CleverClogs

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Archive for August, 2006

Technorati Tags Delivery Secrets

with one comment

Have you always wondered which top-notch delivery protocol the Six Apart programmers implemented to get your tags stored safely and securely into the massive Technorati database servers?

The answer to that question is finally here, on Everything TypePad today: the blog post Sending your blog by special delivery features a special video documentary (1:57 mins) revealing inside secrets to get the job done:

Typepad_technorati_tags_special_delivery

Now that we’re talking Technorati-speak anyway: have you tried clicking on any of the tags at the footer of any of my own blog posts yet? Instead of performing a generic Technorati search, each tag hyperlink delivers Technorati search results from CleverClogs only.

The CleverClogs comments feed in my sidebar is new too, so is the coComment conversations widget. More about coComment at the Pull Quote Mystery conversation. This blog is definitely rolling!

Besides email, would you prefer other methods to connect to me? A formal contact form?  What else?

Written by CleverClogs

August 24th, 2006 at 11:17 pm

Custom TypePad Widgetry

without comments

"A speed-read button based on Zap Reader that takes the contents from
any CleverClogs blog post (or any text that you prefer) and flashes it
at you word by word at 300 WPM. Zap Reader, a service that runs from your browser, was just launched earlier this month. Contact Ricky Spears if you want to embed this button in your own website."

Repeat visitors may have noticed that I recently carried out some improvements to my CleverClogs blog. I have come to like them so much that I figured it would be a nice contributive exercise if I’d describe them in a separate blog post. Some of these widgets or plugins are fairly new or unusual, others have been around for quite a while. I purposely didn’t include technical instructions here, just links to the places where I found them and short notes why I implemented a particular widget. Of course I’d be more than happy to go into detail if anyone is interested.

Zap_reader_button_and_action_2

A speed-read button based on Zap Reader that takes the contents from any CleverClogs blog post (or any text that you prefer) and flashes it at you word by word at 300 WPM. Speed reading has my interest for over 15 years—hey I once even programmed a similar program that ran under MS-DOS in my days as a Turbo Pascal coder.
Zap Reader, a service that runs from your browser, was just launched earlier this month. Contact its very helpful programmer Ricky Spears if you want to embed this button in your own blog or website. I adapted Ricky’s javascript code for Blogger so that it would run from TypePad.

Newsgator_online_star_rating

There are now star ratings at the top of each CleverClogs post. This is a free service NewsGator Online offers to its subscribers. Star Ratings automatically tracks ratings for individual posts. I prefer the NewsGator solution over the one recently launched by MajikWidgets, because it doesn’t require that you manually generate a new piece of script for each post like MajikWidget does. The MajikWidget rating code needs to be manually embedded into your blog post and is charged at a recurring fee.

Post_title_hyperlinking_1

Then I implemented hyperlinked post titles, a piece of cake thanks to the very clear instructions John T. Unger made available in his post How to Link the Title of a Post to the Permalink URL in TypePad. Note that this is a follow-up to the lessons I learned from Stephan Spencer, see my previous post Taking Blogs and RSS Feeds to Market.

Cleverclogs_comments_enhancements

Two improvements in the comments section: firstly, a coComment widget that allows guest commenters and existing coComment subscribers to track conversations on CleverClogs. I enabled this after I noticed that Fred Zelders seemed to be waiting indefinitely for Chris LoSacco (Arc90) to respond to his comments on my post Pull Quote Mystery about Arc90’s Link Thumbnail feature.

Then, secondly, just below the comment form I implemented a nifty Live Comment Preview feature showing markup while a commenter is in the process of writing a comment. I slightly altered the instructions from (former TypePad user) Michael Hanscom’s post Live Comment Previews to reflect some changes (textarea id, to be exact) that Six Apart apparently made to one of the underlying templates. Michael wasn’t the original inventor of the code but his tutorial was the one I remembered being very easy to follow.
The usefulness of this feature fully shines when commenters start using
HTML inside their comment, like <a href=""> and <strong>.

Lastly, I tweaked the footer of each of my blog posts to not just display Technorati Tags, but to hyperlink them as CleverClogs-only topic searches. Just roll your mouse over a Technorati tag and you’ll see that a tag like ‘RSS technology’ now points to the url http://technorati.com/search/RSS+technology?from=http://www.cleverclogs.org.

Check back for more improvements and do provide feedback. I promise I won’t use this as a bad excuse not to write blog posts ;-).

Written by CleverClogs

August 21st, 2006 at 8:05 pm

Posted in Art of Blogging

Taking Blogs and RSS Feeds to Market

without comments

"Stephan Spencer’s hands-on tips come in handy now that I’ve enabled advanced
templates for TypePad. I’ll soon turn my blog post titles into
hyperlinks, for example, and categorized feeds are on my list too."

My experiments with RSSonate,
the feed digest project I’m continually fine-tuning, often alert me to
blog posts I most likely would never have discovered myself. A fine
example is Lee Odden‘s
detailed and annotated report of one of the sessions that took place
last week at the overcrowded Search Engine Strategies (SES) 2006
conference in San Jose.

Stephan_spencer_tips1_1

Odden covered the Blog and Feed SEO Session
on his Online Marketing Blog and on the Search Engine Roundtable blog,
summarizing numerous practical contributions from panel experts Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profit, Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts and Rick Klau of FeedBurner into a fully functional checklist for anyone interested in blog and RSS marketing. Stephan Spencer’s insightful presentation on Blog and RSS Feed SEO is available online (PPT, 57 slides, 5 MB)—each slide worth every second one spends on it.

Stephan’s hands-on tips come in handy now that I’ve enabled advanced
templates for TypePad. I’ll soon turn my blog post titles into
hyperlinks, for example, and categorized feeds are on my list too. I
would like to comment that I feel highly supported—and challenged!—by
the invaluable hacks provided by John T. Unger of TypePadHacks. Stay tuned.

The next post will be about building RSS feeds based on custom keywords using blog search engines. (this will have to wait, sorry)

Update Sept 4th, 2006: Stephan Spencer made a screencast available to the PowerPoint presentation that I refer to. You can find it here: Screencast on how to optimize your blogs and RSS feeds

Written by CleverClogs

August 15th, 2006 at 11:08 pm

Open Letter to BlogBridge Food Porn ‘Expert’ Andrew Barrow

with 3 comments

"Dear Mr Barrow,

I was notified of your blog post BlogBridge Food Expert
dated August 10th. I immediately noticed a remarkable resemblance of several
paragraphs between your post and my own blog post In the Lion’s Cave:
BlogBridge Expert for RSS
on my technology blog CleverClogs of August 9th.

 

Barrow_plagiarism

Of course through some remote coincidence an email message in which you may have requested permission to copy my content may have gone astray
somewhere between your email server and mine, but frankly speaking I was less
than amused by your action.

For your information: I will publish
this email message on my website together with side-by-side screenshots of your
article and mine, with clear markups where you obviously copied my content
without permission or attribution.

I’m appalled that a fellow BlogBridge ‘expert’ uses this
type of pathetic plagiarism
to ‘inform’ his readers.

Note that I am sending a copy of this message to Pito
Salas of BlogBridge. I believe you have some explaining to do.

With not-so-high regards,

 

Marjolein Hoekstra"

sent by email, Friday August 11th 2006.

Written by CleverClogs

August 11th, 2006 at 5:21 pm

Posted in Art of Blogging

In the Lion’s Cave: BlogBridge Expert for RSS

with 5 comments

"Being a BlogBridge topic expert basically involves maintaining and
fine-tuning a so-called topic guide: a list of highly relevant feeds on
a certain subject. I’m delighted to now be in the distinguished company of
illustrious names like Shel Holtz, Dan Gillmor, Richard MacManus, Steve
Hall and Jenny Levine."

This week the BlogBridge team let me into the lion’s cave: I’m proud to be officially invited to become their topic expert for RSS-related technologies. The idea came up a few days ago when I spoke with BlogBridge’s core programmer Aleksey Gureev and demonstrated RSSonate to him. RSSonate is a nicknamed feed compilation of various sources with a deep focus on RSS that I created. With the help of Grazr RSSonate is displayed live in the sidebar of CleverClogs.

Blogbridge_library

Being a BlogBridge topic expert basically involves maintaining and
fine-tuning a so-called topic guide: a list of highly relevant feeds on
a certain subject. I’m delighted to now be in the distinguished company of
illustrious names like Shel Holtz, Dan Gillmor, Richard MacManus, Steve
Hall and Jenny Levine. They and the other topic experts are profiled at
the BlogBridge Expert Archives, while their topic guides are listed in the BlogBridge Topic Expert Library.

It’s essential that topic experts identify only the very best feeds.
The experts decide whether they work directly on the BlogBridge Library
server or prefer to work in the BlogBridge feed reader and perform a
server sync operation to propagate BlogBridge guide updates onto the server.

Though of course anyone can browse the BlogBridge Library and download lists of
topic-centered feeds (they’re in OPML format), users of the BlogBridge RSS reader in particular
benefit from this because of the Reading List feature. In short Reading
List subscriptions enable BlogBridge users to receive a
notification when a particular guide (= OPML) has been updated.

Feeddigest_rssonate

To construct RSSonate I use FeedDigest. It’s perfect for this particular job because it allows me to not only set a keyword filter but also to automatically remove the numerous duplicate items from the feeds. In the process FeedDigest also generates a consolidated RSS feed that combines all individual feed entries into one chronologically ordered list of items, which is usually referred to as a "river of news" feed among RSS specalists. Another thing I like about FeedDigest is that it applies urls that are easy to remember: the url for my RSS feed digest, for example, is http://feeds.feeddigest.com/rssonate.

After setting up the combined feed I created a FeedBurner version for those who prefer a one-page version of RSSonate in their browser.

For RSSonate I had already collected quite a few obvious, high-profile feeds, but I still lacked one that would persistently find recent and relevant matches across authoritative blogs. I skipped Technorati because its search queries typically cause a lot of ‘noise’ of non-English, irrelevant or plagiarized hits and although it’s possible to exclude some of these search results while searching, as far as I can tell they are not yet excluded when a Technorati watchlist (= RSS feed) is created.

The blog search engine Blogdigger seemed a better candidate, so I used this web service to construct a custom RSS feed that pulls in any blog post assigned to the category ‘RSS’. It seemed obvious to me that categories as opposed to keywords or tags would qualify better for insertion into RSSonate. I
I then added the feed Blogdigger Search for Subject:RSS to my BlogBridge guide. Along the way I learned that the Blogdigger method also allows you to limit the search results to one particular blogger. This is how I created the feed Steve Rubel on RSS.

The funny part about all this is that RSSonate now allows me to track the buzz about this—which reminds me of vacuum cleaning my own vacuum cleaner.

Written by CleverClogs

August 9th, 2006 at 5:53 pm

Posted in RSS

Keyword In Context Search: SurfWax LookAhead

without comments

"LookAhead for Blogs is exciting because its keyword-in-context search considerably improves the chance of readers opening posts from my site that are highly relevant to them."

Actually I was doing background research for a future blog post about the LiveSearch beta service from Yahoo!, when Gary Price of ResourceShelf caught my attention with a mention of SurfWax LookAhead in his overview article Results BEEFORE Clicking the Search Button. I had come across pretty impressive mock-up demos of LookAhead technology in the past, so I was curious to learn what’s new now.

It turned out that the SurfWax people made a bloggers’ version of their software available called LookAhead for Blogs. I signed up for the service straight away because I see enormous potential in it. LookAhead for Blogs creates a full-text index of the items in your RSS feed and makes them accessible through a keyword-in-context search applet.

Lookahead_for_blogs

Take a look at the simple search box at the top of my sidebar: just start typing in that box and you will see a dropdown box with a list of all articles that match your search string. There’s no search or OK button: the results show up immediately and dynamically thanks to the use of Ajax technology. The more items in the feed, the more hits you will see.

LookAhead for Blogs is exciting because its keyword-in-context search considerably improves the chance of readers opening posts from my site that are highly relevant to them.

To get a few background details straight I had a brief email conversation last night with Tom Holt, CEO of Surfwax, in which he told me that SurfWax is working on incorporating blog archives into its lexicon indices. Tom also pointed me to a another of their services that just went live this week—it’s called ShopEasier and it allows you to shop at for products available through sites like Froogle, Nextag, Yahoo, Amazon, Become and Shopzilla.

To implement Lookahead on your own site, sign up for a free Lookahead for Blogs account and provide the url to your RSS feed, your email address and desired password. Note that any feed may be registered only once. Immediately after completing the sign-up process you will receive an activation link by email that leads to a web page with detailed installation instructions.

Summarizing the installation instructions, you need to create a sidebar item with a piece of code that creates the search box and a script tag that initiates the search index.
This is the code I used to create my LookAhead ‘searchlet’ for CleverClogs:

<form name="search">

<input type="text" name="term" onKeyUp="changeVal();" style="width: 200px;">
</form>
<em>Powered by <a href="http://lookahead.surfwax.com/">SurfWax LookAhead</a> </em>

<script src="http://lookahead.surfwax.com/script/blogla.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<link href="http://lookahead.surfwax.com/css/blogla.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">
<script>
setup('
[cloaked ID]', document.search.term, 270, 120, 'left');
</script>

The text "Powered by SurfWax LookAhead" was added by me as a courtesy.

Written by CleverClogs

August 6th, 2006 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Search Engine News

Pull Quote Mystery

with 14 comments

"How do you call a piece of text that is quoted from your main text and then displayed at the top or to the side of your article?"

Today my otherwise maddening habit of losing myself on the web, while navigating from one site to the next, led me to find the answer to a question that had been bothering me for quite a while: how do you call a piece of text that is quoted from your main text and then displayed at the top or to the side of your article? I finally found the answer on a blog by Christina Wodtke: it’s called a pull quote.

Christinas_pull_quote

Pull quotes weren’t all I learned about today:

 

All hyperlinks on CleverClogs are now preview-enabled thanks to the Link Thumbnail script provided by the generous developers of Arc90. Just hover your mouse on one of the many hyperlinks in this article and you’ll see immediately what I mean.

Over the past few months Arc90—a New York-based technology and
strategic consulting firm—has been releasing from their sandbox a
couple of nifty pieces of experimental Javascript code that are
especially useful to bloggers like myself who prefer to practice what
they preach.

Arc90_image_caption

In addition to the Link Thumbnail script Arc90 offers an Image Caption script that keeps the caption with the image you are annotating, a script called Unobtrusive Sidenotes that allows you to annotate a particular keyword in your text, and, of more recent date, External Link. When applied to your website External Link displays tiny icons next to your outgoing hyperlinks.

The nice thing about the Arc90 scripts is not just that they’re
accompanied by clear
examples and instructions, but also that the developers listen very
well to the comments they receive and revise the scripts accordingly if
necessary. Each script is licensed under Creative Commons, which means
that you can use it as long as you properly attribute the work to the
original publishers.

Arc90 received thousands of Digg comments for their releases last
month, so I was pretty eager to learn who was behind this company. I
quickly discovered that Richard Ziade, a former lawyer who’s now
partner and lead strategist at Arc90, maintains his personal blog at Basement.org. In his article The Elements of Design
Richard happens to point to an article by Christina Wodtke (The Elements of Style for Designers) in which she
adapts and summarizes some of the recommendations of Strunck and White,
authors of the infamous book ‘The Elements of Style’. And that’s where
I found the nice example of a formatted pull quote displayed above.

Christina implemented her pull quote quite transparently using CSS,
as was revealed to me when I opened the neat coding in one of her
stylesheets. I had a quick look at how she did it and actually it’s not
that difficult—so if you see a nicely formatted pull quote show up on
my blog over the next few days, you’ll know I adapted it from
Christina’s source code and that I’m ever so grateful for having
another of life’s mysteries resolved.

Written by CleverClogs

August 4th, 2006 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Art of Blogging

3D RSS Icon Released

without comments

I discovered a cool announcement on the FeedForAll discussion forums today: RSS Feed Icon with 3D look by Dirceu Veiga. I found it while browsing RSSonate, the digest of news feeds related to RSS technology that I created using FeedDigest today. Look at this beautifully designed 3D RSS icon:

Fasticon_3d_rss

If you click through to the downloads page of Dirceu’s design company fasticon,
you’ll discover a bunch of other slick icon designs available in PNG
format. All fasticon icons on this particular page are royalty-free to
download and use, as long as you give proper attribution to Dirceu.

Written by CleverClogs

August 3rd, 2006 at 11:12 pm

Posted in RSS