12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Better Blogging: Making the most of your RSS feed

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This post is for everyone who blogs.

First, let me put up a great little video that explains what an rss feed that was made by Common Craft. This is particularly helpful for those who don’t already know and those who might still understand it vaguely.


RSS IconJohn P. recommends that you make the link to your rss feed very easy to find and he has this ENORMOUS button for feeds.

Lorelle Van Fossen recommends an entire page dedicated to specialized feeds, like feeds for different categories, so if someone only wanted to subscribe to tech stuff or Phriday fotos, then they could pick that one. Or, you could even combine a feed with related categories, like tech stuff and blogging or a combo of link loads and the run down. I’m working this out, but I’ve promised David Phillips, my tech support, that I wouldn’t tinker until later this week, when he has more time to help.

The main thing I want to pass on is that you should send YOUR FULL FEED to the feed readers. I thought, at one time, that I would not get people to my site if I gave them the full article in the feed reader, so I would give them a taste and hope they would crave more and come to the site. I don’t know whether that worked for me, but I can guarantee that it doesn’t work on me.

I almost never click on the website if the feed is truncated, so it is counterproductive to those who use that technique, since I neither follow the feed to their site and I also do not read what they have to say.

The point for most people is that they have the their thoughts read. If you are worried about counting readers, insert the Feed Statistics plugin and you can see almost all the same information that you would as if they hit your site, including the links they hit from your feed.

If you don’t know where this setting is, go to the “Settings” link and then the “reading” link in WordPress 2.5. After that, you will find, almost at the bottom of the page, a box that looks like this:

Feed Settings

Click the Full Text option, and you’re set.

Hope that helps you.

Better Blogging: The Beginning

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can you hear thisI’ve recently found a ton of information from the pro-bloggers, those that design a lot of the blogging software, about how to blog better. I am sifting through that load of information and then will pass on to those who may read what I learn. Of course, I’ll be linking to the originators of these ideas, so you can go straight to the source, if you want.

I talked with a fellow pastor last week and he was on his way on a Mission Trip. I asked if he would be blogging the trip the way I did Vietnam. He said that he wasn’t set up for it, but really thought it was an effective tool for communicating. I promised to help him set up when he got back from his trip.

My friend was right. Blogging is a powerful form of communication and also is highly effective to those who read. The questions are, “Who is reading?” “Can we reach those that don’t know us?” If we can do it well, then we stand a better chance of getting the message out.

With that in mind, no matter who you are, I am embarking on another tech series to help you blog better and more efficiently. Hopefully, it will save you time and you can reach others. I can say that my feed subscriptions have doubled this week since I’ve been doing a few things differently. I haven’t even really gotten started.

This series will have a little something for everyone. If you are a lurker (someone who just reads and doesn’t even comment) there will even be stuff for you. Nevertheless, I will be aiming mostly toward those who already blog.

In this series, I plan to address:

  • where to blog (service and software)
  • content choice
  • how to blog for better search engine results
  • all kinds of software to help you do cool stuff – for free
  • what to do WHEN your rss feed gets scraped and used by a splog (spam blog)
  • how to get it done quickly and efficiently
  • more…

While I am gearing up for this, I want to offer you a chance to ask questions now that might form an answer post. Now’s your chance. Just ask away in the comment section.

If you haven’t switched to Firefox yet, give it a whirl now. A lot of what I will be writing about will have to do with it. For those who don’t understand what and why, I’ll explain:

Firefox is a browser, like Internet Explorer from Microsoft. The primary difference is that Firefox is what is called “Open Source,” which means that people other than those who own and run Firefox are free to develop “add-ons” and “scripts” that can be installed in the browser to customize it to your liking. It works for Apple or PC, so whatever your native operating system, you can use this browser.

The up side of open source is that you have MANY people working to make things better for you. The down side is that some people will write intentionally malicious software to mess others up and you might be a victim. However, this is usually avoided easily. Choose add-ons from Firefox’s site and Scripts that have been downloaded significantly by others (if others use it and it is malware – malicious software – then they will report it and it will be taken down). I’ve never had a problem with anything I’ve used in over two years of using Firefox.

The main reason I switched is that almost all the pros use it. I figured they knew something worth knowing. Astoundingly, I was right. They did.

After I switched, I found that Firefox is the standard in “compliance” – which is to say, it is the best browser for interpreting the computer language in which web sites are written. In Firefox, everything seems to appear as it was intended.

For instance, my site, when viewed in Internet Explorer, has the “footer” at the top of the site between the sidebar and the content columns. In Firefox, it is at the bottom of the page, where it was designed to be. If you use Internet Explorer all the time, try Firefox for a week. You will be absolutely amazed at how different the websites you visit look. Some change drastically. Next in the series, I will give you a huge list of all kinds of tweaks you can do for Firefox to customize it.

Some of these updates will help you blog better and some will help you read better, so whatever you do in the blogosphere, there will something for you there.

Pastoral Blogging, Pt. 7

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I am cleaning out my feed reader. After a while, you just have to start pulling some of the things you don’t read all the time. Honestly, I track those blogs I really like in a folder of “live bookmarks” on the bookmark toolbar in Firefox. There are five there and I check them a couple of times a day.

If you don’t know what a live bookmark is, your browser has an option when you click the rss feed chicklet:

(umm… if you don’t know what an rss feed is, you should probably read my previous posts on this subject, but I’ll give you a reprieve and offer this cool link: video – rss explained in plain english [ht: Desiring God Blog]

Most of the time, I use bloglines, but for those select few blogs, I opt for a live bookmark which is a drop down menu that shows the latest posts. It updates mui pronto and I don’t have to log into bloglines and sort through all of the other feeds that I don’t want to read at the moment.

Which brings me back to my original purpose. Sometimes you have to weed out feeds you aren’t reading. A lot of times, when you decide to subscribe to a feed, you feel sort of obligated to hang in there. Listen, there are plenty of times I have read an incredibly thoughtful post from someone and thought, “Hey, there’s gonna be more of this good stuff.” Generally there is, but too often, it is a long time coming. Sorting through their other posts waiting for the really good stuff is why I got a feed reader, so I could skim.

When I got back from camp, though, and found 300+ feeds waiting on me, I had had enough. I spent a couple of hours on my couch just sifting. By the time I finished, it was midnight and I was supremely irritated from the process. I’m glad everyone was asleep, or I would have been likely to have snapped at my family just for being alive at the moment. When something puts you in that frame of mind, it is time for a change.

Also, I am dumping almost all of my SBC politics feeds. I used to keep track of what everyone was saying because I had to be current. Truth be known, I had pretty much quit reading most of them months ago unless someone linked to them. I was skimming, but my heart has been out of it for a while.

At this point, I have a hard time keeping up with just the stuff coming from SBC Outpost, and I’m a contributor.

There have been a few, more thoughtful blogs, to which I am subscribing, and I thought you might like to know who they are.

Tops of my new interest is Emily Hunter McGowin. That girl knows her stuff and is deep like big water.

Lu has caught my interest and secured a feed in bloglines. She is a former missionary and current Nashvillian. She likes her blogging so much, she is willing to pay to do it (she uses typepad). Who am I to talk? I own my own domain.

Joe Ball is the Student Ministry guy for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and a long time friend. He keeps me hooked up with thoughts on Youth Ministry at Despising None Blog and Podcast.

Finally, I recommend to you an old blogging ally and someone who has made a huge leap from SBC politics to serious cultural engagement and thoughtful cultural commentary/conversation, Kevin Bussey.

Along with these changes, and more, expect my blogroll to change. Almost every SBC politics is going to come off of it. Please don’t get your feelings hurt you are there and get dropped. All things must grow and change and 12 Witnesses is doing that, as well.

[edit]

What the heck!!! I forgot to commend to you the fine blog of Timmy Brister, Provocations and Pantings. Timmy rocks with some massive depth, but also will give you phenominal knowledge on photography, family and life. I guess I forgot him because I have been reading him for a while, but in editing my blogroll, I realized I had never added him. My bad, TB.

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