odd-lot thoughts

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.


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