Friday, March 24

Blog Talk: Blogging Resource List

Helping oldest son get his blog up and running has reminded me that there are many things that seem old hat to those of us who have been blogging for a while that new bloggers just aren't aware of. I'm hoping you'll help me make a list of free online blog/blogging resources.

By now you know how it works. I start the list off, and you add your list items in the comments, then I put your item up in the body of the post and give you a link. Got it?
  • Bloglines. Bloglines is useful to me in acouple of ways. I subscribe to my favorite blogs through Bloglines, and then use Bloglines as a feed reader. I let Bloglines tell me when they are updated. I also use it to run my blogrolls. I get an HTML blogroll code from Bloglines, and that way I never have to add picky code to my sidebar, or fool with my template everytime I want to add a blog to the roll. Bloglines has many other features, but those are the two that I use.

    Martin LaBar adds that he uses Bloglines' search capacity. You can use it to search for blogs or blog posts on a particular subject. That's how he found this blog, he says.

  • Michele recommends joining blogrolls, like Homespun Bloggers. She says she has "read a lot of interesting sites and have had many hits from it." On the Homespun Bloggers information page it says that it is
    a loose association of bloggers for whom blogging is a labor of love, and no more.
    In other words, if you are not blogging to make money off your blog, and your blog is not business related, this blogroll is for you.
    To be eligible to become a Homespun Blogger one must 1) have a blog, 2) keep that blog relatively family-friendly and 3) earn a living in some realm other than selling one’s opinions. In other words, we are a group of family-friendly bloggers who blog for no financial gain...
    Whatever your particular interests or affiliations, there is probably a blogroll for it, and they are good ways to get your blog known by people who share your interests. A blogroll and aggregator I belong to is the League of Reformed Bloggers.

  • Steven Harris reminds us that Pingomatic is a good automatic pinger for "letting most blogging providers and search engines know that you've updated your blog." Every time you post something, you should be letting Pingomatic know. You can bookmark your own page, and then you only have to go to that page and it automatically repings the services you've chosen.

    Ian McKenzie says Pingoat is a good automatic pinger, too.

  • Martin LaBar also suggests flickr for storing and sharing photos for your blog. I use Picture Trail for that, which is another good resource, but you do have to pay a small fee after a while. Update, March 28: Eija adds another free photo sharing site: Zoto.

  • Violet suggests Sitemeter as a good free web counter for your site.
    I added a Sitemeter counter to my blog recently (having had a Bravenet one since almost the beginning). I like Sitemeter because it gives more detailed info about visitors....and it allows you to keep your traffic cards close to the chest - if that's your style.
    I think Sitemeter is probably the best free counter, too. Some people like to have several counters on their page. I guess that's just to make sure they don't miss anyone!

    Update, March 30: John Hollandsworth points us to another source for free web stats that he's been pleased with: Perfomancing.

  • Ian McKenzie says that Blogger itself is "the grand-daddy of all free on-line blogger resources." I'd have to agree. In a matter of minutes, you can be up and running with a brand new blog. And except for some service problems over the last few weeks, I've found Blogger quite reliable.

    If you're already a Blogger use, don't forget Blogger Help, which has lots of "how-to and help documents to help you get more out of Blogger." You can, for instance, learn all about your template tags, and what you can do with them.

  • Both Ian McKenzie and Tulipgirl recommend Technorati. Technorati is a search engine that
    tracks the number of links, and the perceived relevance of blogs, as well as the real-time nature of blogging. Because Technorati automatically receives notification from weblogs as soon as they are updated, it can track the thousands of updates per hour that occur in the blogosphere, and monitor the communities (who's linking to whom)...
    So, as Tulipgirl mentions, you can find out how many people (and who) is linking to your blog and what they're saying about what you wrote by searching using your blog's URL. You can claim your blog at Techorati by simply filling out this form.

    You can also use Techorati to see who is blogging what about a certain topic. Just search for a key word, and you'll find the blogs that mention it, sorted by most recent first. And that brings us to Technorati tags. It's a way you can categorize your own post by topic. I've got them at the bottom of my posts, and as Ian mentions, they do help to build traffic to your site. I use the Technorati tag for hymns most Sundays to find other people posting hymns. I just click on the tag at the bottom of my post, and link to others who have also posted hymns on Sunday. (Mostly I just find good old Ian himself, but sometimes there are others.)

    If you are interested in tagging your posts, Ultraseeker is a good tag building tool. Update, March 28: John Hollandsworth uses Ultimate Tag Warrior, which is a plug-in for Wordpress (See item #16).

  • Ian suggests for tagging your blog posts, too.

  • Brian suggests Sage as a feed reader extension for Firefox users. Update, March 28: Jim suggests another feed reader: Thunderbird by Mozilla. John Hollandsworth suggests FeedBlitz

  • Brian also uses w.bloggar for composing blog posts off-line. This resource is new to me, but it looks interesting. I'll be checking it out more later.

  • Another helpful resource suggested by Brian is Color Schemer. Besides getting the code for different colors there, they'll help you find colors for your blog that look good together. I've used this color code chart from Webmonkey.

  • Tulipgirl points to another blog search engine: Google Blog Search. You can search by topic, blog name, or URL to find links on a certain topic or to a certain blog (like your own). The "links to this post" or backlinks feature on Blogger is based on this search engine. (And while we're on the subject, if you want to your links show up in Blogger backlinks, you must use full site feed. For Blogger users, that means going to the site feed section under your settings and making sure your description is set on "full". If you change this setting, make sure you republish your blog.)

    Update, March 28: Eija remind us that we can search for links in just plain old Google as well, by putting "link:your URL" in the search field.

  • Tulipgirl also likes Blogtree, which is unfortunately so popular that it often exceeds its bandwidth. When it's working, you can find out who your blogging kin are--who you are related to, blogwise.

  • Julana suggests free sources for photos, signs and banners, etc:
    Custom Sign Generator
    Sign Generator Widgits

  • Another tip from Michele: View your blog through various browsers to see if you are satisfied with how it looks in each of them.

  • Another free service to power your blog is Wordpress, recommended by Jim, eija and John Hollandsworth. Eija says that Wordpress
    has what is missing from the Blogger: a feature for pre-timed posting. It means that you can write your post now and time it to be published next week when you're travelling or something. It also has an efficient spam filter without any annoying word verification codes... But, you can't really customize the free wordpress blog, so counters and other fun are excluded and you have to choose the layout from the few available ones.

  • Okay, now it's time to talk about site feed. It is a must-have item for your blog! Just this morning I ran into a blog I found interesting, but it had no site feed, so I couldn't subscribe to it at Bloglines. That means that even though I liked it, I'll only read it when (and if) I remember to visit again. There's no excuse for that, because FeedBurner, suggested by both Jim and John Hollandsworth, is a fast and easy source for RSS feed.

    For Blogger users, having atom feed is just a matter of adjusting your settings to publish your site feed. You may want to consider getting feed from FeedBurner as well, since not all feed readers read atom feed.

    And FeedBurner offers lots of other RSS based fun things for your blog, too, so make sure you rummage around a bit a their site to see what else they offer.

  • For maps and such things, MapStats and ClustrMaps are recommended by John Hollandsworth.

  • Shaun Nolan adds a suggestion over at Postscript Posthaste.

  • Kristie reminds us of the free avatars for our sidebars, like the weatherpixie, for instance.

What free blogging resources do you recommend?

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