Friday, September 15, 2006

Testing The Blogs Series - Part 8 - The New Blogger.com Beta


By now you know that the "blogging Queen" has created yet another new blog. My new blog is my "Testing The Blogs Series and Helpful Blog Tips" blog that I created to house all my blog articles and tips and was created using the new Beta version of Blogger.com.

So for my "Testing The Blogs Series - Part 8 - it's Beta Blogger.com's turn. Now they're on the hotseat.

Not much of a hotseat though as I like the new Beta version of Blogger.com.

You'd probably say "What a surprise, Linda? You like the new Beta version of Blogger.com.

Why, YES I do! I'll call it the "Camero" of the "Cadillac" Blogger family.

Why a "Camero." Well, because I'm from that generation when "Camero's" were THE car. My sister-in-law had one - a bright yellow "Camero." And, boy did she look "cool" in it. Okay, okay. I'm really dating myself. Back to the "Testing the Blogs Series."

So, why a "Camero?" Because Beta Blogger.com is easy to use, fast, and it's "layout" module area is sleek. Plus, it's "fun" which driving the "Camero" always was.

Okay, okay! Enough about the car. What about Beta Blogger.com? Is there anything you don't like? Sure, but we'll get to that in a minute.

So, what's changed with this new version. Pretty much they've made it so you don't need to know html or CSS to create a decent blog. You can easily add pictures with the new picture modules, add just text with the new text modules, add links with the new link modules, and all without any fancy coding.

Of course, if you want to add some fancy things to your blog (like a subscription service, etc.) you can do that too using their new html module.

They've made it easier to access the posts, settings, and template right from the dashboard. You can even view the blog in edit mode from the dashboard. When doing so the Blogger.com bar at the top lets you click to post or customize.

Plus when you're in the view blog mode each of the modules will have a tool icon next to them. If you want to edit that module all you need to do is click on the tool icon and it will open up that module in a pop-up window.

One of the nicest features is that they allow you to add "labels" to your posts. There is a limit of 200 characters per article for this field, but that is sufficient for labels for one article.

Labels are easily created and when writing an article you can "Show All" and just click on the ones you want for that article. This is a vast improvement over the older version of Blogger.com which had none.

However, it isn't like using a "Google" category search. (See my "Have You Noticed My New "Linda's Article Categories" List?" for more information on Google article categories.) Google searches scan all the words in a particular article looking to see if that article has the "category" words you are searching for. If it doesn't then this article is listed as a result under that category. You don't have to think about what "labels" to use for the post.

Using "labels" or "Google category searches" each have their different uses and advantages or disadvantages. One disadvantage right now for the "Google category search" is that the search results are only showing 3 results no matter what the search criteria is. There must be a problem with their search program. I hope they get it resolved or I'll have to consider other options for my older Blogger.com blogs category lists.

They have also added the capability of changing the fonts or colors of each module individually under the "Page Elements Tab" of the "Template" Tab. Under the new "Page Elements Tab" you can modify the following:

1) Add and Arrange Page Elements (i.e. modules) - Here you can add, remove, and click/drag to rearrange the page elements on your blog. Choose a New Page Element?

The Add Page Element choices are:

a) Add List Element -Add a list of your favorite books, movies, or anything you like.
b) Link List - Add a collection of your favorite sites, blogs, or web pages.
c) Picture - Add a picture from your computer or from somewhere else on the web.
d) Text - Add some words to your blog - like a welcome message - with our rich text editor.
e) HTML/JavaScript - Add third-party functionality or other code to your blog.
f) Feed - Add content from a site feed to your blog.
g) Labels - Show all the labels of posts in your blog.
h) Logo - Choose from a variety of Blogger logo's to add to your page.
I) Profile - Display information about yourself.
j) Blog Archive - Display links to older posts.
k) Page Header - Display your blog's title and description.

All of these are fast and easy to use. Except for the HTML/Javascript module no programming knowledge is necessary to set-up enough modules to have a really good blog.

The Page Elements screen and editing screens for each module are all po-up screens. As such, you can't use the copy/paste capability of your browser's edit menu. To copy/paste to the pop-up window you have to copy using the CTRL "C" key and paste using the CTRL "V" key.

2) Fonts and Colors - Here you can change the fonts and colors for the individual sections of your blog such as: Text Color, Post Title Color, Date Header Color, Post Border Color, Link Color, Visited Link Color, Blog Title Background Color, Blog Title Color, Top Sidebar Title Color, Top Sidebar Background Color, Top Sidebar Text Color, Top Sidebar Link Color, Top Sidebar Visited Link Color, Bottom Sidebar Title Color, Bottom Sidebar Link Color, Bottom Sidebar Visited Link Color, Text Font, Blog Title Font, Description Font, Sidebar Title Font, and Post Title Font. It's quick and easy and you don't have to search through the template looking for the color codes. Another vast improvement. Plus, they have a fun new "shuffle colors" feature that is sure to entertain you.

3)Backup /Restore Template- Here you can make a copy of your template before changing it. You can also download the template to your hard drive or upload a template from your hard drive here.

You can also edit the contents of your template. However, the module language is no where near as easy as modifying the older templates using html or CSS language. In fact, easy html formatting commands like center or line break don't work in the pre-programmed modules. They do, however, work in the HTML module.

According to Blogger.com HELP: "Next comes the actual code for your template. You'll notice it looks somewhat like regular HTML and CSS, but also includes lots of custom tags that make it compatible with our drag-and-drop layout editor, and with the font and color picker. If you want to make extensive changes to your code, you'll want to read up on these tags first."

For those of you, like me, that like to "fiddle" with the templates they have allowed for the following:

"There are also two links referring to your "classic template." If you converted your blog from the older style of Blogger templates to the new Layouts version, then your classic template is the last template you used in the old system, with all your customizations. If your blog was created on the new system and has always used Layouts, then your classic template is a default, classic version of the original design you chose when you created the blog, without any customizations. The "View" link will show you the code, in case you just want to check up on something, or copy a piece of it for your new design. The "Revert" link will erase all the customizations you made in the Layouts feature and set your blog to use the old-style Blogger template again. Note that you will not be able to use the graphical Layouts interface in this mode (though you can convert back to Layouts again later)."

4) Pick New Template - Here you can chose a new template from the 16 typical Blogger.com templates.

One of the nicest features of the new Beta Blogger.com is the stream lined "update." You make changes and save them. You now longer need to "republish" your blog which of you have a large blog like my Linda's Blog" can be quite time-consuming.

Here's what "Blogger.com had to say about that:

Dynamic Serving - The biggest change of all is perhaps the least immediately visible, but it affects the entire underlying structure of Blog*Spot. What used to happen was that Blogger would create static HTML files on your Blog*Spot account every time you published, and those files would remain there unchanged until your next update. In the new version, adding a new post simply updates your information in our database. Then, when someone wants to see any of the pages on your blog, those pages are created for them dynamically, on the fly.

This makes the process of updating your blog much simpler and faster. You don't have to remember to republish anymore, or decide whether to do a "republish index only" or "republish all." The instant you save a new post, template design, or settings change, your blog is updated. No more waiting for the publishing indicator to creep its way up to 100%.


This feature alone will say me a lot of time.

So, do I like the new Beta version of Blogger.com. "YES!"

Are there "kinks" that still need to be worked out. "Definitely!"

However, it is fast and easy to use. Anyone can create a terrific blog without ever having to modify the coding in the template.

Am I going to use it? I already have with my new "Testing The Blogs Series and Helpful Blog Tips" blog.

Am I going to convert all my other blogs over. "Probably not!"

Why? Because I just love to tweak the template myself! But, that's me.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I've Got To Be Out Of My Mind!

You are going to think that I am definitely out of my mind.

Why?

Believe it or not but I decided to start another blog.

Why would I do such a insane thing when I have so many blogs now.

Well, believe it or not but I had two very good reasons.

The first was that I was finding that I was writing a lot of articles for my Linda's Blog, posting answers to questions on the forums I belong to, or sending emails to other crafters with information on blogs and blogging.

So, I decided to separate the blog and blogging information and compile all that I've written so far into a blog all its' own. Wasn't that a good idea?

My new blog is called "Testing The Blogs Series and Helpful Blog Tips"blog.

My new blogs description is: My "Testing The Blogs Series and Helpful Blog Tips" blog is a compilation of all the articles I have written for my "Linda's Blog" on the various blog service providers and tips for crafters creating blogs. My series is intended as a tool for other small business crafters on the web to determine which blog service provider is best suited to their needs and to provide them with some helpful blogging tips.

It was created using the new Blogger.com Beta version which gets me to reason #2.

Since I was going to test the new Blogger.com Beta version of blogs for the "Testing The Blogs Series" that I've been running on my Linda's Blog I thought I might as well kill two birds with one stone and create the new blog there.

And, you thought I was going out of my mind.

Well, maybe.

But, certainly not for creating yet another blog.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Testing The Blogs Series - Part 7 - MSN Spaces Blog


I thought I might review my "MSN Spaces" blog as Part 7 of my "Testing the Blogs Series" as it has a funny beginning to it.

I actually started my Linda Walsh Originals MSN Spaces page by accident in October 2005.

I thought I had been told by my granddaughter that a popular blog website was called "Spaces" or "Faces" or something like that.

So, a little while later when I was thinking of setting up another blog I Googled "Spaces" I got MSN Spaces, saw they had a blog and decided to set up my page and account.

I didn't realize until a few days later that it was not the Myspace.com blog website that all the college kids and teenagers love nor was it the Faces.com photo blog website. However, I had already spent the time setting it up so I decided to keep my MSN Spaces page.

Since I had just switched to broadband and had been given a FREE MSN account with my broadband provider I decided to stay with the MSN Spaces page and blog. What I discovered about the MSN My Spaces page was that it was very similar to my Yahoo 360 degrees page.

It had a blog that you could post articles to in either HTML edit mode or WYSIWYG compose mode. Plus, unlike my AOL Journal and the Yahoo 360 blog you could save it in "Draft" mode like my Blogger.com blogs which I liked. You also could preview the article before saving or publishing it as well.

Unlike the Yahoo 360 blog my MSN Spaces blog did allow for HTML coding of pictures within the article which was a good thing as one of the worst features of My Spaces was the handling of importing pictures within an article. It only allowed for one at the end of the article.

MSN has recently undergone an extensive update of the MSN Spaces page with MSN Live features and one of the changes is a vast improvement in the handling of pictures within the articles. You can upload from your computer and view your photo albums now and choose which pictures you want to include. Also, you can categorize your articles now which is another nice feature.

For My Spaces page there was the RSS feed and subscription services, Tell a Friend, and add to my MSN home page capability. It also had modules for My Profile, my blog, my photo albums, link list modules, title and tagline, archives, and feeds.

I could have any number of link list modules that I wanted and named what I wanted. So I set-up link list modules for my website links, my toplists, my blogs, my plugboards, my blog friends, and events that I was participating in like On-line Craft Shows.

When of the nice features of the My Spaces page is that you can set your pictures up by album and set them to run in a slideshow every time you load the page. That's a great feature except I've found that it slows down the loading of the page tremendously.

As with other blogs and pages you can customize your page for several different column formats and select the colors you want out of numerous module styles and multiple themes. You can choose from a group of themes within the following: Simple themes, Nature, Music and entertainment, Art, Patterns, Objects, Animals, Characters, Occasions, Places, and Sports. They offer quite a variety to choose from which is really nice.

You also have options to allow comments or not allow comments, choose to allow viewing of your page or limit access to people you know, to allow trackbacks, to allow for automatic pinging, to allow for email and mobile posting, and decide who can send you requests or who you can send your requests to. It also has limited statistics.

I haven't had a chance to see all the changes that have been made to the new version of MSN Spaces as of yet. From my initial look it seems like they have improved upon several areas. There are more modules to choose from and categories and the improvement with the photo album.

Also they are now offering the new MSN Live page which allows you to make your homepage exactly what you want it to be. As mentioned, I haven't had a chance to test this as of yet. I will.

For the novice blogger the MSN Blog and MSN Spaces page is easy to set-up. However, even with the new improvements it still seems to run slow. While they do offer you a lot of choices for styles, and offer an unlimited number of link list modules they don't allow access to the "template" and don't allow HTML within the modules. So if you wanted to add graphics, subscription services, etc. to your page you can't.

So, do I like my MSN blog and MSN Spaces page. For the most part, yes. Do I wish I could customize it more like Blogger.com? Yes. Could they still improve the load time? Absolutely.



Friday, September 08, 2006

Testing The Blogs Series - Part 6 - Yahoo 360

In September 2005 I received an invitation from Yahoo to join in an experiment that they were conducting with blogs and community groups called "Yahoo 360 degrees." Since I love to experiment I thought "why not?" So, Part 6 of my "Testing The Blogs Series" will be about my Yahoo 360 degrees blog.

Yahoo 360 degrees was meant to be a place where you could express yourself with a blog, photos, interests, and what mattered to you. A place where you had total control over how your page looked and who saw what. A place where you could keep up with the latest news from your friends.

It was meant to be an all encompassing environment for Yahoo members for personalized pages, blogs, photo sharing, Yahoo groups, friends, feeds, reviews, etc. Everything all in one 360 degree circle. You determine what you want to share with your Yahoo Friends. It seemed like an interesting concept so I joined and set-up my Yahoo 360 page.

The negative to the concept is that you have to be a member of Yahoo to see my personal page and have to be invited by me to be a Yahoo friend and allowed access to my personal page. For someone who wants total control over who see's what, when and where its a great concept. For someone who wants the world to see everything about them automatically that won't happen unless the whole world is a member of Yahoo.

Within the 360 environment you have the "Home Page", your "My Page" which is your personal page, your "My Blog" page which is your blog, your "My Friends" page which lists the friends you've invited, Mailbox, Invite Friends email editor, Search for other Yahoo members, and Settings, which is basic information about you and your Settings.

Your "Home" page allows you to edit your "blast" (i.e. public name), compose a blog entry, add photos, edit your "My Page", invite a friend, add up to 3 feeds that you want displayed, add content, add Yahoo groups, etc.

On your "My Page" you get to determine who sees what and share your profile, share your interest lists, your blog entries, your feeds, your friends, your groups, and your photo albums.

You can choose a "theme" for your page from the many, many themes that they allow or "customize" your colors and pictures within their theme parameters. There is no access to a page or blog "template" to make the "page or blog your own."

You can also write reviews on Yahoo! Services like Yahoo! Travel, Yahoo! Games, Yahoo! Shopping, or Yahoo! Local. Your written reviews are reviewed by the staff at Yahoo and, if approved, will be displayed on the respective Yahoo! Service or on Yahoo! 360°. This is a nice feature for getting FREE articles out there and gaining extra exposure for your blog, website, or page.

One of the nicest parts of Yahoo 360 is the photo sharing capabilities of Flickr and all it has to offer. This is a big plus. You can sort your photo's by album and decide for each album who gets to see it or not. You can set up slideshows, photo streams, etc. It's terrific, plus you get a Flickr account and all its' capabilities.

For the "My Blog" page you have a typical blog that allows you to create articles in HTML edit mode or WYSIWYG compose mode. There is no "draft" mode capability so everything that you write is saved and "published." As with the AOL journal this is a big negative as you can't write your articles ahead of time or save them in "draft" mode to be finished at a later time.

You can view all the entries by text only, photo only, or both. Readers can comment on your blog articles if you let them.

You can create a poll to go along with your article which is a nice feature. You can also "highlight" your blog entries which makes it easy for users to find content that you like to emphasize. Highlighted entries are listed on your 360 degree blog page.

You can also mark each entry or your entire blog as for "mature" audiences only. This is a good feature, however, I would prefer that Yahoo 360 not allow "mature" content blogs. I tend to like "family-friendly" only blog providers.

However, the Yahoo 360 blog is severely limited when it comes to pictures within the articles. You can only have one picture within each article at the top of the post. Even if you code your pictures via HTML the Yahoo 360 "Save" editor mode eliminates all other references to pictures coded via HTML.

The blogs pages allows for some other box frames such as: blog rolling list, calendar of postings, and mobile blog posting but, that's it. You can have as many links in the blog roll as you want but there is no way to sort or arrange them without using a copy/paste external editor program like "Notepad."

You cannot ad custom HTML to any of the box frames and there is no subscription capability for your readers to subscribe to your blog.

As with AOL, if you love a community concept and love sharing various lists and interests with others of a like nature then you'll love Yahoo 360. It's a community environment unlike any other and encompasses not only your blog but your forum groups, your friends, your photo albums, etc.

If you're looking for a really good vehicle for a blog and all you're interested in is the blog then you would be better suited elsewhere. If you're a novice blog user and like sharing other interests and photo's with your friends then Yahoo 360 would be easy to set-up and learn.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Who Doesn't Love Paper Dollies?

I don't know if you're like me or not, but I like to reminisce about my childhood and the dolls, toys, or items that I loved to play with. In doing so I always say to myself, "Why didn't I save them?" I wish I had saved all of them. Some of them would be worth a fortune today.

Unfortunately, we moved a few times and old toys were discarded. Plus, what child thinks about saving something so they can have it 50 years down the road? None, that I know of and certainly not me. So, all my old toys, "Barbie" dolls, other dolls, and "paper dolls" were thrown away.

Today, with the advent of computerized doll makers and graphics "paper dolls" are making a comeback. You can create your own doll online or in your own graphics program and then print it out on your color printer on cardboard stock. Then just cut it out just like you did as a child. You're all set to play. How great is that?

I would have loved having this capability as a child. I can remember sitting on the floor for hours with my scissors and painstakingly cutting out pictures from fashion magazines, which I used as paper dolls. Or, cutting out the "paper doll" pages from my mother's magazines. Cutting precise lines with the round tip children's scissors was a little difficult if not downright impossible. However, I did my best which is all anyone can ever really ask of you.

Then I would sit there for hours on end using by "paper dolls" and play acting. Sometimes we would have a "tea party." Other times we'd have a fashion show with everyone lined up. Then my older brother would come in an mess everything all up.

Ah, the joys of childhood and siblings. That's an article for another day. Back to the "paper dolls."

On my list of "To Do's" is to create my own "Victorian paper dolls" based upon my own Linda Walsh Originals doll designs. The problem is finding the "time" to do so. There are just so many things I want to try and so many things I want to do. My own "paper dolls" is among them.

Of course, thinking about "paper dolls" got me to wondering about their origin. If you're a reader of my Linda's Blog you know how much I love traditions and research.

The "who", "what", "when", and "where did" mysteries. So, I thought I'd find out the history of paper dolls and the traditions surrounding them. When exactly did the "tradition" of playing with "paper dolls" begin? So, I did a little research.

From what I can tell paper dolls started with the invention of what else - "paper" and began in China. It is said that Marco Polo may have brought the tradition of using "paper dolls" for puppet shows home with him. The "dolls" were printed on "papyrus" and then glued to sticks to be used as puppets for puppet shows.

Other historians refer to life-size cutouts of "nobility" used during stage performances as the start of paper dolls. Paper dolls first appeared in Paris in the 18th century, during the reign of Louis XV. On the other side of the English Channel during this time period, British printers printed "paper dolls" on flat sheets and added moral stories to go along with their creations.

According to some historians; Paper dolls began in the mid-1700s amongst the European fashion centers of Vienna, Berlin, London and Paris. Here they offered paper dolls with costumes.

For other historians, "paper dolls" began with "traditional" dolls and started in the late 18th century with French seamstresses and dressmakers as a selling tool. They would create 8" tall figures on cardboard with outfits and distribute these to their favorite customers.

In 1810 the first commercial "paper doll" called "Little Fanny" was created by S. & J. Fuller & Co. The "Little Fanny" 15-page book was expensive to buy so it was initially only popular amongst the wealthier families. In 1812 "Little Henry" was published in America by J. Belcher.

Beginning in the 1830s, celebrity paper dolls and "royalty" paper dolls began to appear. In Pioneer America, paper was a prized resource. If children were lucky enough to get paper dolls, they treasured them and saved them between the pages of a book or in a carefully guarded box.

The cost of paper later changed with the invention of mechanical grinding machines, which became a ready source for pulp paper. However it wasn't until 1838 when cheap paper made from wood pulp (i.e. newsprint) was widely used that "paper dolls" was made affordable to the average child. As paper became less expensive and more common, dolls were mass produced on inexpensive cardboard and became readily available to children.

In the United States "McLoughlin Brothers" quickly became one of the largest manufacturer of paper dolls. They printed them on engraved wooden blocks.

Until the development of color printing, paper dolls were colored by hand. In America, Civil War widows often earned money by embellishing the printed paper dolls.

Early printed doll clothes did not include tabs for dressing the dolls, as is common with paper dolls today. Instead, children painstakingly attached the clothes with tiny drops of sealing wax. They took great care when they attached their clothes to their dolls so they wouldn't tear the paper doll.

Early paper dolls were available in various stages of modesty. Some came with permanently printed clothes. Others came with multiple layers of clothes, while others had printed underwear and required only outerwear. By the 1800s most commercial paper doll clothes featured tabs.

Homemade paper wardrobes often rivaled the silken fashions worn by real ladies and gentlemen of their respective era. Some artists used bits of cloth, tissue paper and magazine pictures to craft beautiful ball gowns.

And, something near and dear to my heart - During the Victorian era, Godey's Lady's Book, was the first magazine to publish a paper doll in their November 1859 issue.

At the turn of the century, department stores soon discovered that paper dolls were the ideal form of advertising. Specially designed dolls appeared in ladies magazines such as the Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Ladies World, McCalls, Pictorial Review and Woman's Home Companion.

The most popular paper doll of the mid-20th century was probably Betsy McCall, created by Kay Morrissey. Since 1962, Barbie paper dolls have become the most popular among American children.

Today, "fine art paper dolls" and "paper art dolls" can be found on many websites
and are sometimes drawn, painted or printed on paper. They even have their own Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) which can be traded or swapped.

Collecting paper dolls is a wonderful hobby and one I would like to start. If you love historic fashions, ball gowns, personality paper dolls, modern characters, animals, cartoon characters, etc. there is a paper doll somewhere for you.

They can be collected very inexpensively, are available for free downloads on many doll websites, and are available for free in doll magazines. "Paper Doll" collecting is a wonderful way to relive childhood memories, and share something "new" with your children, grandchildren, and friends.

Here are some of the wonderful "paper doll" websites that I found that offer FREE paper dolls:

Royal Paper Dolls -
Royal Paper Dolls is a unique gallery of paper dolls representing famous Kings and Queens throughout history. The goal of this web site is to bring famous people of the past to life, using a combination of portraits, costumes and biographies.

The American Girls Paper Dolls - New outfits for you to mix, match, and print out. The Historical Characters Collection - Meet eight girls from America's past. They all come from different times and places. But family, friendship, and feelings meant just as much to these girls as they do to you today. Learn about their lives and activities, and try out their games and activities.

Paper Doll Archive United States Historical Society

Fancy Ephemera - Features Brenda Sneathen Mattox's, original, paper doll art.Literary heroines, famous women, Hollywood costume, Victorian ladies, historical fashion, classic movie stars, and vintage brides!

David Glaudon Paper Dolls - Paper dolls can be surprisingly adult. These paper dolls, created by C. David Claudon, cover a variety of periods and styles.

Legacy Pride Gallery of Dolls - Dress our fabulous paper dolls by visiting the "Dress The Dolls" Link and make sure to always roll your mouse over any doll to see them magically appear in a new outfit.

Marilee's Paper Dolls

Angel's Printable Paperdolls - Fairy paper doll

Annie Kershaw - Victorian Paper Dolls

My America Paper Dolls

Japanese Paper Dolls


Berenstain Bears Dress-Up Dolls

Betsy McCall - Paper Dolls

Canon Print Planet - Paper Dolls

Caillou *PBSkids.org* Character - Paper Dolls

KATIE'S HISTORIC COSTUME PAPER DOLLS

Danielle's Place!

Kristina's Printable Paper Dolls

The Original Paper Doll Artists Guild (OPDAG) - Celebrating the Art and Fashion of Paper Dolls! Founded in 1984, OPDAG,is an organization of people who exchange ideas to encourage the art and hobby of paper dolls in the world today.

erin fairchilde fashion paper dolls by Elaine Shants

Paper Dolls by Helen Page

Original Paper Dolls by Anne K. Donze

Carmen Miranda by David Zurlin

Trudy Janet Paper Dolls

Virtual Shirley Temple Doll - This doll was done by Pat Stall and appeared in October 1982 doll reader.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the history of "paper dolls" and visiting some of the wonderful "paper doll" websites.

Maybe I've encouraged you to become a "paper doll" collector, too. I know that I'm starting my own collection and, if I could just find some time, developing my own series of "Victorian paper dolls." So, who wants to swap paper dollies with me?



Monday, September 04, 2006

Testing The Blogs Series - Part 5 - AOL Journals


It seemed appropriate that at this point in my "Testing The Blogs Series" that I should tell you about my very FIRST blog. I started it a few years ago before "blogs" were all the rage. It was created in AOL's "hometown page" section and was called my "hometown journal."

I don't remember a lot about the first design but do remember that it was pretty simple. Nothing more than a diary format if I can remember correctly. I didn't do much with it for a very long time. This was before I had my websites and had any idea what I'd like to do with a blog. Boy, have times changed.

In any event, on July 30, 2005 my "hometown" journal was converted to my AOL Journal format that it is today. I've been a member of AOL for a very long time and don't know whether or not the journals are available to non-AOL users or not. I suspect that they are only available to AOL members to create. Everyone can view them and comment on them if they are made public. However, I think you have to be an AOL member to create one. I might be wrong about that.

So, do I like my AOL Journal. Yes, and No!

It's very easy to use and given that it's on AOL it has access to all of the other links for AOL journals, such as the AOL Journals main page. On their main journals page you have access to Chat Rooms, Other Blogs, Friends, AIM Pages and Directory, AOL Pets Page, Photo Galleries, etc. On their main journal page you can create an AIM page, showcase your blog, search other blogs within the AOL directory, submit a picture of yourself, and so much more. If you want to connect to others this is the place to do it.

One of the best features of the AOL journal is that it is very easy to use. A novice blog or journal user would have not problem with setting up an AOL journal. They walk you through the set-up step by step.

You have a typical articles area where you can create and post article in HTML edit mode or WYSIWYG Compose mode. You can include pictures via HTML code or utilize AOL's "I've Got Pictures" Album feature. This allows you to add a whole bunch of pictures to a particular article and showcase them in a slideshow album. These are all good features for the AOL journal.

However, you cannot save your articles in a "draft" mode. Everything saved is published. This is a big negative for writing ahead of time or getting interrupted while writing an article.

AOL Journals have several predetermined blocks for "All About Me", Recent Entries, Links to Other Journals, Links to Favorite Websites, and a counter. But, that's it. You cannot modify them or ad additional blocks.

You can have as many links as you want but there is no way to sort the list and the latest link is added to the bottom of the list unless you cut/paste and move the links around using an external editor. A very tedious process.

Also, there is no access to the template so you cannot customize your journal. These are big negatives if you want to "make your journal yours".

Readers of your journal can subscribe to it, get the feed, or, if the reader is an AOL member, be added to their AOL alerts and reminders list. Readers can comment on an article, link their AOL journal to the article, blog about the article in their AOL Journal, and notify AOL of objectionable content.

Within the edit journals controls you can edit your journal's name, description and address, and make the journal public or private. You can customize your journal's appearance by choosing one of the 4 layout formats, edit the styles to be friendly, minimal, or professional and to allow or not allow comments. Also, you can change the colors to be one of 12 color choices. One of those color choices is "custom" which allows you to change the colors of the columns to be what you want. You can't add banners or other custom HTML code.

You can also manage your journal settings by adding the journal to your AOL Buddy List, manage who has permission to see it by AOL screen name, block unwanted AOL Screen names, allow for Mobile Blogging, and add it to your AOL alerts.

If you love AOL and love the AOL community, which many people do, and want a simple blog or journal to use then you might like the AOL journal. If you want to customize your blog or journal and "make it yours" then you will be disappointed with the AOL journal features.

I maintain mine for sentimental reasons as it was my first "journal" or "hometown page." Plus, it allows me to easily cut/paste articles I've written from my other blogs if I want to. Also, AOL journals do seem to fare well in the search engines so maintaining it is to my advantage.

Can it compare to Blogger.com - no way. For the novice blog or journal user it's great. For someone who wants to be part of a community - it's great. For the experienced user it's like comparing a bike to a "Cadillac" - there is no comparison.

So, some good and some bad with the AOL Journal.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Testing The Blogs Series - Part 4 - GoDaddy Blogs

Since I have my two main websites Linda Walsh Originals  with GoDaddy and absolutely love having them as my hosting company I thought I'd review GoDaddy.com blogs next in my "Testing The Blogs Series." This is Part 4 of my "Testing The Blogs Series" and it's GoDaddy's blogs turn. Aren't they lucky?

Actually I'm the lucky one since I got a ton of FREE things with my domain name purchases and renewals all during the course of last year. Some of those FREE things were "Website Tonight" FREE accounts, FREE hosting accounts, FREE Starter Webpages, and FREE Quick Blogs. GoDaddy.com is a terrific company and I am very happy with them as far as my main websites are concerned. I have never had a problem with my websites or GoDaddy.com. Publishing my websites with them and updating via FTP is quick and easy.

For every domain name I had I was given a FREE blog. So, in total, I had 7 FREE blogs available to me. Of the 7 available I have used 5 so far with 2 more to go. I have published four of the 5 I've assigned so far. They are my "Linda Walsh Originals Instant Download E-Patterns" blog, my "I Love Crafts and Craft Blogs Categories List" blog, my general "Linda Walsh Originals Information" blog, and my new "Twelve Months Of Sewing Club" blog. One of the 5 is still in "draft" mode and 2 of the 7 are left to be used at a later date. If you know me you know that I will use them.

My"Linda Walsh Originals Instant Download E-Patterns" blog is being used for information and articles about my Instant Download E-Patterns. Each of my instant download e-patterns has an article of its' own. The articles contain a picture of each E-pattern and its description. They also have a "Buy Now" clickable link so you can buy the Instant Download E-pattern directly from the article.

My "I Love Crafts and Craft Blogs Categories List" blog is being used to house my I Love Crafts and Craft Blogs "Blogs by Category" List. I wanted to create a separate page to hold the "Blogs by Category" list so I decided to try one of my FREE GoDaddy.com Quick Blogs. It's working out well.

My general "Linda Walsh Originals Information" blog was my first GoDaddy.com Quick Blog. It contains general information about Linda Walsh Originals and was used, primarily, to learn about the GoDaddy.com blogs. However, it gets a fair amount of traffic so I've kept it up and add articles to it from time to time.

My newest GoDaddy.com Quick Blog is my "Twelve Months Of Sewing Club" blog and it is being used for information on my "Twelve Months Of Sewing Club."

I recently switched my "Twelve Months Of Sewing Club" blog from Bravenet.com to my new GoDaddy.com blog due to problems with my Bravenet.com journal. I wrote an article on my Linda's Blog on why I switched entitled "The Twelve Months Of Sewing Club - Why The Switch? "

I'm glad I switched it as GoDaddy.com has some features the Bravenet.com blog didn't. However, I liked the background image of my Bravenet.com blog because I could use a custom image. I can't do that with the GoDaddy.com blog.

So, do I like the GoDaddy.com blogs. Absolutely. For the purposes that I am using them for they are well suited. There are some features that I like a lot and some things I don't like. By and large though I'm very happy with them. So, here's what I like or don't like about my GoDaddy.com blogs:

The GoDaddy.com blogs are easy to use with easy design templates. However, there is no access to the template so you can't custom design it. They have 10 good templates to choose from where you can add your banner, company name, etc. You can also choose your background color out of a selection of 6 colors. They're nice but, I prefer being able to add a custom background image and manipulate my template to make it "mine."

Most of the templates are set-up with a main body for your articles and a sidebar. In the FREE version the sidebar is mainly lists of links. In the paid version you can add HTML code so that you can customize it somewhat for adding pictures, Google Ad Sense, graphics, etc. However, as I have the FREE versions that option isn't available to me.

The sidebar contains box frames and you can manage what boxes to include in your sidebar out of their list of sidebar components which includes: Home Page, Subscribe Via Email, Category Archives, Links (Cloneable), Recent Entries, Recent Comments, Comment Showcase, Monthly Archives, Search, Feed List, and Calendar.

You can also decide the order of these box frames by moving them around in the manage sidebars mode and give some of the boxes a title (i.e. Linda's Doll Pattern Links, Forum Links, etc.) The Links box frame is cloneable so you can have as many link box frames as you want and have an unlimited # of links within each. Plus, you can decide the order in which the links appear within each link box frame.

Posting to the GoDaddy.com articles is very easy. One of the nicest features about their blogs is that you can set-up categories ahead of time and choose which category or categories your article is coming to be included in without using a "keyword" within the title or body of the article and without special coding in the sidebars as is currently the case with the Blogger.com blogs. You can also manage the categories list and change it.

For the articles you can enter them using WYSIWYG Compose mode or use HTML code and edit that. Since you don't have access to the template and can't customize the sidebars, adding HTML inside the articles is the only place you can customize and add, say, HTML coding for your subscribing to your business mailing list, etc.

GoDaddy.com Quick Blogs have a terrific "Image Library" as well which has easy to use image upload capabilities. They have already included 13 categories of images with multiple pages each in the "Image Library." You can add your own images and store them in your own file where they can be viewed and selected for the article. They also provide a good picture editor for adjusting various items in the picture, such as; size, etc. This is one area where the GoDaddy.com blogs have it over the Blogger.com blogs.

The articles can be stored in either "Draft" mode for later editing or "Published." Also, articles can be searched by Title/Body, Category, Status, or Author. You can also import RSS feeds from other blogs or export your article to an RSS feed.

Each article has a comments section and each article has trackbacks. You can decide whether to allow comments and trackbacks on a per article basis. Also, you can manage the comments and trackbacks (i.e. approve, delete, ban IP address, mark as spam, etc.)

In the articles mode you can search your articles by Title/Body, Category, Status, or Author to find the articles you want. This allows you to quickly view and edit the articles. Or you can view them all by their respective month published or saved as a draft.

One of the best features of the GoDaddy.com blog is the statistics that they maintain on your blog. They're terrific and there is no need what-so-ever for an outside stat counter. Statistics for each article is tracked, as well as trackbacks, discussions (i.e. comments), survey results (readers can vote whether they like, dislike, or have no opinion on each article), statistics on the number of times each article was printed. The latter is something I haven't seen anywhere else. Statistics are maintained by hour, day, yesterday, and totals. So, if you really want to know who is viewing your blog on a per article basis you can. That's a terrific feature if you need detailed statistics.

As with most blogs you can adjust some of the settings for general information, format, feeds, discussions (i.e. comments), email blogging, blacklist, author (owner) information, categories, statistics, etc.

The Help section is good and provides for on-line help, FAQ, Tutorials, and support.

I do think the publishing and re-publishing after format changes is a little slow time wise and could be improved upon. Also, allowing more custom features and access to the template would be nice. Plus,allowing for HTML custom coding in the sidebar for the FREE version would be a real plus as, sometimes, the universal box frames just aren't right for everyone's usage.

By and large, though, the GoDaddy.com FREE Quick Blogs are easy to use, easy to understand, easy to set-up and can be handled by the novice blogger. I am happy with the blogs I have there as they suit the purpose that I'm using them for. I have 2 FREE Quick Blogs left and, yes, I will be utilizing them.