Essential Plugins

plugIns At this point, sharing my posts is starting to become more of a focus. (Not that I’m writing anything Earth shattering here! 😉 ) To this end I have installed a couple more plugins to help with this.

GOOGLE XML SITEMAPS

The first place you want to share your posts is with Google and other Search Engines. This superb plugin regenerates XML sitemaps after posts are published and notifies Search Engines of the changes automatically.

No muss, no fuss. Activate it, review the settings then simply forget about it.

I wasn’t sure if I still needed to go into WebMaster Tools at Google and initially submit the sitemap manually or not, but I did just that anyway. I figured it couldn’t hurt. :)

WebSite: http://www.arnebrachhold.de … sitemaps-generator/

SHARETHIS

One thing you want on your blog is an very simple way for people to share your posts with others. The ShareThis plugin pulls this off beautifully with many options.

Instead of blathering on about it, check out the ShareThis icon at the bottom of this post and give it a try. :)

WebSite: http://sharethis.com/

WP-PAGENAVI

This has nothing to do with sharing but does add pagination for navigating through post pages. I like it as it tidies the pages up a bit.

WebSite: http://lesterchan.net/portfolio/programming/php/ (You’ll have to scroll down)

As you can see I don’t get into a lot of technical detail when describing plugins. At this point those topics have been blogged to death already. I doubt I could add anything new. :)

I’m just suggesting what I like here.

The Disqus Comment Plugin

Disqus I’m not sure why I’ve avoided this plugin for so long. I’ve been aware of it for about a year now but never tried it other than to make comments on other blogs. I guess the idea of storing my comment data elsewhere made me a little nervous. I think I’m over that now. :)

So, balancing myself on the edge of the diving board, I took the plunge and installed it.

The install was drop-dead simple. Create an account with them, upload a few files, activate the plugin and make the desired settings. Done! The only thing missing now are people to make comments. They’ll come soon enough. We’re only on day three here.

So far it looks to be an awesome Comment System. Just from surfing around a bit it looks like support is also top notch.

Come the new year people will be able to comment on blogs with Disqus using their FaceBook Profiles. Also Comments post to the Facebook news feed. I’m too much of a FaceBook dummy to know how this will benefit a blog, but we’ll see. :)

What more can you ask for?

Well, I do have one issue with Disqus. It breaks XHTML validation. There are several solutions out there but most are for earlier versions and simply didn’t work for me. I did see mention of promises to look into this problem by support staff. So, even though it breaks my efforts to keep everything validated, I’m still willing to use it. That should say a lot about how I feel about Disqus. :)

This is definitely a plug in you should look into right from the get-go.

Visit their site: http://disqus.com

The Perils of Late Night

Ok! My days of working in the dark are over. Lights on at all times.

I’m up late doing some tweaking of the web site. In the low glow of my monitors I reach over and take a big haul from my can of Diet Pepsi.

I was suddenly aware of a solid object in this mouthful. Without swallowing I managed to push the object through my lips with my tongue. Picking it from my lips I look to my fingers to find AN EARWIG!

earwigGross right? (I’m not done yet)

Before I had a chance to freak out and call the Pepsi Bottling Company every name in the book, it scurried away. Gah! It was still alive!

I wanted to scream but I was suddenly aware that I still had the mouthful of Diet Pepsi which I hadn’t swallowed yet. (And wasn’t going to) Running quickly to the kitchen sink I tripped over the cat and swallowed the mouthful anyway. Thankfully Earwigs don’t travel in packs. lol

It must have either been on the rim of the can or had crawled in before I took a drink.

… 2 French hens,
And an Earwig in a can of Pep-si! :)

Theme Hacking – Part 1

newThemeTE As you can see by the screenshot (and site itself) I’ve found a theme! And after only 2 days of searching! I actually found this theme early in my hunt but I wasn’t about to deny myself 48 hours of agonizing searching anyway. :)

Why I chose this theme…

  • Clean look. (Who wants a dirty blog?)
  • Supports Widgets.
  • Valid CSS and XHTML. (A must!)
  • Table-less design. (Also a must!)
  • Right Sidebar.

The Right Sidebar was a primary criteria in my search. Likely no real advantage to it but I like the idea of rendering content before anything else. I suspect Search Engines prefer it too.

But with all themes there are some things I wanted changed. So, with my trusty code editor on standby I started hacking.

First up was the XHTML validation. The theme dictated XHTML1.1. Unfortunately, this presents a problem for me. I use Windows Live Writer to compose my posts and I always use images. For some reason WLW will break strict XHTML (and in this case XHTML1.1) validation. It has something to do with image parameters but I won’t go into that in any detail here.

Changing this was simple.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN"
"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd">

The above line appears at the top of index.php. A simple change to XHTML Transitional will solve my problem.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">

Now I can use WLW to my heart’s content without fear of breaking validation.

Next on my to-do list was to include author information to the post header info.

Theme Hack 1

Previously this theme only included date and comment links. It may just be my sick need to see my name in lights, but I’m thinking ‘recognition’ is a big key in blogging. Be it a picture or a name you want something to stick in peoples minds. The more people see it, them more likely they’ll remember it later.

By changing this line…

<span class="date"><?php the_time(__(‘F jS, Y’, ‘inove’)) ?></span>

 

… to …

<span class="date"><?php the_time(__(‘F jS, Y’, ‘inove’)); echo ‘. Posted By <a title="author" href="’; the_author_url(); echo ‘">’; the_author(); echo ‘</a>’; ?></span>

I was able to easily insert the author info.

With my name in lights I pushed on. Time to insert my FeedBurner Chicklet.

themeHack2

The RSS feed link was hard coded into the theme so back to our trusty editor. I needed a new CSS style for this. I created the following element in style.css:

#burner {
float:right; /* make the box look full */
padding: 5px; /* so chicklet image would line up with RSS image
}

Then in sidebar.php i added this line…

<div id="burner"><a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/TornElements"><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~fc/TornElements?bg=E1E1E1&amp;fg=000000&amp;anim=1" height="26" width="88" style="border:0" alt="" /></a></div>

… just after the RSS code but within the same display element. Tucked in nicely. :)

Pretty basic stuff here. I hope I’m not boring too many people. Hopefully it’ll help out some of the newer people entering into blogging.

Preliminary Promotion

Backlink Promotion Although I’m nowhere near finished with my setup of this blog, I’ve taken some early steps toward getting some backlinks coming in. Certainly nothing major, but the coming weeks will see some good results from doing this.

Forum profiles and signatures are great ways to get the word out. My longevity on the web provides me with an abundance of Forum Accounts and Posts. Busy forums are best, but even dead forums will return a certain amount of link juice. So be sure to hit those long forgotten forum accounts if you decide to go this route. :)

Forum Profiles are not only viewed by people but Search Engine Spiders as well. A perfect place to stuff your blog URL. I’ve seen several of my Forum Profiles appear in Google within an hour of my joining a forum. Google LOVES forums. Make no mistake!

Forum Signatures is where it’s at! Attaching your blog link to your signature instantly adds the URL to any previous posts you’ve made. I have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5,000 posts lurking out there. A good portion of these (but not all) will start showing up as backlinks to my blog. It may take a bit of time for them to start showing so it’s best to do this activity ASAP.

I launched a blog about a year ago and achieved a Page Rank of 3 within the first 7 weeks mainly due to Forum Signature links. So yeah, it’s a very effective way to achieve ranking. And people DO click on signature links. :)

I also added the link to places like FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social networks.

I’ll be discussing other methods of promotion as we go along. For now, we’ll fly with this.