manuals for all my electronic devices so that I can quickly find the information again later.

Here’s a list of codecs for popular devices to get you started.

Sample of documentation on supported video codecs
From my DVD player manual

How to Copy a DVD to Your Computer

These guides will show you how to copy a DVD to your computer’s hard drive so that you can work on it with other software to change the format to something you can play on your portable media device.

How to Download Videos

I’m not going to go into detail because of the questionable legality. There are videos out there that you can legitimately download but there are even more where you would be breaking the law if you downloaded them. I’ll let my friends at Lifehacker give you the skinny on downloading videos instead:

How to Watch Any Video Format on your Computer

If you’re downloading videos from unknown sources, quite often you’re going to end up with a file that your computer doesn’t know how to play back. The solution is to use the free VLC Media Player that is available for Windows, Mac, Linux and a million other operating systems you’ve never heard of.

Quick tip: always test playing a file with VLC before you do anything else with it. If it doesn’t play in VLC, chances are you won’t be able to convert it to work with your portable media player.

When VLC doesn’t work, there’s the Combined Community Codec Pack to the rescue.

How to Tell Which Codec Format the Video Uses

The best advice I can give anyone who is downloading content from unknown sources is do not trust the file extension. Just because the file says .divx or .mp4 doesn’t mean it’s is. Use the free GSpot software to find out the real details of what codec format the file you downloaded is.

I’m not going to lie to you — GSpot isn’t the most userfriendly application I’ve ever seen. But it gives you the two pieces of essential information you need: the video codec and audio codec the file is using.

Using GSpot to analyze video codec information

How to Convert Codec Formats

The world of video codecs is very confusing, with lots of formats that sound similar but have minor differences that will prevent them with playing on different devices. I use Any Video Converter when I need to change codec formats of a file. It has a very simple interface that requires only three clicks to convert a file:

  1. Add a file
  2. Choose the profile for the output format I want
  3. Encode

Any Video ConverterAny Video Converter also has pay versions with added features like easy converting to iPod, Zune, PSP. But the free version works well for converting if you set up the profile for the output file format correctly. The free version also supports YouTube.

It is often easier to find specialty software that supports the electronic device you want to play videos on. When looking for how to specific software for converting video the first thing I do is go to lifehacker.com and do a search. They often discuss free software for video converting, and the comments are full of excellent information.

Specialty Software for Converting Video

Here are some examples of software that converts specifically to the file formats you need. I haven’t tried all of them, and some of them are pay software with trial versions while others are freeware and available for multiple operating systems.

This was written as part of the Daily Blog Tips tutorials group writing project.

Rules of Thumb for Writing

Posted in Becoming a Better Blogger, Technology by engtech on January 18, 2008

When writing a magazine article, begin with a snappy lead sentence, then write the piece to match the tone of the lead. Before submitting the article, delete the lead sentence.
Gordon Hard, assistant editor, Consumer Reports, Mount Vernon, New York

When writing short copy (taglines, headlines, etc.) give yourself one minute per word. If you don’t have a great five-word headline in the first five minutes of brainstorming, take a break and try again later.
Adam Kellogg, Writer, Chesterton, IN, USA

When in doubt, use the semicolon; the average reader won’t understand its use and will give you credit for erudition.
Denis Smith, high school counselor, Camarillo, California

If you are not sure if you should use a semi-colon, use a comma. If you are not sure if you should use a comma, use a period. If you are not sure if you should use a period: quit writing.
Raymond Schultz, U. S. Army Retired, United States of America

Limit yourself to one thought per sentence. The sentences will end up with different lengths, because some thoughts will be long and some short. The result will be a conversational tone.
Albert Jose

If you’re writing something and you have to look up the definition of a word, you probably shouldn’t use it.
Scott Parker, data specialist, Beaumont, Texas

Read your work out loud to locate problems. If you run out of breath, the sentence is too long.
Robert Kanigel, writer and editor, Baltimore, Maryland

If you’re bored with your writing, others will be too.
Robert Kanigel, writer and editor, Baltimore, Maryland

Your essay should be like a woman’s skirt – long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep it interesting.
Kim

When writing, if you’re searching for a final sentence, you’ve probably already written it.
Cheryl A. Russell, demographer, mother, editor-in-chief, American Demographics

Always figure out who your characters are before you figure out your plot. You can follow a good character through a bad plot, but you can’t make a good plot out of a bad character.
James Erwin, Editor, Des Moines, IA, USA

Don’t make changes based on reader feedback until you’ve heard the same comment from three different people.
Percy Angress, special effects producer, Santa Monica, California

From Rules Of Thumb.org

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Online Survival Guide: 9 Tips for Dealing with Idiots on the Internet

Social Software and You

My first experience with online communication was bulletin board systems in the early 90s. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The experience of running a blog is almost exactly the same as it was running a BBS 15 years ago. The only difference is the sheer number of channels available for communication.

Where there was once up to 100 to 200 local BBSes there are now so many online forums for communication that it might as well be infinite., New forums for communication are being created all the time. Mainstream sites like the New York Times let you comment on articles, and each person has their own discussion forum thanks to sites like Facebook and MySpace.

“When I was involved in the BBS/IRC scene as a teenager I was surrounded by flame wars; one-upmanship was part of the attraction. I thought it was because of the immaturity of the participants, but now I think it is a natural offshoot of digital communication. We lose all the visual and auditory cues that are a normal part of human dialog and instead focus on words that can be easy to misinterpret (especially if looking for a reason to fight).” quoting myself

Winter is one of the worst for flame wars because environmental conditions make people more irritable and more likely to spend more time online. Here are some tips for navigating online discussions from someone who has been participating and managing public forums for over 15 years.

Tips for Administrators

Tip #1: Disemvowel

From Wikipedia: “In the fields of Internet discussion and forum moderation, disemvoweling is the removal of vowels from text either as a method of self-censorship, or as a technique by forum moderators to censor Internet trolling and other unwanted posting. When used by a forum moderator, the net effect of disemvowelling text is to render it illegible or legible only through significant cognitive effort.

Xeni Jardin, co-editor of Boing Boing says of the practice, “the dialogue stays, but the misanthrope looks ridiculous, and the emotional sting is neutralized.”

This original sentence:

In the fields of Internet discussion and forum moderation, disemvoweling (also spelled disemvowelling) is the removal of vowels from text.

would be disemvowelled to look like this:

n th flds f ntrnt dscssn nd frm mdrtn, Dsmvwlng (ls splld dsmvwllng) s th rmvl f vwls frm txt.”

You can disemvowel any text using this tool. There is also a Firefox extension that lets you disemvowel comments if you’re a WordPress administrator. The same guy has a Firefox extension for handling religious trolls.

Tip #2: Temporarily disable comments for that post

This works well if you’ve been linked to from another site and it’s bringing a lot of tolls (IE: Digg, Slashdot). You can turn the comments on after a day or two without having to wade through the 100+ comments telling you how much of an idiot you are because they don’t agree with some minor minutiae of your argument.

Tip #3: Take the discussion to email

Nothing kills a flame war like removing the audience.

Quoting myself: “There is a different between scrawling messages on a public site and having a one on one conversation. The flame wars that are routine on some sites rarely exist in personal email. People stop being disembodied words and ideas and you remember that there is a person behind all of that typing.”

Comment Ninja is a handy Firefox extension for WordPress blog administrators that makes it easy to respond to commenters on your blog by email.

Tip #4: Never post personal information

Because you are an administrator, you have access to a commenters email address and their IP address. This information is usually enough to find out anything else you want to about who they are. (IE: put their email address into Facebook to find their real name, use their IP address to find out where they work)

It can be tempting to deal with a troll by removing their anonymity, but making it personal can change a one time nuisance into someone with a grudge that won’t go away.

Tips for Anyone

Tip #5: Let it stew

If something really gets your goat, then sit on it. Come back and re-read what bothered you later on and you may find that you were reading between the lines and interpreting an emotional undertone that isn’t there. The human mind is great at adding missing context, but it can also trick you into reading what you want to believe.

Revisiting something that filled you with rage days latter can leave you scratching your head trying to find what it was that pulled your chain.

Tip #6: Leave it where you found it

As I said earlier, it is ridiculously easy to collect personal identifying information about someone and find other parts of their online identity. Other than bringing a public argument to a private means of communication, you should leave the argument where you found it. Letting it spill over to other websites, or worse, following the person on to other aspects of their online identity makes you look like a stalker or a crazy person.

It doesn’t matter how justified you feel your actions are, the simple act of not being able to let go of things hurts your credibility.

Tip #7: Social proof is important

No matter how well reasoned your argument is, trying to convince someone of something they vehemently disbelieve in is next to impossible when they don’t know you from a hole in the wall.

From Wikipedia: “Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.”

Every online forum is an ambiguous social situation because you don’t know who you are communicating with. The social proof of who you are in that community will play a bigger role than your actual argument.

Tip #8: Always let a fool have the last word

Slant Six Creative covers this in depth: “Healthy argument and debate only work when everyone’s a willing participant, and no amount of reason or good sense is going to convince someone whose only goal is to throw a monkey wrench. At the same time, trying to dismiss that person or shut him up will usually just make him go that much harder. That and it makes you look like a dictator, which you never want to be.

So, give him the last word on the point and move on. Doing so might mean a short-term hit to your pride, but in the long run it helps you build credibility with the people you’re really trying to talk to.”

Tip #9: Walk away

Communicating online has some clear benefits because you can take as much time as you want to develop your arguments and it is easy to re-read past points without falling into a rehashing of who said what. But it can also be time consuming and pointless when there is no resolution in sight. There’s a big difference between debating a subject and a flame war in the emotional response you feel and the benefit you get from the discussion. The only way you can win a flame war is by turning off the computer and getting on with your life.

Online discussion is easily archived and searchable, so who knows if this discussion will be dredged up years later. Is it really worth it?

Internet Duct Tape featured in Blogging Heroes

Posted in Becoming a Better Blogger, Book Reviews, Internet Duct Tape News, Technology by engtech on November 09, 2007

Blogging HeroesWhen bloggers like Gina Trapani, Mark Frauenfelder, Chris Anderson, and Phillip Lennsen are honored to be collected in New York Times’ bestselling author Michael A. Banks’ new book, Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World’s Top Bloggers I can’t even begin to describe how exciting it is to be included in the list. “Someone must be making a mistake,” went through my head several times.

From the cover of the book you can see a list of a many of my blogging heroes: Frank Warren (PostSecret), Gina Trapani (LifeHacker), Merlin Mann (43folders), Peter Rojas (EnGadget), Chris Anderson (Wired), Michael Arrington (TechCrunch), Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel

Several other sites are posting previews from their chapters in the book, so I will as well: Blogging Heroes Preview Chapter – Internet Duct Tape

Preview the Book

Here’s a list of some of the other free chapters that are available online:

If you spot any other chapters in the wild, drop me a comment on this blog post and I’ll add them to the list.

On Writing Blogging Heroes

Michael Banks is talking about the experience of writing Blogging Heroes.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Contacting the Interviewees

Pick Up Your Copy

Amazon: Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World’s Top Bloggers

Blog Action Day: Save Paper when Readers Print Your Blog

Posted in CSS and Web Design, Technology by engtech on October 15, 2007

Bloggin Tips and Tricks

Today is Blog Action Day with a focus on the environment and I’m going to teach a quick CSS trick for how to save paper by reducing what gets printed when someone prints an article from your blog.

It’s dead simple to do, and I’m always surprised that more blogs don’t do it.

@media print {
/* If printing the page, get rid of the sidebar and comments */
.somethingclass { display: none; }
}

The @media print style is only applied to your blog when someone is printing it out. Use it to apply display:none; to your header, your sidebar, your footer and maybe even your comments. Here’s a sample of a print style sheet for the Sandbox WordPress blog theme:

@media print {
/* If printing the page, get rid of the sidebar and comments */
div#wrapper { width: 100%; }
div#wrapper * { width: auto; }
div#header { margin: 0; padding: 0; display:none !important; }
div#footer { margin: 0; padding: 0; display:none !important; }
div.sidebar { margin: 0; padding: 0; display:none !important; }
div.container { margin: 0; padding: 0; }
.navigation { display: none; }
#blog-title { display: none; }
.comments { display: none; }
}

Blog Page Without Print Stylesheet

Blog Page With Print Stylesheet

My Print Stylesheet

My print stylesheet is customized for my blog and settings (and let’s face it, my CSS is a mess).

@media print {
#wrapper {
width:100%;
}

#wrapper * {
width:auto;
}

iframe,#wpcombar,#footer,#globalnav,
#menu,.sidebar,.navigation,.comments,
#respond,.entry-meta,#blog-title,
#blog-description,#header,
.idt-menu,.idt-header {
display:none !important;
margin:0;
padding:0;
}

.container {
margin:0;
padding:0;
}

body.loggedin #wrapper {
border-top:0 !important;
}
}
  • making the content take up the entire width of the page
  • turning off iframes so the “digg this” button doesn’t show
  • turning off the “logged into wordpress.com” bar at the top of the page
  • remove header, footer, sidebar, and misc elements like the category image I use
  • remove comments

By setting up a special print stylesheet for your blog design you can save your readers 1-2 sheets of paper for every article they print out.

Blog Tip: Create a Link Post in 3 Seconds

Posted in Becoming a Better Blogger, Delicious, Technology, Yahoo Pipes by engtech on October 03, 2007

Bloggin Tips and Tricks

This is the successor to my post on how to build a weekly digest in 3 seconds.

One question I’m frequently asked is “how do you build those Best of Feeds weekly links?” The way I do it is pretty complicated, but I’ve found a much simpler solution that I want to share with you all. Building a list of links is something every blogger does at one time or another, and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Why Create a Link Post?

Link posts are great ways to share and acknowledge interesting links. Linking to other blogs is what makes the blogosphere tick. If you don’t routinely read and link to other bloggers then your using your blog as a one-way soapbox instead of as a medium for sparking communication and building relationships.

Link posts can be used for a variety of reasons:

  • Weekly Round-up
  • List of resources about a subject
  • List of group writing participants
  • List of contest participants

Here are some more tips from the experts on why create a link post

Step #1: Use Delicious to Save Links

I’m a delicious power user and it’s my favourite site for bookmarking interesting links. It integrates nicely with whatever web browser you are using.

This video explains how to use Delicious to bookmark sites

Delicious already comes with a way of posting a daily link report, but I don’t like it because I feel like I’m spamming my regular readers if my blog is filled with “links for 2007-10-02″ instead of stuff I wrote myself. I much prefer posting once a week, or having full control over when I post my list of links.

But the delicious tagging system is so useful for building a list of links around a specific subject, and for attaching short descriptions around each link. For instance, I used the ‘project3′ tag when I was picking out my favorite posts from the Project 3 group writing project on Daily Blog Tips.

Delicious also integrates nicely into your web browser, no matter what it might be.

Step #2: Use Delicious Link Builder

I’ve created a Yahoo Pipe that builds a list of your del.icio.us links that you can cut-and-paste into a blog post.

  1. Put in your delicious username
  2. Optional: Filter your links by a tag
  3. Optional: Filter your links by date
  4. Optional: Limit the number of links (maximum is 31, this is a limit from del.icio.us)
  5. Click ‘Run Pipe
  6. Cut-and-paste the results into a blog post using your WYSIWYG editor

Delicious Link Builder

The Results

This is an example of a list from my delicious saved bookmarks.

That’s all there is to it. Bookmark web pages with delicious, then go into Delicious Link Builder when you want to make a list of them.

You can start by bookmarking this post. :)

Advanced Users – Pretty Cut-n-Paste

I use a Greasemonkey script in Firefox to make the output of Yahoo Pipes a little bit nicer.

  1. How to Install Greasemonkey
  2. How to Install a Greasemonkey Script
  3. Install Yahoo Pipe Cleaner

Advanced Users – Clone Your Own Pipe

If you’re logged into Yahoo then you’ll have the option to ‘clone’ my Pipe (Delicious Links Builder). This means you have your own copy of it and you can change the default values for the fields to whatever you want, eg: always default to your username, and to 7 days worth of links.

Advanced Users – StumbleUpon

If you’re using delicious to save bookmarks, you can also use another handy Greasemonkey script I created that lets you save web pages to StumbleUpon at the same time you’re saving them to Delicious.

Related Links

There’s Plenty More

See the full list of free software I have created.

You can get frequent updates about all of my new software, tools or blog themes by subscribing to IDT Labs by RSS or by email. Or you could just subscribe to my main blog, Internet Duct Tape.

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This post was written as part of the Geeks Are Sexy Ultimate “How-To” contest.

Blog Tip: Creating a Blog Maintenance Start Page with Netvibes

Posted in RSS Syndication, Technology, Technorati, Twitter, WordPress.com Tips by engtech on September 25, 2007

Bloggin Tips and Tricks

In Blogger GTD, Leo mentioned that it was a good idea to have one inbox for all your blogging related notifications. I hate cluttering in my inbox, but I do agree that it makes sense to have a single point of reference rather to spend 5 minutes checking some information in one place and then spend 5 minutes checking information in another place. As Skelliewag says, those 5 minutes add up over the course of a day and by the end of it you’ve wasted an hour.

Directing everything to my inbox would never work for me, but it is possible to have a single start page for all your blog maintenance activities using Netvibes. If you aren’t familiar with Netvibes it is a combination of an RSS feed aggregator and a widget platform. It is analogous to iGoogle (but works better). In simple terms Netvibes lets you put lots of information in one place and look at information from several web pages on a single page.

blog maintenance netvibes start page

If you’ve never tried it out before then please visit http://netvibes.com — they let you play around with a default page even if you don’t have an account.

This is what I put on my blog maintenance start page. Replace internetducttape.com or engtech.wordpress.com with your blog URL.

Column 1: Comment Administration and Social Site Monitoring

blog maintenance netvibes comment monitoring

The first column is for things that I want to respond quickly to — comments and checking to see if my site is submitted to Digg or Reddit.

Box #1: Comments RSS feed: http://internetducttape.com/comments/feed

Or you could use my WordPress Comment Extractor / WordPress Trackback Extractor to get only the comments or only the trackbacks.

Box #2: Shortcuts to WordPress administration activities using the Netvibes Bookmarks widget.

Bookmarks: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Bookmarks

I add the following bookmarks:

Box #3: Social Site Submission Watchdog is a custom Yahoo Pipe I created.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

Column 2: Blog Stats

blog maintenance netvibes check blog stats

It’s a bad idea to check your blog stats multiple times a day, but is it so bad if you’re also checking blog comments, emails and instant messages at the same time?

Box #1: This will only work for WordPress.com bloggers, which is too bad because it’s a great way to check stats at a glance.

WordPress.com Mobile Widget: http://gamespotting.net/wordpressnetvibes.html

Box #2: Technorati Rank from RSS. Another custom Yahoo Pipe. This one is a little more complicated to install because you’ll need your Technorati API key.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • find your Technorati API key and cut-and-paste it
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

Box #3: Filtered Blog Reactions from Technorati. This is another custom Yahoo Pipe. It shows the blog URL as the title and links to the front page instead of directly to the post.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

You could use this RSS feed instead: http://feeds.technorati.com/search/internetducttape.com

Column 3: Direct Communication

netvibes blog maintenance communication twitter

I use the second tab as a way to keep a quick check on how I stay in contact with other bloggers — through Gmail and Twitter.

Box #1: Gmail: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Gmail

I use a dedicated Gmail account for blogging — I don’t receive any personal or work related email with that account.

Box #2: Twitter Replies RSS feed: http://twitter.com/statuses/replies.rss

This shows some of the power of Netvibes — you can view password protected RSS feeds.

Box #3: Twitter: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Twitter

Create Your Own Blog Maintenance Start Page

This gives you a few ideas of how I use the service, but the possibilities are endless.

For instance there is a Facebook widget: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Facebook

Not to mention several widgets that let you directly embed a web page. Using those generic modules you can embed Google Reader into Netvibes and other crazy stuff like that.

What are you going to put on your blog maintenance start page?

Only Two Days Left to Win Graphic Design Services for Your Blog

Posted in Asides, Contests, Group Writing Projects, Technology by engtech on September 24, 2007

In 3 Surefire Ways to Advertise Your Blog on a Shoestring I recommended running a blog contest as a great way to create buzz, build links, and get the attention of potential new readers. It sounds like David Airey Graphic Design was listening because he is running what has to be the biggest blog giveaway contest I’ve ever seen (click to see rules). The prize pool is large enough that I thought it was a Problogger contest at first glance.

Running through the contest sponsors is a good list of blogs I already subscribe to: David himself, DoshDosh, I Love Typography, ProBlogger, Daily Blog Tips, InstigatorBlog, Business Blogwire, Andy Beard Niche Marketing, Make It Great! and Lorelle on WordPress (where I am sometimes a guest blogger).

This is a great idea and I’m very impressed with how he has managed to rally a community around him to provide prizes. If you run a blog yourself then you should enter the contest in the next two days.

You could be a winner. I got my new logo from a contest on Daily Blog Tips.

Delicious Stumbles – Post to Delicious and StumbleUpon at the same time

Social Bookmarking and Social Voting

Delicious and StumbleUpon are two different social networks that let you save websites you like. Delicious Stumbles is a time saving tool for the Firefox web browser that will let you update your StumbleUpon account easily when you bookmark pages on delicious.

This video explains social bookmarking using delicious.

Yesterday Muhammad Saleem announced the Social Media extension for Firefox that lets you quickly browse how a site is saved between delicious/digg/reddit/stumbleupon. I’ve been hitting the same problem from another angle — how to quickly submit from one social bookmarking site to another.

I’m a hardcore delicious user. I use it to save everything. That’s how I build those “Best of Feeds” posts on Saturday. One problem with being a hardcore delicious user is that it means I’m not as active on other social networking sites. If I like something I save it to delicious and then get back to whatever I was doing.

I find delicious to be the quickest site for tagging and the easiest site for searching through pages I’ve bookmarked before. The problem is that I also wanted to submit my saved sites to StumbleUpon. As a blogger, StumbleUpon is a great source of traffic — not to mention a great way to find interesting sites to share and find people who have similar interests. Dosh Dosh has a great post on why StumbleUpon isn’t just a source of traffic — it’s a great tool for anyone. By crossposting the sites I find interesting to StumbleUpon as well as delicious I improve StumbleUpon’s ability to find pages I like.

Delicious Stumbles

With Delicious Stumbles I get all of the super-useful features I like about delicious (speed, recommended tags) but I also teach StumbleUpon more about what I like without having to spend all that time cutting-and-pasting between two accounts.

  • Submit a page you’ve saved to delicious to StumbleUpon using the same URL, title, tags and description
  • Use delicious’ super-quick tagging features instead of StumbleUpon’s really slow tagging
  • Stumble any of your existing bookmarks
  • Stumble a page while you’re saving it to delicious

How to Install

Delicious Stumbles works best with the “old” Delicious extension.

Show Me How It Works

Save a page how you normally would on delicious. But before you click Save, click on the Submit to Stumbleupon link.

delicious stumbles submit to stumbleupon from within the delicious extension

This will open up a new tab to submit on StumbleUpon with all of the information already prefilled.

delcious stumbles stumbleupon submission

You can even go back to any pages you have saved before on delicious and quickly stumble them.

delicious stumbles submit to stumbleupon from within the delicious extension

What Are You Waiting For?

If you use both delicious and StumbleUpon then this script can save you at least a minute every time you submit a site. How many sites do you submit a week? Install it now.

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