Blogger Hacks, Categories, Tips & Tricks

Thursday, August 31, 2006

& within days, as promised... excellent. I noticed a couple of new help files this morning, and then the editor itself...

There's plenty of discussion and help out there already. The big change seems to be as expected, that your hand-coding will have to be layouts compliant and that each new element of the page will have to be defined by its own widget. See the new and growing help pages.

For more, see
Update: As he points out in the comments, Scott at Banana Stew has authored a template walkthrough that provides a great launch point as we all embark on learning this new template language. Great work, Scott!

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Posted at 9:05 AM by John.
Just got wind of an interesting new way to give your blog multiple colorschemes or "moods" without going to tons of effort to select colors that match. Pic2Color is a service that will derive a colorscheme from an image that you specify, and apply it to your blog. You could have multiple images in a menu for users to select, as you see on the Pic2Color demo page, or even set up an input box & allow users to submit their own pics in .jpg, .png or .gif format. This is an interesting complement to Aditya's stylesheet switcher for blogger, & will allow users to quickly choose their favorite colorscheme for your content, & package your goodies to reflect their mood.

To signup as an alpha tester, e-mail the Pic2Color folks. To input your e-mail to be on the waitlist for the beta, head to the signup page.

Pic2Color also announced yesterday that they now offer their first downloadable wordpress template.

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Posted at 8:44 AM by John.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
A quickie. Amit at Digital Inspiration points out that you can drag & drop images and such into the compose window of GMail, even though you can't add the raw HTML to the signature field in "settings." I might be able to get my Feedburner Headline Animator in there after all... as long as I can keep it handy on the web somewhere for drag & drop purposes!

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Posted at 9:45 AM by John.
Friday, August 25, 2006
It occurred to me that we haven't seen much innovation on the tag-display front since the heady days of tagclouds. Acting on a whim, I thought I try out a new approach ... TagPie!

Now, pie charts aren't particularly a good fit for this task. Firstly, tag counts rarely "add up to 100%" since there's a huge amount of overlap. Secondly, JavaScript does not lend itself to rendering graphs of any kind - but especially pie charts. Still, I found a free piechart provider (they use a PHP back-end to produce an image) in Gheos for proof-of-concept purposes.

So, it's not clickable, and isn't that flexible. But the concept is there - worth pursuing?

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Posted at 12:44 AM by Greg.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Michael's been at it again... This time extracting the search box from the navbar in Blogger Beta and allowing you to reposition it on your blog. His latest how-to [link updated] is a four-part tutorial in which you'll learn to:

1. Hide the navbar.

2. Construct the search box, and reposition it.

3. Resize the search box.

4. Change the appearance of the search button.

Grand! All sorts of goodies start to break through. Shora also has a new "especially for beta" hack for hiding the navbar, which is en espanol. Now, the "legality" of hacking the navbar has never been quite clear, & the new Terms of Service (if, indeed, these were the new Terms of Service) don't seem to clear things up. Section 10 is still Section 10, & modifying the navbar is probably still a violation of the Blogger TOS....

Important to note that in beta the navbar is a little less cluttered, and contains (at least for the moment) an interface to let you directly access features to edit your blog if you're already signed in.... so there are some tools that you'll lose if you tell the navbar goodbye.

Other pre-beta Navbar hacks were discussed here last Fall.

Update: Perhaps in response to TOS concerns, Michael's post now also contains information about how to reposition the navbar.

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Posted at 9:30 AM by John.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The Blog brings news of two new JSON feeds in addition to the existing tag and bookmark feeds. Now you can access your network and your fans in this format. The JSON help has also had an upgrade.

Getting a list of your network (and fans) should be straightforward. A bit more work and you can have featured tags and posts from those sources displayed too. Taking it a step further, Michael Schieben created the Delicious Network Explorer using this new tech. (Warning, Java Applet may take some time to load.)

This could also be the basis for new blogrolling or webring applications. The duality of network/fan lists means you'd get automatic link reciprocity: blogrolling me (ie add me to your network) automatically sees you blogrolled too (ie added to my fans). That's the sort of mechanism that could see networks really take off ... and "fan spam" (fam? Infamy?) too. Since you have no control over who adds you to their network (and hence becomes a fan of yours), it's prone to abuse.

What other possibilities and pitfalls do these new feeds present? Where might this new data go, and what might it do when it gets there? Thoughts in the comments please!

In other news: Private feeds (in John's case the feed from links for you, specifically) have been placed behind an additional layer of security, and will need to be resubscribed.

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Posted at 11:58 PM by Greg.
Thanks to Scott from Banana Stew for laying out the new beta feed URL's in a comment here. This belongs front & center... The url's are laid out as follows:

The URL for the post feed is:

The URL of the comment feed is:

The URL of the per-post comment feed is:
  • The URL for the short form of each feed is at the same URL, but ends with /summary rather than /full.
  • I would imagine that these feeds can still be run through Feedburner to gather & report accurate subscriber stats.
  • To access these feeds in RSS 2.0 rather than Atom 1.0 format, append &alt=rss to the end of the URL, as described in Blogger Help.
  • To find out your blogID, sign in to Blogger beta, then head to new post, or to manage posts, settings, or layout. In each case the end of the destination page URL will be your blog ID.
  • To find out a post ID, head to a Beta post page, & select the "post a comment" link. The end of the "post a comment" URL is the post ID.
As discussed in the comments at The Last Word, the link to the whole blog comment feed seems to be awol for a significant number of users (me, Ramani, & Adi, at least), but the URL above holds up, & let me make a sidebar widget....

With this info in hand, I've road-tested Ramani's "recent comments in the sidebar" method on FreshblogBeta. To get this to work, log in to beta and select "layouts." Add a sidebar page element, & select "feed" from the list of options. Enter the feed URL (your beta blog's comment URL, for example) in the pop-up window, and an options window will appear.

This will give you the opportunity to change the title of the sidebar box, as well as to add dates & authors to the content titles. This means that you can add summaries of recent posts on related blogs, (as well as a quick & easy recent comments section) to your sidebar. Excellent.

One other feed-related issue. As Philipp points out in the update to his announcement, having the new feeds be beta URL's could later present a problem after everyone has migrated and the system isn't in beta anymore.

While we're walking through the beta, here's a round-up of recent discussion:
  • Improbulus explores the detection of labels as tags by Technorati & not by Icerocket
  • Julie walks through the current state of play for anyone who has the option to migrate & isn't sure whether to make the move. The comments on Julie's post also point up an anonymity issue. If your GMail account has your real (and / or whole) name, & your anonymity is valuable to you as a blogger, don't use that account to migrate with.
  • Imp (again) has the scoop on updating your tagger userscripts so that they'll work in the beta. This fix points scripts to the new beta pages, and will work as long as the underlying functions are still possible, & only the locations of the pages that you want to modify have changed.
  • Peter @ Blogger Tips & Tricks walks through the greatly simplified process of adding advertisements and affiliate content to your beta blog using layouts, which seems to have been a significant target of the upgrade.
Nice to breathe out, relax, & start to see the lay of the new beta land a little.

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Posted at 8:35 AM by John.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Many bloggers like to bookmark their posts in, whether for their own reference, categories or just getting their links out there. Dealing with a large of collection of bookmarks can be quite unwieldy, especially if you're used to modern niceties likes search-and-replace, macros, wildcards and other "luxuries". Picking out and treating your bookmarks one at a time can be dispiriting. This post introduces a new service I knocked together over the weekend that makes it easy to update and edit your bookmarks wholesale.

The service is dubbed Scripted Re-Mark, since you use a script to "re-mark" your bookmarks. It grew out of my earlier experiments with automatic tagging and frustrations with migrating a blog.

*** Update ***

(There's a new release for Scripted Re-Mark that features zippier updates and functions-as-parameters.)

To use the service, you visit the page, play around with some search/replace rules and then copy/paste a code snippet into another window, opened up to your account. The code snippet zips through the bookmarks, making changes and saving the result.

You can search/replace on the Title, URL, Notes and Tags of your bookmarks, using as many rules as you like. (And, yes, you can use full regular expressions!) You can also set the sharing (public/private) properties. The service deals with the "rate limiter" for you, ensuring that you don't get locked out of your account for thrashing their servers.

Some possible uses:
  • Site Migration: Change the domain name in the URLs of a bunch of bookmarks.

  • Spelling Correction: As a favour, why not fix all the different flavours of spelling, without too much labour?

  • Tag Migration: Delete, merge and rename tags in one hit. Or, add a common tag across a subset of your bookmarks to help with grouping.

  • Share your Imports: By default, imported bookmarks are private; set them all free with a mass "tag and release program".

If you've got more ideas, please share them in the comments, including any regular expressions you come up with.

I've tested it under FireFox and Internet Explorer (I wept tears getting it to work in IE ...) but not Safari or Opera. If someone could let me know how it travels, that'd be great. Still, this is "beta" (not like Google - I mean beta) so please backup your bookmarks before committing anything.

The code is released under a Creative Common licence so feel free to "extend and embrace". Future ideas include allowing generic functions in the replace string, rolling in the auto-tagger for suggestions, deletion and, well, you tell me!

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Posted at 11:17 AM by Greg.
Michael at Basang Panganip has figured out a way to add labels to your Blogger Beta blog, even if you're running without the new layouts in classic template mode. The how-to is lengthy because it is specific, but the process doesn't appear to be difficult. It involves:
  1. Temporarily selecting a new template
  2. Labelling all of your posts & keeping a cut & paste list of your labels
  3. Reverting to your "classic" template after you've labelled your posts
  4. Writing a hand-coded sidebar list of search strings for your labels
IMPORTANT: If you want to do this, please work from the full how-to and not from the summary above!

As we suspected, it seems that the only part of the labels system that is truly layouts-dependent is the default sidebar menu... and Michael has the scoop on how to build a perfectly serviceable substitute. Once again, let's see what happens when the HTML editor goes live....

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Posted at 7:53 AM by John.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
The deeper you dig, the more treasure you find! Ramani at Hackosphere has taken beta for a decent test-drive and finds several new features that once were hacks. These include:
  • Next & Previous Post Links (here called newer & older)
  • In-Post Display of Navbar Search results
  • Manual selection of posting Dates & Times
Check out Ramani's post for the details, & see Aditya's expanding list o' features. Who knows what we'll find on Monday!

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Posted at 8:36 AM by John.
Friday, August 18, 2006
As part of the content becomes obsolete due to built-in Beta Blogger goodness, the Blogger Hacks Wiki is getting a goodly slice of link love. The Download Squad give a positive review, and link to a March 6th, 2000 post documenting the arrival of permalinks to the platform. It would be interesting to compare the buzz re: the arrival of comments (or permalinks) w/. the buzz that has greeted the arrival of categories.

I added a section to the main page to suggest that the wiki will be overhauled as soon as the dust settles. I'm reluctant to delete content, but perhaps we could label certain pages as superceded by default offerings? Add your thoughts to the comments.

Posted at 1:50 PM by John.
The dust settles, some folks dig in & take a good look, and a 2nd round of reviews & user insights emerge.
  • Annie at BlogU made the switch, keeping the non-layouts "classic" template, and everything except Freshtags made the migration with her. We're investigating....
  • Aditya notes that few of the usual suspects have migrated. We haven't because we can't (team blog), but like many others I think we're waiting for the HTML template editor too, so that our widgets can come with us when we move! He's also opened a "peeking under the hood" thread, & promised to update frequently.... So send him the good stuff that you see.
  • Steve Rubel reports that the "public feeds on private blogs" bug that he exposed has now been resolved.
  • BlogHacker reports 8 new features and 8 new issues. To be fair, most of the issues will be resolved with time and the full rollout of Blogger beta features, but the post is a balanced look at the current state of play.
  • Turning up the geek factor to maximum, Bloggers Buzz points to the new Blogger API and suggests some of the promise thereof.
  • Instabloke counsels patience, testing, & waiting to play w/ the full suite of tools. Good call!
  • Avatar at Bloggeratto finds a good conspiracy theory in the phased rollout. Hmmmm! Elvis is alive and well and living in Mountain View.... right next to Han Solo frozen in Carbonite.
Plenty of discussion as this news has spread. Check out the T'rati graph of posts that contain the terms Blogger Beta over the last 7 days. The wave is growing, with more than 1000 posts Thursday & half that already today:

The critical next step would seem to be the introduction of the raw HTML edit window for layout-enabled templates. Blogger users will then be able to use the new labels but also add any additional widgets to their site. Blogger Buzz suggests that we can look for this in "days not weeks." Thanks, Jason!

As things stand now, you can either keep your template, in "classic" mode (dynamic serving but no layouts, and therefore no labels), you can use a new beta default template, or you can wait a while to migrate 'til the HTML editor goes live on the beta, & (hopefully) re-create your template as closely as possible w/ added "layouts". This will involve migrating individual customisations & widgets from current to beta... & testing each one to see whether they fall over. As Pete pointed out, though, there will be a "view classic template" option that will allow the cut & paste grabbing of the code you want to keep.

I'm optimistic that once the HTML editor goes live in beta, this will be a useful & interesting process, and that a second generation of mods will emerge that can live with (and even extend) the new platform.

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Posted at 8:46 AM by John.
Thursday, August 17, 2006

and I have had identical experiences w/ the Windows Live Writer, and identical responses. I don't know what the .Net framework is, but I haven't needed it 'til now, & I'm not sure I want it.

Imagine, a Microsoft product that requires other Microsoft products before it will work. Who'da Thunk! For reviews and other good stuff, see the post that I wrote before I tried to install it!

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Posted at 4:44 PM by John.
Rather than letting grievances fester, I'm all for rolling up the sleeves and making a contribution. I guess I'm just a positive person like that. Last week I complained about the limitations of the delicious interface when it comes to managing tags. This week, I've started poking around further in their interface, figuring out more "improvements". By way of proof of concept, I've integrated Knallgrau's automatic tagging webservice (see earlier experiments) with this Delicious.

First, a few words on the wisdom of doing this. Delicious actually does a reasonable job of prompting you for tags under their "full-screen edit" (albeit not in their inline edit mode). It's also not particularly useful to have people ("sheeple") copying tags wholesale - and even less so when those tags are machine generated. That said, this might be useful for those times when you have "tagger's block" or you've sourced a bunch of URLs and want to get some quick-and-dirty structure across them before refined tagging can begin.

In light of recent developments, I'm also expecting a rush of people retro-fitting tags to their content, so it's good to get some practice in with this. It's also a nice little learning project for me on hacking the delicious interface to handle the much-needed batch-mode. Finally, it's just plain cool watching all those empty text fields magically fill up with content!

Oh, and I doffs me hat to the folk at Knallgrau; the tags their baby generates aren't half bad in most cases. It errs on the side of verbosity (so do I!), but that's beneficial for this situation. Let's hope they stick at it and don't go the way of Tagyu.

The use of it is pretty straightforward: visit your delicious page and press "edit" on any bookmarks you wish to treat (as many as you like). The code is activated by clicking a bookmarklet on your browser. (Alternatively, you can just paste in the javascript for a one-off effort.) The bookmark's title and tags are automagically populated and you can make further changes before clicking save. It also works in the "full-screen edit" mode (where you have just one bookmark to edit and you get a list of your tags plus suggestions).

Installation is easy and takes just a moment. If you're running FireFox, you should be able to just drag the link below onto your links bar. If not (or your stuck with IE), just drag any old shortcut out of your Favourites folder and onto your links bar while holding down control (this makes it a copy). Then, right-click the link below and copy it (eg "copy shortcut"). You should now have the code on the clipboard. Finally, do a right-click and edit-properties on your cloned favourite. Make the name something like "Auto-Tagger" and then paste the code into the URL field (it should start "javascript: ... "). You may be prompted something about safety - just click OK.

That's it! Take it out for a test run and see what it makes of your existing tags.

As usual, feedback, troubleshooting and suggestions in the comments please.

Auto-Tagger (drag or copy this link)

Source Code

Oh - and sorry about the name "Auto-Tagger". I acknowledge it's unbearably lame but it's nearly 2am here and I'd be delighted to changed it to something suitably witty tomorrow.

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Posted at 10:43 AM by Greg.
Like many blogs, this is a two-pronged blog..... There are the "hey did you see?" posts that steer readers & subscribers to interesting content elsewhere in the blogosphere, & then there's the more substantial, meaty, original posts that we want you to read, inwardly digest, and act upon by adopting the suggested hack or exploring the reviewed service! So... how can bloggers (ourselves included) feature and draw attention to certain content within our blogs, & keep critical content alive once it falls off the front page? Some thoughts, in no particular order:
  1. Exclusivity: Be the only person writing about your topic. If there are only a half-dozen posts that discuss Creamaid, for example, you'll be in great shape to have your content found and enjoyed.
  2. Internal Links within Posts: String your own related posts together in a way that will make sense to your reader, and lead them to explore your content. Add "see also" links to your posts as you publish them, whether at the end of the post or in the body, in "as we discussed last week" style.
  3. Categories: Use categories on your blog to organise your content. This will assist folks in following a content thread through your whole blog. Blogger Beta's new labels will make this a much more straightforward process. Maintain a "highlights" category or similar that prominently features the posts that you consider to be critical content.
  4. Sidebar Menus: Use menus on your site to provide obvious and direct links to critical content. Hand code a series of links or a drop-down if that will work for you.
  5. Prominent Site Search: Don't hide the blogger navbar... The search box can be your site's best friend. Add the Technorati site search box too.... Get the most out of site search with a version, such as Aditya's, that provides post previews within your template.
  6. Community: If you're lucky enough to be active in a blogging community, e-mail your colleagues to alert them to the good stuff. Use the for: tag on to (selectively) push your posts to members of your community who will be interested.
  7. Comments and Trackback: Comment judiciously on related posts with a link to your own. Continue the dialog on your own blog in the comments, and take the opportunity to direct your readers to related critical content as the opportunity arises. Use trackbacks to your source posts to draw attention to your part in the conversation. If you don't trackback every post, be sure to trackback your critical posts. Offer a comment feed (easy w/ the new Blogger) so that readers can keep up with the ongoing discussion on older posts.
  8. Prime your content to be shared virally: Bookmark posts in a shared bookmark manager so that they're ready to be discovered and cloned. Pre-populate social / distributed / voting type link services. Provide buttons for voting / sharing / cloning / storing and emailing your links. Use tags to draw attention to posts on your blog. If you don't tag everything, tag your critical posts.
  9. Judicious branding of your blog. Take advantage of Technorati's blog tags service to advertise the content that readers can expect. Use sub-titles in your blog header to explain your focus.
  10. Create a "hub-post" such as Blogger Hacks - The Series that will serve as an entry point and response point for multiple readers. Direct those readers to both internal and external content of a high quality and related topical focus.
How else do you draw attention to the critical content on your blog? Let us know!

Submitted to Darren Rowse's Group List-Writing Project, which is a hub-post, of course, and will be prominently featured on multiple blogs, I'm sure... especially since this time, submitting a post to the project carries with it the possibility of a hefty prize. (Mmmm, prizes!)

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Posted at 8:45 AM by John.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Have you checked the comment notification e-mails for your beta blog? The information ID of the commenter and the title of the post that has been commented are now front and center.

This used to be somewhat buried in the footer of the mail. A small thing, to be sure, but an indication that this has been a comprehensive refit. Good call, Blogger! Now it is much easier to see where the discussion is happening, and (at least in the example above) to link to the Blogger profile of the commenter. I wonder what this will look like if the user is anonymous or is not on Blogger?

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Posted at 5:20 PM by John.
Pete leaves a comment clarifying some of the new tools, and the situation re: existing templates etc. I've reposted in full since this explains the labels, layouts and existing templates issue, which was on my "have to figure this out asap" list. Thanks once again, Pete, for the insights:
If you migrate your blog, your template will be preserved as-is. It's in what we call "Classic" template mode. It will be dynamically served, but you won't get the drag-and-drop customization. You also won't get labels.

New blogs have Layouts by default, but can switch to Classic mode (there's a button on the Edit HTML subtab page).

You will be able to upgrade from Classic to Layouts, but, as the Layouts template language is completely different (but significantly improved), you'll lose your prodigious customizations. We make a best effort to save straightforward changes (sidebar lists, for the most part) but your milege will decrease the further you have gone from the stock templates.

You can see that there's a "View Classic Template" button on the Edit page, which is there to make it easier to copy over anything that the upgrade missed. (I'm going to a have a fun time w/ my blog... might just take the opportunity to design a new one.)

I'm excited to see what folks will come up with when Layouts's Edit HTML is available. Dragging and dropping in the official templates is fun, but doing it with your own template design is even better.

Oh, and as for mass-labeling, there's no interface for that. You can, however, use the new Gdata API (based on Atom 1.0) support to change labels. Atom categories === Blogger labels.
It seems, then, that dynamic loading works w? your old template after migration, & that what we're looking if we want to access labels and drag & drop is the eventual need to re-create a template in the new format. No immeditate pressure to do so, though, which is grand, & methinks the labels will be worth it, esp. given that there's an existing layout insert for custom blocks of HTML / Scripts & a way to view your existing template to grab the goodies.

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Posted at 8:13 AM by John.
Being unable to help myself, I thought I'd have a quick peek at the label system.

The logical structure of the page (including "widgets" like archives, feeds etc) seem to be encoded in a strange markup and dumped in a giant string in the header. This string is the sole parameter of a function called "_WidgetManager._Init". This function is invoked on page load and is defined in this external script. At this point, my brain boggled and I needed a lie down.

The actual taglabel names and counts are not in the header object literals - they make an appearance via a plain old unordered list in the sidebar. In my view, this is not a good place to keep such crucial information. It should be out in the wider world, making itself useful and mingling with others of its ilk. (Perhaps this will be supported in Blogger's Atom API - but I don't see it.)

To that end, I knocked together a little fragment of (ugly, unsafe) code to extract the labels and counts into a JavaScript object and read it back to you:

javascript: var rexp=/search\?label=(\S+)/i; var cexp=/.*(\d).*/i; var labels={}; var links=document.links; for(var i=0; i<links.length;i++) if (l=rexp.exec(links[i].href)) if (!links[i].rel) labels[l[1]]=cexp.exec(links[i].nextSibling.nodeValue)[1]; for (var j in labels) alert(j+' ['+ labels[j]+']')

(load up a beta blog and copy/paste this code into your browser address bar to watch the magic unfold.)

Here's another code snippet to transform Google's labels into a form a little more familiar to delicious JSON feed users:

javascript: var rexp=/search\?label=(\S+)/i; var cexp=/.*(\d).*/i; var labels={}; var links=document.links; for(var i=0; i<links.length;i++) if (l=rexp.exec(links[i].href)) if (!links[i].rel) labels[l[1]]=cexp.exec(links[i].nextSibling.nodeValue)[1]; var str="if(typeof(Delicious) == 'undefined') Delicious = {}; Delicious.tags = {"; for (var j in labels) str+='"'+j+'":'+labels[j]+','; str+="};"; document.write(str);

Does that get your creative juices flowing?

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Posted at 1:05 AM by Greg.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
In addition to the Freshblog intro, here's some great posts that walk through the new service. Interesting to see the subtle differences in who noticed what..... Go check out
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Posted at 8:30 AM by John.
So I was eating lunch, or sleeping, or something, and Microsoft rolled out Windows Live Writer, a stand-alone desktop blog post writer and editor that is Blogger-compatible. I have downloaded it to mess with at my leisure, & in the meantime, permit me to link to some judicious reviews from elsewhere in the blogosphere to explain, critique and evaluate the tool:
  • Paul Stamatiou approves, and provides a full walkthrough with screenshots. Paul also requests a feature that would give icon designers a side project for weeks... See the end of the It is Still Beta section for the scoop.
  • Chris Garrett at Performancing has a review that starts to make comparisons between Performancing for Firefox and Microsoft's offering. I would love to see this thread developed. (Browser Extension vs. Stand Alone, Online vs. Offline etc)
  • Zoli points out the limitations of Live Writer as an offline blogging platform, and the seeming disconnect between Writer and Windows Live, which is supposed to be "all about the web..." He also highlights the absence of integrated tagging. A commenter there points to Tim Heuer's tagging plugin, which is not available yet, apparently, but is on the way.
  • Amit at Digital Inspiration has a couple of good articles too... One is an introduction, which emphasises the "offline preview" feature (your post is formatted in a downloaded copy of your template, & so the preview is a real preview!) as well as investigating the automatically posted & hard to delete first post for "style detection." The second is a look at how to integrate pinging, and customise the BlogIt feature to add default info to every post.
  • Windows Live Writer also has a blog on MSN Spaces.
As always.... plenty of good stuff in the comments of these articles too, as users respond and the discussion develops. Interesting to see the default online Blogger interface get some teeth as a new offline product comes to market. We're all authors now!

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Posted at 8:05 AM by John.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Things are more exciting than even my previous post suggests! Thanks to Pete for pulling back the curtain & pointing out that signon integration is not even the start of the deal.... Long & short of it is that this appears to be the upgrade we've been waiting for. There are labels (categories) and WYSIWYG template editing, PsycHo style.

The new features are beta, and are not yet fully integrated with the existing system, but as the Blogger Help overview reveals, there is plenty of new stuff happening at Blogger. Some of the upgrades are "backroom" changes, and others will be visible to Blogger users and to your readers. There are five significant changes:

1. Dynamic Serving: Dynamic "on the fly" serving of blog content for Blogspot hosted blogs. No more lengthy republishing process or building of multiple static pages. "Dynamic Serving" means that your edits are instantly saved in a database, and the page that the edits appear on isn't built until someone tries to look at it. Think of that! Make changes across your whole site as quick as a click.

2. Private Blogs: Blogger's new Access Control Settings will enable you to keep a private blog, viewable only by selected Google account holders that you've approved.

Folks who you invite by e-mail will be able to view your blog whenever they're logged into their Google account. Failing that, they'll be able to get hooked on your blog by viewing it as a guest for 2 weeks (from a link in your e-mail). The author of a private blog will be able to delete readers off the list of approved accounts.

3. Categories / Labels: We've asked for categories pretty consistently, and developed 30+ variations on methods for working around the omission. Well... Someone was listening, because Blogger Beta has Labels, which I guess puts us out of a job, kids!

You add comma separated labels to a special field in the footer of the create post page, and those labels are published with the post. When a label is selected on your blog, all posts with that label are displayed. Even the sidebar menu has some teeth. You'll be able to sort your labels either alphabetically or by frequency.

4. Drag & Drop Page Editing: Labels will require the use of Layouts, which is the new drag & drop WYSIWYG template editor. This will probably open up a world of custom template fun, but currently requires you to select a default template.

For more, check out the Layout Guide, & the guide to Fonts & Colors

5. Choice of Feeds: This new version of Blogger also offers a much richer set of options for syndication and feeds. You'll be able to choose between Atom 1.0 and RSS 2.0, or make use of an advanced feed mode. What's so advanced? That would be comment feeds!
Blogger are now offering an integrated comment feed, as well as the option to toggle the comment feed on & off on a per post basis. These new feed options can be offered in your sidebar by default using new feed tags.

In addition, there's a redesigned dashboard:

It appears that the navbar will find a purpose, and double as an admin console when you're logged in:

There's also the promise of much more to come..... Not that it's all fluffy clouds and such. There are some known issues, the most significant of which is an incompatibility of old accounts with new blogs for comments:
Users who have not switched to Blogger in beta will not be able to login to comment on blogs that have been switched. Commenting using the "anonymous" or "other" options will still work.
To see whether you can take the blue pill and go down the rabbit hole. See Blogger Help once again. If you have the option to signon to Blogger w/ a Gmail account, do so. After you're signed in, Select the "switch now" link in the top right of the page to jump to Blogger beta. Look for the "switch in two steps" box.

If you're able to get to the goodies, you'll see step 2 and your account will roll over to a Google account, you'll accept the new TOS, and your new start URL will be If not, you'll be cruelly shut down & cut off in your prime, as I was. (weeps softly...) Freshblog isn't eligible to migrate in the first wave because we're a team blog.

Does that mean we can't play? No... See Pete in the comments again. There's nothing to stop you from creating a new blog in the beta to go with your gmail account, and then integrating it back into a single Blogger account at a later point. For more on the integration of accounts, see the pre-emptive Blogger Help FAQ. Not hosted on Blogspot? This may be an incentive to switch.

Have fun, & please leave a ton of comments documenting your reactions and experiences with the upgrade.

Update 8/15: Check this out on Slashdot, or Digg It

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Posted at 6:53 PM by John.

Logged in to Blogger tonight & saw a significant change on the signon page. Blogger is now accepting Google accounts as valid user ID's, perhaps as a consequence of the server migration noted by Phydeaux3 a week or so ago. As you can see, I was able to sign on with my GMail ID.

Integration, & perhaps an indication of Blogger being given some priority, as suggested by Aditya and Avatar? I wonder if we'll reach a point at which we're encouraged to consolidate our ID's?

Update: This was the tip of the iceberg, as pointed out by Pete in the comments. See my more recent post for much more....

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Posted at 6:08 PM by John.
Without sharing (yet) the underlying thought that prompted him to ask the question, Jeremy Zawodny wonders what share of your subscriber base access your content through bloglines.

Freshblog reports 224 bloglines users, for a 24% share of our just-shy-of-1000 subscriber base. Kevin Burton reports a similar share on a similar subscriber base, though with very different numbers reported for other readers, perhaps influenced by the prominent Rojo and Newsgator chicklets at the top of each page, & the absence of an e-mail sub option?

I frame the discussion this way because the statistic I'm most interested in is the number of subscribers who are provided with Freshblog's content via R-Mail. 347 subscribers, or 37%, get their Freshblog fix this way, and that's a much higher number than I would have expected. My sense of e-mail subscription has always been that it is the tool of choice for folks who are just getting their feet wet w/ RSS and who aren't ready to grapple with a reader just yet, but the statistics are poking holes in my supposition!

In fact Randy reports that a number of R-Mail users are choosing to use R-Mail to subscribe to many and multiple feeds, and that users are leveraging the tagging, sorting and display features of G-mail to create a "lite" reader. R-Mail messages are delivered with the name of the source blog in the "From" line, making the filtering of the posts into folders pretty straightforward. You can, of course, filter the content from multiple topically similar blogs, apply a single consistent label and sort your content that way. If this sounds like your sort of project, read Randy's post for the detailed scoop.

So... some questions for readers and publishers... you should feel free to answer as few or as many of these as you like, of course, I'm just thinking of stuff that I'd like to know!

For Readers: If you access Freshblog through R-Mail.... How many other blogs do you read that way? What prompted your choice to read blogs through e-mail? What e-mail program do you use, & have you crafted filters and such to help to sort the incoming content? Was the prominence of the R-Mail widget here a factor in your decision? Are you "new" to RSS? Tell me about the experience of reading blogs through e-mail.....

For Publishers: What percentage of users access your content via e-mail? What do you think explains and accounts for that percentage? What e-mail subscription service do you use? Do you have an e-mail subscription widget on your blog? Is it prominent & tempting?

Oh, and what do you think is Jeremy's theory of Bloglines reach & depth? I'd be interested to know!

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Posted at 8:40 AM by John.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Avi writes to let us know about his inline comment form, which requires an externally hosted script, some code in your template head, and a modification to the post footer to replace the "post a comment" link. Avi's post documents a number of variables that you can add to the script in the head of your template to customise the look & feel of the form for your blog.

This is a great hack, including bold, italic, link and blockquote buttons, as well as multiple comment signing options. If you're looking for an inline comment form, check out Avi's version. You can see alternate versions, which each have something to recommend them, listed in the wiki.

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Posted at 8:35 AM by John.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Ah, yes, but what's a wrink? Well, this wrink is a webring, blogroll, linkroll and blogring mashup administered by Singpolyma, designed to tie together the blogger-hacks microsphere. From the wrink homepage on Ning you can grab the code to deploy this either as a blogroll or a blogring, as well as submitting your blog for inclusion. The tool will offer stats, as well as the opportunity to affiliate your blogger-hacks blog closely with other bloggers who share your interests.

Update: See the wrink in the sidebar at Freshblog, just ahead of the blogroll, & please visit the wrink page on Ning to submit your blog for inclusion.

Posted at 8:37 AM by John.
Turns out that the barrier keeping Adi's ajax-powered backlink previews from working across blogging platforms is the lack of a consistent markup for post content. So here's a request for all platform administrators, blogging software designers and template designers. Let's wrap your platform's version of the <$blogitembody$> tag in a unique class to make it easy to find. A quick survey of the folks in the know (Stephen) indicates that the required class would be


If all of the <$blogitembody$> tags in Blogger, as well as equivalent tags in Moveable Type, Live Journal, Typepad, Wordpress etc were defined by this class, then the ajax preview of backlinks would be able to grab the data that is required, and previews would be available for backlinks from multiple sources. This modification strikes me as an excellent example of the need for interoperability and consistency between platforms. Let's see whether we can effect a change!

See Also: Ajaxified Display of Internal Backlinks

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Posted at 8:09 AM by John.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Liz Strauss lists out the reasons why your comment count may not be reaching double figures..... Hopefully Freshblog isn't a number 6, Liz? (OK, we are...)
6. Your blog has geeky attitude and I’m not geeky enough to keep up.
There's a mnemonically elegant conclusion to the post that suggests the promise of community creation, effective participation, traffic-building and all of that good stuff. "Compelling content causes comments...." I'll second that. Compelling content will, of course, bring with it a myriad of other goodies....

While you're over there checking out the other 9 reasons for limited comment numbers, check out Liz's links to both official and unofficial Blogger Help resources.

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Posted at 9:06 AM by John.
Serial hacker Ramani (from Hackosphere) has released another ingenious feature for the blogging public: related posts from the blogosphere.

You just drop a bit of code into the footer (or elsewhere) of your posts, and it picks up the permalink URL and sends it off to Ramani's magical PHP server. There, the URL is stripped back to a few keywords from your post title which are then run through Google's Blogsearch. The results are parsed and displayed nicely on your page.

Once neat feature is that you can just grab the invoking URL and append any of your own permalinks to it to see what the service returns. This openness means that I'm sure we'll see tool this cropping up in a range of other hacks.

On the plus side, the lack of use of tags (relying only on title keywords) means that it's robust and will work on just about anything. You also get back an eclectic mix of posts that you might not otherwise associate with your original post.

On the down side, the lack of use of tags means that it regularly turns up a whole bunch of unrelated content. Also, there's no way (that I can see) of tweaking the layout, in terms of what gets displayed, how much, style info and so.

If you tend to write lengthy and specific titles for your posts and want to constantly delight your readers with novelty, this would make a great addition to your blog!

If you'd like to test out the service on a few of your pages, here's a javascript bookmarklet to try out. Just create a temporary bookmark, then swap in the new code (below) into the URL field. Then drag the bookmark onto your toolbar. Visit the pages of interest, click the button, and you'll see which related posts from the blogosphere the systems returns.

javascript: window.location.href = '' + window.location.href;

Filed In:
Posted at 6:41 AM by Greg.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
As a companion post to my recent walkthrough of Haloscan trackback, and a contribution to the recently-launched "What is this and what does it do?" content thread here at Freshblog, here's a peek at Google Backlinks, & at the ways to add them to your blog.

What are Google Backlinks?

The first big post-footer gotta-have, in the heady days before social bookmarking caught on, was the "who links to this post" inbound link checker. The Technorati Cosmos checker for your post footer was everywhere, & was pretty much the only game in town for finding inbound links to single posts. Then came a number of other blog search services, including Talkdigger, & the emergence of Google's Backlinks service as an extension of their blogsearch. Where backlinks has the edge is that "backlinks" to referring posts appear right in your post footer, & not on an offsite 3rd party search results page. The only potential downside is that Google Blogsearch may not see all of the inbound links to a post, & so the listed backlinks may not be all of the inbounds for a given post.

Why do I need Google Backlinks?

Backlinks displays inbound links to a post within that post, right in your template, without you or your readers having to go off & chase down the related posts. The other significant feature is that you don't need to bookmark your posts anywhere. Since Google is finding the links through their Blogsearch tool, no bookmarking is required. Very useful. It's also pretty darn easy to install, all things being equal, as long as your blog hasn't been hacked about too much.

How do I get Backlinks?

If you've got a newer blogger template and you haven't messed with it to any great degree, you should just be able to turn on the backlinks. To do this, log in to blogger, and head to settings > comments. Set the backlinks radio button to "show," & make sure that the "backlinks default for posts" is set to "new posts have backlinks."

For more on this see Digital Inspiration and Blogger's Backlinks help article.

Older Blogger template? Custom template? To get into the code of the backlinks, see Blogger Help's Backlink Tag walkthrough. It is a pretty straightforward layout of the 2 blocks of code that you'll need to get default backlinks to work for you, with clear instructions about what to wrap the blocks in etc. It has to be said, though, that if you're a candidate for cutting and pasting, there are some great "Backlinks-Plus" user authored versions of this functionality that you might want to consider.

User-Authored versions, you say?

Why yes! There are four excellent user-enhanced implementations of backlinks that I know about, each of which will do a little something above and beyond the default version, and a little something different from the others:
  1. Jasper's Custom Backlinks hack will work if your template is not an off-the-peg Blogger template, & if you have difficulty with the default code provided by Blogger.
  2. Stephen's Backlinks will pop-up / expand & appear on the main page in response to a click on the Backlinks link in the footer of any post.
  3. Greg's Recursive Backlinks shows backlinks for multiple linked posts on the post that you're reading. Drill down following the ~> to track backlinks across multiple posts.
  4. Aditya's Asynch Internal Backlinks will load a preview of any internally-linked posts in an Ajax window on the post that you're viewing. If you link to yourself a lot, this is worth investigating.
If you know of other custom versions of backlinks, please leave a comment or trackback from the write-up on this post, and for more information, check out backlinks on the wiki. Aditya's hack isn't in there yet, but it is on the way....

What else can I do with Backlinks?

You can turn them on & off on individual posts, for one, by using the Allow New Backlinks on this Post option under "post & comment options" in the footer of the create post window.

If you have a Blogger account, you can use the "Create a Link" link in the backlinks section of a post that you're reading to launch Blogger's BlogThis! window, and write about what you're reading as soon as you see it.

As they say in the Google help article, you can subscribe to the feed of Google Blogsearch results for a search that includes the link operator, as follows: link: to get notification of new links.

Backlinks are a great way to start to see the connections between your blog & the wider blogosphere, & to present those links to your readers. Try them out!

For other What? Why? How? goodness, see:
Filed in:
Posted at 8:46 AM by John.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Dave Sifry lays out the statistics once again, as usual supported by some interesting charts, & this time using boldface type to offset the critical insights. Here's the summary:
  • Technorati is now tracking over 50 Million Blogs.
  • The Blogosphere is over 100 times bigger than it was just 3 years ago.
  • Today, the blogosphere is doubling in size every 200 days, or about once every 6 and a half months.
  • From January 2004 until July 2006, the number of blogs that Technorati tracks has continued to double every 5-7 months.
  • About 175,000 new weblogs were created each day, which means that on average, there are more than 2 blogs created each second of each day.
  • About 8% of new blogs get past Technorati's filters, even if it is only for a few hours or days.
  • About 70% of the pings Technorati receives are from known spam sources, but we drop them before we have to send out a spider to go and index the splog.
  • Total posting volume of the blogosphere continues to rise, showing about 1.6 Million postings per day, or about 18.6 posts per second.
  • This is about double the volume of about a year ago.
  • The most prevalent times for English-language posting is between the hours of 10AM and 2PM Pacific time, with an additional spike at around 5PM Pacific time
Several interesting things here... including of course the continuing rate of growth, and the significant percentage of pings that are spam. Read the whole thing & groove on the charts!

Update: Kevin Burton checks the math & comes to some interesting conclusions re: index size and active blogs etc.

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Posted at 5:14 PM by John.
Last weekend, my capacity to spew forth vitriol exceeded my ISP's ability to host it: I'd used up all ten of megabytes allocated to me! So, I set about on a reverse blog migration project, from self-hosting to Blogger's Blog*Spot (where else to get free unlimited blog hosting?). Naturally, my bookmarks on delicious would no longer point to the right place, breaking my blog categories solution (FreshTags). This post explores some of the issues I encountered along the way, plus tips and working code to smooth the transition.

*** UPDATE ***

Please note the methods and code discussed here have been superseded by the Scripted Re-Mark batch editing tool.

First off, the transition on Blogger's end was surprisingly easy: change the settings on the Publish page, nominate a new blog address and re-publish. Easy-peasy. (OK, there was a slight hitch with the baffling failure to re-publish initially when Blogger informed me 004 Login incorrect.. A spot of googling turned up the explanation and very simple fix.)

Next, I needed to ensure my delicious bookmarks pointed at my shiny new Blog*Spot domain. "Why", I thought to myself, "delicious is the premiere bookmark manager - surely updating several hundred links will be a hassle-free pleasure". Hardly. Maybe it's just that I'm an idiot, maybe I just had too big a weekend but, darn it, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how I could effect such a change!

The solution I came up with was to export my bookmarks (as an HTML file), make the simple changes to the URLs of bookmark posts (including archives) via the search-and-replace feature of my text editor (no regular expressions required) and finally re-import them back into my account.

Not bad, I guess. Clumsy, but feasible. I'd give it a C. Then I hit the first hitch.

Hitch #1. Delicious does not support batch delete.

Before I re-import the updated bookmarks, I thought I should delete the old ones. (Delicious can't overwrite them, since it uses the URL - which would have changed - to identify the bookmarks. I would have ended up with both sets, making my job even harder!) I googled around, checked out the API (which needed URLs) and looked at third-party libraries without joy. I resigned myself to clicking the delete button (plus confirmation) several hundred times.

Hitch #2. Delicious will block you if you generate requests too quickly.

Using my patented whirlwind mouse techniques, I was deleting posts off the page at a rate of one or two a second. Delicious does not like this. It will cut you off and lock you out for some ten or fifteen minutes. Apparently, you need to use a delay of ten seconds or more. OK, I could accept five minutes of furious clicking, but counting "one cat-and-dog, two cat-and-dog ... ten cat-and-dog" between clicks would take ages. Not cool.

Peering into the delicious page, I thought I could automate the whole painful process with a bit of javascript (see Code #1 at the end of this post). The idea is to grab all the "delete" links on the page and open them (with a suitable delay) in new windows. Sure, it coud be nicer (perhaps removing the popups), but it works. Just paste the code into your browser bar and press enter. Be warned: it will delete every post on the page, so make sure you are looking only at posts you want to have disappear. (Tip: make sure your browser allows popups on this page!)

Moving along now, I began the import process. Strangely, this takes up to half an hour after you upload the file. Goodness knows why. But, it worked as advertised, retaining tags, notes, dates and even my bundles. Except ...

Hitch #3. Delicious imports are compulsorily marked "not shared".

This means that no one else can see them - and presumably you can't use them to categorise your blog! Again, I couldn't see any mechanism to turn them all off in one hit (and yes, I don't "allow private saves" in my options). This time, I had to have a closer peek at the Ajaxy goodness in the delicious page and, after butchering one of their functions, managed to figure it out. (Please check out Code #2 below.) Paste this code into your browser bar and it will go through the current page, systematically triggering the "shared" option for each post (waiting politely in between).

Finally, it all worked. I was able to get away with a delay of as little as five seconds in both scripts, but I suggest you try it yourself. Even still, allowing for pagination and the various steps, the whole thing took an hour to process some 200+ posts and 40 archive pages, albeit mostly not requiring my attention.

And, yes, if I'd known what was involved I probably would have knocked together a variant on Code #2 to use the post edit function to sequentially edit the URL of each post on the page ... ahhh, the wisdom of hindsight.

So, at the end of this arduous task, I'm left in some doubts as to delicious' claim to be a bookmark manager (as opposed to repository) given the lack of support for basic batch-mode updating, deleting and reloading functions.

Does anyone have some pointers to share on this topic? Is there a secret batch-mode facility available? Has someone knocked together a web-app for doing this? It'd be great to save others the pain of doing this.

Code #1. For deleting (via popups) your delicious posts.

javascript:var delay=10000; var l=new Array(); var a=document.links; for(var i=0; i<a.length; i++) if(a[i]'delete')>0) l.push(a[i].href); alert(l.length); count=0; doPopDel(); function doPopDel(){[count],count,''); count++; if(count<=l.length) setTimeout(doPopDel, delay);}

Code #2. For sharing (via AJAX) your delicious posts.

javascript:var delay=10000; var l=new Array(); var a=document.links; for (var i=0; i<a.length; i++) if(a[i]"share")==0) l.push(a[i]); alert(l.length); count=0; doShareDel(); function doShareDel(){ sharePostYes(l[count].parentNode); count++; if (count<l.length) setTimeout(doShareDel, delay);} function sharePostYes(confirm){ commands = nextElement(confirm), post = confirm.parentNode, share = $('.share', post)[0]; remove(share.previousSibling, share, confirm, $('.private', post)[0]); = 'inline'; var data = getPostData(post); var postBody = 'jump=no&format=none&private=0'; var fields = { description: data.desc, url: data.url, oldurl: data.url, date: data.isoDate, notes: data.notes, tags: data.tags, key: data.key}; for(var i in fields) postBody += '&' + i + '=' + encodeURIComponent(fields[i]); var url = 'http://' + + '/' + Delicious.cuser; new Ajax({url: url, method: 'post', postBody: postBody });}

In both cases, copy and paste the code into the address bar of your browser when you have loaded the appropriate delicious page. Set "delay" to be the duration (in milliseconds) to wait between requests (5-15 seconds should do it). The first alert box is the number of posts it's found. Good luck!

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Posted at 10:34 AM by Greg.

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