odd-lot thoughts

Thursday, October 28, 2004

NaBloWriMo Update

Ok, for my personal rip-off of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which I'm calling NaBloWriMo,* I have now found a slightly more high-tech and complicated way to do my word count.

Since there's a problem with Blogger, and I can't rely on the word count in my profile, I need to do it manually. However, I did find a cool graphic to use to show that word count. It's now on the sidebar of this blog.

Some one who I believe is named Jeff Lee created a NaNoWriMo progress meter, and is making it available to the NaNoWriMo (and stealth NaBloWriMo) community. I still have to paste in text, and ASCII text, to boot, but I don't have to update the graphic. That should happen automatically.

I hope.

We'll see how it works.

I just learned that 50,000 words is about 6-7 pages of printed material per day. Yikes! There's almost certainly no way I can do that this month, but I'm still keeping that as my goal. If I just say "I'm going to write as many words as I can in a month," I won't do as well because I can define that to be any number I want.

*Unless anyone's got a better idea for a catchy title!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Email subscriptions vs RSS feeds

My email subscription experiment through Bloglet is a failure. (See the post Adding Subscriptions Via Email, below).

I tested it out on myself, and found I was getting updates with the text of draft posts as well as completed posts. Blogger allows me to create a post and save it as a draft; I assume other blogging software has that feature but I don't know for sure.

Since I tried the email subscription on myself, I started getting emails when I started a draft. I tried contacting the person behind Bloglet, but no answer. So I've expunged the form from the sidebar, and unsubscribed as well.

Email subscriptions are not useful anyway, in my opinion. I subscribed via email to a few blogs which then added RSS. I'm in the process of unsubscribing to the email now. Soon most subscriptions will be offered via RSS, I hope. It's just so much easier. And RSS will be easier for new folks to set up, too.

And speaking of RSS, here's a tutorial put together by Alex Halavais, on how to subscribe to feeds using Bloglines. It's a good step by step which he put together for his students. I found this via Steve Rubel's Micropersuasion blog, which is always interesting, even though I'm not in PR or Marketing. That's might be his focus, but it's certainly not his scope.

Friday, October 22, 2004

My blogging challenge to myself

I've been reading about the National Novel Writing Month, and I'm intrigued and tempted. Not because I feel a novel inside me clamoring to get out, but just because I enjoy writing. Essentially, if you join at this website, you're publicly committing to completing a 50,000 word novel in November.

And then I got a further jolt when Blogger folks decided to hook up with that event and create what they call A National Novel Blog writing month.Here they add the challenge by providing a place to showcase folks who want to try writing the novel on their blogs. I love a challenge!

But a hard look at my schedule convinced me that it would just be insane to try this (I usually consider that a plus, not a minus). But I just couldn't let that challenge lie there. So I'm going to try to write 50,000 words in November, in my blogs. I have several, not just this one, so don't panic. This blog won't be inundated with word-count drivel.

I have no idea of how difficult this will be, but I need a kick in the pants every now and then so this is it. For some bloggers, 50,000 words would probably count as a slow month. The only metric I have is the one on my Blogger profile, which shows Blogger stats, including words written. I'll take note of that on October 31st, and then on November 30th, I'll know how productive I've been.

Now I'm off to fire an email to Blogger, suggesting they create a showcase for National Blog Writing Month.

Any one else interested in participating?

Update: I just found out that there's a bug or as they like to call it, a "known issue" in the word count in Blogger. It's not getting updated at the moment. I guess I could implement a work-around and create everything in one big Word file first. But I like writing right into the create post interface of Blogger. I guess I can deal, but it's just not as much fun.

But I'll save my pouting until after November 1st when it counts more.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Adding email subscriptions to my blog

My goal for this blog is to learn about blogging by doing. I know html, and I use Dreamweaver at work. I'm learning more about CSS and JavaScript as well. Those skills help me when I try something new on Blogger. I can't always figure out how to do it myself, but I can usually figure out how someone did something, and make it work for me with a minimum of fuss. I like to play around with this stuff, but I'm not a big fan of fuss (unless it's really cool; then I don't mind the fuss at all).

So the latest thing I've done, which is amazingly easy, is to add an email subscription link on the sidebar. This is to accommodate those folks who, for some reason, don't want to try an RSS aggregator, but do want some easy way to find out when there's been a new posting on the blog. They might be just starting looking at blogs, and just want to read a few, without diving headfirst into the blogstream. Or, launching headfirst into the blogoverse. Insert your overworking metaphor of choice here.

So I tried a new service called Bloglet.

This is a pretty low-profile site, as far as I can see. No indication of how many folks have tried it, or who is using it. In doing a quick search on Google, I see that Jay Cross also tried it. No mention of how it's worked or not worked for him.

I signed myself up first, and waited to see if there was any marked increase in spam. After all, I'd never heard of these folks before. No spam yet, but there are no guarantees here, folks.

(By the way, one thing I've done, just as a general measure to protect my main email from spam, is to create an email alias just for newsletters or registration that I'm not sure of. It all funnels into my email client, so it's not much hassle. So far, so good.)

When someone hits the submit button on this subscription form, as a default option, he or she is sent to a Bloglet page as a way of getting feedback that the subscription has been successful. From there, there's a link back to Odd-lot Thoughts. The subscriber also gets an email with username and password for Bloglet, and info on how to unsubscribe. It sounds straightforward enough, considering it's a third-party solution.

So I created an account, and, as in most services of this type, such as Feedburner (a way to create RSS feeds for your blog), I was walked through the process of creating the code to put in my sidebar.

Once I entered the URL of my blog, I was given the ready-made code to copy and paste into my template. This is the trickiest part for folks not familiar with html conventions. Basically, I was looking in the template for the section where it says: ‹‹!-- Begin #sidebar -- ›› That's easy enough, but you need to know just a little bit about how html tags work, so you can find the right place to stick in the new code without messing up the old.

The latest neat place I found for learning about html,and CSS is www.htmldog.com

With Blogger, the template is accessed via a tab in the blog desktop. There's no interface to help parse the code, but with Blogger you have the option to preview the change. This brings up the blog in a new window so that you can scan for damage. And, thank goodness, you also have the option of clearing all changes. This really comes in handy when I get carried away with tweaking and then forget where I dropped in the new code.

Next I want to figure out how to create my own feedback page, using only Blogger. My idea is to create a post that says in essence, "Thanks for subscribing. You'll receive an email from Bloglet with directions on how to access or change your subscription." The trick is, I don't want anyone else to see it except folks subscribing via the Bloglet form. So I'm thinking that by backdating the post to June or something, I can force it into the archives immediately. Unfortunately, I think people subscribing with an RSS aggregator will still see the post in their aggregator.