Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Google Tools

Here are a couple of Google tools I’ve tried on my Blog. For both, you need to register on their respective sites. Expect to wait a day or two to hear back from them. Google Analytics mentions this saying that they are in the process of expanding capacities as they go along.

Adsense: As the name suggests, this one puts ads on your site. You get paid every time some one clicks on them (or something like that). Given time, the system adjusts to show ads specific to the content being displayed on the page. The next thing this tool lets you add to your site is the Google search bar. Finally, you can add referral buttons for FireFox, Google, etc. I added the site search and the ad banner to my sidebar.

Analytics: The Google version of Statcounter minus the counter. While there is no display on your webpage, it records access to you site. Expect some cool looking graphs. The only catch is that this data is consolidated every 24 hours, so that’s when the graphs will get updated next (at least that’s what the site says). Add this code at the end of your blog using the template tab.

Last up, the Google Site Tool I did not use was Google Adwords. This one lets you create ads, which will turn up on the Google ad banner.

Advanced blogging techniques – WordPress

With most of the in’s and out’s of Blogger figured out, felt the need to explore some more. The next free blogging setup saw me at WordPress.

First stop, This is the site that has the blogging platform (aka software). You go to this place if you want to use the WordPress platform on an independent / alternate web hosting site. The whole setup seemed too complicated to me, and after around ½ hour of tinkering, I still couldn’t figure out what to do (I‘m no programmer, remember?).

When I had just about given up, I spotted This site ran the WordPress platform so you don’t have to go through all that pain. Since it was free, I signed up. Easy enough, WordPress even had my first post (Hello World!) ready for me on my new address. From there, the difference became very apparent.

While blogger, just lets you choose the template, WordPress actually allows you to decide what appears where on your blog. Get ready for some technical (blog) jargon!

All said and done, WordPress has a lot of options you can play around with to make your blog unique, but just too many options for me. Distracts from the whole writing part (which blogging is about) and makes you want to keep improving the designing. So it’s back to Blogger to me.

Categories on Blogger

One of the most apparent shortcomings on Blogger is the lack of categories. In other words, while the standard sorting by date (archives and recent posts) exist, you cannot sort your posts according to “user-defined” categories. This may not be a an issue to some, for those of us who like order in our posts, this blows a hole in the Blogger experience.

A search through the Blogger help highlights a way around this (link here and here). I personally found this a bit too long drawn out, but here are the steps in brief.
  1. You need to be using FireFox (this works using a FireFox plug-in called Greasemonkey)

  2. Update FireFox to the latest edition, download and install the plug-in

  3. This method uses the tagging system of a site, to “tag” the pages, so you will have to make a id in case you don’t already have one (I didn’t)

  4. Once you are done with these steps, every time, you create and publish a post using FireFox, you will be asked to enter tags for the page. This way, your categories will now begin to appear!

Of course, I had issues with this method as well. For one, seemingly two word categories (eg armchair philosophy) were sometimes getting treated as one word (“armchair philosophy” and in some places as two words (“armchair” “philosophy”). Also, special characters like apostrophe’s etc are not allowed (Kino’s Journey). Maybe that just an issue I faced, since I’m not too familiar with the whole tagging system, but I found this method a bit too annoying.

This was when I noticed that a blog I visited run by Rearset had categories just the way I wanted them. Listed here is his method, just scroll down to the bottom of his post. I have also listed the steps down here.
  1. Prepare separate blog posts for each index you want.

  2. Every time you post, remember to add the link to your index post

  3. Every time you post, add the title of the new post to your index page and the hyperlink the ‘permanent link’ of the post to the text.

Of course, this is no good if there are no links to your categories on your “homepage”. You will need to alter your page template (the html code page).
  1. Locate the portion in the template which codes to the links section on your sidebar

  2. Copy - paste it in the location you want your categories sidebar to appear

  3. Using a bit of good old fashion common sense, locate the part of the link that has the hyperlink and the part that has the text that will appear on the page. Substitute these with the links of the index pages and the text you want to appear.

  4. Don’t forget to rename the heading from links (which you had copy-pasted) to “categories”!

  5. Update this section as and when you add new categories

I prefer this method, as there was no restrictions on characters you can use plus you are in control of the words you use.

The only drawback is that your index pages will have a lot of “links to this page” but that’s not an issue with me.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Out for the Count

Well, who’s coming to your blog and how many of them actually return? Borrowing a page from the Blogwild! book, its time to get the counter!

A Google search took me to Statcounter for a free counter. The free scheme still gives you a ton of features but the records of the features are limited to 100.

While I haven’t exactly tinkered with all the options and features, feel free to play the detective and figure out who is watching your blog. This is a depressing figure in case you don’t hit the jackpot and people don’t come swarming to your site by the click-loads.

After you register and make a new project for your site, you will be lead on a long quest to customize the way your counter will look and function. At the end of it all, you will get a piece of code. View the text format template of your blog, follow the instructions on the final Statcounter page and Ctrl C + Ctrl V the code in the right place and voila!

You can now track the visitors to your webpage.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Guide

Here’s my first point of reference, the book that got me started.

Most reports in newspapers, write-ups on blogging, etc give you bits and pieces and all you are left with is piecing it together. You often know the why but don’t know the how. Blogwild! puts it all in easy to understand language. A definite must read if you want to start blogging.

I however, do not follow it word to word. Like the book recommends TypePad, whereas I went with Blogger. Such differences aside, the book still makes for good reading.

Getting Started

It's the job that's never started takes longest to finish.
J. R. R. Tolkien

One of the most perplexing issues I faced was, what should my first post be about? As in real life, the phrase says, the first impression is the last impression, or, you have to make maximum impact in order to hold the attention of you audience within the first few minutes of you speech.

In blogging, this is not really the case. Give the whole 'latest post first' format (is that reverse chronological order? I forget...), your first post has usually rolled right off the first page. Unlike a webpage, where the first bit of information is usually the home page.

As the book says, “Its better to make a decision now and start publishing your blog than get mired in details in an attempt to get everything perfect at first post.”

And again, “The only way to start is to start”

Sunday, July 02, 2006

How I landed on blogger


The power of search

Think search and the first thing to come to mind is google!
Think free blogs and the first result is

That for one covers how I got here. But it did not really begin at that. I registered, thought I'll start and never got around to doing so! The id, created in October 2005 remained without a blog until June 7, 2006.

You see, my friend had come down from the States to get married in Chennai. Having been a Bombay Boy for quite some time, we decided to pay good old Strand a visit. There, while browsing around, I spotted the book 'Blogwild'. Since the company wanted to get into blogging in a 'big way', I said, what the heck, let's check it out.

However, later that week, I was supposed to fly down to Chennai for his wedding. This meant no contact with my beloved computer.

So, as I mentioned in my original blog, it was really in Chennai, that I got around to writing both my first post and my first real post.

Hi people!!!

hello world : )
this is round two :D