Tag Archives: blogging

Giving the WordPress iPad App Another Spin

As I noted earlier, the increasing frequency of Parallels/Windows crashes and the utter lack of any decent Mac blogging apps have led me back to the native WordPress blog editor. With a few good plugins, I think the web-based desktop editor may work.

That leaves mobile. Historically, I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by the mobile WordPress app. But like the web-based editor, it has been steadily improving.

The lack of plugins, especially Post Snippets, is a drag. Adding links has gotten easier, but it’s never going to be really easy on a tablet.

Images are still hard.

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I like the preview feature, particularly since you never know what a mobile blog post is going to look like.

All in all, it’s good enough. And that’s good enough for me.

MacJournal as a Blogging App: So Much Potential, So Much Frustration

macjI continue to keep Parallels and a Windows 7 installation on my iMac, solely so I can use Live Writer. Lately, however, I’ve experienced a lot of unexpected Windows restarts and other (Windows-related) crashes. This adversely affects my joy and greatly increases my interest in finding a decent Mac blogging app, so I can uninstall Parallels and rid myself of the last remnant of Windows.

So I was immediately interested when I came across MacJournal today.

It’s not specifically a blogging app, but it has blogging features that are noted in the write-up and in the user manual. It is clearly a powerful app, that does a lot of things very well. It has good ratings, and seems to be beloved by many as a journaling tool.  But as a blogging app, it has issues.  Some of them are serious.

Need an example? How about the fact that this is the fourth time I’ve written this blog post- the first three tries via MacJournal were lost to a spinning beach ball of lockups. This one is being written in good ol’ Live Writer.  I wish I was raving about the many good features MacJournal has to offer.  Instead, I am  ranting about the lost potential.  And the fact that I can’t yet rid my iMac of Windows.

Let’s take a look at the very good and the very bad.

The good:

1. It is designed to interface well with a self-hosted WordPress installation. Setting up the blog connection is as easy as adding the URL, name and password for your blog.

2. It’s easy to add links, though the app needs to paste any URLs on the clipboard into the URL box. A small thing, yes, but a real time saver.

3. It is generally easy to add and manipulate photos and videos. There needs to be an easy way to resize a photo to a specific width, etc.

4. Categories and tags are supported.

5. I think it would be easy to create time saving templates.  When it comes to adding content and media, the app is very powerful.

Adding photos is as easy as a drag and drop, or you can browse through the included media browser to find media on your Mac.

Adding YouTube videos is even easier.   Paste the iframe code into your post, and MacJournal does the rest. This is very handy.

You can also record audio and video entries right from the app.

You can quickly import audio and video files from your Mac.

The bad:

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This happens a lot. It’s a deal stopper for me.  The problems seem to arise mostly when I try to publish a media-rich blog post. Problems also arise when I try to open an existing unpublished entry to edit it.

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Forever loading. Loading. Forever.

I was never able to successfully publish a media rich blog post via MacJournal.  My initial test post, containing just a photo and a YouTube video published quickly and easily, and looked great.  I could even edit it and republish it.  After that, when I tried to do a full post, with a photo, a YouTube video, several links and a short voice recording, nothing.  Just this.

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There are some quirks in the editing window (the cursor jumps to the top when you try to resize an image below the fold; I don’t see an easy way to make links open in a new tab or window, etc.), but those are minor annoyances that don’t outweigh the app’s obvious potential. That is, if you could actually post to your blog.

Granted, I am focusing on one aspect of what is, essentially, a journaling app.  But that is the one feature I want, and the only reason I would pay $30 (wow) for the app.

The local journaling features may work fine, but as a blogging app, MacJournal is frustrating, to say the least, and possibly broken (if these issues I am experiencing are widespread; I hope they are not).  The lockups and inability to open an existing entry are huge problems. The worst part is that MacJournal clearly has a ton of potential.  But for now its greatest potential is to frustrate those looking for a native Mac app to replace Live Writer.

Hopefully someone will create a decent Mac blogging app at some point.  I need to get Windows off of my iMac.  Soon.

Life in the Fast Lane: Adios Load Hogs

Now that I’m all into minimalism and whatnot, I decided to clean out my study.

Chill

And my blog.

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a substantial increase in the load-time for Newsome.Org.  The culprits change from time to time.  One of them was Wibya, which I dumped several weeks ago.  Another was Lijit, the blog search application I have used for years.  I like the way it shows you what people are searching for, and where- geographically- they came from.  But if the page never finishes loading, no one can search it.

So today I gave Lijit the boot.  In favor of a good old Google site search.  Sure, some of the tracking data is gone, but the script loads quickly.  And results are shown right on the page, as opposed to a separate window.  It seems fast, and bare.  I dig that.

Facebook seems to drag a little too.  I haven’t dumped the “Like” button yet, but it is on my watch list.  My new mantra: be fast or be gone.

I’ve used the Yahoo Media Player for years and years.  I hope it doesn’t die with the rest of Yahoo.  Fast and lean replacement suggestions are appreciated.

And then there’s Disqus.  It seems to drag a little sometimes.  My love of its features and my dread at the prospect of replacing it without losing thousands of comments lead me to hang on, for now.

I want things fast and simple.  There are very few features worth the wait of a slow-loading page.

Oh, and I got a new backpack to tote my gear around.  It’s much better than the old diaper bag backpack I was using.  And now that I’m using a MacBook Air, there’s no poop of any kind in it.

Stm

Fast.  And lean.  That’s the ticket.

MacAge: Filling the Live Writer Void

I’m almost a week into my all-in Apple era. So far, it’s mostly wonderful. The iLife apps are far better than anything available for Windows- iPhoto alone makes the switch worth it.  Adobe let me switch my Photoshop license to Mac (though they stubbornly insisted on snail mailing me the discs, even though I’ve downloaded my last several Photoshop versions).  The machine is elegant, and my study is much more relaxing without the big, loud HP computer, dual monitors and all the associated hardware.  I understand what people mean when they say that Macs “just work.”

The keyboard is taking some getting used to, after decades of Microsoft ergonomic keyboard use.  The typos are legion, but I’m getting there. I think.

On the other hand, I really love the magic trackpad. I am surprised at how easily I have abandoned my much-beloved Trackball Explorer. Those things are hard to find, and now I have a couple to sell.  Stay tuned as I try to turn all my Windows gear into a family iMac.  Need a scanner, or some new 27″ Dell monitors?  Drop me a line.

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Thanks for the memories!

But, boy, do I miss Live Writer. I am mostly OK with the WordPress embedded editor, but I miss the added features and resulting speed of a dedicated blogging app.

So, I’m test-driving some of the scant Mac options. This post is being written in Mars Edit. I can make it work, but it’s a harder than via Live Writer. Maybe it will have the iMovie effect- you know, where something looks really messed up at first, until you suddenly realize how awesome it is. I hope so.

I’ll have more later on my transition, including my dumping of Windows Home Server, largely because of Microsoft’s dumping of Drive Extender, for a Time Capsule. For now, I’m going to see if I can get Mars Edit to connect with my blog so I can post this.

Blogsy Breakfast

Since the day I got my iPad, I have been frustrated by how hard it is to write and publish a blog with it. The WordPress app is an exercise in frustration. Recently I have read a number of positive articles about Blogsy. So I’m giving it a try.

Initial impressions are very positive. Clearly it handles photos and videos well, accessing them via your Flickr, Picasa or YouTube accounts.

The holy grail of mobile blogging applications will always be adding links. Blogsy has a promising approach:

Select the text you want to use for your link on the ‘Rich Side’
Open the browser and find the site/image you wish to link to
Place your finger on the ‘Blogsy Link Button’ (the button to the left of the address bar)
Drag it to the text you selected.

Links will always be a challenge on a handheld, but Blogsy makes it about as easy as possible. Assuming this post shows up the way I intend it to, Blogsy will definitely become my mobile blogging tool of choice.

Blog from Your Browser with ScribeFire

In my stop and start journey towards cross-platform utopia, I am experimenting with ScribeFire, a Firefox, Chrome and Safari add-on that promises to let you blog away from the comfort of your web browser.

I like the layout.  I can’t get the image upload or Live Preview functions to work (one down; the image upload seems to work).  This may be a firewall problem.  It doesn’t have the best feature about my beloved Live Writer: the ability to paste an image directly into a blog post and have that image uploaded when you publish (that feature alone saves me scads of time when I use Live Writer).

It does allow you to insert images from Flickr, but I don’t see a way to log into your account.  When I searched under my name, it found three photos.  One of an anole (that’s a “n”).  I’d prefer a way to pick and choose from my photos.


What an anole

I like the idea, but I think the firewall and the photo thing are going to be may be the deal-stoppers for me.  If I could get Live Preview to work, and figure out some better way to access photos, we might have a contender.

How to Create a Life Stream Page on Your Blog, With Posterous

We’re really rocking the blog development lately.  Yesterday, I showed you how to point a domain to one of your blog categories.

Today, we’re going to create a life stream page, on your blog, using Posterous.

You can use the life stream page we’re about to create for just about anything.  You could send all of your life stream content there, autopost it to Twitter, Facebook, etc. and end up with a great, chronological and searchable archive of all of your content.  I have Twitter already integrated into Newsome.Org, via the widget in the right hand column, so I’m going to do something a little different.

I want to create a page where I can automatically upload and share impromptu iPhone photos, and maybe some other tidbits from time to time.  Notwithstanding the limited chops of the iPhone camera, I find a lot of iPhone photos really compelling, partially because of those limitations.  Plus I almost always have my iPhone with me.

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But, as part of my ongoing content consolidation and simplification project, I want my iPhone photo stream to be available here, as a Page.

Let’s get started.

Get a a Posterous Page

If you don’t already have a Posterous page, go sign up.  Learn how to use it- it’s about as easy as it could possibly be.  Theme your Posterous page to have the same look and feel as your blog.  You’ll probably have to start with a canned theme and then customize it to your liking.

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Make a Content Plan

Next, decide how you’re going to use your life stream page.  Posterous makes it really easy to autopost content to the social networks and other sites.  With a little work you can make Posterous your content hub and control panel.

Get Any Ancillary Apps You’ll Need

As noted, I want to use my page primarily as a place to upload and share impromptu iPhone photos.  A great way to do this is via the iPhone app PicPosterous (iTunes link).  It will make sharing iPhone photos via Posterous easy and almost completely automated.

I’m not crazy about the way it forces you do use albums, but it works OK.  I do like the fact that photos from each album are posted together.  I’ll just do an album for each day.  That seems burdensome, but it’s not really.  You’d need to name the photo anyway, and this means you only have to name the first one (e.g., 02/28/10) you post each day.  Any others can be sent directly to that album.

Embed into a Blog Page with an iFrame

Now to embed the Posterous page you have crated into your blog via an iFrame.

In WordPress

I use WordPress.  Here’s how you do it with my theme.  The process may differ slightly from theme to theme, but the basic concepts should be the same.

Create a new Page, and name it.  I called mine iStream.

If you have columns on your main blog pages, you’ll probably need to use a full width template for this page.  Many WordPress themes have this option for Pages.  If yours doesn’t, you’ll have to create a Page template.  Or change themes.

Add the iFrame code.  Here’s mine:

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In Blogger

If you use Blogger, simply create a new Page, via Posting>Edit Pages>New Page, and include the iFrame code.  Be sure to select the Edit HTML tab first.

I don’t know that many, if any, Blogger templates have full width templates available for Pages.  If not, the resulting life stream Page may require horizontal scrolling, which is not good.  If I find (or someone provides in a comment) a solution for this, I’ll add it here.

The best bet if you really want a life stream page in Blogger might be to select a wide, one or two column template.

Add the New Page to Your Page Navigation

Once I created my new Page, I added it under the Media tab at the top of the Newsome.Org blog pages.

That’s all there is to it.  Looks great.  Easy to use.  Consolidated.

I like it.

Brother, Can You Spare a Word?

I’m working hard so you don’t have to.  If you like what I’m doing here at Newsome.Org, please spread the word via Retweets and links.

How to Point a Domain to a Blog Category

One of my long-time and oft-stated problems with all of the so-called social networks is the brand and attention dilution that occurs when content producers cast their content across numerous networks, sending readers on a wild goose chase as they try to keep up with everything.  While I’ve done a lot better than most when it comes to keeping my content centered around my web site (Newsome.Org), I too have been lured into spreading myself too thin, network-wise.

I’m going to fix that.  I am in the process of consolidating most of my content and much of my applications.  When all is said and done, I will be a power user of this blog and a small number of ancillary networks (maybe as few as two: Twitter and Facebook).  Additionally, I intend to shrink my cloud toolbox down to a manageable size.  More on that later.

Today I want to take the first step, which is to consolidate our music recommendation blog, which was previously hosted at Tumblr, into Newsome.Org.  Specifically, I want that content to be included here- under the Music category.  But I want to continue to use the cool and valuable top level domain (GoodSongs.Com) that I have been using for song recommendations.

Here’s how that can be done.

What You’ll Need

To have this need and to make this work, you’ll need a blog platform that includes categories, tags or some other naming convention that has a URL.  I use WordPress, and I have a Music category (see the menu at the top of the page).  The URL for that category is http://www.newsome.org/category/music.

You’ll also need a domain (or a sub-domain) separate from the one that you use for your blog, that you want to point to the category.  As noted above, I am going to cause GoodSongs.Com, which previously pointed to a custom domain at Tumblr, to be redirected to my Music category here.

Use a Redirect

One way to redirect a domain to a blog category is through URL redirection  or a refresh meta tag.  A redirection makes sense if you have a long-standing or popular site that you want to move, so you can preserve links and Google juice.  If you, like me, just want to use your domain as an alternate address for a blog category- or if you don’t have the technical chops or server access to do a redirection, web forwarding might be your solution.

Configure Web Forwarding

I use Network Solutions as my primary domain registrar.  Here’s how you configure your domain for web forwarding via Network Solutions.  The process is probably similar at other registrars, but you may need to explore the configuration dashboard and maybe the help files to find the right pages and settings.

From your primary Dashboard, select the Web Forwarding option.  At Network Solutions, it’s under the Domain Names tab at the top of the page.

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From the resulting page, select the domain you want to forward, then click on “Continue with Web Forwarding.”

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On the next screen, fill in the URL of the category in the blank.  Web masking won’t work if your URL is a directory or database, but that’s OK.  The purpose is to get the readers to the new location at the blog category page.  You can brand the forwarded domain from within the category.

It Might Cost a Little

I don’t know what other registrars charge for web forwarding.  Network Solutions charges $12.00 a year.  A buck a month doesn’t seem too bad for a little consolidation.  Particularly consolidation that can be accomplished (or changed) via a few clicks on a web page.  Simple is good.

Don’t Forget to Feed Your Feed

If you have an RSS feed at the domain you are forwarding to the blog category, don’t forget to update the feed once you make this change.

In my case, I already had an RSS feed for GoodSongs.Com, which I publish via Feedburner.  My WordPress theme creates a feed for each category, so all I had to do was change my feed location for GoodSongs.Com to the category feed.

From the main Feedburner dashboard for the applicable feed, select Edit Feed Details.

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Then replace the current “Original Feed” with your new one.

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That’s It

Once you’ve taken those simple steps, your domain will be forwarded to the blog category you selected.  Notice how GoodSongs.Com now points to the Music category here at Newsome.Org.

That’s step one in my consolidation and simplification process.  Stay tuned for more.

How to Set Up Email Subscriptions for Your Blog

image There are a lot of nerds out there- like me for example- who think that RSS and feed readers are the only way online information should be consumed.  We feel bad about being nerds, until we remember there is a whole class of uber-nerds, who think that not only information,  but every part of life, is derived from Twitter.  Or, God forbid, via Google Buzz(kill).  Just kidding, both of those guys are smart dudes and friends of mine, in addition to being uber-nerds.

But enough about those so-called social networks.

Because today I want to show you how to do a subscription service that someone with tan lines might actually use.  An email subscription.  You remember email, right?  That service that millions of people who either (a) have never heard of or (b) laugh hysterically at those who use Twitter use every day.  All day.

So let’s assume that (1) you’ve been outside in the past 48 hours and (2) you’d like to put together an email subscription service for your blog.

Step 1: Pick a Service

If you use Feedburner for your RSS feed, this is pretty easy.  Use Feedburner.  The other major choice is Feedblitz.  I used Feedblitz for a while, but its navigation structure makes Facebook’s byzantine navigation system seem downright GPS-like.  Plus, Feedblitz wants you to to (cover your ears webkidz) pay for its premium service.  So as a part of my forced march to WordPress and Blogger Custom Domains, I decided to take my email party back to Feedburner.

Step 2: Configuring Feedburner

Here’s how to configure your Feedburner account to permit and manage email subscriptions.

From your Feedburner dashboard, click on Publicize and then Email subscriptions.

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From the Subscription Management page, you can get code to embed a form or a link on your blog.  You can also enable a notification feature that will inform you when someone unsubscribes.  I wish Twitter had that feature.

Next, go to the Communications Preferences page.  From here, you can set up your email address and the subject line and message for your email confirmations.

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The next stop is the Email Branding page.  Here’s where you can really customize the look and feel of your emails.  You want the email to have the same branding, look and feel as your blog.  Note that you can create and upload a custom logo that will appear in your emails.

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Finally, you can set your time zone and preferred delivery time via the Delivery Options page.

Step 3: Displaying the Subscription Option on Your Blog

Once you have configured your email subscription service, you’ll need to make potential subscribers aware of it.  Many WordPress themes and Blogger templates are pre-configured to display email subscription information.  See the top of this blog (WordPress) or Err Bear Music (Blogger) for examples.

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Even if your theme or template doesn’t come pre-configured, you can easily add a subscription form or link, by adding the code that Feedburner provides on the Subscription Management page.

In addition to displaying the option on your blog, you should consider adding a link to your email signature, as those who would be most interested in an email subscription may not visit your blog, but do use and see email.

Step 4: Post as Normal and Let the Service Do the Work

After setting up your service and displaying a subscription form or link, your email subscribers will receive one email each day containing your blog posts for that day.

Here is a sample, from one of my recent subscription emails.

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Step 5: While You’re Thinking About It, Subscribe to Newsome.Org Via Email

By clicking here.

That’s it.  Let the emailing begin!

How to Use the New Newsome.Org

OK, our migration to WordPress, which was documented here, is complete, and I am very happy with the results.  In sum, I think the new look and the new functionality rocks.

But, as a blog partially targeted to grownups who don’t necessarily live in Google Reader or on Facebook or Twitter, we have a lot of readers who consume our content the old fashioned way.  By coming to the web site and clicking around.

I’ve had a few questions, so here’s a rundown on how to use the new layout.

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First, what hasn’t changed.  The newest content, across all Categories, is still located in the middle column, with the newest post at the top.  This has not changed- it was the same way in the prior layout.

Categories

But now, there are additional options, if you want to filter your content.  You can slice and dice content several ways.  First, by Category.  Note the horizontal menu between the red header and the gray line at the top of the page: Home, Tech, Music, Life, How to, etc.

Let’s say you want to read only our music content.  Click on that link in the top menu, and the center content will display only our music content, with the newest content at the top.  Same with Tech, Life and How to (our tech tutorials).  If you want to hear our podcasts, there’s the Podcast link.

Media, which has two sub-categories, is the place to go for photographs or videos.

Finally, there is an About page for those who want to know more about me and a Contact page, where you can send me an email or leave me a voice mail.

In sum, the default Home page has the same content as our old layout, but there are now topical options that display specific kinds of content.

More Ways to Find Good Stuff

Categories are great, but there are even more ways to drill down to the content you want.

See the box in the right hand column with tabs: Popular, Latest, Comments and Tags.  Popular shows the recent posts that have the most discussion (e.g., comments, reactions, etc.).  Latest shows a quick list of our latest posts.  Comments displays the most recent discussions that have occurred in comments to posts.  And finally, Tags are a clickable index where you can click on a topic and get only content about that topic.  If you are looking for something very specific, the Tags tab is the place to start.

You Can Read Content in a RSS Reader

Another option is to read our content in a feed reader, such as Google Reader.  We have our main RSS feed, which has the same form and content as always.  Additionally, there are Category-specific RSS feeds near the top of each Category page.

Or Via Email

If you’d rather avoid the whole web-business and don’t use a feed reader, there’s the option to have a single email delivered straight to your inbox every night, with all of our posts for that day included.  To subscribe by email, click on the link in the left column of the page.

What About the Sidebars?

There are a lot of extra goodies in the two side columns.

On the left hand side, we have a Menu of Newsome.Org content; links to my pages on the various social networks and photo and video sites; links to our excellent, hand-crafted Pandora radio stations (take a listen, you’ll like them); and hand-picked music and book recommendations (which are linked  to Amazon, where you can buy and download them or have them mailed with just a couple of clicks).

On the right hand side is the tabbed content box described above; a search box, where you can search Newsome.Org and see what others have recently searched for (that list is also clickable); a list of my latest Twitter posts; and some of my Flickr photos (click for the larger versions).

That’s it.

We’ve made it easy to find the content you’re looking for.  Enjoy.  Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!