Monday, February 26, 2007

Five Good Blog Tools (and Three Bad Ones)

Blog TipsHere's a few of the best treats for your blog I've come across lately:

1. FavIcons from Pics. I found this through Liz at Successful Blog. Favicons--or favorite icons--are the little teensy icons you see at the front of a site's URL (if you look at the top where my URL is right now you'll see an orange Blogger B). This site will walk you through the process of installing a favicon for free.

Favicons are helpful in branding your blog--in creating an idea in each visitor's mind about what your blog represents, what it offers and why visitors should return. Problogger has several articles about this subject here and here.

Why doesn't Scribbit have a favicon? [Sheepishly] Well I plan to, but I want it to be my logo and I still have yet to design that. Anyone want to design a great, snappy logo for me?

2. Blurb. Many bloggers blog as a form of record keeping, as an online journal. This site will allow you to put your blog into book form through software called BookSmart which can be downloaded at their site. The cost starts at $12.95 for a 40-page book which is quite reasonable, the software itself is free.

This is one of the things I plan to do . . . eventually . . . but if anyone has had experience with this product please let me know. I'd love to read a first-person review.

3. CSS Play. As I mentioned in a previous post on CSS Play, my drop-down menu was created by Stu Nicholls who has the code to create all sorts of tools for your blog. When I had problems with the code Stu even took the time to help me fix it. I am one satisfied customer.

Anything that can organize your blog and the information you want to provide is a good thing and will build loyalty in your readers--especially this reader. I love people and blogs that are well-organized.

4. Flooble. See those collapsible menus on my sidebar labeled "Archives" and "Blogs I Read"? Those can be created through where they'll walk you through putting those blog rolls and scrolling menus into neat, tidy packages.

Now there's no excuse for unsightly messes on your sidebar with piles of scrolling menus amid the debris of buttons and blogrolls. Clean it up and get on with the blogging.

5. Soapbox Jury and Flatline Web Design. Two sites for blog diagnostics where you can get reviews of your blog. Nurse Betty at Flatline will give your blog a diagnosis faster than you could get one at a real ER.


Now, having given you five good tools here are three things about which I am decidedly less enthusiastic (translation: I don't like them). Please don't be offended if you love them, it doesn't matter, I'll still visit and comment much too often. I'm just offering one small opinion about some bandwagons everyone seems to be crowding onto.

1. My Blog Log. This gimmick means clutter on your sidebar that forces visitors into the sunlight. Once you join My Blog Log and create a profile with a photo, when you visit other blogs that have the My Blog Log strip on their sidebar you be added to the list of visitors, complete with a picture.

I thought that this was what comments were for. If someone wants you to know they visited your blog, they'll leave a comment. Otherwise they may not want to be revealed in this way.

So to summarize: My Blog Log is a way of forcibly delurking visitors through a redundant system that takes up valuable space on your blog. Three strikes and it's out.

2. Snap. Another blogging annoyance worse than the first. Snap is the widget that creates a pop-up preview of any link on your page. For example, if I were using this on my blog and if you were to hover over the word Snap at the beginning of this paragraph a tiny pop-up window of Snap's homepage would appear.

I set Firefox to block all pop up ads. I dislike their intrusion and the time I waste dealing with them so why would I knowingly install something on my blog that does virtually the same thing?

Snap windows block whatever I may be reading, give me little information and usually appear because I've mistakenly hovered over a link with my cursor. On the other hand, if I was trying to click on the link and Snap appears, the window itself won't get me there so it just delays my ability to get to what I'm aiming for. Delay is never a good thing. Ever. Except maybe in regards to executions. Only then.

3. Music on Blogs. Sometimes I'll visit a blog where inexplicably, out of the mysteries of the blogosphere, a song begins to play. It's never a song on my own playlist but a song chosen for me by another blogger set to play as long as I'm on the page. It's the blogging equivalent of being trapped in an elevator with The Carpenters, Menudo or Milli Vanilli. Though once I heard an Annie Lennox song that I kind of liked but usually when the music starts it has the effect of screaming "Run Away! Run Away!" to me.

And the worst thing? Adding music to your blog causes your pages to download . . . very . . . very . . . slowly. Kind of like Seinfeld's slow talker. Those pages can even lock up my computer (yes, I know I should get a Macbook but that's beside the point) so I have to restart--not a way to win friends and influence people.

So think about why you're installing these items and how they may affect your readers before joining the stampede of blogging lemmings out there. Ouch. That's probably too harsh but before you jump with the others give it some thought.

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Miscellaneous-Mum said...

I agree with you on the irks. We have those in common (except I have mybloglog). Good post, esp the favicons, I had often wondered about those. And the music! I swear when that happens to me, I jump out of my skin! I look around and go, "what the hell is that?!" But that's just me.....

I shall be implementing some changes, I forsee.......when I have time! Hopefully....

Anonymous said...

Oh thank you, thank you! I've been trying to find a plugin that would collapse links on the sidebar. Flooble sounds like just the thing.

And I, too, completely agree on the 'irks'. I'd also have to add comment filters that use letters and numbers that are nearly impossible to read. (I understand and appreciate the purpose of their use, just wish there was a better way...)

LOL! I'm on my third "word verification" try now--

Anonymous said...

Cool tips!

Oh music on websites and blogs drives me nuts. If I do not know a blogger, it turns me off right away. I have to REALLY like a blogger to bother commenting or even staying long enough to read the post.

Carina said...

I'm trying to do the favicon thing, but it says I'm supposed to "upload my favicon.ico file that I downloaded to my webpage folder. I use Blogger, so everything's already done for me. Where, in blogger, could I put it? Or can I?

Anonymous said...

I have wondered how to get a Favicon. Thanks!

I agree with your picks for annnoying add ons. They turn me off, too.

Kelly said...

I'm so glad you said that about music on blogs. It's one of my personal pet peeves.

Anonymous said...

Did you know you can block snap on all websites you go to? It's a cookie so you'll have to visit the link for each computer/browser.

And I'm totally with you on the music on a blog thing. Since they usually work with flash, I suggest flash block plugin.

Christie O. said...

i love the collapsible menus, thanks! i was wondering how to do that. oh and i hate snap too!!!

An Ordinary Mom said...

I have always wondered about those favicons. I didn't even know they had a name. Eventually I will have to check it out.

Thanks, too, for the info about Blurb. That is a neat idea, and the price seems about right.

Wordpress does Snap on its own free will ... at least I don't know how to turn it off. Sometimes it doesn't bug me, though, because it lets me preview a page (especially if several Mary's comment on my site) without clicking over to another site. However, I am glad you will still come visit me :) !

Music ... there is a reason why I normally keep the volume on my speakers turned all the way down.

You always have great info on your blog! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. It is much easier than doing all the research on our own ... yes, I am lazy :) !

Lisa said...

Wow. You are awesome. Thanks for all of the info. I tend to keep my head in the sand when it comes to "toys" for mah blog. But it IS cool to know what it out there and what you liked/disliked and why....

Stephanie Appleton said...

I've had mixed feelings about My Blog Log esp b/c of the space on my side bar. On the flip of what irked you though, I like that even if I don't have anything to say about a post, people know I stopped in.

re the music. The headphones are always plugged into our speakers for the kids' games. I had been blogging for months when one day I had the headphones on for some reason and suddenly there was all this annoying music everywhere!

Amy said...

Excellent, excellent post! I am with you on all the complaints. Items that slow down load time and have no real benefit to the reader irritate me. I have been known to not visit blogs because of these factors.

You are the woman!

Damselfly said...

Thanks for all these tips! You run a tight ship.

Dawn's Daily Journal said...

I was on a blog the other I was taking a sip of my coffee this music started blaring from no-where! My kids had been in the night before and were listening to their music and forgot to turn the speakers down. I spilled coffee on myself cause it startled me so bad! I will now always shut the speakers off before I start reading the morning blogs!!! :)

Lauri said...

Wow - lots of good info on polishing the blog. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

You are the woman! I have been wondering for AGES how to put my blogrolls into a drop down menu! These are great tips

And ditto on the music on blogs thing. Freakishly Irritating.

Anonymous said...

God I hate Snap ... it drives me mad and I agree about the music too always horrendous ballads or bleugh soft rock ... and once it was even tie a Yellow Ribbon!


Anonymous said...

LOVE this post. Okay, first, I need one of those li'l icons by my url. going to work on that right away.

And I TOTALLY agree with your assessment of Snap and music on blogs. The music, in particular, drives me batty. Nothing will make me close your blog faster than inundating me with your favorite music. BLECH!

Melessa Gregg said...

Snap drives me insane. My pop-up blocker doesn't like it either.

Lei said...

Was I the Annie Lennox song you liked? Lol. I hesitated to put music on my blog... I don't think I'll kepe it there for long. Or if I do, I'll switch it up a lot. I think I have pretty good taste in unannoying music. ;)

Good to know that it can make the page take forever to load - I would not have thought of that!

And I am going to look into favicons... thansk for all your info!

Miss Notesy said...

I love, love, love this list!!!! I've already created one of those drop down thingies. I plan to do a lot more to clean up my blog very soon!

If I was with you in person, I'd throw my arms around you in absolute delight because I just can't always contain my excitement.

strauss said...

MMMMM! Thanks for the low down.
I am going to check out the favicons. I have seen a few URL's with those and wondered how they got them. As for the blog soundtrack thing - I couldn't agree with you more. I really dislike opening a blog with the surprise of a song blaring. It is distracting when trying to read for a start - it usually gets the mute button before the singer has warbled the first word.
Great tips.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this list. Great information for those of us fairly new to blogging.

I hate music on blogs with a passion. I have my own little policy that I will immediately leave any blog that has music. I even accidentally offended my mom by saying this out loud... she has music on her blog.

Scooter said...

Thank goodness I've found you at last, Michelle! If that sounds dramatic, I've been looking through my gazillion bookmarks for three days for this post. Thank you so much for the information. :)

Anonymous said...

You're so right about Snap. Luckily, my blog host has the option to disable the Snap option. After a week of having started my blog, I quickly turned it...OFF!

Thanks for the amazing tips!


Gerd Leonhard said...

Hi there, I run and we provide music widgets for blogs etc. Here is the thing about Music on Blogs: one should use it mostly with AUTO-OFF rather than auto-on; that way a visitor can hit the play button, or not, and there is no blast of music that is unexpected. However, there are quite a few bloggers that want a 'soundtrack' with their site, so... different way of thinking there. Check out our examples are My blog is at btw (yes, with auto-OFF)

"Mean Mom" said...

I clicked on the links in your drop down menu but nothing happened. Are there any links to view? Thanks!


Tiffany said...

If you want to put music on your blog, I suggest Finetunes. It is a website that allows you to pick songs from your favorite artists (three from each artist) and then put it on a playlist on your blog. It does not automatically load. The reader has to click on it to listen to the music. This way, you can still make your favorite music available, but it does not force it on the readers. Just a thought.

Oh, and I am going to have to look into the favicons. I had not heard of that before. Thanks!

VJ_M said...

Well i was looking for a site about Government Car Auction and came across your site through google.I also have a blog so i think these above tips mentioned by you are very useful for my blog and also for any blogger.