Thursday, October 20, 2005

Learning to Blog

A fantastic look at what libraries are doing with blogs as learning examples, The Free Range Librarian, K.G. Schneider, has posted her recent conference presentation "virtual handout" on blogging and RSS tools. Check out Blogs: Not Just Another Ugly Neologism

Also, Michael Stevens at Tame the Web has shared his Dominican University's LIS class assignment which includes creating a blog and then making 5 blog posts about libraries, technology and the Web. Wow.

CC: Library Supporter

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Intellectual Property and Copyright Issues for Blogs

CC Huh? image by Marianne Lenox in hopes that I'm not actually violating any copyrighted material since it bears a resemblence to the Creative Commons logo.What about quoting someone else's blog? Can you use a picture you find on the Internet? What is all this "CC" stuff I need to protect my writings or art?

There is a ton of information on the Internet about copyright law, most notably from Stanford Law School's Lawrence Lessig, who currently chairs the Creative Commons project. A Creative Commons license on your blog "helps you publish your work online while letting others know exactly what they can and can't do with your work."*

Mr. Lessig is also involved with the Electronic Frontier Foundation which has published The Bloggers' FAQ on Intellectual Property. I highly recommend this article which addresses issues that arise when you publish material created by others on your blog.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Yahoo! News Includes Blogs

Certainly a big step towards blogs blending with the mainstream media...
Today we've begun the integration of blogs in Yahoo! News Search. Now when you search on Yahoo! News you will see blog results as well as content from thousands of trusted news sites. The experiences and opinions published on blogs make a great addition to the mainstream news people read everyday. And major world events are further fueling the growth of blogs as platforms for anyone who wants to have a public voice. At times, even everyday bloggers beat the mainstream media to a story. More...
Via Jeremy Zawodny's blog

Monday, October 10, 2005

Top Ten Tips On Writing Your Blog

Here are some great ideas for creating blog content:
1) Check your Inbox.
2) Start Blog Hopping.
3) Comment in Your Own Blog.
4) Read, Listen To, or Watch the News.
5) Give Memes or Collaborations a Go.
6) Create Lists (like this one!)
7) Play Games, Answer Surveys, or Take Quizzes.
8) Blog at Random.
9) Be a Sleuth!
10) Do Something New.
See the complete article at About.com.

Congratulations, you're ready to be a blogger!

I will continue post items of interest here, (it is a blog after all, and shouldn't lay dormant) but that's it for the course portion of the blog.

If you run into trouble there's alot of material out on the internet about using this software and the official help files are great. Remember you can always email me from the link on the bottom or comment here if anything comes up.

Happy Blogging!

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Tweaking Never Stops

Now that the sidebar is complete, I've done a few little things to the template to suit my tastes:

  1. Added the RSS link and image to the "blog-header" div. If you're not sure what RSS is check out What is RSS and Why should I care?, another of my online courses.
  2. The footer section in this template had been commented out, so I removed the comment code and added a Copyright statement using Digital Colony's Mask Email ASCII Generator to hide my email address from spambots. I set the footer to align right and included a 2px top border in CSS.
  3. I made the page and post titles clickable using just one of many Blogger hacks on the internet.

A novice blogger can learn fairly quickly with a simple copy and paste of code, just be sure you save your template in a local text file as a backup in case something goes terribly wrong. You might have a test blog or you can always start over with a new template if the error is unrecoverable. Don't be afraid to play with template!

You'll also want to investigate all the other administrative options on your Blogger dashboard. Blogger does leave a bit of funcitonality (like categories) behind, but overall it's an easy, free way to learn blogging without your own domain.



Here are a few things I did in the administrative dashboard:

  1. Show only one post on the front page since I have the "Welcome: message there.
  2. Turned on word verification for comments to prevent spam.

Careful, "Tweaking the Blog" can become addictive!

Edit that link list!

First we need get rid of those "Edit Me" links in the default Blogger template, but it will require you to use some good ol' html. Don't worry, it's not that hard! Blogger even points to the help files for doing this!

What can you put in your link list? You could add sites of common interest, or generate a blogroll like the ones from Bloglines.

Many of Blogger's default templates have a link section in them already. To see it, log in to your blog and then click on the Template tab. Scroll down through the code until you see something like this (usually) in the sidebar section:


<h2 class="sidebar-title">Links</h2>

<ul>

   <li><a href="http://news.google.com/">Google News</a></li>

   <li><a href="http://EDITME">Edit-Me</a></li>

   <li><a href="http://EDITME">Edit-Me</a></li>

</ul>


You can see there are a few links already in there to get you started. You can delete or edit these as you like. You can also add as many more links as you want.


If you have a template without a links section, you can simply copy the code above and paste it into your template. You'll probably want it in the sidebar, perhaps next to the archives or previous posts list.


To change a link, paste its URL in place of "http://EDITME" in the above example, or in place of one of the default links that comes with your template. Then change the "Edit-Me" text to say what you want to appear on your blog. In this instance I have the links only on the main page, in the main body of the blog.

Finally, save your changes and republish your blog.

Edit that sidebar!

I've used FeedDigest, an application that mixes, filters and republishes site feeds to JavaScript, to show the topics in the "Agenda" in an order more fitting a class setting - from first to last. Usually you would see "Previous Posts" (as you still do on the specific item pages) on the sidebar. This little trick can be accomplished in Blogger using conditional tags in your template.

Bloggers put almost anything in thier sidebars: photos, news items, weather details...the possibilities are endless! For the most part it's a "copy and paste" procedure, and content providers will give you helpful information on how to insert their code.

How Appealing sidebar
Library Supporter Sidebar
Instapundit Sidebar

You might want to remember that certain items will stretch the width of the sidebar and will cause it to drop below the main portion of the blog. There's really no easy way to prevent this if you are using changing content, such as another site's feed. The sidebar can also drop if you post something to wide in the main section...most likely that's an image width issue, so just be careful!

Creating a first post...but what do I say?

So what are you going to blog about? Political Issues? Work? Family? How about the weather?

Even though blogs can be completely free-form, many blogs have a focus. For example, if a blogger is interested in technology, the blogger might go to the Consumer Electronics Show and post entries of the things he/she sees there. If a blogger is interested in a certain disease, he/she might post every news article and every piece of research he/she finds on the disease. If a blogger is interested in economic issues, he/she might post links to articles that discuss the economy and then offer commentary on them.

There are people who use their blogs simply as a scrapbook -- a form of online memory. Whenever the author finds a link or a snippet of information that he/she wants to remember, it gets posted in the blog. Even if no one else ever looks at it, it is still useful to the author because the blog is a searchable electronic medium that the author can access with a Web browser anywhere in the world.

In other words, a blog can be anything the author wants it to be. The thing that all blogs have in common is the reverse-chronological ordering of entries. From How Stuff Works (Blogs)


The "Create Post" page offers a WYSIWYG for easier posting and a
"Preview" option so that you can see on the screen what your post will actually look like.

If you're a horrible speller (like me) don't forget to use the handy Spell Check wizard!

What ever you want to blog about...let's go!

How to get started with Blogger

To begin, point your browser to http://blogger.com/


The onscreen instructions are thorough, but thier help files are even better.

First you'll want to create an account with Blogger. Be sure to consider the issues related to blogging anonymously or blogging from work, including your workplace Internet usage and public speaking policies.



And name your blog like this:



Then you'll be asked to choose a template







Yay!

Introduction

This blog is an online cooperative course on blogging. Focusing on Blogger, Google's free home desktop publishing software. We'll also discuss various issues and topics related to blogs. As the blog progresses I'll post screenshots and help file notations to show exactly how it all works.

Follow along, but please note that usually blog posts are read from last-to-first. I've added the agenda on the sidebar so that you can take the course (which is actually the first seven posts) in consecutive order. On the Archive pages, for example, you would want to start the course at the bottom of the page and work your way up.

If you are a staff member of the Huntsville Madison County Public Library and would like to use this as a credit towards your annual required courses feel free to do so! Requirements for receiving one (1) training credit through Staff Training and Development are as follows:
1. Create a new blog on Blogger
2. Change or add links in the sidebar using HTML, including your site's feed.
3. Insert a feed into the sidebar using any feed service such as bloglines or feeddigest.
4. Blog consistently (at least one post a day) for two weeks) (at least once every other day) for one week.
5. If you already have an active blog you can skip the course!
6. Send the link to Staff Training and Development for credit.
Hopefully you'll discover just how much fun blogging really is through this course.

Care to contribute? Simply email this address and it will become a topic after I've checked for span and formatting issues. Comments are always open!

Marianne Lenox
Staff Training and Development Coordinator, Huntsville Madison County Public Library
Editor, Library Supporter