Monthly Archives: September 2008

10 different ways to post to your blog

One of the great about using a blog as a publishing platform is the flexibility of it. Every blog platform worth its salt has a editor built into it, a place online where you can type your stuff and hit ‘publish’ to get it out there onto the web. But there are many other ways of getting content onto your blog. Let’s have a look through them.

1. Built in editor

The is the boring standard one. For various reasons (see 2…) I spend most of my time in the default WordPress editor. It certainly has its advantages – as long as you are online you can access it from any computer, and you know your formatting shouldn’t come out screwy when you publish. In fact, the full screen option on the WordPress editor makes a tremendous difference: it’s a lot easier to write when you aren’t being distracted by all the other options!

The downsides are that it isn’t available (yet) when offline, meaning you have to start typing in something else, then copy and paste it across. I also often find myself feeling rushed when typing into a box on a webpage, even though I know my broadband is only there. I wonder if people who have come to the net relatively recently, and therefore weren’t exposesd to the horrors of pay-as-you-go dial-up, have these problems…

2. Desktop application

One of the other main ways to post to your blog is to use a dedicated blogging application. Yes, such things do exist. Essentially, these are like stripped down word processors, which allow you to do stuff like tag your posts, categorise them, add pictures etc, and then post directly to your blog by hitting a button.

There are a few reasons why you might like to use an application like this:

  • They work when you are offline: type up your blogposts on the train, then as soon as you get some wifi, you can publish them with one click
  • They help you take your time: for some reason using something other than a browser means I’m more relaxed about what I am writing
  • Sometimes they are just better: the interface on some of these applications is more intuitive and easy to use than what the blogging engines offer

So, if you want to try a desktop blog editor, where do you need to go?

Personally the best application of this type I have used is Microsoft’s Live Writer – praise indeed as I try and avoid MS stuff like the plague. I wish they did a Mac version…

3. Browser plugin

If you use a decent browser, like FireFox say, you’ll know that you can make it do some groovy extra things by installing plugins. There are some plugins which turn your browser into a blog editor – not the same as using the online web-based editor that comes with your blog, but extending the functionality of the browser itself. This means that they can work offline, if you want them to, but also that they integarte nicely with your browser, for instance making it an absolute doddle to link to webpages you currently have open, or by copying content from a webpage into your post.

Two example of FireFox plugins that act as blog editors are ScribeFire and Deepest Sender. I’d probably recommend the former, as it has quite an extensive user community, having emerged from the Performancing bloggers’ community.

Another alternative in this space is Flock. Flock is a browser in its own right, based on FireFox but with loads of extra features built in to help you interact with various social web services. Part of that is an inbuilt blog editor, which works rather nicely.

4. Flickr

If you want to quickly post your photos straight to your blog, you don’t have to write a post, embed the photo, and then hit publish. Oh no. Flickr can do all that for you. It takes the name of the photos to be the title of your blog post, the description becomes the text of the post and the photo is sorted for you too. All the details on how to do it are available on the Flickr site.

I’m sure other photo sharing sites do this too…

5. Delicious

Delicious is a social bookmarking site, allowing you to keep an online, public note of cool websites you have spotted. If you want to point these out to your blog readers too, you don’t have to laboriously copy and paste them over every day. Instead, you can configure your delicious account to send a daily posting to your blog with a bulleted list of the links you have bookmarked for that day. Nice one! Find out more here.

Even better, if you are a WordPress user, you can configure this posting to a much greater level by using the Postalicious plugin.

Again, I am sure this is possible with other social bookmarking sites, too.

6. Twitter

If you like, you can share all your ramblings on Twitter with your blog readers too. Well, you can if you blog with WordPress, using the TwitterTools plugin. Like the delicious one, this regurgitates your tweets on a daily basis into a list in a post on your blog. Do bear in mind that a lot of your readers will follow you on Twitter too, so you might be in danger of boring them witless with this.

7. Email

Most blog platforms allow you to send in posts via email. It can be a bit tricky to setup (it’s a nightmare in WordPress unless you use the Postie plugin), or in the case of Posterous, blogging via email is what it’s all about. Email blogging is a quick and easy way of blogging on the move, via a mobile phone, say. But if you are using a webmail interface on a computer, why not just load up your blog’s inbuilt editor?

8. Online word processor

Both Google Docs and Zoho allow you to send a document to a blog. So, if you are more comfortable using one of those tools than your blog’s editor, why not give this a try?

9. From Word

Apparently this is possible with Word 2007 for Windows. Quite a few people write their posts in Word before copy-and-pasting them across to their blog editors, so this at least cuts out the middle man, I suppose. No idea how well it works though.

10. Some other tenth thing

OK, OK so I am a pathetic fraud. I couldn’t think of a tenth option. Anyone else?

Flaming for Obama

Lovely piece in Prospect this month from Peter Jukes, talking about the occasionally fractious community of Democrat bloggers in the US:

For many in Britain, blogging, especially political blogging, is a bit of a disappointment. Many of our political sites are tacked on to party websites, or are simply online versions of established media outlets. They tend to be either controlled, conformist and rather dull, or unmoderated rants, the kind of online graffiti rightly parodied by Private Eye.

These sites in the US foster a real community spirit and encourage the best material to float to the top:

On first view, websites like Daily Kos and MyDD may look like simple news providers, but underneath they are powered by a specific community and its democratic preferences. Soon after joining, you can write your own piece, or “diary.” With enough interest from other users, your diary can rise quickly up the recommended list or “rec list” until you are ushered on to the front page. In their comments, other readers can annotate and correct your piece, provide new links and background, “flame” you with insults, heap you with praise or just crack a joke. These comments are themselves subject to voting. The more votes you acquire the more privileges you get—a privileged user can, for example, hide the abusive or unsubstantiated comments they receive from others. Becoming a member of these sites is like joining the editorial board of an interactive newspaper or, with the increased popularity of embedded YouTube videos, the news team of a television network.

Jukes laments the lack of such communities in this country:

There is nothing in Britain that replicates the passion and activism of these sites. The nearest equivalent is ConservativeHome—and perhaps it is no surprise that an opposition party latches on to this alternative form of communication. I still wait for real signs of a popular centre-left blog in Britain. (If you want to start one up, let me know.)

Social media step 1: join a social network

This post is part of my ’10 Social Media Steps’ series. Find them all here.

Introduction

The first step in the social media journey is to go and find what other people you might know are up to. As well as discovering how other people are using the social web, it will allow you to start establishing your online social group.

Social networks are sites which link you to other people you know, and help you find people that you don’t know but who you might get along with. They tend to make it possible to create a profile for yourself, explaining who you are and what you are into, send messages to people, easily share things like photos, videos and weblinks, and form groups with like minded folk.

Here’s a great little video from Common Craft telling you what social networks are all about:

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Where to start

There are a number of social networking sites out there. Which one you choose depends on what your main areas of interest are, and which ones have most of your existing contacts on. The big three, for example, are:

  • Facebook – generally an older membership of people in their late teens upwards. The favoured choice of social media types, I would say.
  • MySpace – a younger audience than Facebook, with a definite musical slant
  • Bebo – younger again than MySpace

There are others though, too:

  • LinkedIn – a ‘professional’ social network, geared towards work and job opportunities
  • Orkut – Google’s social network which is very popular in latin america
  • Friendster – was very popular before Facebook came along and stole its thunder

There are also a number of social networks that focus on specific issues, such as:

  • UltdWorld – for social entrepreneurs
  • Footbo – a social network for football (soccer) fans
  • Care2 – for those interested in the environment and green living
  • Dogster and Catster – social networks for pets
  • TuDiabetes – a network of diabetics, sharing experiences and supporting one another

There are literally thousands of such networks out there. Just do a search with the words ‘social network’ along with the topic you are interested in and you should find one. If you don’t it might be nice to start one of your own – some tips on how to do this will come later.

How to start

The first thing to do is to register with your social network of choice. My tip would be to have a go with a few – that way you can test them out, see who else is using them and decide where you want to spend most of your time.

When you do register, you’ll be given a chance to find people you already know who are on the network – often this is done by giving the social network access to your email contacts list. You get to mark people as friends, or contacts and depending on the network, you may have to wait for them to confirm that you both have heard of each other.

You will also be invited to add details to your profile. This will include contact information, stuff about your likes and dislikes, and whereabouts you are based. This will make it easier for other people who are interested in the same things as you are to find you – as well as the people you already know.

What to do

Once you have signed up with a social network, and found some friends, it’s time to do some digging! Click on your friends’ profiles, and find out what stuff they are doing. They might be uploading photos or videos, or sharing web links. You can usually post public messages to them (on Facebook it’s called a ‘wall’) and have conversations out in the open that others can join in too. Otherwise, you can contact them using a private message, or email.

Some social networks gives you a space to people know what you are up to – on Facebook it is called your ‘status’. It’s a good idea to regularly update this as it will alert people if they can help you out in some way, or just reminds them that you are about!

If you have some digital photos or videos of your own saved on your computer, you might want to upload some of these to your profile too. Social networks are a good place to start sharing stuff online, because – in most cases – what you put online can only be viewed by people you have marked as friends. This means you should feel pretty safe about it.

Have a look through some of the groups your friends are members of – if you can’t find any that you’d like to join, you ought to be able to search for groups you might want to be a part of. Groups are another great way of meeting new folk to connect with. If you still can’t find one that does what you want it to, why not create a group of your own? You can fill it full of details and invite people to join who you think might be interested. Starting a group on a social network is a fantastic way of gathering people around an issue – just take ColaLife as an example.

Limitations

After you have been using your social networks for a while, you might start to get a little frustrated. One of the reasons is that many social networks are what is known as ‘walled gardens’ – you can upload all the content you like to the website, but getting it out again is pretty hard. So, if you upload a photo to Facebook, it is then difficult to then share it on other sites, unless you re-upload to them. Also, what about the poeple you know that aren’t members of the same social network as you? Again, this can lead to duplication of effort, and a fragmentation of your network.

Groups present another challenge. Whilst they are great at building a buzz around a issue, it’s often pretty hard to move things onto the next stage, where collaborative action can start. This often means having to move the group out of the social network and onto another platform, which can means losing an awful lot of members.

Summing up

Social networks are therefore great for:

  • Building up contacts online
  • Finding new people to talk to
  • Discovering what sort of things people share online
  • Joining and starting groups around common interests

In the next step, we’ll be looking at how you can find and read the content that is important to you, using RSS.

Dave @ NCVO Conference

I’m going to be running a session at the NCVO Information Conference on 24th November. I’m facilitating one of the practical workshops, playing the social media game to help delegates put some of what they have learned on the day into some kind of context.

It looks like it is going to be a great event, with some top speakers including Euan Semple and Ed Mitchell. It should also mean that I get to meet Laura Whitehead for the first time, despite having known her virtually for quite a while now!