Tag Archives: blogging

From blog post to Twitter: auto-posting the Feedburner way

You got those blogging blues? All that time and effort penning wonderfully erudite missives and no one can be arsed to show up and read the damn things? Just too many blogs crowding out your place in the sun on the mighty Google? Might be time to start looking for alternative avenues to distribute your content.

Like Twitter.

We have our own success story here at developerWorks – which happily delivers us over 200,000 visitors a month. Not bad for a 140-character investment every now and again. Twitter is many things to many people, and one thing it is to some people is a channel for distributing your content. What’s the easiest way of getting blog posts onto Twitter? There are numerous tools out there that will take up your blog posts as soon as you hit ‘publish’ and wrap them up into a handy Tweet, complete with a link back to your site.

You may know Google’s Feedburner service as an RSS manager, but it has other functions too: like being able to autopost to Twitter.

Setting up Feedburner

Create an account

First step is to login and create an account with Feedburner. Pretty straightforward, especially if you use any other Google service (such as Gmail), as you just enter your existing account.

Get your RSS feed address

Once in, the service will ask you for your feed address (to ‘burn’ the feed). Here on developerworks you can get this by going to the bottom of the homepage and saving the URL for the blog entries:

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If you can’t find your RSS feed, try giving it your blog address: Feedburner may well be able to figure it out your RSS feed address for you.

Add the Twitter service to Feedburner

Follow the steps through to the ‘congrats’ page and at the bottom click directly through to ‘feed management’. Choose the ‘publicize’ tab and select ‘Socialize':

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Add your Twitter account details and you can tweak the settings if you wish (in most cases the defaults should work just fine). Note that the service uses the goo.gl URL shortener of choice.

Click ‘Activate’ and you are good to go.

So the next time you put out a post:

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You’ll see it show up in Twitter a few minutes later:

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That’s all there is to it.

Although there are reasons why you might not want to automate posting of blog content directly to Twitter. One may be that you want to tailor your message for each audience. What works well as a blog headline may not cut it on Twitter. Still, if you don’t have time to manicure your Twitter presence then it makes good sense to use an autoposter like Feedburner to handle this step for you.

More on the value of the Feedburner service.

Welcome any feedback or questions!

Feedburner: pinging blog aggregators and more

You may be aware of the Google Feedburner service: a great tool to add significant power to your RSS feed. What you may not be aware of are some of the other features Feedburner offers. In this post I’ll explain some of the features we’ve been testing here on developerWorks and on other Lotus Connections blogs.

New clothes for an old feed

A standard RSS feed looks something like this:

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(Firefox display of RSS) 

Pass that same feed through Feedburner and this is what you’ll see:

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Nice, huh? Definitely more user friendly. It’s also more RSS Reader-friendly. IBM blogs serve up secure (https) RSS feeds which don’t play nicely with some RSS Readers, eg. Yahoo Pipes.

Detailed analytics

Now, I’ll be the first to urge you to concentrate on writing blog posts rather than fixating on how many readers you have. But still, there comes a time when it’s necessary to cast a backward glance at how many people are reading your beautifully crafted missives. Now, the display of the number of views per post is a great feature of these blogs, but that number (or any other web analytics you may have hooked up to your site) doesn’t take into account one group of users: those reading RSS feeds. This is where Feedburner comes into its own as it offers some great analytics:

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You can see how many people subscribe to your feed and some basic information on of those subscribers, and how many people are actually reading your posts through a reader. One word of caution: look carefully at your data as you could realize that some of those readers are not human, but bots sniffing out new content.

Ping service

Right, now we’re getting to the meat of the wonderful Feedburner service. If you don’t have a pinging service currently hooked up to your blog that’s notified every time you put out a new post, don’t despair: the Feedburner ping service could come to your aid. I recommend this if you are blogging on the Lotus Connections platform.

What exactly is the issue with not using a pinging service? One big factor is that Google may not figure out your posts are blog content. Whilst this won’t keep you out of their main index, it means your posts won’t show up in a blog search.

If you want to set up a ping service in Feedburner, go Optimize > PingShot. 

Other helpful features

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Feedburner offers a bunch of useful features under the hood but two that I find particularly useful are ‘Email Subscriptions’ (which helps you add ‘subscribe by email’ functionality to your blog) and ‘Socialize’ which allows you send your posts instantly in the direction of social media sites like Twitter.

Setting up Feedburner

This is pretty straightforward, as you’d probably expect. Just head over to Feedburner.com and either create a new account or sign in with an existing Google account. Once in, follow the wizard: all you should need is your blog URL or the URL of your RSS feed.

In Feedburner, the Google team really have created a consummate set of blogging/online publishing tools. So go ahead and give your content a boost with Feedburner.

Blog posting made easy: Windows Live Writer

I’d venture to say the hard part in blogging is coming up with good ideas and finding the time to turn them into attractive blog posts. However, that final stage of laying the post out in your blogging platform can add some friction to the process.

Most blogging platforms have some form of web-based WYSIWYG editor, however these do have some limitations:

  • Being web-based there is a danger you can lose your work if you lose your connection or your browser craps out
  • Functionality can be limited, eg. that table you’ve spent an hour constructing may show up as little more than garbled text
  • The editor may not deal well with formatting from a word processing document, such as MS Word
  • If you want to share your content in multiple locations, you will have to login to many different pages

Here’s where Windows Live Writer can come in. This small desktop client from Microsoft functions as a stripped down version of MS Word optimized for creating blog posts.

You can use it directly to file your thoughts and save them locally as drafts for later publishing. You can get funky with your layouts by adding pictures, tables, video,  and even maps! Being a Microsoft product, it plays nicely with Word and does a great job of stripping out all those annoying formatting tags you see when copying Word content into most editors. For the power blogger, it supports multiple accounts and makes it easy to take a post written for one location and instantly publish it elsewhere.

Sold? Want to get started?

Here’s a cheat sheet for those of you blogging on developerWorks. BTW, if you aren’t blogging here, but would like to, sign up now to see if your blog idea is accepted. If you are using another platform (such as WordPress or Blogger), most of this still applies, although you will need to alter the URL for your blog.

Setup

Download Windows Live Writer

Once installed, it will start a wizard to connect to your blog.

Use the following settings:

What blog service do you use? Select ‘’Other blog service’

Web address of your blog: Enter ‘https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/?lang=en

Username/Password: (same combination you use to login to developerWorks)

At this stage it should automatically find the blog. If it doesn’t and asks you for a blogging service, use the following details:

Type of blog: Select ‘Atom’

Remote posting URL: Enter ‘https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/?lang=en

You will then be asked whether the client can make a temporary post so it can detect the publishing formatting settings. Select ‘Yes’.

That’s it! You will be dropped into the editor and you are now ready to post.

Posting

You’ll notice that the editor is very close to MS Word and you can do most standard formatting using the top toolbars. You will also there find options to add images, video, tables, etc.

A word of warning about images: if you want to upload local files (rather than link to images already on the web), you may want to upload your post as a draft and add these from within your web editor. Sometimes Windows Live Writer can struggle to upload images directly to your blog.

Remember to specify categories (at the bottom of the post editor) to help you organize your content.

If everything looks good, go ahead and hit ‘Publish’! If you’re squemish by nature or have any doubts, you may want to go ‘Save Draft’ > ‘Post Draft to Blog’ just to make sure all looks fine before going live.

Happy blogging! 

(BTW, in case you are wondering, this post was created in Windows Live Writer!)

Corporate blogging: dialogue, not soliloquy

On the Social TNT blog, Chrisopher Lynn makes the great point that corporate blogging is not like other marketing channels: it’s about fostering a dialogue rather than broadcasting a message. He uses the great analogy of locking yourself in a room and just talking away.

He goes further and says it’s not enough to just lurk and write up a synopsis of what you read – you need to actively get involved. Treat it like a conversation and remember to say something back that is meaningful (not just repeat back what somebody says to you).

On the whole I agree with Christopher’s position, although I do see one exception: the corporate news blog. This can work particularly well for agencies and companies that need to be perceived as thought leaders in a particular field. SearchEngineLand jumps to mind as one example of what is sometimes called a signpost blog – that is a blog that exists solely as a reference point to the latest happenings in a particular field.

However, if you are new to blogging, I would encourage you to read Christopher’s post – thinking of blogging as conversing is a great way to build reputation for your blog.

The touchy subject of CEOs blogging

Mario Sundar once again picks up on the subject of CEOs blogging. Will this issue ever be put to sleep? I doubt it. Why? I’d suggest there are just way too many variables involved. It is like asking should you have long hair? (OK, perhaps a dodgy analogy, but it is late on Friday, and hopefully you get my point).

Some things to consider:

  • Is the CEO remotely interested in blogging?
  • Is there a viable topic with an audience behind it? (if you sell carpets in the Boondocks, then I’d suggest not)
  • Does the CEO have the time, whatever that may be?
  • Can the CEO really write? (I know from experience this is by no means a prerequisite for leading a company)
  • Is the company setup to deal with the feedback that can come from a CEO blogging?

I’d probably lean towards saying that it is a good thing for a CEO to blog. One thing that could be more realistic and useful in many cases is a CEO microblogging. It is more lightweight, yet could still be interesting for employees, investors, customers, etc.

Read Mario’s orginal post

WordPress meeting: Wordcamp San Francisco 2008

Wordcamps are events organised by the WordPress gang to pull together developers working on the popular blogging platform. The latest event took place recently in San Francisco, pulling together some of the top brass working on WordPress. The affable inventor of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg led the proceedings.

WordPress sessions of interest:

Andrew Mager made this wonderful blow-by-blow account of Wordcamp San Francisco 2008.