Wednesday 12 December 2007

An open letter to John Hurrell

Dear John,

I'm pleased you've started your own blog. I've thought for a while this would suit you better than Artbash. Sad to hear though that you're struggling with the Blogger platform.

I don't know if you read Best of 3, but I know you read Over the net, so maybe you stumble over here sometimes. Who knows, maybe you've hit on Google Alerts, and are tracking the blogosphere's reaction to your new enterprise. Anyways, here's a few bits of advice:

1. Formatting images

Don't blame the browsers for the image/text crunching. The cleanest way to display images is to set the default to 'centre' instead of left or right align when you upload images.

Bonus tip: dot images though your post instead of piling them at the top by cut'n'pasting the image in the HTML view. You can tell the image file 'cos it will have BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID and a whole bunch of other code between the tags.

2. Get a Feedburner account

If you're not posting on a regular basis, people will get sick of visiting your blog to find new content and being disappointed. This is going to make you dependant on search engines and feed readers for your readership.

Make your blog feed nice and easy to find by setting up a Feedburner account and displaying the icon they give you prominently in your blog's nav. Added bonus - you'll be able to track the number of subscribers to your feed (although warning: feed stats are slippery little buggers).

2.5 Change the dates on posts

Or, you could post regularly. There's this sneaky little defect in Blogger, which I suspect you've yet to spot.

If you load up a post and leave it in draft, and then return another day to publish it, it will appear with the date tag for the day you loaded the draft. This means if you load up all the posts on Monday, then publish one of them each day for a week, they'll all still appear as if you published them on Monday.

To make it publish on a different date, you need to re-set the date, by going back into the draft post, and using the 'Post options' button at the bottom of the text box.

3. Set up Google Analytics

I know you'll have to give CNZ a what-I-did-with-my-grant report (PDF). Wouldn't it be nice if you could say how many people read your reviews?

4. The web is built on the hyperlink

I just skimmed through your posts, and found a handful of URLs - but they're not links. This makes me think you haven't met the link button yet: it's the symbol with the green globe, on the right of the text colour button. Highlight the text you want to turn into a link, then hit the button and paste in your URL. Voila.

Beyond the obvious benefits of giving your readers further sources of information, here's why you need links:

a. Links (esp. with meaningful link text, none of that 'click here' business) will help your blog score better with search engine algorithms.

b. People are more likely to link to you (blessing you with traffic) if you link to them.

c. The change in formatting creates some stickiness in long posts full of black type.

d. You'll look like you belong to the online community.

5. A personal comment

Goodness knows I've been had up before for blogging anonymously. But I enjoy it. I would have left some of the feedback in this post on eyecontactartforum, but you're sticking to your first-name last-name guns. Given that you're moderating the comments anyway, do you really need full names to "minimize personal abuse, waffle and shameless self-promotion"?

Kind regards,

Best of 3

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